BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) - Two Cabell County elementary schools are experimenting with single-gender classrooms to determine whether boys and girls can learn better without distractions.
Barboursville Middle School Principal Jerry Lake got permission from the county and support from sixth-grade teachers to test the concept at his school this year. West Virginia Public Broadcasting (http://bit.ly/rGVmle) says a similar experiment is under way at Enslow Middle School.
"Boys and girls are different, and we should celebrate those differences rather than mask those differences," Lake said. Girls tend to be more mature than boys, he said, and separating them may improve the learning environment for both.
So far, Lake said girls seem to be doing better in math and science in separate classrooms, while boys are doing better in language arts. He theorizes that girls may feel intimidated by boys in some subjects, while boys may be self-conscious about reading or showing an interest in a subject like poetry in front of girls.
Three months into the experiment, teacher Lyndsay Yeager said she finds both groups of students more attentive, and she can tailor her writing lessons to their interests.
Student Samantha May says she likes the concept, too.
"I can be myself with them and don't have to pretend, and I can just be a girl in there," she said.
But Frank Crabtree, executive director of the West Virginia America Civil Liberties Union, worries that such separation may further gender stereotypes. He also argues that "it's almost impossible to make these separate but equal facilities," which could potentially be unconstitutional.
Last week, public schools in Pittsburgh discontinued single-gender classes under pressure from the ACLU.
Marshall University psychology professor Paige Muellerleile understands the objective but faults the method.
"The research that's out there is really truly very mixed and doesn't show that there are particular gains and academic outcomes," she said. "There are perception differences between teachers and kids on how well those things work."
Lake says he'll evaluate the success at Barboursville Middle when the school year ends.