It started as a pilot program for Clover schools. A semester later, it's off the ground and soaring.
When they return from holiday break next month, leaders at Crowders Creek Elementary School will decide whether to maintain or expand the Clover schools' first single-gender classroom concept it began this fall.
In March, Principal Millicent Dickey and teachers Susan Allen and Rena Coggins formalized plans for one single-gender classroom for fifth grade boys and another for fifth grade girls.
The program was designed to capitalize on the learning strengths and learning styles of both boys and girls. Parents could opt their students in, removing them and entering them back into a traditional classroom setting at any time.
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With a semester of experience, leaders say they're pleased with the results. None of the original 49 students opted out, and a girl came onboard to even the boy/girl total at 25 each.
"The classes have gone beyond what I expected," Dickey said. "The children seem to have bonded well with each other and have created a sense of family and community within those classrooms that is often difficult to achieve."
Students also are connecting and identifying better with positive male or female role models, Dickey said, which affects not only academics, but their behavior as teens and adults.
"I have been so impressed with the community that we have built," said Allen, who teaches math and science. "Students really look out for each other and support each other. It is amazing how this has moved beyond the classroom as well."
For the program to continue, though, it needs results within the classroom. Leaders say they're seeing those results.
"The students have responded so positively to the different instructional strategies used," said Coggins, who teaches language arts and social studies. "Simple things like the way directions are given, or allowing the use of colored pens and highlighters."
The instructional material is the same for boys and girls, and is the same as the district and state standard. What differs is the method of presenting that information.
Boys see, hear and process information differently from girls, teachers say. Volume level, colors used and other techniques become educational strategies.
Boys have more structure, checklists, movement and "kinesthetic learning." Girls make more "real life" connections with the material, prompt more follow-up questions and celebrate achievements more.
"Academically, I have been amazed, especially by the ladies class, at the risks that they will take in the classroom," Allen said. "They are eager to raise their hands and ask questions, participate in discussions, or even argue their points."
One such student went a step further. Cayla Augustine wrote a 200-word piece for Time for Kids magazine set for publication this month on single-gender education, touting its benefits.
"Single-gender classes are good for students," she said, "because there's not so many distractions."
That premise - that the greatest classroom distraction at the elementary level often is the presence of the opposite gender - is what sparked the effort at Crowders Creek.
Scott Jeffrey, assistant principal for grades 3-5, said the most common praise of the new classes is that both boys and girls feel "safer to be able to answer" questions and participate, without worry of response from the other gender.
School leaders call the overall response to single-gender education "overwhelmingly positive" among students and their parents. Its teachers aren't complaining, either.
"I have found the biggest positive is that I can plan lessons around their learning styles," Allen said. "Girls need a calmer voice and lower tone; boys like more movement and competition."
For students, the difference is obvious. And paying attention to the differences between boys and girls in the classroom is helping.
"The boys are a little more rowdy," Augustine said, "and girls are a little calmer."
Dickey said she'll "definitely continue" the classes in fifth grade next year, but will hold off on setting expansion plans until after she meets with teachers in January.
As for other schools in the district, a larger sample at Crowders Creek could promote the cause of more single-gender classrooms.
"They're watching us," Jeffrey said.