COLUMBIA, SC – July 24, 2008 – South Carolina students gave a big thumbs-up to single-gender classes in a statewide survey released in January. In an expanded survey released today, parents and teachers joined students in agreeing that the classes increase student confidence, class participation, desire to succeed in school and ability to succeed.
More than 2,200 students, 181 parents and 178 teachers responded to the latest survey by the South Carolina Department of Education, the first of what State Superintendent Jim Rex said would be an annual data-gathering project.
Two-thirds of the students who responded to the April survey said single-gender classes had helped them in school; 75 percent of the parents and 80 percent of the teachers agreed.
“Our first survey showed that kids generally like this approach,” Rex said. “This new survey adds feedback from parents and teachers, and it’s even more positive than what we’ve been hearing from students. If you want to know why more schools are offering this option, the reason is right here in these survey responses.”
Expanding curriculum choices within public schools is a priority for Rex, who created an Office of Public School Choice at the Education Department and hired the nation’s first statewide single-gender coordinator to help local districts introduce the concept. Nearly 250 South Carolina public schools – more than any other state in the nation – are expected to offer the single-gender option to parents next school year, many of them as partially autonomous operations within existing schools. Rex also recently hired experts in Montessori and charter school development to help spur those innovations.
“Our mission is to help schools develop the curriculum options that parents want,” said Don Lawrimore, director of the Office of Public School Choice. “We provide guidance not only in creating those programs, but also in making them effective.”
Current curriculum choices across South Carolina include magnet programs, schools-within-schools, alternative schools, virtual schools and charter schools. Some of the state’s public school choice programs include single-gender initiatives, middle college/early college, Montessori education, charter schools, evening high school, language immersion, academic academies, arts integration and international baccalaureate programs.
David Chadwell, the Education Department’s single-gender coordinator, said South Carolina’s student surveys are believed to be the first of their kind in the nation. Students were asked to agree or disagree with statements that said being in a single-gender program had increased or improved their self-confidence, desire to succeed in school, interest in trying new ways to learn, independence, participation during class, ability to succeed in school, attitude in school, behavior in school and grades.
Highlights of the new results included:
- Three of four parents would place their children in single-gender classes for the next school year if the option were made available.
- Parents of boys agree at a higher percentage than parents of girls that single-gender education has been a positive factor for their children’s education.
- African-American students and parents gave even stronger endorsements than white students and parents. For example, 77 percent of African-American students said single-gender classrooms increased their desire to succeed in school, compared to 64 percent of white students. With parents, 74 percent of African-American parents agreed, compared to 70 percent of white parents.
- Girls gave slightly stronger endorsements to the single-gender experience than boys. Roughly three quarters of female respondents said the classes had increased their confidence, independence and participation , as well as both their desire and ability to succeed.
- As students move up through the grades, their preference for single-gender classrooms decreases. Fourth- and fifth-graders graders, for example, give higher marks to the strategy than eighth-graders.
- Among teachers in the four “core subject” areas (English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies), ELA teachers saw the biggest impact with single-gender classes.
Background on the survey
Chadwell said the survey was posted on the Education Department’s website during April, and all schools with single-gender programs were informed that students, parents and teachers could fill out survey responses on line. Participants were asked whether they agreed strongly with various statements, agreed, agreed somewhat, were neutral, disagreed somewhat, disagreed or disagreed strongly.
Participants came from 17 elementary schools, 23 middle schools and one high school. The Education Department released only statewide results because the numbers of responses from individual schools were too small to be of statistical value, Chadwell said.