Split classes get good grades

AIKEN - Fifty-three percent of fifth-grade pupils at North Augusta Elementary said their grades improved while in single-gender classes this year.


The school was the single-gender fifth-grade pilot program for the Aiken County School District that began in August.

The survey was given to pupils in October so administrators could learn how they liked separate classrooms. The pupils only mix for recess and lunch.

The survey reflected that learning behaviors improved, with 57 percent of the pupils saying they put more effort into school work. Only 40 percent said the classes promoted good behavior.

Principal Angela Burkhalter said it was too early to say the program is a success but that she looks forward to tweaking the classes for next year.

"Next year we'll look at the time of day they have activities, like recess," she said. Dr. Burkhalter said there might be alternatives for those not wanting to participate. Only one pupil opted not to attend single-gender classes this year.

Teachers said they've noticed differences in how they teach the different classes.

"Usually I was very loud in my co-ed classes, but now I have to bring it down for the girls," teacher Kim Farmer said. "My mornings with the girls are very quiet now, and I save my energy for the afternoon with the boys.

On Friday, the teachers met for a Gender Matters seminar. David Chadwell, who teaches at a single-gender middle school in Richland County, explained the nuances of female and male learning styles and how single-gender classrooms can enhance the ability to learn.

"It is changing the structure of how education happens," Mr. Chadwell said.

He said little things, such as the temperature in a room or colors used in projects, can affect how one gender learns.

Mr. Chadwell said even raising voice levels or a look can drastically affect learning. For example, girls respond better to face-to-face conversation, while boys work better side-by-side.

Ms. Farmer said the improved productivity is worth the switch.

"It's a good thing, but it is a program that requires a lot of preparation, and it has the potential to move onto the elementary and even the high school levels," Ms. Farmer said.

Dr. Cecelia Davidson, the associate superintendent for instruction, said the program might expand to North Augusta Middle School next year, but other areas are waiting to see the results of the elementary program.

Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com.


The following results show the percentage of fifth-graders agreeing with survey questions. The survey was given to pupils in October.

40: Having classes with the same gender promotes good behavior.

54: I pay better attention in a same-gender class.

37: Teachers seem calmer in a same-gender class.

50: Teachers can help students more in a same-gender class.

57: Friendships with others seem easier in a same-gender class.

38: There is less teasing in a same-gender class.

41: I feel safer in a same-gender class.

36: There is less bully-type behavior in a same-gender class.

47: I am happier in a same-gender class.

42: It is easier to stay out of trouble in a same-gender class.

57: My efforts on schoolwork are better in a same-gender class.

53: My grades have improved in a same-gender class.

36: Same-gender classes have more time to spend on learning.

Source: North Augusta Elementary School

*Other answer were neutral, disagree, strongly disagree and not available.