Monday, August 07, 2006

Leave No Stone Unturned

Some schools are definitely thinking outside the box when it comes to minority students and achievement:
Welcome to the Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence, an elementary school in Waterloo with a 92 percent minority enrollment, where 9 of 10 students have family incomes low enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

The school has tried a host of techniques - some controversial, one possibly illegal - to improve achievement and close the gap between black and white students. School officials call it a "recipe for success." State officials call it an "open-book experiment."
The illegal part is the single-gender classrooms, which might send the message that "boys and girls cannot learn effectively in gender-integrated environments." The school has won a temporary reprieve on that front, and some converts to gender-segregated education as well:
Cunningham officials were so pleased with the progress, they expanded the number of single-gender classrooms this year from three to five...

Supporters of single-gender education say it breaks down stereotypes and gives boys and girls more freedom to explore their own interests and abilities. They say girls are more likely to take classes and do better in math and science, while boys are more likely to pursue art, music and drama.

Those who teach single-gender classes at Cunningham are required to take special training. Ferguson said he's learned, for example, that he must speak much louder with boys - something he's learned not to do with girls.

"I started talking to them the same way, and I got tears," he said. "They thought I was yelling at them."
(Cross-posted at