September 10, 1999
Jefferson Middle School this fall became the first public middle school in the U.S. to convert from coeducational classes to separate single gender classes for boys and girls. The school opened in September as Jefferson Leadership Academies.
Jefferson's opening attracted major interest from local and national news media. Among those covering the event were ABC Channel 7, NBC Channel 4, CBS Channel 2, Tom Brokaw Nightly News, Good Morning America, MSNBC--Brian Williams Show, Fox 11 News, KTLA Channel 5, Channel 22, Channel 34, Channel 52, Associated Press, Press-Telegram, La Opinion, KFWB and KNX Newsradio.
The Long Beach Unified School District's newest all-magnet school has enrolled more than 500 girls and 500 boys in grades 6, 7 and 8. Waiting lists have been established at all grades for the popular new option.
The decision to offer all-boy and all-girl classes was made by the Board of Education after a January survey of parents attending the Education Celebration showcase of district magnet programs at the Pyramid at CSULB. Fifty-eight percent of the hundreds of parents surveyed indicated that they would be interested in having their children attend single gender classes at their neighborhood middle school or another school close to home.
"The potential for academic success is enhanced whenever parents and students are provided with an opportunity to choose the particular school program which they believe best meets their needs and interests," said Karen DeVries, Area B superintendent. "There is significant reason to believe that such a program, provided to those who request it, will bring about real academic improvement.
"Single gender instruction has long been available to families who choose parochial or private schools," said DeVries. "Those families often report that their children benefit from the single gender academic environment."
Jefferson was selected because of its central location. Last year's Jefferson sixth and seventh graders received the first priority for enrollment. Students living in the Jefferson area, including students from feeder elementary schools, received the next opportunity to enroll. Remaining spaces were opened to applicants from throughout the school district.
As a result of strong early responses from parents and students, the classes are filled to capacity. A waiting list has been established for more than 200 additional applicants.
The only larger single gender public school in the U.S. is a 1,200-student all-girls high school in Baltimore. Since 1996, California has had six small single gender pilot programs, ranging from 60 to 180 students, but not an entire coed school of more than 1,000 students switching to single gender classes. Most are individual classes within a larger school.
Research indicates that girls do better in single gender math and science classes, but the increased academic focus should be beneficial to boys as well. Boys drop out in greater numbers, and research shows significant gains for minority males in single gender classrooms.
The goal of the Jefferson Leadership Academies is to focus on academics, reduce distractions and offer parents choices that they want for their daughters and sons.