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Janesville School Board votes to end single-gender classes

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
June 13, 2012
— The five-year experiment in single-gender education at Marshall Middle School is over.

The Janesville School Board voted 6-2 on Tuesday night to end the program.


The administration had recommended the action, saying evidence was inconclusive that separating boys and girls would improve test scores and behavior.


Board member Peter D. Severson argued at length for keeping the program. He said he believes the program gives students an option for getting through school during a difficult time in their lives.


The program did not show continual improvement in academics, which is a goal of the board, said Kim Ehrhardt, the director of instruction.


New programs and techniques that are being implemented are showing continual improvement, so energies should focus on those, Ehrhardt said.


If the new efforts work, they should work in single-gender classrooms as well as in coed rooms, Severson said.


Teachers have lost their enthusiasm for single-gender classes, Ehrhardt said. Forcing them to teach those classes, while doable, would be "problematic."


Teachers who attended a seminar on single-gender education were the ones who brought the idea to the administration five years ago.


Another reason to end the program was that it would cost an extra $126,000 next year for increased staffing, mostly to provide required services to students with disabilities.


Students with disabilities were kept out of the program in the early years, but that has changed after the discrimination was discovered, officials said.


Greg Ardrey, the other "no" vote, questioned whether the board needed to vote at all.


Board policy gives the superintendent the authority to make curricular changes, said board legal counsel David Moore.


Superintendent Karen Schulte said she believed the policy gives her that authority, but she brought the decision to the board because of Severson's concerns.


Schools will continue to separate the sexes in certain situations, Ehrhardt said. For example, in choosing material for literature classes, students sometimes separate themselves, with boys and girls preferring to read different books.


In other business


In other business Tuesday, the Janesville School Board:


-- Voted to accept Superintendent Karen Schulte's recommendations for principals at Harrison, Kennedy and Van Buren elementary schools. The educators who served as building coordinators at those schools over the past school year were all promoted to principal.


-- Voted to accept Schulte's restructuring of positions in the district's central office. Schulte said this is one of three restructuring proposals she will make, driven in part by limited resources. She did not elaborate.


-- Accepted the retirements of Linda Fredricks, reading teacher at Edison Middle School, after 18.5 years in the district, and David Lehmann, Parker High School math teacher, 40.5 years.



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