First LA single-gender public school opens

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Across the country in recent years, there’s been a sharp rise in the number of single-gender schools. The Southland has a few. The Los Angeles Unified School District opened its first one yesterday. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez was there.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: A confluence of events led to the opening of the 800-student middle school campus in Koreatown. The federal government changed equal access guidelines, L.A. Unified pushed innovative curricula at newly-built schools, and lots of new research indicated that girls outscore boys in reading and boys outscore girls in math.

Jessica Joy: This is sixth grade boys math.

Guzman-Lopez: District officials visited teacher Jessica Joy’s class on the second floor, where the boys are. Students say the separate but equal arrangement offers fewer distractions. Eleven-year-old Kevin Gonzalez said he doesn’t expect to get in much trouble this year.

Kevin Gonzalez: Every time that the boys and girls were mixed together that the boys would get in trouble because the girls were a big distraction to everyone.

Guzman-Lopez: The district began to consider a single-gender school five years ago. Assistant Principal Catherine Diaz conducted much of the research that led to the school’s curriculum and to classrooms designed for each gender’s learning needs.

Catherine Diaz: It’s not just making the boys and girls separate, keeping them separate. You have to look at boys needs, such as their physical development. Their hearing is not as keen as girls at the middle school.

Guzman-Lopez: District officials emphasize, as federal law prescribes, that all students have equal access to facilities. That’s been a central criticism of single-gender schools – and the underlying assumption and message that boys and girls are very different. L.A. Unified officials said they’re not worried about that as long as students can learn.