No controversy here: Same-gender classes already a reality in some Hillsborough County schools

TAMPA - A pair of South Florida lawmakers are looking to create same-sex test classes classes in up to five school districts across the state.  But we found out that this is already being tried successfully in Hillsborough County. 

Since 1959, Sidney Lanier Elementary School has been molding the minds of South Tampa boys and girls.  But in just the past few years, some of those boys and girls have been split up in second and third grades.

"I've been teaching boys only for six years,and what I find is being able to split up the boys and girls just creates a more comfortable learning environment for them," said Caroline Octtaviani.

"The boys tend to speak louder or yell answers out and the girls like a more orderly place with raising their hands," said Anne Maddox, who's been a teacher for 24 years, but taught girls only for the past three.

Indeed, it seems quieter and more cooperative in the ladies room... And while one does see that "boys will be boys," they're learning!

"Having done this for six years now, do you want to go back to having girls in the class?" I asked "Mrs. O"  
"No," she responded flatly. "No, I wouldn't.  I love the boys' energy.  I love their humor, I love the environment."

Mrs. Maddox was more politically correct in her assessment.

"You know, I enjoy teaching so if I had to go back to a mixed gender class, I would and I do think my teaching -- even in a mixed gender class -- would change."

There have been a lot of varying opinions on this, with supporting educators saying it works to keep focus on both genders, others insisting that segregation in any way reinforces stereotypes and stereotyped behavior.  But at least in this school the teachers are all in favor of this.  But what about the kids?

"I like it" said Evan Goddeau.  
"Why?" I asked.  
"'Cuz I like to have all my friends around..."
"And at this point, girls just arent your friends?"  

"And boys are like annoying and like ahhhh..." said Jayden Fernandez, literally rolling her eyes.  
"So you get more work done without boys around?" I countered.  "Yeah."

In addition to the handful of neighborhood elementary schools that have single gender classes in the Hillsborough School District, two Middle School Academies began two years ago as an ongoing experiment that has shown some promise. 

It is not a mandatory program, and parents and students are free to opt in or out as they see fit.  Most that have opted in like it and stick with it, but even the most ardent supporters admit this isn't for everyone.

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