ST. LOUIS COUNTY - As the kids head back to school, we have a question for all you parents: Should boys and girls be separated in math and science class?
It’s a debate that’s been going on for year and it’s about to happen at one local middle school.
When the bell rings in the new school year at Northeast Middle school in the Parkway School District, 6th grade boys and girls will be in separate classrooms for math and science.
Northeast Middle School Principal Jennifer Sebold said, "We felt like giving separate space for boys and girls allows them to really explore their brilliance and figure out who they are as a learner and build confidence was really important."
It’s important to note that it’s not required that kids take part in this division. Parents can keep their kids in a boys and girls environment if they choose.
Guidance counselor and former teacher, Nikki Goldfeder, says "It’s really the perfect time to really break apart what these narratives that we are so socialized to believe and to allow students to figure out for themselves who they want to be."
To get an understanding of the push behind this program, we sat down with a mom of a 6th grade boy, a guidance counselor, and a math teacher with 18 years under his belt.
Middle school math teacher Greg Herndon has been teaching for almost two decades.
When we asked him if he’s noticed girls not speaking up as much as he knows they can in class he said, “Yes, I see a lot of that and a lot of people convinced their not math people and I think that’s consistent across boys and girls. But I think I see it more in girls. Just the belief that they’re not math people or the belief that their parents weren't so they may not be. So we kind of just want to tackle some of those things head on," explained Herndon.
"I think we've observed this problem for a long time and now there is a lot of well deserved attention on possible solutions," said Goldfeder.
According to The National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up half of our country's college educated workforce, but only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce.
Tricia Frank's 11-year-old son is about to start 6th grade at Northeast Middle and she's hoping the gender divided classes will give him some added confidence.
Frank said, "He doesn't consider himself a math guy. He's timid, so gender has its own way of looking at things but kids are their own personalities too. So, I think this will help him feel comfortable in answering questions just as it would any timid person."
Herndon said, “The curriculum is not changing and the expectations aren't changing, but the path to get there is going to have some different steps I think along the way."
This is the first year Northeast Middle is trying this new approach and it’s only happening for sixth graders.
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