Janesville41.1°

School board to decide fate of middle school classes

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
May 23, 2011
— The single-gender classroom experiment at Marshall Middle School could be cut or downsized by the Janesville School Board when it meets Tuesday.

The school is asking that the board offer it only to eighth-graders during the 2011-12 school year, apparently because of budget concerns.


The experiment began in September 2007 in the sixth and eighth grades. It was expanded to the seventh grade in 2008.


About a third of Marshall's 900 students learn their core subjects in single-gender classes. They join mixed classes for courses such as tech ed, art, music and foreign languages.


Teachers trained in single-gender methods will be lost to budget cuts next fall, and there's no funding set aside to train new teachers.


A document that will be presented to the school board Tuesday suggests three options: Cut the program altogether, offer it only in eighth grade or spend the money to train new teachers in single-gender methods.


The document does not say how much training might cost, but in a year when every school will feel the effects of budget cuts, the board is sensitive to new spending.


District officials appear not ready to say whether their program is superior to the mixed classes they offer.


"Both settings have tremendous merit," according to a document that will be presented to the board Tuesday. "We are saying for the right student, this form of differentiation can assist students in reaching their maximum potential."


The document shows results of a standardized test called Measures of Academic Progress, which show the single-gender classes had significantly higher percentages of their students meeting the test targets than the mixed classes in math and reading, in most cases.


Results were nearly identical, however, in eighth-grade math and sixth-grade reading.


The document does not show how the two methods compare based on state test scores.


Many of those involved in the program like it, however. The document cites "a significant amount of anecdotal data that indicates that this is working for students, parents and staff. In short, for those who participated in (single-gender education), there is a perception that it has a positive impact on student engagement."


ON THE AGENDA

The Janesville School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St. The agenda includes:


-- The first reading of a change in board policy that would stop high school student representatives from participating in school board discussions. The students would be limited to giving reports about the high schools that are "purely informative."


-- Reducing the 2011-12 maintenance budget by $635,000 from the current year level.


-- Charging parents a fee for workbooks in some elementary classes. Workbooks cost between $10 and $20. The administration is suggesting the district charge for half the cost.


-- Approval to appoint one teacher each at Craig and Parker high schools to act as their buildings' athletics directors. The teachers would teach two classes per day and be paid stipends of $5,466 on top of their regular salaries. The move is expected to save about $28,000. Currently, assistant principals act as the athletics directors. The high schools would have two assistant principals next fall instead of the current three if the board approves related recommendations.


-- Consider a proposal to move the Janesville Academy for International Studies to UW-Rock County rather than to the two high schools.



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