WICKER PARK — After a successful pilot year, Pritzker School is adding two more gender-specific classrooms.
"We're building in tradition with these students and are tracking a lot of data. With the successes we've seen so far, we'll continue to work on this program. To be valuable, it needs to be duplicatible," principal Joenile S. Albert-Reese said.
Herself a product of an all-girls Catholic high school, Reese wondered whether gender-specific classrooms would be worth an experiment for struggling fine arts students at the school. The plan worked, Reese said. And now she hopes to keep the same-sex classrooms going for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.
Test scores for the 56 fifth grade students enrolled in two gender-specific classrooms improved, Reese said.
"No child was in academic warning after we did the [gender-specific] classes," she said.
Positive feedback from students and parents encouraged Reese to expand the program, to four classes of 104 students, including the two classes from the first year that have already graduated. The initiative is dubbed "The Academy" and on Fridays the girls wear gold polos with the Pritzker emblem and boys wear maroon.
Support personnel report positive outcomes outside of the classroom, too.
Playground, recess and bussing supervisor Judy Glanton said she feels like there's already a different vibe among the sixth and seventh graders enrolled in the academy.
"They're more polite to each other in lines," she observed. The students still have plenty of opportunities to commingle with opposite sexes during lunch and recess periods, which are co-ed.
On a recent afternoon, parent Kara Stonewall was waiting to pick up her sixth-grade daughter, who is in her second year of learning in a gender-specific classroom. With nearly a month of school completed, Stonewall said she hasn't heard any complaints.
"So far, so good. I think she likes being with the girls. The boys are loud and I'm glad [about the same-sex classes]. I think it works better. There's too many disruptions at this age as it is," Stonewall said.
Marie McGhee was picking up her niece, a fifth-grader, and admitted she was more skeptical about the single-sex classes than her niece was.
"She was all geeked up for it. She really loves it and talk about it a lot, so I think she's enjoying it," McGhee said. "I'm hoping that they will do more sex ed since they all the girls can talk about the girl stuff and the guys can talk about their stuff."