Kindergartners in college. Third-graders in gender-specific classrooms. Mesa's Jefferson Elementary is shaking things up and seeing success.
“Education is about instilling pride and motivating and making sure kids have the tools that they need to be whatever they want in life,” says Principal Genessee Montes.
Instead of "classrooms", the 550 students -- kindergarten through sixth grade -- are part of "colleges" complete with team logos and color schemes. The represented schools vary in size and location, from Penn State to Rochester. Shared spaces, like PE and music rooms, represent state schools and classrooms are institutions further away.
"I wanted our kids to be exposed to all possibilities," Montes said. “You have to go somewhere beyond high school and that's what we instill in them."
Jefferson recently earned a prestigious A+ Mark of Excellence by the Arizona Educational Foundation. More than 50 percent of Jefferson students speak another language at home, nearly 75 percent are minorities and almost all qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
Last year, teachers suggested separating students by gender and now third- and fourth-graders have the option to take part.
“Their math scores have increased quite a bit — their reading skills," Montes said, adding they've seen a drop in students being disciplined. "Their emotional being has also improved.”
The students seem to enjoy the cootie-free classrooms too. Nine-year-old Jaylynn told ABC15 she is participating more in class and sharing more of her ideas, adding "I was too shy to say [them] in front of the boys."
The boys feel the same way. We asked fourth-grader Andrew if he missed the girls sitting next to him.
"No, I don't miss anything about it," Andrew said. “We don’t have to worry about mainly them screaming and making a lot of noise and stuff.”