The Girls' School Experience
In the nearly 15 years since the National Coalition of Girls' Schools was founded in 1991, single-sex education has experienced what can only be described as a renaissance. There are more than 500 private girls' schools in the United States today - with more opening their doors every year - along with nearly two dozen girls' public and charter schools, and growing numbers of single-sex classrooms in public school districts nationwide.
The message is clear: In the case of girls' schools, single-sex education works. Students and families seek it out. It is a crucial feature of the educational landscape today. Research bears this sentiment out, but perhaps the most convincing arbiter of the efficacy of single-sex education for girls is the girls' school graduate herself. What does she make of her experience? How does she rate her education, in and of itself and in comparison to her peers?
These are crucial questions to inform not only students and families as they explore educational options, but policy-makers as well. For this reason, NCGS contracted with Goodman Research Group, Inc., to explore the attitudes and opinions of girls' school alumnae, average age 19 years old, graduates of the Class of 2004. We asked Goodman to conduct a scientific survey of alumnae to quantify their school experience as well as the transition to college, academic interests and career aspirations.
More than 1,000 alumnae participated, sharing their views in a series of 32 questions asking them to rate their satisfaction in key areas such as academic rigor, opportunities for personal growth, the development of leadership skills and preparedness for life beyond high school. Their responses indicate high levels of what, in the parlance of the business world, might be termed 'customer satisfaction.' By wide margins, they consider themselves well-positioned to excel in college and the careers that will follow.
While no one creditably argues that "one size fits all" when it comes to learning, this study represents a powerful argument in favor of the effectiveness of single-sex education for girls. It is an environment where girls put academics first, where girls enjoy not just equal opportunity but every opportunity. At girls' schools, girls dare to take on new challenges, to stretch themselves both academically and personally, where their learning styles as well as their developmental benchmarks take center stage.
NCGS member schools are educational leaders, not followers of trends, and have led the way for generations. They are incubators of innovation, where best practices for the teaching of girls draw upon decades of tradition while embracing the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the 21st century. Girls' schools know that students who are held to the highest expectations, given access to necessary resources, and who are led to understand that serious schooling is theirs for the taking -- these are students who do not turn back. This is exactly the culture of a girls' school, and time spent within one transforms girls. It is a sound investment for life.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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