The Girls' School Experience (page 2)
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.
The purposes of this study were to examine the perceived outcomes associated with girls' school attendance, with a focus on examining alumnae perceptions of the effectiveness of their schools in preparing them for the academic and social aspects of college. Drawing on
- the responses of more than 1,000 alumnae representing 61 schools, the study found that: Alumnae were very satisfied with their academic experiences at their girls' schools, and the vast majority would recommend others to attend their schools
- Alumnae clearly felt that their schools contributed to their self-confidence, and provided them with an environment that supported their development as individuals
- Alumnae gave their schools high marks for providing opportunities to develop leadership skills
- Alumnae felt they were more prepared for the academic transition to college than their peers who attended coed high schools
- Alumnae felt well-prepared for academic interactions with men
- Alumnae planned to major in crucial fields such as business/economics or mathematics and the sciences in significant numbers
The Girls' School Experience
In the survey, alumnae were asked a series of questions about their girls' school experience, using a 5-point scale where 5 represents the highest level of satisfaction. Nearly all respondents were very or extremely satisfied with their schools' ability to provide them with:
- Rigorous academic curriculums (95%)
- Individualized attention (93%)
- Encouragement to develop their own interests (80%)
More than 90% of the alumnae said they would definitely or probably attend a girls' school again if given the opportunity (61% and 31%, respectively), and 64% agreed that young women should be encouraged to attend girls' schools. Further:
Table 1 Satisfaction with the schools' academics:
|How satisfied were you with your schools in the following ways:||Not at all satisfied (1)||A little satisfied (2)||Moderately satisfied (3)||Very satisfied (4)||Extremely satisfied (5)||Average rating|
|Providing a rigorous academic curriculum||<1%||1%||4%||24%||71%||4.6|
|Providing individualized attention||<1%||1%||5%||22%||71%||4.6|
|Encouraging students to develop their own interests||2%||3%||15%||35%||45%||4.2|
One of the goals of the NCGS member schools is to provide students with opportunities for individual growth, along with a supportive environment to nurture girls' development. Respondents indicated that schools were doing a very good job of this:
- 85% of respondents were very or extremely satisfied with their schools' encouragement for students' to pursue new challenges
- 82% of responding alumnae were very or extremely satisfied with their schools' fostering of self-confidence
- 75% were very or extremely satisfied with their schools' encouraging an appreciation of individual difference
Respondents also rated their satisfaction with their girls' school in the areas of fostering community, encouraging community service, and developing girls' leadership. As shown in Table 2, alumnae were very or extremely satisfied with their schools' support and encouragement in all three areas.
- 87% of alumnae were very or extremely satisfied with how well their school fostered students' sense of belonging to a community
- 84% were very or extremely satisfied with their schools' provision of leadership opportunities
- 71% of alumnae were very or extremely satisfied with the amount of encouragement schools showed for students' involvement with community service
Table 2 Satisfaction with community, leadership and community service
|How satisfied were you with your schools':||Not at all satisfied (1)||A little satisfied (2)||Moderately satisfied (3)||Very satisfied (4)||Extremely satisfied (5)||Average rating|
|Fostering your sense of belonging to a community||1%||2%||10%||30%||57%||4.4|
|Providing you with leadership opportunities||1%||3%||12%||29%||55%||4.4|
|Encouraging you to become involved with community service||2%||8%||19%||34%||37%||4.0|
|N = 1,018|
Alumnae were presented with several statements citing the possible benefits of a girls' only education, and they were asked to consider how well their girls' schools prepared them for college in comparison to their observation of female college peers who attended coed high schools.
- 85% agreed that girls' school provide a greater "can do" attitude
- 84% agreed that girls' schools provide more leadership opportunities
- 83% agreed that girls' schools provide a better environment for personal development
- 74% agreed that girls' schools provide more encouragement in math, science and technology
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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