Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

High School Students Say Single-Sex Schools Are an Academic Plus

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

High School Students Say Single-Sex Schools Are an Academic Plus

Article excerpt

At Miss Porter's School, a 154-year-old prep school here, all the academic and athletic stars are girls, as are all the leads in the school plays and the most talented artists and musicians.

As Caitlin Doyle, a freshman from East Hampton, N.Y., says, "Here, we run the show."

Caitlin is a bubbly teen with a passion for learning and a dream of becoming a movie producer. She knows an all-girls school was right for her. "I came from a school system where kids don't even care about learning," she says. "Here, everyone's bright and intelligent and they want to learn." Single-sex prep schools - particularly those for girls - are basking in a renaissance. Applications and enrollments are up. Advocates say more families are deciding that single-sex education is not a vestige of Victorianism but a valuable option with far-reaching social and academic advantages. Half a dozen single-sex schools have opened since 1995, and segregated classrooms in public schools, while legally questionable, are being trumpeted as a solution to high school girls lagging behind boys in math and science. In 1991 there were an estimated 29,000 students in all-girls schools in the United States; today, there are close to 36,000. These increases are occurring amid the rise in coed schools in recent decades. In the mid-1960s, only about 38 percent of private schools were coed, according to the National Association of Independent Schools. Today, 83 percent are coed. Of the remaining 17 percent, 9 percent are girls' schools and 8 percent are just for boys. (Figures do not include parochial schools.) Part of the mission of administrators of single-sex schools is to graduate girls with the self-esteem to "make {the playing} field level later on," says M. Burch Tracy Ford, who heads Miss Porter's School. "Schools are an extension of the larger culture, and when boys and girls come together life tends to be on the boys' terms," Ms. Ford says. "Girls are socialized to be accommodating, and in a coed setting girls tend to defer to the boys and to accommodate rather than really focus on their development." A 1992 report from the American Association of University Women, "How Schools Shortchange Girls," makes the case that girls are inadvertently neglected in coed classes. …

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