Fulfilling The Dream: Single Sex Education
Girls Preparatory Charter School, NY
What is the most compelling argument for an all girls school, from kindergarten to college?
As a charter school founder, I believe in the power of educational choice to transform lives.
Parents choose a single-sex school because they believe it is best for their daughter. Commitment, engagement and agency spring from that decision. The choice of a single-sex school also means that fewer girls are trapped and ignored in failing schools. This is an advantage of any high-performing charter school, but especially powerful for girls who are often overlooked in urban co-ed classrooms.
A girl in a single-sex school can choose who she wants to become. Co-ed schools run the risk of quietly even innocently discouraging girls from acting too confident and smart, or from pursuing their true interests. In a single-sex school, the brightest mathematicians and the athletic stars will always be girls. Making these choices empowers girls and their families.
How did you become involved in all girls education? What did you do before that?
Before founding Girls Prep I worked at another charter school and had been working in education for several years. My philosophy of what I wanted for my daughter’s education was largely influenced by what I was learning and doing in the Harlem schools I worked in. Watching my daughter learn and grow also helped me understand the achievement gap and the word gap. I remember having her visit a second grade class with me. I was reading a book about dinosaurs and it had the word “carnivore” in it. I asked the class if they knew what a carnivore was and no one knew. Jordan piped up (aged 4 at the time) “A carnivore is an animal that eats meat!” The experiences children have and the words they are exposed to starting at an early age make all of the difference educationally. Girls Prep is the school I wanted for my daughter! It is a place where people know you and all of your potential. A place where you can have the experience of art twice a week so you learn the vocabulary of art, you have music twice a week so you learn about and make great music always expanding the horizons and experience of our students.
Were you educated in a single-sex school?
No, I was not. I tried to get my daughter into a single-sex school but she was not accepted. I wish we had had the option of a Girls Prep and am glad other girls now have that option. I am still hopeful that my daughter will one day have experience of attending a single-sex school.
Who were your mentors?
I come from a family of strong hardworking women. I certainly got my work ethic from my mom. Other mentors were few and far between: a college professor, a former boss. It is so difficult, and so important, for women to find the mentors they need. From afar, Faye Wattleton and Barbara Jordan were the only women of color that I saw making a difference on a national level. I watched them, but I was in Arizona and they were not in my world.
What is the future of single-sex schools?
Would you send your children or grandchildren to a single sex school?
The future is bright! People are rediscovering single-sex education as innovative rather than rigid and out-dated. When I was growing up, an all-girls school often conjured images of prim girls with too tight braids and detention. Now, single-sex ed is more about breaking boundaries than creating them.
The trend of single-sex public schools is more than just a phenomenon. I believe that more and more public single-sex schools will crop up across the country. Research shows that single-sex environments are especially effective in serving at-risk children. In the next 10-20 years, we will see hundreds of leaders and advocates emerging from these schools. So many strong female role models attended single-sex schools. I believe this is because a single-sex education allows girls to realize their full potential. In the future, we will benefit from the leadership of this next generation of strong women. I believe these young women emerging from single-sex schools will empower all girls to allow their brilliance to shine—no matter where they are!
imagine a better choice for our new (2 month-old) granddaughter, Chiara!#