Why All Girls?

Why All Girls?



Empowering Young Women

Many parents ask what St. Mary's can offer their daughter that a co-educational school cannot. This is an important question.

One of the primary goals of St. Mary's is to prepare young women for higher education while aiding their development as spiritual, responsible, and ethical members of society. Since 1859, St. Mary's Academy has fulfilled this mission, and we attribute much of our success to the positive influence of an all-female student body.

Current research confirms our belief that within the structure of a single-sex school young women become better students and more confident about their abilities. Studies suggest that students in all-female schools out score their co-ed counterparts on both the mathematics and verbal sections of the PSAT.

Graduates of all-female schools are one and a half times as likely to graduate from college with degrees in math and science and twice as likely to earn doctorates. They are six times more likely to serve on the boards of Fortune 500 companies.

A 2009 report commissioned by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools from the University of California’s Higher Education Research Institute confirms that girls’ school graduates really do have an edge. The report issued findings around single gender education for young women that showed:

- Greater academic achievement
- Higher SAT scores
- Greater interest in graduate school
- Higher confidence in mathematical ability and computer skills
- Stronger disposition to co-curricular engagement

Research continues to confirm the benefits of single-sex education. As this body of literature grows so too does the public desire to study and examine the educational opportunities for young women in single-gender institutions.

SMA Girls - Bridge Walk

Gender Bias in the Classroom
A report from the American Association of University Women suggests that the classroom climate may explain why all-female schools are better at educating young women. Researchers report in a 2004 study, Trends in Educational Equity of Girls & Women, that in co-educational classrooms girls are shortchanged, especially in math and science.

Also, boys tend to dominate discussion, monopolize the teachers' time, and receive more affirming comments about their ability. Females who enter school equal in achievement and attitude to male classmates are leaving with lower test scores and diminished dreams.

Gender bias in the classroom inhibits young women from excelling academically. As Dr. Mary Pipher writes in her book, Reviving Ophelia, "Because with boys failure is attributed to external factors and success is attributed to ability, they keep their confidence, even with failure. With girls, it's just the opposite. Because their success is attributed to good luck or hard work and failure to a lack of ability, with every failure, girls' confidence is eroded."

SMA Girls in Classroom

Pioneering Excellence
At St. Mary's Academy, our students affirm research conclusions that a single-sex environment empowers young women to excel as students and leaders. In major subject areas, our students perform above the national average, with more than 40 percent of our graduates intending to pursue math or science as their field of study in college. An average of 100 hundred percent of St. Mary's Academy graduates attend college.

St. Mary's Academy is designed for success. Our broad based college preparatory curriculum stresses an inclusive approach to knowledge, understanding, human development, and diversity. As a school designed just for women, our curriculum and student life is focused on women's ways of thinking, learning, leading and creating. This makes a difference in helping young women become confident, independent, responsible adults. We believe this is why St. Mary's Academy has been one of Oregon's finest schools for young women since 1859.

Research by Peggy Orenstein, author of the bookSchoolgirls, Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap, produced the following findings:

  • Sixty percent of elementary school girls and 69 percent of elementary school boys say they are "happy the way I am." By high school, only 29 percent of girls feel that way; the drop for boys is less severe, only to 46 percent. 
  • In classes boys are twice as likely to be seen as role models, five times as likely to receive the teacher's attention and 12 times as likely to speak up in class.
  • In elementary school, 81 percent of girls and 84 percent of boys like math. By high school, 61 percent of girls and 72 percent of boys say they like math.

Hour of Code

SMA Community Testimonials

"A St. Mary's education gives young women confidence in their abilities to handle whatever life has in store for them."

— Kathy Mitchell '64, Art Teacher and Parent

"SMA, more than anything, gave me confidence. It supported me as I matured and pushed me toward higher goals. In the end, SMA gave me the foundation I needed to be as independent and self-assured as I am today."

— Theresa Myers '05

"One of the advantages of all-female education is definitely all of the opportunities. Student government, clubs and other organizations are run and directed by female students."

— Nicole Kemper '01

"In the TIES program students learn to work in small groups with other high school students planning activities and with younger girls teaching the activities. This program develops within our students leadership and compassion. TIES helps our students understand the need for positive female role models. Connecting with fifth grade students gives our young women the opportunity to share their knowledge and give back to the grade schools."

— Maureen Daschel '77, Chemistry Teacher, TIES Adviser

"St. Mary's has provided me the opportunity to excel both athletically and academically. The support I received from my teammates embodies the caring community of the Academy."

— Ashley Salvino '05

SMA Mock Trial Team


Tips for Parents Raising Confident, Competent Daughters

Being a good parent is one of the most difficult (and rewarding) jobs we will ever have. In light of recent research and classroom observations, raising a confident, competent daughter presents a particular set of challenges to parents and educators alike.

It's useful to evaluate your child's classroom experience. You and your daughter should be satisfied with the answers to the following questions:

  • Are girls actively involved, called on and encouraged to participate equally?
  • Are girls on the front lines of leadership?
  • Are there women role models? Women in leadership positions on the faculty? In the administration?
  • Are girls' sports as valued and supported as those for boys?
  • Do girls persist and excel in higher level math and science classes?
  • What do other parents of girls say about the school?

Today there are a wide array of private secondary school options, and deciding which school a child will attend is among the most important decisions families face. Every girl is unique, as is every school. The task of parents is to find the right match.

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