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.
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.
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
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
Research by Peggy Orenstein, author of the book, Schoolgirls, 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.
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
— 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
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.