A Public School and a Private School Experience
Two hours—that was the amount of time it took me to get dressed, do my hair, get dressed again, decide which shoulder my backpack looked cooler on, and make it to first period on time. Concern about physical appearance is a shared concern for many high school students, but that’s not often the case for students who attend an all-girls or all-boys high school.
Across Missouri, there are about twenty private schools offering single-sex education. On average, these schools cost $12,320 per year. Aside from alleviating opposite gender social pressures, single sex education can offer many benefits for students in need of an alternative environment. Unfortunately, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds do not often have access.
Because of school choice, adolescent girls from low-income backgrounds in Saint Louis now have access to the option for the first time. This fall, the state’s first all-girls public charter school – the Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls – will open its doors. An affiliate of the Young Women’s Leadership Network, which boasts 100 percent college acceptance rates, Hawthorne will focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Founder Mary Stillman fondly remembers her experience at Holten-Arms, an all-girls college prep school in Bethesda, Maryland. Stillman founded Hawthorn to provide low-income, urban students with the joy and rigorous academic focus associated with private same-sex education. According to the charter’s brochure, young girls should expect a sisterhood with traditions, celebrations, and strong relationships, as well as 1 to 2 hours of homework per night.
Though Hawthorn will be the first public school option of its kind, it won’t be the first public school to use a gender-specific educational approach. Woerner, an elementary school in St. Louis Public Schools, adopted a gender-sensitive model four years ago. According to a recent article in St. Louis Magazine, the school divided students by sex, giving boys more hands-on learning, while instilling more confidence in girls in math and science. The school has moved from provisional to full accreditation.
This isn’t to say that single-sex education is the right choice for every student, but the option, if it’s a better fit, should be available to every student. In the absence of a private school choice program, charter schools are one way to expand the option which previously was experienced only by students whose parents had the financial means to afford private school tuition.