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Why A Single-Sex Boarding School Could Be Right for Your Student

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Would your teen consider an all-boys or all-girls boarding school? If so, you’re part of a trend.

Schools are increasingly focused on learning styles, leading parents to ask: Will my daughter or son do better in a single-sex school?

A summary of more than 2,000 research studies by the U.S. Department of Education found that the jury may still be out on whether single-sex education is more effective in the long run or how student performance in single-sex schools is also affected by cultural and economic factors.

But some studies seem to indicate that gender-specific education can boost test scores and achievement for both sexes.

  • A study by University of Pennsylvania researchers in 2012 was based on schools in Seoul, Korea, where students are randomly assigned to single-sex or co-ed schools. Researchers found that not only were test scores higher among students at single-sex schools, but those students were more likely to attend four- rather than two-year college programs.

  • A 2002 English study cited by the Alliance for Choice in Education, (which supports single-sex schools) found that girls at single-sex secondary schools were more likely to take courses like advanced math and physics that run against gender stereotypes.

  • Both boys and girls seemed to benefit from having their own learning space, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.

While academics are a good reason to consider a single-sex boarding school, there might be other reasons:

  • Your teen might want to get out of the day-to-day social pressure and distractions of a coed program.

  • Your teen might seek a school where resources can be focused on a specific sport or style of curriculum (for example, military or religious).

  • Your teen might have attended a girls or boys camp or single-sex teen summer program and liked the supportive atmosphere.

  • Your teen might want a school where there is less gender stereotyping and where educators understand the different maturation pace of boys and girls.

If you’re curious about the types of single-sex programs offered, here are 10 boarding schools that are all-boys or all-girls. Check out their programs and see if the idea might appeal to you and your student. Some accept day students and some have summer programs where your teen can see if a single-sex academic program is a good fit.

All-boys schools

  • Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Md., is the only Jesuit boarding school in the United States. It has almost 400 boys in Grades 9-12, about 25 percent of them boarders.

  • The Phelps School in Malvern, Pa., has 120 boys and specializes in support for students with learning and executive function issues.

  • Salisbury School in Salisbury, Conn., is for boys in Grades 9-12. Founded in 1901 in the northwest corner of Connecticut, the school prides itself on its long tradition of boys education and college prep.

  • The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn., accepts students in Grades 6-12. It has a selective summer leadership program for boys entering Grades 8 and 9 that concentrates on community service, academics and teamwork.

All-girls schools

  • Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Mass., has about 480 students. It accepts girls in Grades 7-12 (Grades 9- 12 may board). There are several summer programs, including an entrepreneurship institute for girls.

  • The Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y., has about 350 students in Grades 9-12. Founded in 1814, it’s one of the oldest girls schools in the United States and has a long tradition of encouraging women’s leadership.

  • The Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas, has 1,000 girls in Grades K-12 with about 450 in the Upper School. The school promotes what its founder called the Four Cornerstones: character, courtesy, scholarship and athletics.

  • Santa Catalina School in Monterey, Calif., is a Catholic boarding school. Founded in 1950, the high school has 233 students and is near the northern California coast. It has a 500-seat performing arts center.

  • The Madeira School in McLean, Va., has 315 students and has a campus near Washington, D.C. The Co-Curriculum program offers experiential learning opportunities through internships.

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Susan Moeller-profile-picture

Susan Moeller is a former newspaper editor and reporter who has directed education coverage as well as written about schools and children. She lives on Cape Cod, has three children and is a veteran of the boarding school and college search process.