National Coalition of Girls' Schools
Founded in 1991, the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS) is a non-profit membership association serving over 200 Pre-K through 12th-grade girls’ schools throughout the U.S., Canada, and abroad. Its members are independent, public, charter, and religiously-affiliated schools. As the go-to place for girls’ education, NCGS provides its members professional development opportunities like international conferences and regional symposiums, research on the benefits and outcomes of girls’ schools, advocacy outreach to families and the media, and networking events for girls’ school educators to connect and collaborate.
- 1 Purpose
- 2 Principles
- 3 Practice
- 4 History
- 5 Research on Girls' Schools
- 6 Member Schools
- 7 Member School Benefits
- 7.1 Professional Development
- 7.2 Research
- 7.3 Networking
- 7.4 Advocacy
- 8 Notable Girls' School Alumnae
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The National Coalition of Girls' Schools (NCGS) is the leading advocate for girls' schools, connecting and collaborating globally with individuals, schools, and organizations dedicated to educating and empowering girls.
- We engage the power of many voices to strengthen our schools, communities, and the world.
- We challenge limits to imagine and explore new possibilities.
- We inspire the next generation to lead with courage, competence, and empathy.
- We prepare girls for lives of commitment, confidence, contribution, and fulfillment.
- Advocacy: We champion the unique benefits of all-girls schools.
- Research: We conduct, sponsor, and disseminate research on issues of importance to girls’ education.
- Networking: We connect member schools with each other and to strategic partners to advance our work on behalf of girls.
- Professional Development: We convene international, national, regional, and online forums to exchange best practices for educating girls.
In the late 1980s, two educators, Rachel Belash, Head of Miss Porter's School (CT) and President of the Coalition of Girls’ Boarding Schools and Arlene Gibson, Head of Kent Place School (NJ) and President of the Coalition of Girls’ Day Schools, each issued a call to action among their respective all-girls boarding and day school colleagues. These visionary women had no doubt about the value and benefit of all-girls education because of their own deep and well-founded understandings of how girls learn and succeed. Their goal: to systematically document those benefits and share that information broadly.
These professionals knew their observations and understandings would be strengthened through quantitative research. Accordingly, in 1988 and 1990, two different yet related studies were undertaken:
Study Conducted for Coalition of Girls’ Boarding Schools (CGBS)
In 1987, Rachel Belash contacted heads of girls’ boarding schools urging them to collaborate on a market research project to respond to declining enrollments at their schools. A steering committee was formed, and in 1988, the firm Ransome/Maguire was hired to conduct a study.
In six hundred phone interviews with prospective and current parents of girls’ boarding schools across the country, girls’ schools were cited for their academic excellence and their ability to provide a communal environment that encouraged personal and academic exploration in a supportive culture. Girls' schools were seen as ideal settings for adolescent girls since they supported risk-taking, encouraged academic excellence, prepared girls for college and the real world, and fostered a sense of leadership and self-development. However, one troubling finding was the perception among many of the respondents that coed schools had stronger programs in math and science. Educators at girls’ schools were astonished by this perception, and this finding led CGBS to focus on showcasing the strength of girls’ schools in the fields of math and science.
Study Conducted for Coalition of Girls’ Day Schools (CGDS)
In 1989, Arlene Gibson encouraged heads of girls’ day schools to convene at that year’s Headmistresses Association of the East conference. Resulting from the meeting was the formation of a steering committee, which hired in 1990 Yankelovich, Shulman, and Clancy as research consultants. Commissioned by CGDS, the firm surveyed 1,200 girls' school graduates. Half of those surveyed graduated between 1955 and 1960; the others between 1975 and 1980. The study confirmed many of the same conclusions of the CGBS report. Graduates cited strong preparation for college and personal development as key benefits they received from their all-girls education. CGDS used these findings to develop a major media campaign showcasing the positive attitudes of girls’ school alumnae.
By researching and promoting the concept of single-gender schooling, the Coalition of Girls’ Boarding Schools and the Coalition of Girls' Day Schools became leaders in the national dialogue on girls’ and women’s issues. Those educators who were experienced with teaching only girls were determined to use the two studies to paint a different picture of the role of girls’ schools in American education. The findings of the studies gave administrators in girls’ schools important talking points for future marketing and promotional literature.
Strengthened by their new data, the CGBS and CGDS leadership realized there was great power in collective action. In November 1991, the steering committees of both organizations met and agreed to merge. Fifty-six independent and religiously-affiliated schools officially came together to form the National Coalition of Girls' Schools. Its first collective undertaking: a comprehensive campaign to heighten the visibility and document the value of the girls' school experience.
Margaret “Meg” Moulton and Whitney “Whitty” Ransome, who had been serving as the Executive Directors of the Coalition of Girls’ Boarding Schools since 1989, were asked to stay on as the founding Executive Directors of NCGS.
In the proceeding years, collaboration replaced competition. Research supported belief. The climate and conversation shifted. Moulton and Ransome’s collaborative leadership and relentless advocacy on behalf of girls’ schools helped set NCGS on the path to success.
It was clear from the outset that public relations and marketing initiatives would be strongest if constructed on a theoretical and pedagogical base for the value of girls’ schools. Families would then better appreciate the positive outcomes of a girls’ school education. The wealth of scholarship and research about women and girls provided information upon which to base the Coalition’s initiatives and programming. Moulton and Ransome quickly understood that an entrepreneurial stance was key to the Coalition’s survival.
Public relations became a main priority during the Coalition’s first decade. The goal was to both increase public awareness of the benefits of all-girls education for girls and to help individual NCGS member schools with their own public relations efforts. NCGS worked to establish a media presence through published press releases, radio and print interviews, and letters to the editor. These efforts helped position NCGS as an expert on girls’ education. In January 1992, when the AAUW released the report, Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America, which highlighted key areas of gender inequity in American education, NCGS moved swiftly to position itself in response to the findings. The timing allowed for the Coalition’s recently gathered research and data in support of girls’ schools to become part of the national conversation about gender issues, which was going full tilt.
From its founding, NCGS actively sought to provide its members with valuable professional development experiences, particularly in the areas of math and science. Driven by the finding in the CGBS study that many parents perceived girls’ schools to be weak in math and science, Ann Pollina at Westover School (CT) who was Dean of Faculty and Chair of the Math Department at the time and math teacher Louise Gould at Ethel Walker School (CT) organized a Math and Science Symposium at Wellesley College in June 1991. These educators wanted to share their best practices with the general public and believed girls’ schools were an ideal setting to help girls succeed and close the gender gap in STEM fields. The first three of many NCGS publications flowed from the successful Symposium: The Executive Summary, Task Force Reports, and The Complete Proceedings. NCGS received extensive media coverage from the release of these publications. Following the success of the first Symposium, NCGS hosted a Girls in the Physical Sciences Symposium in partnership with the Dudley Wright Center at Tufts University in Boston in 1993 and then a Girls and Technology Conference at Wellesley in 1995. NCGS received a grant from the National Science Foundation to create three publications highlighting the sessions and best practices exchanged at the 1995 conference. The success of these conferences led NCGS to take the Girls and Technology Conference to San Francisco in 1997 marking the Coalition’s first-ever programming on the West Coast. These professional development opportunities and the publications that flowed from them helped establish NCGS as a thought-leader on STEM education for girls.
This first decade of robust, innovative programming and initiatives set the stage for a future of healthy growth for both NCGS and its member schools. The organization was also forward-thinking from the outset by expanding membership to public and international schools during its first two years. The two remaining all-girls public schools in the country became involved with NCGS in its first year, and in January 1993, affiliate membership was established for international girls’ schools. An impressive total of 41 Canadian and Australian girls’ schools immediately took advantage of this opportunity. Moulton and Ransome continued to strengthen these international connections and spoke at the 1995 Girls’ School Association conference in London.
Within a decade, girls’ schools were enjoying a renaissance. Increasing numbers of parents, students, educators, and policy-makers came to recognize the benefits of girl-centered education. The number of NCGS schools at their enrollment capacity doubled from 1991-1995, and there was a 31% increase in inquiries at girls’ schools since the founding of NCGS. Perhaps the most compelling proof was the rapid emergence of new, independent, and public all-girl educational settings. In just the last half of the 1990s, 16 states offered new all-girls classes and 32 new all-girl schools were founded in cities coast-to-coast.
As NCGS approached its 10th anniversary, girls’ schools continued to experience growth and strength. Enrollment at girls’ schools was up nearly 40% since 1991, and nearly 70% of NCGS member schools were at full capacity. NCGS continued to expand its membership, advocate for girl-centered education in the media, and provide girls’ schools around the world with quality professional development and networking opportunities.
This decade also saw a renewed focus on research on girls’ schools. In 1999, NCGS hired Goodman Research Group to collect and analyze data about the all-girls experience from the perspective of graduates of girls’ schools as compared to female peers at coed schools. Over 4,000 graduates were surveyed, and the responses affirmed the benefits of girls’ schools. The findings helped shape marketing and public relations materials in the early 2000s. In March 2009, Dr. Linda Sax at UCLA published her research, Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College, which was commissioned by NCGS. The report documented the statistically significant edge girls’ school graduates have over their coed peers in many areas including self-confidence, life goals, STEM interest, and career orientation.
NCGS continued to convene regional and national professional development opportunities for member schools. In 1999, the Board of Trustees identified financial literacy as a key area of programming for NCGS. The Board saw this topic as critical for gender equality in the 21st century, so NCGS created a series of programs to address financial literacy and empowerment for girls. In 2000, NCGS hosted the Women, Girls, and Money Conference in Boston. The success of the conference led to a series of publications highlighting research on the financial gender gap, tips for parents on raising financially savvy daughters, and best practices for incorporating financial literacy into the curriculum at schools. NCGS expanded the program by hosting a series of regional financial literacy seminars across the country. These, along with the financial literacy initiatives at individual member schools, helped attract extensive media attention, including articles in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The San Francisco Chronicle, and a television interview on ABC News.
In addition to financial literacy, NCGS kept its focus on math and science by hosting and promoting regional STEM workshops and think tanks during the early 2000s. Global education also remained a priority. NCGS partnered with the Girls’ Schools Association to host an international conference in London in 2006, and “Global Citizenship” was the theme of the Coalition’s 2007 annual conference. Each year NCGS invited student representatives from around the world to participate in a forum and discussion during the annual conference, demonstrating its commitment to expanding global networks and opportunities for girls.
As NCGS approached its 20th anniversary, Ransome and Moulton retired successively in 2008 and 2009, and the Board of Trustees faced the challenge of leading the organization through its first significant leadership transition. Their commitment to the NCGS mission and enterprising mindset had established NCGS as a well-respected advocate for girls’ schools, and the Board sought a leader to carry on their legacy. Armed with a commitment to using this time to secure the foundations of the Coalition and ensure financial sustainability, the Board assessed all areas of the organization with the goal of establishing policies and practices that would attract the new leader they sought.
So much had changed in twenty years: new girls’ public, charter, and independent schools had opened, most notably the Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN) schools in New York; schools were now conducting their own research and holding collaborative think tanks; the Online School for Girls was creating a new platform for education and professional development; communications had shifted to social media; and the case for the education of girls had become a global priority. So how would NCGS adapt with this new and much-improved landscape for girls’ schools in the U.S.?
Over the course of a three-year transition that included the executive leadership of Susanne Beck (2009-2011) followed by the interim leadership of Burch Ford, Former NCGS Board Chair (2000-2003) and retired Head of Miss Porter’s School, as President (3/2011-7/2012) and Nancy Mugele as Interim Executive Director (7/2011-6/2012), the Coalition began to set its course for the future. During this time, NCGS expanded its Board to include heads of girls’ public and international schools. The Board also underwent a strategic review and planning process to create a vision statement and re-craft the original NCGS mission, which was extended from awareness to advocacy. The first National Conference on Girls’ Education in February 2012 in Washington, DC, a joint undertaking by NCGS and YWLN, affirmed the Coalition’s position at the forefront of thought leadership on girls’ education.
After an extensive search, the NCGS Board of Trustees announced the selection of Megan Murphy as the next Executive Director beginning July 1, 2012. Megan was charged with the ongoing implementation of the NCGS 2013 Strategic Way Forward goals: to establish NCGS and its member schools as thought-leaders in educating girls, to build a financially robust model for fulfilling the NCGS mission, and to deepen relationships and collaboration with member schools in order to engage, inspire, and sustain membership.
Today, NCGS supports 200 national and international PK-12 independent, public, charter, and religiously-affiliated schools in 12 countries. The Coalition continues to provide and expand its robust resources and opportunities in the areas of research, professional development, advocacy, and networking.
NCGS has stayed committed to advancing research on all-girls education. It was with much excitement that NCGS released Steeped in Learning: The Student Experience at All-Girls Schools in 2015, an analysis of data collected via the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE). Administered by Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation & Education Policy (CEEP), HSSSE explores facets of student’s attitudes, behaviors, and school experiences that are known to affect learning. This report compared the experience of girls at all-girls schools with those of girls enrolled in coed institutions. The girls’ responses provided unequivocal support for the value of an all-girls educational environment, especially in the areas of academic engagement and readiness for college and the real world.
NCGS has continued to expand its professional development for educators of girls, hosting regional, national, international, and online conferences and forums. In 2014, NCGS partnered again with YWLN for the second National Conference on Girls’ Education in Philadelphia. The following year in June, NCGS hosted over 550 educators in Richmond, Virginia at the STEM to STEAM: Girls’ Schools Leading the Way Conference. The first-ever Global Forum on Girls' Education, Creating a World of Possibilities, was held in New York City in February 2016. NCGS hosted this ground-breaking conference in partnership with 13 preeminent educational organizations from around the world, including the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and The Philippines. The Global Forum brought together 950 educators, researchers, advocates, authors, practitioners, and related-industry leaders from 23 countries to exchange best practices and innovative approaches for academic excellence and the healthy development of girls. Gloria Steinem and Arianna Huffington were headliners among the several internationally recognized keynote speakers.
Looked to as a national and international thought-leader on best practices in girls’ education, NCGS programming now addresses the following universal themes: leadership; health, wellness, and inclusion; STEAM; civic/community engagement; classroom innovation; strategic school advancement; testing and assessment; and teaching and curriculum. NCGS continues to be the leading advocate for girls’ schools, collaborating and connecting globally with individuals, schools, and organizations dedicated to educating and empowering girls.
- "To be successful, students need more than just a feeling of support. That support must translate into actions geared toward student success. Nearly 96% of girls' school students report receiving more frequent feedback on their assignments and other course work than girls at coed at schools." —Dr. Richard A. Holmgren, Steeped in Learning: The Student Experience at All-Girls Schools
- "More positive academic and behavioral interactions [were observed] between teachers and students in the single-sex schools than in comparison to coed schools." —U.S. Department of Education, Early Implementation of Public Single-Sex Schools: Perceptions and Characteristics
- "All-girl environments with girl-only peers helped build community and increased girls’ self-reported amount of learning." —Dr. Linda Sax, UCLA, Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College
- "Programs at girls’ schools focus on the development of teamwork over other qualities of leadership, while the qualities of confidence, compassion, and resilience also ranked prominently." —Dr. Nicole Archard, Student Leadership Development in Australian and New Zealand Secondary Girls’ Schools: A Staff Perspective
- "93% of girls’ school grads say they were offered greater leadership opportunities than peers at coed schools and 80% have held leadership positions since graduating from high school." —Goodman Research Group, The Girls' School Experience: A Survey of Young Alumnae of Single-Sex Schools
- "Girls at all levels of achievement in the single-sex schools receive a ... benefit from the single-sex school environment in terms of heightened career aspirations— an effect unprecedented in any other portion of our study." —Dr. Cary M. Watson, Stanford University, Sex Roles: A Journal of Research
- "Students at all-girls schools have higher aspirations and greater motivation than their female peers at coed independent and public schools. Over 98% of students at all-girls schools expect to earn a four-year degree. More than 2/3 expect to earn a graduate or professional degree." —Dr. Richard A. Holmgren, Allegheny College, Steeped in Learning: The Student Experience at All-Girls Schools
- "Compared to coed peers, girls’ school grads are 3 times more likely to consider engineering careers." —Dr. Linda Sax, UCLA, Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College
The National Coalition of Girls’ Schools serves over 200 national and international Pre-K through 12th-grade girls’ schools (independent, public, charter, and religiously-affiliated):
NCGS Educating Girls Symposiums are professional development offerings that take place in various regions of the country and provide heads of school, administrators, faculty, counselors, and educational professionals with an opportunity to convene and exchange best practices for teaching and working with girls. The topic for the symposiums changes every 18-24 months based on the real-time issues and challenges faced by NCGS member schools. Previous symposiums have been held in New York (2015), Los Angeles (2015), and the DC Metro area (2016). Educating Girls Symposiums will return to New York and the Los Angeles in 2017
Recent topics include:
- Developing Leadership Through Wellness and Mindfulness, which revolved around the intersection of leadership, resilience, and wellness and featured The New York Times Best-Selling author Rachel Simmons as the keynote speaker.
- School Communities: The Power of Many Voices about how the various "communities" in schools—students, teachers, administrators, admissions teams, advancement officers, parents, and more—collaborate to create a space where girls feel safe, valued, and appreciated. The keynote speaker for this series is Leymah Gbowee, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The 2016 Global Forum on Girls' Education, Creating a World of Possibilities, was held in New York, NY on February 7–9, 2016. NCGS hosted this groundbreaking conference in partnership with 13 preeminent educational organizations from all over the globe.
This event brought together 950 educators, researchers, advocates, authors, practitioners, and related-industry leaders from 23 countries to exchange best practices and innovative approaches for academic excellence and the healthy development of girls. Keynote speakers included Arianna Huffington and Gloria Steinem, among others. This event addressed eight themes that are universal in nature: Leadership; Health, Wellness, and Inclusion; STEAM; Civic/Community Engagement; Classroom Innovation; Strategic School Advancement; Testing & Assessment; and Teaching & Curriculum.
The 2015 NCGS Conference, From STEM to STEAM: Girls’ Schools Leading the Way, was held at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, VA, June 22–24, 2015. The conference provided educators with an innovative opportunity to engage in hands-on activities, participate in content-based discussions, share classroom materials, learn about web-based teaching resources, and exchange best practices for teaching girls.
The 2014 National Conference on Girls’ Education (NCGE), On the Forefront: Advancing Girls Together, was held at Loews Philadelphia Hotel in Philadelphia, PA, February 7–9, 2014. Launched in 2012 by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools and the Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN), NCGE 2014 was a forum for the exchange of transformational educational practice, the sharing of a wide array of resources for working with girls, and a catalytic bridging of best practices from all sectors of girls' education.
The first-ever Conference on Coordinate Education was held in Washington D.C. on November 7–8, 2013 at National Cathedral School and St. Albans School. Hosted by the International Boys School Coalition, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, National Cathedral School, and St. Albans School, this conference for senior school leaders explored the strategies, opportunities, and challenges of forming a coordinate education program between all-boys and all-girls schools. Schools that currently have an established coordinate program or are considering one attended this conference to learn more about best practices.
This research report is a comparative analysis of responses to the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), which was taken by nearly 13,000 girls attending all-girls schools, coed independent schools, and coed public schools. This report demonstrated that girls attending all-girls schools are more likely to have an experience that supports their learning than girls attending coed schools (independent and public). In particular, students at all-girls schools report: having higher aspirations and greater motivation, being challenged to achieve more, engaging more actively in the learning process, participating in activities that prepare them for the world outside of school, feeling more comfortable being themselves and expressing their ideas, showing greater gains on core academic and life skills, and being and feeling more supported in their endeavors.
Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College
Commissioned by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS) from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute and researched by Linda J. Sax, this report compares the backgrounds, behaviors, attitudes, and aspirations of 6,552 women graduates of 225 private all-girls high schools with 14,684 women who graduated from 1,169 private coed high schools. This study identifies several areas in which all-girls education appears to produce favorable outcomes for female students, especially in terms of their confidence, engagement, and aspirations, most notably in areas related to math and science. Thus, while the benefits of all-girls education are fairly small, they tend to be in areas that have historically favored men and therefore represent a potentially effective vehicle for mitigating longstanding gender gaps.
Click here for an online archive of over 150 research reports related to the benefits and outcomes of all-girls education.
Girls' School NET receptions are ready-made, cost-effective regional alumnae events, and serve as a way for alumnae to be able to engage with their alma mater, unite with classmates in their region, and network with local girls' school alumnae -- a worldwide resource of nearly 700,000 graduates of NCGS schools.
This year’s Girls' School NET: Networking and Empowering Together event was held in New York, NY, on February 8, 2016, during the Global Forum on Girls' Education. Girls’ School NET originated in Dallas, TX, and since then has been held in various cities including: Boston, MA; Philadelphia, PA; and Richmond, VA. An upcoming event will be held in Washington, D.C.
The Girls' School Advantage is an advocacy outreach program for prospective families and community-based organizations to learn about the effectiveness and unique environment of all-girls schools. Included in this program are presentations of the quantitative and qualitative aspects of girls’ schools, as well as current research on the outcomes of girls’ schools. Each event concludes with a moderated panel of student representatives, followed by a school fair.
This program originated in Los Angeles, CA in 2013, and since then has been held in various cities across the country, including: Baltimore, MD; Washington, DC; Seattle, WA; and New York, NY. Upcoming events will be held in Boston, MA and Toronto, ON.
See NCGS Member Benefits for a comprehensive list.
Notable Girls' School Alumnae
Marne Levine, COO of Instagram, Laurel School (Shaker Heights, OH)
Susan O’Day, EVP and CIO, Walt Disney Company, Miss Hall’s School (Pittsfield, MA)
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- "NCGS :: Case For Girls". ncgs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
- Holmgren, Richard A. "Steeped in Learning: The Student Experience at All-Girls Schools" (PDF). NCGS.
- "Early Implementation of Public Single-Sex Schools: Perceptions and Characteristics" (PDF).
- Sax, Linda J. "Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College" (PDF). The Sudikoff Family Institute for Education & New Media, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.
- Archard, Nicole. "Student Leadership Development in Australian and New Zealand Secondary Girls’ Schools: A Staff Perspective".
- "The Girls' School Experience: A Survey of Young Alumnae of Single-Sex Schools" (PDF). NCGS.
- Watson, C.M., Quatman, T. & Edler, E. Sex Roles (2002) 46: 323. doi:10.1023/A:1020228613796
- "NCGS :: Meet Our Schools". ncgs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
- "Member Benefits" (PDF). NCGS.
- "NCGS :: Symposium 16-17". ncgs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
- "NCGS :: Global Forum 2016". ncgs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
- "NCGS :: Conference 2015". ncgs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
- "NCGS :: NCGE". ncgs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
- "NCGS :: CCE". ncgs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
- "NCGS :: Events Archive". ncgs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-13.
- "NCGS :: Events Archive". ncgs.org. Retrieved 2016-11-13.