by Sister Bernadette Marie McGuire, OP
Rosary high School in Aurora, Ill., one of three high schools sponsored by the Springfield Dominicans, was established in 1962. The enrollment is 458—all girls! Yes 458 girls. W
Recently there has been renewed interest in single-sex schools. In fact, the No Child Left Behind Act provides not only for single-sex classrooms within coed public schools, but also allows school districts to set up single-sex schools.
Much of the interest in gender-based schools is the result of brain research. In September the Rosary faculty attended a meeting of Women’s Schools Together, an association of all girls schools from around the country. The main speaker was JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. Deak spoke on the recent discoveries in brain research relevant to gender difference as it relates to the education of boys and girls. Female brains, in general, develop a greater ability in language, auditory skills, fine motor skills, and attention to detail than male brains. Male brains seem to use one part of the brain to solve problems, while girls tend to use more parts of the brain to perform similar tasks. An all-girl school can tailor classes and presentations to take advantage of the way the female brain is wired.
One popular myth is that girls don’t do well in math and science. Statistics have shown this to be false. According to the Goodman Research Group of Massachusetts, “13% [of graduates from girls’ schools] intended to major in math or science as opposed to 2% nationally for girls and 10% nationally for boys.” This year Rosary’s Math Team has qualified on the state level for six events in the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics math contest. Rosary is ranked 16 out of 59 schools in its division.
It comes as no big surprise to learn that research shows that the female brain takes more account of emotions than the male brain does. It is in this emotional area that an all-girls school is most advantageous. Studies show that in coed schools, girls often allow boys to dominate. In an all-girl’s school, girls can become more confident and learn to be leaders.
This confidence is one of the goals of Rosary. The school’s mission statement says: “Rosary High School is dedicated to the education and leadership development of young Christian women.” Rosary students practice leadership by being officers of clubs, classes, and student council. Rosary seniors also plan and run retreats for the freshman and sophomore classes. Students who have attended the Dominican High School Preaching Conference preach at prayer services. In a coed school, boys would assume many of these leadership roles. In an all-girls school more girls are able to participate. Myra and David Sadker of American University said, “When girls go to a single-sex schools, they stop being the audience and become the players.”
This was first published in JUST Words Vol. 6, No. 2, Spring 2006. The author, Sister Bernadette Marie McGuire, OP, was a long-time librarian at Rosary. She is now the librarian at Sacred Heart Convent.