1. What is a single-gender school?
A single-gender school is a campus where the entire student population across all grade levels is comprised of one gender. All-girls or all-boys campuses would be considered single-gender schools. AISD currently has one single-gender school. The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders (ARS) is an all-girls middle and high school.
2. Are single-gender schools considered effective?
Yes. There is extensive research to support the positive effects of single-gender education. A range of potential benefits have been identified, including: increased academic achievement, particularly among “at-risk” students; greater staff sensitivity to and awareness of gender differences in learning and maturation; increased equity in curriculum and access to student opportunities; increased exposure to positive same-gender role models; better peer interactions; greater leadership opportunities; and increased opportunities for students to pursue academic, extracurricular, and career-oriented activities without regard to gender stereotypes.
In Austin, the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is experiencing success in student performance outcomes. Since its inception, the Ann Richards School has been the district’s top-ranked middle school by the Texas Education Agency. It has also been one of two AISD high schools with the highest ranking (Exemplary) by the state of Texas for 2010 and 2011.
3. Why do single-gender schools work?
Supporters argue that single-gender schools are effective models for many students. In short, single-gender schools work because they provide instructional programs that address the unique academic, social, and emotional needs of young boys and girls.
4. Is there research that confirms the effectiveness of single-gender education?
Yes. Quantitative and qualitative studies evaluated in a U.S. Department of Education report revealed that single-gender schools can positively impact student achievement in all subject areas.
Most of these studies showed that single-gender schools encourage students to have higher aspirations for post-secondary education and careers. In 100 percent of the studies looking at students’ career aspirations, students in single-gender schools set higher goals to attain. In addition, research shows single-gender classrooms do in fact break down gender stereotypes (i.e. girls will take math and science classes and boys will take music and arts classes). In single-gender schools, boys and girls are more likely to be enrolled in higher levels of math and science classes as well as other key areas of academic achievement.
5. What research has the district reviewed regarding single-gender education?
AISD actually released a White Paper on single-gender education. It summarized available literature and shared general best-practice strategies on single-gender education. Click here to download the White Paper on single-gender education.
The district continues to review available literature on the topic to identify research-based best-practices and hands-on strategies for implementing all-boys classrooms. This report is available here.
6. Why is a single-gender school a good idea for Austin?
Single-gender schools enhance the rich portfolio of options for high quality programming, which increases student outcomes, graduation rates, and college readiness. That is why the district brought together hundreds of families and community members from across the city to get input about a range of topics, including the community’s desire for a single-gender school. A survey was conducted in October 2010 during the Facility Master Plan Task Force development process. Two of the six geographic planning areas showed significant support for establishing a single-gender school.
In addition, the district has first-hand experience with a single-gender school. Established just a few years ago, the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is one of AISD’s Exemplary-rated campuses by the Texas Education Agency.
AISD believes the success of the Ann Richards School can be duplicated. The district is also proud to have strong community partners.
7. What is the mission of the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders (ARS)?
The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is dedicated to preparing young women to attend and graduate from college, commit to a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle, lead with courage and compassion, and solve problems creatively and ethically in support of a global community. The school provides a unique focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education - fields where women are traditionally underrepresented. The single-gender school offers a challenging, project-based curriculum that follows an advanced degree plan, with four years of high school math and science and pre-advanced or advanced placement courses for all core subjects. The goal is for 100 percent of the students to attend college.
8. What is the academic performance of students in the Ann Richards School?
After only four years, students have the highest academic achievement of any middle school in the Austin Independent School District. The school has also been one of two AISD high schools with the highest ranking of “Exemplary” by the state of Texas for 2010 and 2011.
On the most recently administered state (TAKS) assessment, students from Ann Richards scored at the 99th percentile in reading, writing, social studies, and math, and at the 98th percentile in science. Sixty-five percent of the student body scored at the Commended Level – the highest performance level set by the State Board of Education – in reading and language arts and 54 percent also scored at the Commended Level in math. Further, results show that Ann Richards students are succeeding regardless of their socioeconomic or racial/ethnic background. And, all student groups – African American, Hispanic and Economically Disadvantaged – scored at the 95th percentile or higher across the board.
9. Who attends the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders?
The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is one of 124 schools in the Austin Independent School District. Students who attend the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders come from diverse backgrounds. At present, the campus serves 617 sixth through 11th grade students. Sixty-three percent of students are Hispanic, 21 percent are white, and 10 percent are African-American. Fifty-nine percent of the students are also classified as Economically Disadvantaged (i.e., they qualify for the free and reduced-cost school lunch program).
10. What is the Ann Richards School curriculum?
The Ann Richards School curriculum offers a unique focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education – fields where women are traditionally underrepresented. The curriculum is project-based and teaches communication, teamwork, and leadership skills, and it follows an Advanced Placement Curriculum and the Distinguished Academic Plan – the most rigorous degree plan possible for Texas high school students. Students are exposed to a breadth of experiences, including band, orchestra, theater, art, choir, athletics, student council, ambassadors, and academic competitions.
The school features three college-career pathways for students: Engineering, Media Technology, and Biomedical Science. These pathways are taught with an emphasis in project-based, experiential learning culminating with a Senior Thesis Project and internship opportunities. All pathways are structured to be one-third theory and two-thirds application. This gives students meaningful, hands-on experiences in problem solving, teamwork, and project-based learning.
11. How are students selected for the Ann Richards School?
Applying to the Ann Richards School requires a student letter, fall semester grades and attendance, previous year’s TAKS scores, and two teacher recommendation forms. Each of these five items are equal in weight, with a perfect score of 20 points. Instead of taking the top students who have a score of 18 or more points, students who score within the range of 14-20 are placed in one of two lotteries, dependent on whether their current school is in a Title I school attendance area. (Title I schools have a majority of students qualifying for free- or reduced-price meals.) Through a lottery process, 75 percent of eligible applications are chosen from the Title I school attendance areas, and 25 percent from non-Title I school attendance areas.
12. How does Austin ISD fund a single-gender school during budgetary constraints?
The Ann Richards School for Young Women is supported through a unique public/private partnership with the Foundation for the Education of Young Women. Governor Ann W. Richards was instrumental in developing the school’s vision, and the Foundation for Education of Young Women provided seed funds for the school’s enhancement programs. The Ann Richards School Foundation (ARS Foundation) continues to enhance the programming offered by the local district and supports college-bound programming, summer camps, after-school programs, field experiences and internships, and professional development for teachers that is above-and-beyond what is provided by the school district.
The district has also received funding for a feasibility study and start-up activities for a School for Young Men from The Moody Foundation.