Online School for Girls Offers Comfort, Confidence

The Online School for Girls (OSG), based in Bethesda, Maryland, is offering a virtual close-knit community for girls to feel comfortable, offering them the confidence they need to succeed academically.

Marlborough student Xochitl Green wanted to take more psychology courses than her school offered, so she signed up for an advanced placement course through OSG.  What she encountered was not what she expected.

“I actually thought it was a lot easier to say your thoughts because there weren’t any eyes looking at you like there are in a classroom. You got to be completely 100% yourself. There were a lot of projects, though, where we had to video chat with girls or you had to text girls,” she said.

Schools in partnership enjoy the opportunities that the online school offers to young girls.

“There’s a lot of APs [advanced placement], a lot of STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] courses that we just don’t have the interest or the mass of students to be able to produce those classes, and so by partnering with other schools around the nation and getting the best teachers around the nation, we’re giving girls the opportunity they just otherwise wouldn’t have,” said Marlborough School’s Stuart Posin.

A large gender gap can be seen in STEM classes online.  The first STEM MOOC created by edX, “Circuits and Electronics” saw a 12% female attendance rate.  A separate study from Coursera discovered that their STEM courses had only a 20% female participation.

The Online School for Girls has worked hard to increase those numbers.  Last year, 21 of its almost 1,000 students were recognized by the National Center for Women in Technology “for their aspirations and achievements in computing and technology.”  This year, 30 of the school’s students took the advanced placement exam in computer science.  At the same time, 25 states in the US reported fewer than 30 females taking the same exam.

However, some do not believe that a single gender environment will help to make students truly successful.  According to Diane Halpem of the Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute, “they tend to be highly selective in terms of the students they admit.”

Brad Rathgeber, Executive Director for the Online School for Girls, said the goal of the school is to provide girls with a sense of community that will help them learn.

Rathgeber said, “What we’re trying to do in these single gender settings is really build an enormous amount of confidence in the girls so they can find great success [when] they go onto college and beyond.”

In recent years there has been increasing interest in all-girl online schools.  Since it was founded in 2009, attendance at OSG has gone up, and schools in partnership have risen from 4 to 85.

Rathgeber is currently creating an online school for boys set to open this fall.