For the first time, the Los Angeles Unified School District approved two all-girls' schools, which will focus on science, technology, engineering and math in an effort to close the gap between boys and girls in those disciplines.
Two secondary all-girl campuses were approved by the school board. While one will be overseen by LA Unified, the other will be an independently-operated charter school authorized by the district. However, the district must first receive a waiver from the state Board of Education allowing the operation of a single-gender school.
The Girls Academic Leadership Academy, GALA, will use space in the co-ed Los Angeles High School, enrolling 200 students in grades six through nine. By the 2019-20 school year enrollment will increase to 700 students and include all high school grades. The school will have a start-up budget including $333,800 to reconfigure part of the campus as well as $138,000 to hire an administrator and an assistant, writes Howard Blume for The LA Times.
The school is modeled after the Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem, joining the increasing number of single-gender public schools rising across the nation that hold a focus on STEM subjects.
The Girls Athletic Leadership School will enroll students in grades six through eight, enrolling 125 students in the sixth grade next fall. Charter leaders are still looking for an available space and are hoping to take up residence on an LA Unified campus.
While pledging rigorous academics, the charter school leaders also assert that "through movement, students [will] experience the connection between pushing themselves physically and thriving academically." They add that "students who have limited ability to move" would be "encouraged to participate through physical modifications and support."
Data from the district shows that girls achieve high academic performance in math and science while in elementary school, but that success tapers off once they reach middle and high school. In addition, few female students participate in advanced placement courses in these subjects.
Federal data shows fewer high school girls than boys report enjoying science and math. When looking at 2009 high school graduates, male students showed higher average scores in math and science than their female peers.
"It is clear that within our district, our female student population is underserved in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Superintendent Ramon Cortines said. "Not only will this new school help our students discover their potential, think critically and develop important intellectual skills, it will also prepare them for college and beyond."
A single-gender school already exists in the district. Young Oak Kim Academy is a middle school in Koreatown that separates boys and girls for core academic lessons.
Alternative programs are also available throughout the district for girls, including for those who are pregnant.