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Girls' Schools a Boon to Alumnae, Survey Reveals

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Attending an all-girls' secondary school helped young women to be successful in college and more assertive in their careers, according to a new opinion survey of graduates of several leading independent girls' schools.

The results of the survey of 1,200 girls'-school alumnae support the frequent assertion that single-sex schools foster confidence and independence in girls.

"This survey validates what parents, students, and educators at our schools have been saying all along," said Arlene Gibson, president of the Coalition of Girls' Schools, a group of 35 independent girls' day and boarding schools across the country, which commissioned the survey.

"An all-girls' education at the secondary level gives young women the competitive edge they need to succeed in college and in their careers, without sacrificing a happy and well-rounded social life," said Ms. Gibson, who is also the headmistress of Kent Place School in Summit, N.J.

She said it is well-documented that girls suffer in a coeducational environment, where boys tend to dominate classroom discussion and are perceived to be better suited for science and mathematics classes.

For the survey, the opinion research firm Yankelovich Clancy Shulman interviewed about 600 alumnae of coalition schools who4graduated between 1955 and 1960, and another 600 who graduated between 1975 and 1980.

Nearly nine out of 10 women surveyed said the all-girls' school they attended encouraged them to test their intellectual limits.

Seventy-two percent said they believed that a girls' school prepared them better for college, and 73 percent said they were better able to participate in classroom discussion.

About 60 percent of the earlier graduates said attending a girls' high school encouraged them to be more ambitious as a woman, while 77 percent of the later group believed that to be the case.

However, while 72 percent of those surveyed believed girls' schools are relevant to young women's needs today, only 54 percent said they would definitely choose to go to a girls' school again.

Only 49 percent said they would send their daughters to an all-girls' school, while 29 percent said they would not, and 22 percent said that they were not sure or that it would depend on additional factors.

More than 6 out of 10 of the earlier alumnae and nearly 8 of 10 of the later group said attending a girls' school helped prepare them for the challenges of a career.

Seventy-four percent of the women were employed full or part time, and their average personal income was $44,000 a year. Yet, only 47 percent believe they are more successful financially than other women their age.

Among both groups of survey respondents, 73 percent have married, and only 10 percent have ever divorced or separated.

The Coalition of Girls' Schools was established more than a year ago to promote single-sex education issues for its member schools, Ms. Gibson said.

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