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Professor’s research shows benefits of all-girls schooling

A UMKC education professor discovered that graduates from all-girls high schools have an academic and social edge over their co-educated peers.

Tiffani Riggers-Piehl, in collaboration with the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), released an executive summary of their study, “Fostering Academic and Social Engagement: An Investigation into the Effects of All-Girls Education in the Transition to University.”

The objective of this project was to revisit a study from 2009 conducted by Linda Sax of the University of California, Los Angeles.

The National Coalition of Girls Schools’ (NCGS) commissioned Riggers-Piehl to analyze a current data set using the same methodology developed for the original report.

Riggers-Piehl worked as a research assistant on the 2009 study under her mentor, Sax.

“It seemed like a fun opportunity for me to revisit some research I had done as a new graduate student,” said Riggers-Piehl.

The study identified over 80 statistically significant differences between all-girls school and co-educated graduates. The data gathered shows that all-girls school graduates:   

  • Have stronger academic skill    
  • Are more academically engaged
  • Demonstrate higher science self-confidence
  • Display higher levels of cultural competency
  • Express stronger community involvement
  • Exhibit increased political engagement

NCGS is the leading organization advocate for all-girls schools and is dedicated to educating and empowering girls K-12.

NCGS Executive Director Megan Murphy believes that researching the outcomes of all-girls learning environments is vital to strengthening them.

“The goal was to determine what findings from the original study remained the same for school graduates 10 years later, and what, if anything, may have changed,” said Murphy. “Ultimately, the new study, coupled with the 2009 report, provides two studies spanning generations ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ that compare the self-confidence, academic achievement, political engagement and aspirations of girls’ school graduates to their coeducated peers.”

Junior Ciera Farrens attended a same-sex Catholic preparatory high school in Omaha, Nebraska, called Marian.

She said the results didn’t surprise her given her positive experience.

“Because of the lack of distractors in same-sex schools, I was able to develop very strategic ways of studying and assuring high performance from myself,” said Farrens. “When coming to college, I found that, even with many more distractors, I was able to maintain my study habits and desire for achievement.”

Junior Katie Antrainer also attended a private Catholic all-girls high school called Rosati-Kain in St. Louis.

“I feel like going to an all-girls school has made me better prepared for college than some of my friends who went to co-ed school,” said Antrainer. “Many of my friends had trouble transitioning into college, but I didn’t think that I did. I have seen some of my friends struggle in classes that I thought were easy.”

Riggers-Piehl attended a public, co-ed high school and considers herself a supporter of this education type, as well.

She does not think that all schools should be “single gender,” but said the value that same-sex schools bring to the educational landscape could be replicated across various school types.

“It’s fun to actually do this research because it is so outside of my own experience,” said Riggers-Piehl. “But this data is really compelling. So even when I think about my daughter, it is appealing to me to think about what opportunities she might have if she were to go to an all-girls high school and how that might benefit her.”

For more information on the research conducted and to view the executive summary, visit The full report is expected to be released by the end of February.

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