Research Proves NDA Mission
TYNGSBORO -- During her valedictory address in June at the Academy of Notre Dame, Eileen Leach recalled her ninth-grade year and the start of her incredible journey at the only all-girls Catholic high school north of Boston.
The journey was not simply one of academic success, although she had plenty of it, but also one of unparalleled personal growth that saw her reach far beyond her comfort zone to develop into a confident speaker and impassioned leader. She credited her metamorphosis to the academy’s learning environment, which is designed to deliver an experience for the way girls learn best.
Against that backdrop, the academy faculty kicked the new school year off with a professional-development presentation by Natalie Demers, director of research initiatives and programs for the National Coalition for Girls’ Schools.
“Research supports the benefit of all-girls schools,” Demers said. “Girls thrive in programs built intentionally with girls in mind. At NCGS, we believe that a school for girls is better than a school with girls.”
As a graduate of an all-girls school in South Africa, in addition to 18 years in education as a teacher, adviser and administrator, Demers has an abundance of personal experience that backs up the research. In her current position with NCGS, she leads the coalition’s research initiatives.
According to NCGS research, the best learning environments for girls are those that provide immediate and frequent feedback, positive role models, strong mentoring programs, experiential learning, and opportunities for collaboration and risk-taking.
“Feedback is very important to girls, and nearly 96 percent of graduates from all-girls schools report more frequent feedback than their counterparts at co-ed schools,” Demers said. “The majority, 60 percent, report higher self-confidence over their co-ed peers, and 93 percent say they were offered more opportunities for leadership.”
An all-girls education also contributes to heightened career aspirations. Statistics show that students are six times more likely to consider careers in STEM-related fields and three times more likely to go into engineering.
Demers had faculty work in small groups to answer questions about the value of an NDA education. As the groups reported on their work, Demers was impressed by what she heard.
“I am struck by the passion and care you show,” she said while addressing the faculty. “Teacher support is very important to girls, and it is obvious they get that from you. The students here are lucky.”
“The Academy of Notre Dame allows girls the opportunity to be themselves,” said Pamela Bernazani, principal of the Upper School. “Contrary to what many people believe, our experience makes them more prepared for co-ed college experiences. By the time our students graduate, they have found their own voices and have the courage to use it, they have become risk-takers who aren’t afraid of failing, they have learned to be tolerant of other viewpoints, and are comfortable with peaceful disagreement.”
The academy will host an open house Sunday, Oct. 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. To RSVP, call 978-649-7611, ext. 337 or email admissions @ndatyngsboro.org .