Reporting Esme Murphy
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Going through middle school can be rough for kids. For girls, in particular, confidence in the classroom can be a big issue.
In fact, studies show that in math and science girls do not do as well as boys. But a public charter school in St. Paul is changing that. Laura Jeffrey Academy is a school made for girls and it’s a great example of what’s working in our schools.
Grace Theleman, a 7th grader at Laura Jeffrey, said her decision to come to the academy was easy.
“If there were boys here, I would be worried about what I wear or what I look like,” Theleman said. “And I don’t think I need to worry about that.”
But teachers say the school offers more than that.
Teacher Lizzie Forsche says the girls’ participation in the classroom is dramatically different.
“In a co-ed environment, girls are not out of their seats, trying to raise their hands, trying to be the first to answer,” Forsche said. “Here they are fighting for it.”
When Laura Jeffrey opened its doors in 2008, it had 100 students. Four years later, enrollment has doubled to nearly 200 girls from all over St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Laura Jeffrey’s students jump into activities often dominated by boys, such as playing the drums or building lightweight canoes. They also jump into academics.
Paxton Andrada, an 8th grader, said she was always pretty good at math, but she excels in an all-girl environment.
And while some students start classes at Laura Jeffrey performing below grade level, test scores show a strong turnaround by 8th grade. Laura Jeffrey Administrator Allison Stapley said,
“If students are with us for those four years, they are performing at a higher rate than the state average,” said Allison Stapley, a school administrator.
Laura Jeffrey is a year-round school with a six-week summer break and three two-week breaks during the year. By law, a public school in Minnesota cannot exclude boys. So if a boy wants to be a Laura Jeffrey Academy student, he can. So far, no boy has applied.