Education

LAUSD approves creation of all-girls STEM school

The Los Angeles Unified school board voted Tuesday in favor of starting the Girls Academic Leadership Academy.
The Los Angeles Unified school board voted Tuesday in favor of starting the Girls Academic Leadership Academy.
Photo by ZEISS Microscopy via Flickr Creative Commons

The nation's second-largest school district on Tuesday approved the creation of an all-girls school focused on science, technology, engineering and math in an attempt to narrow the gap between boys and girls in those subjects.

The Los Angeles Unified School District board voted unanimously to start the Girls Academic Leadership Academy on the condition the district receives a waiver from the state Board of Education to operate a single-gender school.

District officials said the school is modeled after the Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem and joins a handful of other single-gender public schools nationwide focused on what are known as STEM courses.

Los Angeles Unified data shows girls perform as well or better in math and science in elementary schools but their scores decline as they continue through middle and high school.

Fewer female students also take Advanced Placement courses in math and science.

A recent study of federal data found that fewer high school girls than boys reported liking science and math. Among 2009 high school graduates, male students had higher average math and science scores then female students who took specific math and science classes.

The school was the idea of a Los Angeles district counseling coordinator whose own daughters had attended private, all-girls schools. Deputy Superintendent Michelle King said the counselor approached the district two years ago interested in offering more girls a similar opportunity.

"Why can't we replicate that for girls in a public school setting?" King said.

The Young Women's Leadership School in New York City was started in 1996 with an emphasis on STEM classes. Similar schools have been opened in Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, and Texas.

If granted state approval, the Girls Academic Leadership Academy would open in 2016 with an initial group of 200 students in grades six through nine. Enrollment would be increased to 700 students through all high school grades by the 2019-20 school year.

This story has been updated.