NCGS History: 25 Years of Advancing Girls’ Education Together
The history overview that follows is drawn from NCGS archival materials including annual reports, early correspondence, conference programs, news clippings, NCGS publications, and conversations with the founding Executive Directors Meg Moulton and Whitty Ransome and other foundational leaders. While it is impossible to include every initiative undertaken by NCGS over the last 25 years, this history seeks to provide a summary of the major achievements of the Coalition as well as to capture the spirit of determination and collaboration that positioned NCGS and girls’ schools as experts on the education of girls. If you are interested in reading a more in-depth summary, please click here.
Creating the Coalition
Consider the shifts in the educational landscape over the last 25 years, and you will see the impact of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS). The social movements of the 1970s and the Title IX push for equal access placed single-sex institutions at risk. Suddenly, single-sex schools were no longer seen as a natural alternative. Despite the historic role of girls’ schools in providing quality education for girls, single-sex education was seen as anachronistic. Girls’ school educators knew otherwise and recognized the urgent need to change the climate and the conversation.
From the beginning, the Coalition was grounded in research and inspired by collaboration. In the late 1980s, two educators, Rachel Belash, Head of Miss Porter's School (CT) and President of the Coalition of Girls’ Boarding Schools and Arlene Gibson, Head of Kent Place School (NJ) and President of the Coalition of Girls’ Day Schools, each issued a call to action among their respective boarding and day girls' school colleagues. These visionary women had no doubt about the value and benefit of an all-girls education not to mention their own deep and well-founded understanding of how girls learn and succeed. Their goal: to systematically document the benefits of single-sex education for girls and share that information broadly.
These professionals knew their observations and understandings would be strengthened through quantitative research. Accordingly, in 1988 and 1990, two different yet related studies were undertaken by the Coalition of Girls’ Boarding Schools (CGBS) and the Coalition of Girls’ Day Schools (CGDS). By researching and promoting the concept of single-gender schooling, the two organizations became leaders in the national dialogue on girls’ and women’s issues.
Strengthened by their new data, the CGBS and CGDS leadership realized there was great power in collective action. In November 1991, 56 independent and religiously-affiliated schools officially came together to form the National Coalition of Girls' Schools. Its first collective undertaking: a comprehensive campaign to heighten the visibility and document the value of the girls' school experience. Margaret “Meg” Moulton and Whitney “Whitty” Ransome, who had been serving as the Executive Directors of the Coalition of Girls’ Boarding Schools since 1989, were asked to stay on as the founding Executive Directors of NCGS.
1991-2000: A Decade of Growth, A Future of Leadership
Meg and Whitty quickly understood that an entrepreneurial stance was key to the Coalition’s survival. Their collaborative leadership and relentless advocacy on behalf of girls’ schools helped set NCGS on the path to success. Public relations became a main priority during the Coalition’s first decade. The goal was to both increase public awareness of the benefits of single-sex education for girls and to help individual NCGS member schools with their own public relations efforts. Driven by the finding in the CGBS study that many parents perceived girls’ schools to be weak in math and science, NCGS hosted regional and national conferences and produced numerous publications on girls and STEM subjects. These initiatives helped establish NCGS as an expert on girls’ education in the national media.
This first decade of robust, innovative programming set the stage for a future of healthy growth for both NCGS and its member schools. The organization was also forward-thinking from the outset by expanding membership to the two remaining all-girls public schools in the country and international schools during its first two years.
Within a decade, girls’ schools were enjoying a renaissance. Increasing numbers of parents, students, educators, and policy-makers came to recognize the benefits of girl-centered education.
2000-2008: Renewed Focus on Research, Continued Strength
As NCGS approached its 10th anniversary, girls’ schools continued to experience growth and strength. NCGS continued to expand its membership, advocate for single-sex education in the media, and provide girls’ schools around the world with quality professional development and networking opportunities.
This decade also saw a renewed focus on research on girls’ schools, including the publication of the Goodman Research Group Study of girls’ school alumnae and research by Dr. Linda Sax at UCLA on graduates of girls’ schools and the transition to college. Both studies affirmed the benefits of girls’ schools. NCGS continued to convene regional and national professional development opportunities for member schools. Financial literacy, STEM, and global education were three key themes in NCGS programming during these years.
2009-2012: Managing Transitions, Securing Foundations
As NCGS approached its 20th anniversary, Whitty and Meg retired successively in 2008 and 2009, and the Board of Trustees faced the challenge of leading the organization through its first significant transition. Their commitment to the NCGS mission and enterprising mindset had established NCGS as a well-respected advocate for girls’ schools, and the Board sought a leader to carry on their legacy. Armed with a commitment to using this time to secure the foundations of the Coalition and ensure financial sustainability, the Board assessed all areas of the organization with the goal of establishing policies and practices that would attract the new leader they sought.
Over the course of a three-year transition that included the executive leadership of Susanne Beck (2009-2011) followed by the interim leadership of Burch Ford, former NCGS Board Chair and then Head of Miss Porter's School, as President (3/2011-7/2012) and Nancy Mugele as Interim Executive Director (7/2011-6/2012), the Coalition began to set its course for the future.
NCGS Today: Embracing a Larger Vision
After an extensive search, the NCGS Board of Trustees announced the selection of Megan Murphy as the next Executive Director beginning July 1, 2012. Megan was charged with the ongoing implementation of the NCGS 2013 Strategic Way Forward goals: to establish NCGS and its member schools as thought-leaders in educating girls, to build a financially robust model for fulfilling the NCGS mission, and to deepen relationships and collaboration with member schools in order to engage, inspire, and sustain membership.
Today, NCGS supports 200 national and international PK-12 independent, public, charter, and religiously-affiliated schools in 12 countries. The Coalition continues to provide and expand its robust resources and opportunities in the areas of research, professional development, advocacy, and networking.
The Board of Trustees initiated in September 2015 the process of reviewing the Coalition’s mission, vision, and values. New statements about NCGS’s purpose, principles, and practice, which better reflect the Coalition’s focus of supporting girls’ schools globally, were approved:
The National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS) is the leading advocate for girls’ schools, connecting and collaborating globally with individuals, schools, and organizations dedicated to educating and empowering girls.
We engage the power of many voices to strengthen our schools, communities and world.
We challenge limits to imagine and explore new possibilities.
We inspire the next generation to lead with confidence and moral courage.
We prepare girls for lives of commitment, confidence, contribution and fulfillment.
Advocacy: We champion the unique benefits of all-girls schools.
Research: We conduct, sponsor, and disseminate research on issues of importance to girls’ education.
Networking: We connect member schools with each other and to strategic partners to advance our work on behalf of girls.
Professional Development: We convene international, national, regional and online forums to exchange best practices for educating girls.
Looked to as a national and international thought-leader on best practices in girls’ education, NCGS programming now addresses the following universal themes: leadership; health, wellness, and inclusion; STEAM; civic/community engagement; classroom innovation; strategic school advancement; testing and assessment; and teaching and curriculum. In partnership with 13 strategic partners from around the world, including the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and The Philippines, NCGS hosted the first-ever Global Forum on Girls’ Education, Creating a World of Possibilities, during February 2016. The Global Forum brought together over 950 educators, researchers, advocates, authors, practitioners, and related industry leaders from 23 countries to exchange ideas about innovative approaches for academic excellence and the healthy development of girls. NCGS continues to be the leading advocate for girls' schools, collaborating and connecting globally with individuals, schools, and organizations dedicated to educating and empowering girls.
As of June 2016
NCGS Founding Executive Directors Whitty Ransome and Meg Moulton