Instead of simply going “back to school” this fall, at least 155 students in the Miracle Mile area will begin the next chapter of their academic careers in the state’s first public all-girls program to focus on STEM curriculum.
The Los Angeles Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA) will host an opening ceremony on Friday, Aug. 12 to celebrate the beginning of its first school year. California Senator Holly Mitchell, Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King, board president Steve Zimmer, board member George McKenna, president of Mount St. Mary’s College Ann McElaney-Johnon, and Los Angeles First Lady Amy Wakeland will join GALA principal Elizabeth Ackerman Hicks for the ceremony at 4650 W. Olympic Blvd. on the campus of Los Angeles High School.
Student orientation began Wednesday for sixth- and ninth-graders, as GALA starts to form a middle school and high school at the same time on L.A. High School’s campus. Eventually, the school will include grades six to 12.
GALA is a first-of-its-kind program in the state as the only public all-girls school that will focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Students who start in the sixth grade will study math and science for seven years and computer science for six years.
The Young Women’s Leadership Network started the STEM model for schools in Harlem, New York approximately 20 years ago. The successful program has been implemented in in Texas and now in California.
Hicks cited research that found that female college students who graduated from all-girls high schools have more confidence asking questions in class and are more confident with computer skills than those who graduated from co-ed high schools.
Boys and girls are about equal in math and science in the early grades, according to LAUSD, but when they get to middle school, girls’ average scores drop and continue to do so into high school compared to boys. Girls also are less likely to take advanced placement courses in chemistry, physics, computer science and calculus.
“So we wanted a place where they could be really ready to take those classes when they went to high school,” Hicks said.
In an all-female environment, students develop leadership skills and graduation rates increase by 30 percent compared to co-ed schools, and 50 percent more students go on to attend college, according to GALA.
GALA’s program aims to send all students to highly selective colleges with a focus on engineering and computer science. Specifically, the school is aiming for a 100 percent graduation rate and 100 percent college-bound rate, which is currently at 74 percent for girls in LAUSD.
Hicks said students will be evaluated based on standard grading, using a “whole child” approach, which transitions from a focus on specific academic achievements to one that promotes long-term development to fully prepare students for college and careers.
The school day will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each weekday. Hicks said the school is taking applications for ninth-graders. So far, 155 total students have enrolled.
Hicks is a long-time LAUSD employee who taught at Hamilton High School where she helped start a small school within a school with the Communication Arts Academy. She served as assistant principal at Hamilton, Beverly Hills High School and John Marshall High School before working as a district-level counseling coordinator for six years.
For information, visit GALAcademy.org.