NCGS History

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, 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.

Creating the Coalition

Consider the shifts in the educational landscape over the last 30 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-gender institutions at risk. Suddenly, single-gender schools were no longer seen as a natural alternative. Despite the historic role of girls’ schools in providing quality education for girls, single-gender 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-gender 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-gender 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 and broadening membership to include all-girls public schools 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 all-girls 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 over 250 national and international PK-12 independent, public, charter, and religiously-affiliated schools in 15 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 the Coalitions’s Purpose, Principles, and Practice, which better reflect the Coalition’s focus of supporting girls’ schools globally, were approved:

Our Purpose: Our Principles: Our Practice:
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 and resources now address the following universal themes: leadership; health and wellness; diversity, equity, and inclusion; STEAM; civic/community engagement; global partnerships; classroom innovation; strategic school advancement and sustainability; testing and assessment; and teaching and curriculum. 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 September 2019