That’s true for public schools, private schools, co-ed schools, and single-sex schools. In other words, it doesn’t seem to be the all-girls factor or the charter designation that have propelled the school’s success.
It’s Swafford’s leadership.* * *Sometimes when I visit schools, it’s painfully obvious that the picture being presented by administrators is far too positive to reflect reality. On an adjoining wall, hundreds of magnets bearing individual names track each girl’s proficiency in a range of subjects, from below basic to advanced.
And critics can point to research published in But what became abundantly clear is that CGLA is more an example of how much of an impact school leadership can have—regardless of school type—than it is of anything else.
Elaine Swafford was hired as CGLA’s executive director in 2012 and given less than a year to transform the then-failing school, which had launched several years earlier as the state’s first single-gender public charter school and then tanked. But in the intervening years, under Swafford’s leadership, the school’s scores have shot up, graduation rates have risen, and a waiting list to get in has developed at the sixth and seventh grades.
(Full disclosure: I attended an all-girls parochial high school.) CGLA is the first single-gender public charter school in Tennessee.
More than 90 percent of its students are black or Latino. The school’s brochure says it was founded “to improve educational opportunities for low-income, underserved girls in Hamilton County.” So it seemed like a good place to start.
As if to prove her point, Swafford takes me to a nearby eighth-grade algebra class where Carrigan Collins, 13, repeats the exercise.That fundraising effort is likely getting easier as the school gains more attention.Several people interviewed for this story said they were initially skeptical of the school’s efforts, but have come to hold a favorable view of CGLA under Swafford’s leadership. Teachers are expected to believe that every child is capable of success and then help them achieve it by doing whatever it takes, regardless of any obstacles.On the day I visit, the class is discussing the 9/11 Falling Man photo.“I like challenging things,” Hawa Barrie, 13, tells me, explaining that there is a lot of homework, but that she feels like she is learning at the school.