Recent months have shown us all the value of a reliable, enriching education that puts students first – and at Calvert School, student success and well-being are top priority.
Located in the heart of Baltimore’s Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood, Calvert School is an independent, coed K-8 school that believes in meeting each child exactly where they are in their development. For over 100 years, Calvert teachers have emphasized specialized, age-based programming to foster lifelong learners – and now, its focus on coed learning and peer leadership set Calvert School apart.
In 2014, a study published by the American Psychological Association found that, despite claims to the contrary, single-gender education produced little to no advantages over coed learning. In fact, researchers concluded that there was “little evidence of an advantage of single-sex schooling for girls or boys” for any of the outcomes studied, including performance in math and science, self-concept, gender stereotypes, body image, and attitude toward academics.
Instead, experts say, many of these outcomes may be improved in a coed setting. Compared to single-gender schools, coed institutions provide more realistic living and working environments, preparing students for life ahead.
They also enrich academic discussions, allow for diverse voices and varying opinions, and promote friendship between boys and girls – and if you wander down one of Calvert’s long, winding hallways, that’s exactly what you’ll find.
At Calvert, every student is encouraged to forge lasting relationships with the boys and girls around them, and they’re given the opportunity to learn from each other – socially and academically – in coed classrooms, where they collaborate on projects, discussions, and assignments. Outside of class, these lessons continue with coed clubs and activities, including several intramural sports and athletic teams.
According to Sarah Crowley, Calvert School’s Director of Academic Affairs, allowing children to be together in this way helps them see each other as equals, and it helps prevent feelings of “otherness” that can contribute to gender stereotypes.
“It’s really important for boys and girls to be working together and growing together and seeing each other in their classes as equals, with equal abilities and capabilities,” Ms. Crowley said. “Once the genders are separated, the gender that is not present becomes a mystery, and certain characteristics are more easily laid on that group because there isn’t the opportunity to counter those labels and those ideas.”
In a coed environment like Calvert’s, boys and girls become accustomed to seeing each other rise and fall, struggle and succeed, and they learn to associate it with individual strengths and weaknesses, not gendered traits. They also forge diverse friendships that widen their view of the world and help them learn empathy, preparing them to build healthy relationships and communicate effectively in the years ahead.
“It’s a small environment, and the children are known here. So, their identity as the full self takes on so much more meaning than their identity as just one part of themselves. Whether it’s their identity as an athlete or an artist, or their identity as a boy or a girl, they recognize that they are all a universe unto themselves,” Ms. Crowley said.
Taking the Lead
For many children, the middle school years can be a confusing and challenging time marked by intense social, emotional, and physical change. During this complex stage of their development, it is common for students to struggle at home and at school as they begin to form their own identities – but at Calvert, these obstacles are overcome with steady, specialized support.
“All of our resources are focused on our K-8 students, which means that all of our teachers are experts in the age group,” Ms. Crowley said. “And that’s so important because you’ve got to be able to know who your children are. You have to know your students, and you have to understand and anticipate developmentally where they’re going to be.”
Just as experts continue to find new benefits of coed learning, studies show that K-8 schools are uniquely suited to guiding students through these intense years. In one of these studies, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Early Adolescence in 2017, researchers from New York University surveyed more than 5,000 middle school-aged students from over 1,700 schools and concluded that those in a K-8 program were more academically confident than peers who attended a traditional middle school.
Just one year earlier, a study published in the American Educational Research Journal found similar results, reporting that rising middle school students attending a K-8 school felt more comfortable and performed better academically than those in a standard middle school setting.
According to experts, many of these benefits come from K-8 students staying within one academic community for a longer period of time, rather than starting over at a new school for Sixth Grade. At Calvert School, expert teachers take things one step further, providing age-based curriculum that’s specifically designed to address and manage students’ changing lives.
In class, middle school boys and girls are given the opportunity to safely explore new passions, test new boundaries, and discover new ideas in a supportive and instructive environment that normalizes scholarship, “failure,” and the growth process. Because these years can be so chaotic, Calvert teachers spend extra time covering healthy habits, study skills, and organizational methods that help keep students engaged with their learning and future success.
Meanwhile, robust co-curriculars like athletics and clubs build on these gains, encouraging students to safely pursue new passions, hobbies, and skills. These offerings, which range from newspaper and photography to Diversity Club and chess, allow middle schoolers to discover and shape their own likes, dislikes, and identities as they find their place in the world. They also give students the opportunity to take on new responsibilities and shine as role models, emulating Calvert’s Four Pillars – Respect, Compassion, Honor, and Responsibility – for their younger friends and schoolmates.
“Our boys and girls, as they get older, they see our eldest children in the middle school, and they are their role models. The younger children look up to them from across the street in the Lower School all the time,” Ms. Crowley said. “There’s this idea of ‘one day,’ and when that one day comes, the students are ready to take it on because there are so many structures in place for them to show their own leadership.”
As the oldest students on campus, Calvert middle schoolers are entrusted with opportunities that might be reserved for high schoolers. Starting in Sixth Grade, all middle school students are invited to join Calvert’s Institute for Leadership & Purpose (ILP), a program that combines experiential learning and local outreach to build confident, purpose-driven leaders.
Through community service projects and compelling partnerships with nearby schools, the ILP is helping to shape the next generation of empathetic global citizens.
“We have the opportunity to build relationships with other children and other schools all throughout the city,” Ms. Crowley said. “And that exposure to the city beyond this small campus is so important.”
Away from the influence of high school students, who are often grappling with different issues, Calvert middle schoolers are also free to embrace and enjoy the rest of their childhood without rushing to grow up too soon. Because they are not exposed to high school behaviors, they don’t feel compelled to get there faster, allowing Calvert students to stay children for just a bit longer.
To learn more about how a Calvert education can enhance your child’s learning, please register for an upcoming Virtual Open House: Discover Calvert event. During each open house, prospective parents will take a virtual tour of Calvert’s beautiful campus, meet with Head Master Andrew Holmgren, and attend a Q&A with Lower and Middle School Division Heads.
Virtual Open House: Discover Calvert is hosted from 9:30 A.M. to 11:00 A.M. on October 2, October 20, November 11, and December 3. Dates in January, April, and May are also available, and may be held virtually. Click here to register online.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our School Spotlight Series. In this series, we spotlight our partner schools to give you a glimpse into what learning looks like on their campus. To learn more about Calvert School, visit their directory listing in our Independent School Directory. Images were provided by the school. Want to become a school partner? Email us.