DiBattisto would know; he's had to handle parents who were excited to have their daughters in tech classes, only to pull them out after the girls expressed concern with confidence or anxiety about being the only female. "Now we can offer an alternative."
But don't assume Boshnack is pushing for more single-gender courses. "I believe in the value of diversity in the classroom, and I don't generally support the idea of separating boys and girls," the principal says. "This was a unique situation. And we stress that it's not about achievement. The girls do just as well as the boys in this program. The challenge is just in getting girls to sign up. Once they're in, they excel."
RIT is watching, and the RIT Women in Engineering program has already offered to provide guidance. "This can work for both Brockport and RIT," explains program director Jodi Carville. "Our students will mentor the high school students, and in turn those students will look to RIT for their educational future."
Carville is not surprised to see local schools struggling to attract female students to Technology classes. "That's happening everywhere," she says. "We have to change the message that says engineering is a field for boys. We'll explain that you can work on projects that allow you to make a difference in the world. You can make an impact. And that kind of messaging really attracts the female population."
It will take at least four years to find out if Carville is right. Brockport's goal is to offer only one female-only class, followed by classroom integration as the students progress through the program. "We expect they'll want to stay with the program once they see the value," Boshnack says. "We won't have numbers for a while, but we plan to follow it closely."