education | WYPR

education

State and federal programs have poured billions of dollars into some of the nation’s worst schools since 2009 in hopes of making improvements. But once those schools show progress, the money disappears, and they risk sliding backward.

Commodore John Rodgers Elementary and Middle School in East Baltimore is one of those schools. After drastically improving test scores, school climate, enrollment and absenteeism, it is no longer eligible for turn around funding.

More than half of Maryland’s students who took standardized tests last spring failed them, according to the state Department of Education.

The department released scores on the 2016 Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) tests Tuesday which showed overall, modest gains throughout the state. The percentage of students passing the English test was essentially flat, but the percentage of African American and Hispanic students passing showed a small positive gain.

Being a first year teacher often means instructing with limited classroom experience and Baltimore City Public Schools, like many urban school districts, has more inexperienced teachers than suburban school districts.  A local program, called Urban Teachers, grown out of former educators’ experience working in Baltimore’s central office, is trying to change that.  

Ms. Tierra Woods is greeting her 4th grade math class as they shuffle into their seats. She’s a first year teacher, but this isn’t her first time leading a class.

Governor's Office via YouTube

As expected, Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive order today, requiring all Maryland public schools to open after Labor Day, beginning next year. But opponents questioned its legality, and the governor’s motives.

In making his announcement on the boardwalk at Ocean City, the governor said it will help the state’s economy, because families will be able to extend their summer vacations.

Scholars sing to start the day at Play On Purpose's Summer Camp
Jonna McKone

Every parent faces challenges finding constructive opportunities for their children in the summer while school’s out. But that process can be even more difficult for parents who can’t afford day camps.  

On a hot, August morning, about 75 kids play, sing and chat in the cafeteria of ConneXions, a public charter school in the Mondawmin neighborhood of West Baltimore. Play on Purpose (POP) runs a free summer program here that includes curriculum through the Freedom School, a program of the Children’s Defense Fund. Freedom Schools teach culturally relevant reading and local African American history at over 12,000 sites around the nation to, in part, stem the tide of summer learning loss.

Jonna McKone

The standard picture of a debate team looks something like this: white students in jackets and rep ties from schools like Dartmouth and Princeton. But that’s changing, especially in Baltimore, which has developed a reputation for producing some of the most accomplished high school and college debaters in the country.

Take rising 10th grader at Baltimore City College, Nicolas Broaddus, who stands in front of the  judges at the Eddie Conway Liberation Institute’s debate competition. Clad in a dashiki he’s talking about things that "...constitute the domestic aspect of the US transnational network of secret prisons and black sites..."

Nicole Price, 21st Century School Building Plan

The Baltimore City school system is spending $1 billion to update and renovate nearly two dozen overcrowded and outdated schools as part of the 21st Century Schools Building Plan. But closing schools and buildings and moving students, no matter the goal, is not easy, especially for communities that have lost many of their public institutions over the years.

Marvin Walker’s daughter attends Samuel F.B. Morse Elementary School in a Southwest Baltimore neighborhood of vacant homes and broken sidewalks. It’s a school that’s slated to close and its students are to move to nearby Frederick Elementary, which is being modernized to accommodate more students under the system’s 21st Century School Building Plan.

Baltimore’s school system has embarked on an ambitious project to renovate, replace and combine dozens of the oldest schools in the state over the next four years.   

The $1 billion effort aims to shutter and combine dozens of schools and renovate or replace at least 23 – all by the spring of 2021.  

A 2012 report by the Jacobs Project Management Company, a consulting firm, found that 85 percent, or 138 of the schools are in “poor” or “very poor” condition.

A power issue at Baltimore City schools headquarters on North Avenue has knocked the system’s web site off line and snarled some plans for final exams.  

School employees, who wouldn’t give their names, say some teachers can’t get into the online tools they need to administer finals and two teachers said there were delays in administering Maryland’s High School Assessments or HSAs due to internet issues.

Headquarters school employees say the power went out at about noon yesterday, forcing them to evacuate the building through dark stairwells without the aid of an intercom system or emergency lighting.

The long-serving president of the Baltimore Teacher’s Union, Marietta English, withstood her first serious election challenge in years yesterday from Kimberly Mooney, a teacher and union representative. The unofficial results were English winning by about 180 votes out of more than 1,200 votes cast.

Mooney’s campaign focused on issues like teacher retention, reforming evaluations and building greater transparency. But others in the 6,000 member union felt the most recent contract English negotiated was a strong one and that those who are disgruntled should simply get more involved.

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