The Biggest Problems with Baltimore Schools

What are the biggest problems with Baltimore’s schools, according to its residents? A study from the Fund for Educational Excellence found that city residents were mostly unhappy with the school system’s lack of engagement with the community, the quality of school faculty, and school standards and curriculum. The study, which was detailed in the Fund for Educational Excellence’s newly released report, “City Speaks: Community Voices on Baltimore Schools,” interviewed 859 city residents from 55 neighborhoods, and aims to give education reformers a better idea of what the community itself wants from the school system.

According to the study, residents found the most problems in the following areas:

  1. Community and parental involvement. Many participants expressed a desire to engage and involve themselves with schools, but found that schools were either unprepared or unwilling to accommodate them. Parents often reported feeling unwelcome/ignored when they tried to take the initiative to connect.
  2. Teachers and school staff. Parents expressed dissatisfaction with teachers and school staff, citing concerns over lack of experience and qualification. Many also felt that teachers were detached from the community and didn’t care about their students.
  3. Standards, curriculum, and instruction. There was an overall consensus that schools failed to adequately educate and prepare students for the future, and that schools needed to be more flexible and attuned to individual student needs.
  4. Activities, programs, and opportunities for kids. Residents felt that schools didn’t offer enough extracurricular activities.

Based on these problem areas, the report made four corresponding recommendations for education reformers:

  1. Create more welcoming school environments. This was a key takeaway from the study – Roger Schulman, President and CEO of the Fund for Educational Excellence, published an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun calling for a “cultural shift” towards a more open and inclusive school environment.
  2. Leverage tools to reward, retain, and develop teachers. Teachers should be evaluated on the effectiveness of their instruction methods, and rewarded on actual learning gains/progress with students.
  3. Develop a comprehensive set of college and career readiness benchmarks and report out to individual students and families where they are performing against these benchmarks. This way, both students and parents will understand exactly where they stand academically and where they need to improve.
  4. Offer a wider variety of courses during school and more after-school activities for students. Extracurricular activities can open up future career pathways and foster potential student hobbies/talents, in addition to keeping kids off the streets after school.

The full report is available online here. The Fund for Educational Excellence is urging concerned residents to continue the conversation on Twitter at #cityspeaks.

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Gina Im

This article was written by Gina Im and edited by Steve Holt.

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