What's your take on the "state of the schools?"
Baltimore City CEO Andres Alonso delivered his annual "State of the Schools" address this week, and sent the message to school leaders that the district cannot afford to take one step back as the school system shifts its focus to curriculum reforms to strengthen what's taking place in the classroom.
It was an emotional address to principals and other school system leaders, where Alonso outlined how improvements in student attendance, teacher quality and strong leadership are vital to the success of the district going forward. The city's academic curriculum is already under intense scrutiny, as it begins to measure its standards against those of the "common core standards" that were recently adopted by the state.
Alonso pointed out the district needs to take notice of declines in eighth-grade performance. While sixth-graders saw leaps in math test scores this year, eighth graders fell behind in the subject. Only 39 percent of eigth graders were proficient in math--the lowest marks in the district. Alonso said educators must do better, calling eighth-grade the "bottom-line" grade since it's where students often reach a crossroads of starting and finishing high school.
Other areas of improvement include closing the achievement gap between the city's middle and elementary school students. The city's elementary school students have historically far outpaced those in the middle grades, though the gap closes slightly less every year. But, elementary school students still dominate by a long shot.
As far as high school students, Alonso presented data to principals this week that showed that the district is relying too heavily on bridge projects for the High School Assessments, but that preliminary numbers show the the city's graduation rate has increased and the dropout rate has decreased. Still, high school students' attendance rates, while at 83 percent, are significantly less than the other grade levels, and their truancy rates are starkly higher.
It seems that the last school year was a calm before another storm of transition. What is your take on the state of the city's schools?