City middle school motivates but fails to meet standards

A LOOK AT WHAT MAKES SCHOOLS TICK

November 14, 1991|By Ginger Thompson

In a table showing performance of Baltimore's elementary schools in yesterday's editions of The Sun, the heading showing the "Satisfactory" level of attendence according to State Board of Education standards was incorrect. The satisfactory attendence level should have been 94 percent.

* The Sun regrets the error.

A chart in some editions of The Sun yesterday describing the performance of Chinquapin Middle School incorrectly reported the state standard for satisfactory attendance in middle school. The standard is 94; Chinquapin Middle scored 92.4.

The Sun regrets the error.

For a brief second yesterday afternoon, it appeared that Patricia Blansfield had lost control of her seventh-grade English class.

Half a dozen boys crowded around a globe, spinning it back and forth looking for Japan while others yelled directions from their desk: "It's near China. Look over by Asia."

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Ms. Blansfield smiled. She had her students -- identified as underachievers -- right where she wanted them, interested and participating.

"These are bright students, but they just don't seem to perform ** well in the traditional classroom environment," said Ms. Blansfield, head of the English department at Chinquapin Middle School. "It may seem that my class is chaotic at times, but there's really a lot of learning going on."

This kind of constructive chaos is an important part of learning for all students at Chinquapin, a two-story brick school in a Northeast Baltimore neighborhood called Cameron Village.

On a casual walk through the halls, children can be heard yelling the answers to math problems or reciting haiku, a form of Japanese poetry.

In the auditorium, a couple dozen children crowded the stage to practice pantomime while students upstairs played the saxophone and flute.

Yet the efforts of the schools 77 teachers did not translate into satisfactory achievement scores on Maryland Functional tests. The staggering results, released Tuesday, showed that, like almost all other Baltimore middle schools, Chinquapin failed to reach the state standard in reading, attendance, math and writing scores. But Principal Ian Cohen said the disheartening news would be a catalyst for even more aggressive teaching efforts in his school.

"It's got to be demoralizing for our staff," he said. "But we have the kind of staff that has a deep personal commitment to its students. We can look at the numbers as a baseline from which we will improve, but we can't get bogged down by them."

The Maryland Report Card showed that students at only four of Baltimore's middle schools made satisfactory grades on reading tests. None of the 25 middle schools achieved a satisfactory score in math and writing. All but one -- Hamilton Middle School -- failed to meet the attendance standard.

Mr. Cohen boasts that Chinquapin has one of the best attendance records of any middle school in the city, with 92.4 percent average daily attendance. While violence has erupted at other city schools, students at Chinquapin say there are only occasional pushing matches between students. And, they say, the hallways and surrounding lawns are drug-free.

"I love this school," said Jacqueline Tubman, whose eighth-grade son has attended Chinquapin for three years. "They really care about the kids."

Parent volunteers like Mrs. Tubman play a major role in keeping the school safe. Throughout the day a parent is stationed inside the front lobby to direct all visitors to the main office and to send wandering students to class. Denise McPherson, a parent who manned the post early yesterday, was disturbed by a rowdy class nearby.

"The classes are so large," said Mrs. McPherson, the mother of a seventh-grader. "Some of these teachers have to spend so much time disciplining students that they don't get to teach them anything."

But rowdiness is expected among middle school students, who range in age from 11 to 14. Brenda Doswell, a guidance counselor at Chinquapin, says the school's 1,280 students are at the most impressionable age of their lives. They are going through puberty. They feel every emotion in extremes.

However, those same impressionable students did better in Baltimore County, which spends approximately $6,000 per student compared to $4,614 spent on city students. The disparity has not gone unnoticed by Chinquapin's students.

"They already put us down and tell us that county schools are better," said one seventh-grade student whose class was discussing Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's decision to close schools for a week. "They say we are not as smart as them already, so we don't need to miss any more school."

"If we do," interjected a classmate, "then if we have to compete with the county kids for jobs, they will be two or three weeks ahead of us."

Many students shook their heads in agreement. But there's always one dissenting voice.

"It doesn't make a difference to me whether we miss school," said one girl, resting her head on her arm. "I think my grades are good enough that I deserve a week off."

Chinquapin Middle School # 46

Student performance

' School year 1990 - 1991

Functional Tests

First-time.. .. .. Pass % needed.. .. .. ..1991

test-takers.. .. . for Satisfactory.. .. ..% passing

Reading.. .. .. .. .. ..95.. .. .. .. .. .. .91.6

Mathematics.. .. .. .. .80.. .. .. .. .. .. .49.4

Writing.. .. .. .. .. ..90.. .. .. .. .. .. .61.5

STUDENT PARTICIPATION

Attendence yearly

Grades 6-8.. .. .. .. ..85.. .. .. .. .. .. .92.4

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