Behind Every 'NM' is a Poor Kid

November 22, 1993

In its annual school performance report, the state Education Department rates schools excellent, satisfactory or "NM," which means schools have "not met" state standards. Alas, Baltimore City's 1993 report card has one "ex" (in 11th-grade reading), one "sat" (in promotion rate) and 11 NM's.

The city has many critics (the vast majority of whom don't live here) who take this as another indication that nothing is done right in Baltimore. But along with the report card, the state is now releasing what it calls "other factors," and some of them are worth noting.

For example, there is a correlation between wealth and school performance. Everyone knows the correlation holds true among subdivisions: Kids in Howard and Montgomery do better in school than kids in Baltimore and Somerset.

But in compiling data for the Governor's Commission on School Funding, officials have learned that the correlation holds true among all schools: Schools attended by poor kids in Howard get the same "bad grades" on the report card as those in inner-city Baltimore. And Baltimore County, which is rapidly becoming an urban school district, is starting to show signs of declining performance.

This alone does not argue for spending more money on city schools. Another statistic does: per-pupil expenditures. Baltimore spends $5,182 on each pupil. Anne Arundel spends $5,713, Baltimore County $6,200, Howard $6,481 and Montgomery $7,377.

In a classroom of 20 students, Montgomery spends $43,900 more than Baltimore.

Money doesn't buy everything. It can't buy you love, the Beatles sang. A lot of educational quality is related to how money is

spent. But if we compare report cards, we see that school performance is related not only to wealth, but to how much districts have to spend. As numerous commissions have pointed out over many years, the quality of education in Maryland is heavily dependent on the accident of a pupil's residence.

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