TCSome Ways to Turn Patterson AroundAs a resident of East...


September 10, 1994


Some Ways to Turn Patterson Around

As a resident of East Baltimore who has worked with the teens in this part of the city for nine years, I have some suggestions about changes that could be made at Patterson High School.

* Give uniforms to all Patterson students. Although kids will jump up and down over this initially, it is important to understand their dress reflects how they feel about themselves and how accepted they feel. Most kids do not feel accepted by the mainstream, so they have developed a culture of their own where they are willing to wear or do anything to be accepted.

Uniforms would help with self-esteem as well as pride in their school and help them feel like somebody. This also puts every kid on the same level materially. Everybody has the same thing. Guys wear blazers and ties. Girls wear skirts and blouses.

* Separate the students by gender. Kids today are bombarded with sexual data, innuendo and misinformation. That, combined with raging hormones, produces an atmosphere not conducive to learning. Separation would eliminate many distractions in the classroom.

* Establish smaller class sizes. Many of these kids need more attention. Class sizes of no more than 15 would give the teacher the opportunity to do more relational educating and monitoring of their students. In the past at Patterson, if you were in need of attention, the best way to get it was to act out. Bad students get attention. Good students hardly get noticed.

* Establish firm, non-negotiable and consistent boundaries. It needs to be clear that rude, disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated under any circumstances. If something is wrong, it is always wrong. The Board of Education needs to work with the school in developing clear, consistent and effective discipline.

* Establish in-school suspensions. Many students try to get a suspension or a disciplinary removal so they can play basketball, party, hang out, go home or whatever. Most kids are most attentive before lunch.

If students need to be suspended, then they should spend the morning with a counselor going over class assignments. They should make up homework, assignments or study during this time to be sure they are caught up in all their classes.

In the afternoon, they should work for the school: cut grass, remove graffiti, pick up trash or sweep the halls.

This would clean up the school, teach consequences of wrong behavior and help instill some pride in the school. There should be no exceptions.

* Provide a practical life curriculum. Many of these students, whether they graduate or not, do not have basic life skills. They don't know how to fill out a job application, rent an apartment, keep a budget, open a savings or checking account, balance a check book, prepare for a job interview, pursue higher education or understand how to make smart buying decisions.

Some do not even have basic manners. They understand little more than immediate gratification. These skills were traditionally taught at home but in many cases the home is not capable, willing or interested in teaching these things.

* Provide more security. The head security guard at Patterson has done an excellent job, given the resources he has had to work with. He has had one assistant. That is two security guards for 2,000 students. He needs at least three to four assistants to keep the building secure and aid with discipline.

* Implement a policy change on expulsions. Many students end up at Patterson because they get thrown out of other schools in the Baltimore City system. This makes Patterson a dumping ground for everyone else's problem students. This has to change. Each school needs to develop its own policy for its own problem students.

* Promotion policy needs to change. Some kids miss 60 or more days and still get promoted to the next grade. I personally know a student who in four years of high school at Patterson missed 182 days and graduated on time. That's a whole school year. The current system, whatever it is, makes excuses for kids rather than expecting and demanding the best. It is very common for a student to miss 20 days a school year. This is unacceptable.

* Parents must be involved. Every parent should be given a list of expectations from the school and should sign a contractual agreement with the school. This should be done in a very straightforward way that communicates to parents that their child's education is a no-nonsense issue.

As a Baltimore City taxpayer, I need to say that I am not getting what I am paying for at Patterson High.

Jeff Zenger


More Advice for Black College Freshmen

The following is in response to the Aug. 21 "Open letter to black college freshmen," which appeared in The Evening Sun. Since this seems to be the time when all the sundry are letting loose with unsolicited advice, here's some more to chew on:

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