Universities aim to aid Patterson

November 22, 1994|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,Sun Staff Writer

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Howard University in Washington will take part in a comprehensive effort to jump-start Baltimore's troubled Patterson High School that will concentrate on ninth-graders.

"That has been the major roadblock to any kind of success, any kind of development at Patterson," Patterson Principal Bonnie Erickson said, referring to the failure of ninth-graders. "We're not going to be able to save all of our youngsters, but we're going to be able to save more than we have."

Patterson is one of two city high schools listed last year for possible state takeover because of poor or declining performance in such areas as achievement, attendance and dropout rate. Over the past several months, Baltimore school officials have been presenting plans to state officials to improve Patterson and Frederick Douglass High School.

The plan approved yesterday by the state Board of Education will break Patterson High into separate academies emphasizing different areas of instruction: sports and allied health; arts and sciences; manufacturing, technology and aerospace; and business. All ninth-graders would be in a separate "success academy" before choosing one of the other areas of study.

Only 48 percent of all ninth-graders last year went on to 10th grade this year -- the rest dropped out or are repeating the grade. Of Patterson's 1,900 students, 400 are second-time ninth-graders.

While giving general approval to the latest plans for Patterson, the state board required further definition of the involvement of the Hopkins-Howard center, plans for staff development, and a database so that state officials could determine the drop-out and attendance rates.

Patterson's overall attendance rate was roughly 69 percent, while this year administrators are projecting a level in the mid-70s. But Ms. Erickson said she aimed to achieve 85 percent to 95 percent attendance for ninth graders.

Sandra Wighton, assistant superintendent for Baltimore City schools, said the plan incorporated a realistic vision for the school. "It reflects an honest look at the conditions at Patterson but it is not mired in the conditions because it is forward-looking," Ms. Wighton said.

In October, Hopkins and Howard were awarded a $27.7 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create the National Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk. While little, if any, of those funds will find their way to Patterson's campus in East Baltimore, researchers from both universities will help the school to develop training programs for their faculty and curricula for the new academies. The reconfiguration of the school will take effect next fall.

The training programs are to smooth the transition to team teaching and to the academies.

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