Stadium school at risk Audit results: Test scores aren't stellar, but politics shouldn't kill experiment.

March 30, 1997

THE CIRCUMSTANCES were not auspicious for the reform-driven experiment known as the Stadium School. An audit begun earlier this year by the Baltimore City public school system has found less-than-stellar test scores at the non-traditional school. This news comes just as the legislature appears poised to enact a city-state partnership that will do away with the current local school board and relieve the superintendent of his responsibilities.

Is the threat to one of the more promising efforts for city kids simply a matter of holding the school to its own promises, or does this news fit more neatly into the category of revenge?

Maybe a little of both -- although neither reason justifies the potential harm that could be done by closing the school. By most accounts, this non-traditional school is doing inspiring work with a student population that is 95 percent African-American, with 70 percent of its students coming from families living at or below the poverty line.

True, the curriculum has not yet shown strong results by more traditional standards of measurement. But that is not sufficient reason for ending the experiment prematurely -- unless, of course, the school system doesn't care about the message such a pre-emptive move would send to parents and communities that want to make schools better.

Clearly, the system should encourage this kind of enthusiasm, not undermine it. But as Superintendent Walter Amprey made clear in recent remarks at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, he opposes the Stadium School and other charter-school experiments, although he enthusiastically favors experiments in school privatization. What gives?

Efforts like the Stadium School thrive on the dedication and community involvement that is essential to the rehabilitation of Baltimore City public schools. Citizen support, involvement and enthusiasm are fully as important to the school reform effort as millions of dollars in extra aid from the state.

Founders of the Stadium School made big promises when they won authorization for their first five years. The school system's audit has pinpointed areas in which they are behind in the benchmarks they themselves set. Is that sufficient reason to end a promising effort that gives parents and communities a reason to think they can make a difference?

The answer to that is a loud, clear "no!"

Pub Date: 3/30/97

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