City board starts work on its plan for schools Goals include raising math and reading skills, reducing dropout rate

January 15, 1998|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore school board took its first stab yesterday at writing a blueprint for reforming city schools over the next four years, offering a little something for everyone to like.

The board said it wants to increase reading and math proficiency from kindergarten to eighth grade, put a new emphasis on keeping students in high school and improve its many low-achieving schools.

In a four-hour work session, the school board went from broad philosophical discussions to nitpicking arguments over words in a list of goals.

The end result was three documents: a mission statement, a list of beliefs and a list of major goals.

Final draft next week

The board will publish a final draft of the documents Wednesday and hold a hearing at 6 p.m. Jan. 29 at the school board offices on North Avenue to get public reaction.

The meat of the discussion of where city schools will go in the NTC next four years is likely to come when the board backs up its broad goals with specific strategies, which will be written by the end of the month and released for public comment next month.

The blueprint, called the master plan for the schools, is likely to run dozens of pages and must be given to the General Assembly by March 13, as required under a state law passed last year to begin reforming the city schools.

Agreement on other goals

Some of the other goals the school board agreed on yesterday include:

Increasing the level of parental and community involvement.

Providing safe, clean and orderly schools.

Implementing a plan for special education students as called for under a court-negotiated agreement.

In a discussion, board member Patricia Morris and interim school chief Robert E. Schiller said they were concerned that the people are comfortable with the level of performance of city schoolchildren or do not realize how low city students score compared with their peers across the nation and the state.

For instance, 35 percent of third-graders statewide passed the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP), while only 11.2 percent of city third-graders passed.

Morris said when the numbers for other systems were announced, it was difficult to stand before the public because Baltimore was so far below the others.

"To see the numbers and Baltimore so low, it was demoralizing," she said.

"There is still not an acceptance of how low we are," Schiller said.

The board discussed briefly whether it should set specific goals on how many students will pass the MSPAP by 2002 when it writes its strategies, but it made no decision.

Pub Date: 1/15/98

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