Summer school numbers are a mystery

Some parents say school board is too secretive

July 02, 2002|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Baltimore school officials are refusing to say how many students are attending summer school this month, explaining that the system must first present the figure to the school board July 9.

The district announced more than a week ago that a record number of students -- 41,000 of its 95,000 students -- were in danger of failing and would only have a chance at being promoted if they attended a five-week summer school that began June 24.

School spokeswoman Edie House said the system does not have a precise number because some parents are still registering their children for the summer classes.

Some parents have called schools saying final report cards were slow to arrive in the mail.

"The numbers aren't clean. They are still accepting applications. It would still not be the correct number," House said.

When asked by a board member at a public meeting last week, however, the school system's chief technology officer, Joseph Kirkman, promised the board he would be able to produce a figure on summer school attendance within minutes.

In the past, school officials have not routinely withheld statistics because the figures had not yet been given to the board. Last week, the district released the results of standardized test results for the year -- a major announcement -- the day before a school board meeting.

"If the school system has the numbers and they are withholding them from the public, then it is a symbol of the lack of public input into the school system," said Christopher Maher, education director of Advocates for Children and Youth, a statewide watchdog group. "If they want Baltimore to believe in the schools, then they have to open their doors a little and let Baltimore see what is happening."

Parents and community advocates have complained at recent school board meetings that school officials are being secretive and are communicating poorly with parents and the community.

Karl Perry, principal of Calverton Middle School, said his summer school program has gone well so far, with over 90 percent attendance. About 700 of the school's 1,000 pupils failed to meet the new promotion standards that require them to maintain decent grades and get minimum scores on standardized tests.

Last year, a strict promotion policy was supposed to take effect. However, many students were passed on despite failing grades. School board members vowed that the standard will be applied this summer and more students than ever are now in danger of being held back.

Students who attend summer school can retake the tests and if they receive passing grades, be promoted to the next grade. Failing students who do not attend will have to repeat a grade.

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