Baltimore Student Who Failed All But Three Classes In Four Years Was Ranked In Top Half Of His Class

As teacher unions fight to keep schools closed, the true cost is being felt by students who are racking up failing gradesdropping out of virtual classesincreasing drug use, and, in rising numbers, committing suicide.  In response, some union officials like the President of the Los Angeles Teacher’s Union has labelled calls to return to class examples of white privilege despite overwhelming science supporting resumption of classes. However, for minority students, this shutdown has taken a dire situation and turned into a free-fall disaster. The pandemic led to the closure of an already failing public school system, as evident in a shocking story out of Baltimore. As recently reported, a high school student almost graduated near the top half of his class after failing every class but three in four years. He has a 0.13 GPA.  His mother finally went public in exasperation with the failures in the public schools.

Tiffany France is understandably upset. She is a mother of three who works three jobs to support her family. She was never told that her son failed 22 classes and was late or absent 272 days over his first three years of high school. She was called for only one teacher-student meeting and that meeting never occurred at Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts.

France ultimately had to pull her son out of the school and enrolled him in an accelerated program to allow him to graduate in 2023.

For decades, we have spent huge amounts of money in school districts like Washington, D.C. and Baltimore as these cities and their leaders have failed to address these failures. We have had a lost generation of kids who have neither the education nor the trained skills to succeed in society. Yet, there is no accountability for the political and educational leaders in these cities.

In the meantime, school officials seem intent on driving top performing students from their systems in Boston, New York and other cities where advanced programs are being shutdown or suspended. Mayor Bill deBlasio proclaimed that public schools are a means to redistribute wealth as students continue to fail on every level in the system.  Other education officials have denounced “meritocracy” as racist.  These officials, including a recent congressman, attack standardized tests as racist rather than make real progress to improve performance on such tests for these children.

The top spending public school districts are also some of the worst performing school districts.  New York topped the per capita spending at $24,040 per kid. Washington, D.C. is close at $22,759.  Baltimore is often ranked in the top three per capita spending districts. The total budget for Baltimore public schools is $1.2 billion. That is for a city with a total population of roughly 600,000 (The greater Baltimore metropolitan area is 2.8 million). In 2015, the school population was 84,000 kids.

According to a 2019 study, over half of the New York City public schoolkids cannot handle basic math or English.  On tests, Asian kids shows a  74.4 percent proficiency in math with a 66.6 proficiency for whites, a 33.2 percent proficiency for Hispanics, and a 28.2 percent proficiency for African Americans.  Thus, more than two third of African American kids were not able to handle basic math in a school system with one of the highest per capita expenditures for students in country. Thus, public schools may be a vehicle for deBlasio to “redistribute wealth” but he is not distributing education or learning to those who need it the most.

In Washington, with the highest per capita spending on students, education officials “celebrated” a small improvement of scores in 2019. However, the scores would make most people cringe.  Only 21.1 percent of black students were proficient in math (as opposed to 78.8 percent for white students).

In Wisconsin, the 2019 scores (for students in grades 3 to 8 and grade 11) showed only 39.3% of students tested proficient or better in English/language and only 40.1% demonstrated a proficient or better understanding of math. Both showed drops. However, the racial disparity was particularly shocking. Ironically, the gap slightly narrowed due to white students declining in scores. However, in the eighth grade, only 12.1 percent of black students were proficient or advanced in English. There was still as 30 point gap for black students.

In the meantime, the pandemic has led to delays, reductions, or outright cancellations of standardized testing in many districts. So now students will not be going full-time to school and also not be tested on their proficiency in subjects in some districts. It is as if they did not exist, which is precisely the problem. Politically, they do not seem to register in terms of importance or influence. They are useful objects for politicians who use them for campaigns for more money or power. Yet, they seem utterly detached from any actual benefits as these leaders allow public schools to continue on the same course of proven failure.

Watching this happen to the public schools has been particularly hard for many of us who are ardent supporters of public education. Growing up in Chicago during the massive flight of white families from the public school system, I remained in public schools for much of my early education. My parents organized a group to convince affluent families remain in the system. They feared that, once such families left, the public schools would not only lose diversity but political clout and support. They also wanted their kids to benefit from such diversity. My wife and I also believe in that cause and we have kept our four kids in public schools through to college.  We believe public education plays a key role in our national identity and civics. They shape our next generation of citizens.  My children have benefitted greatly from public schools and the many caring and gifted teachers who have taught them through the years.

Reading accounts like that of Tiffany France is a disgrace. She is working three jobs and counting on the school system to give her three children an education . . . and a chance.  Yet, Baltimore and other cities have failed such children for decades. There is no accountability in the system.  These leaders are failing whole generations and leaving them to an endless cycle of poverty and crime. Yet, they are reelected or reappointed every year. Educational leaders demand more money but show little progress or success. The money evaporates and nothing seems to change for Tiffany France or her children.

The problem is not standardized testing. It is the lack of education where a student with below a 1.0 GPA could qualify for cum laude recognition in Baltimore. Decades and billions of dollars have been exhausted without significant improvement. However, the real cost of our failure is born by these students who find little solace in knowing that their per capita expenditures continue to rise as their scores continue to fall. If we ran our highway system like this, we would have billion-dollar gravel roads for highways. In our education system, we are spending billions but kids like Tiffany’s son are going nowhere fast.

A version of this column ran on

225 thoughts on “Baltimore Student Who Failed All But Three Classes In Four Years Was Ranked In Top Half Of His Class”

  1. Top half of his class? Of course. Three completed classes + black privilege = honors.

    1. That’s pretty bad. However, a distant family member (who is Caucasian) graduated from a district that had students with a C average or better graduating with Honors. Only a handful of kids stood up. Low expectations in acommunity with lots of low income families. A Hispanic friend of mine calls it ‘soft racism of low expectations.’ What do you call it, though, when it isn’t race-based but income-based?

    1. Apparently, a note of appreciation for a *free* blog is not part of your character.

      And neither is grammar:

      “Apparently” = Apparently[,]. In that usage, it’s a sentence modifier.

      “proof-reading” = proofreading. It became a closed compound ages ago.

      “curriculum professor” = curriculum[,] professor. It’s called a vocative comma.

  2. There should be no such thing as a teachers’ union. Eliminating them would permit the incompetent to be removed producing better classroom results.

  3. Public Employee Unions of any kind are a Cancer upon Society.

    The Unions donate to Democrats….Democrats funnel money to the Union.

    Union supported Public Officials negotiate Contracts that benefit the Unions.

    The cycle is repeated….and the case of Teacher Unions the Kids lose, Parents lose, Society loses…..the Democrats and Unions win.

    Want to cure the problem…..end Public Employee Unions.

    Start Charter Schools, enact Vouchers where the Money follows the Student….and enact school choice.

    Vote Republican!

    1. After promising to reopen schools, Biden’s COVID relief bill instead gives federal employees *15 weeks* paid leave if their kids’ schools are closed.

      Why is no one talking about this? This is the epitome of cronyism.

    2. That right wing nut case, Franklin Delano Roosevelt hated public employee unions.

      1. The left doesn’t know its own history, whether it has to do with slavery, racism, segregation, American security, public employee unions. That is why the leftists bloggers wing it every day and refuse to acknowledge that most of their comments have been proven wrong with just a little bit of time.

    3. There was a teacher’s aide in Maryland, outside DC, who was on camera on the Zoom classroom with middle school age students as he “pulled a Toobin” and because of the teachers unions they could not fire him. Instead he was placed on paid leave while they look into it.

  4. Where ya been, man? This has been happening at all levels of education for years. I am legitimately gobsmacked by how uninformed the majority of adults are about education in America. Where I live, no one fails, even with an F grade, for any reason, full stop. And where I am it has become fashionable to get kids who are perfectly fine diagnosed with IEPs so they can coast. We have parents calling *college professors* to argue about these things at the local university. We had the most egregious abdication of adult responsibility to youth in history over the past several decades, and ALL of this is the result.

  5. Joe Biden only wishes that he finished in the top half of his law school class.

  6. Clearly makes the case for vouchers and school choice more compelling than ever.

  7. this is a terrible story of a mother working 3 jobs hoping her kids get an education and can live a better life down the road…and the teachers have NO accountability…we now have 3 vaccines…by the end of April every state should be open…no masks…no social distancing…the problem is government wants to keep control over us forever…over half of the country will not let that happen…

  8. Democrats feed their own faces. They don’t care about the children. As Bill deBlasio says, ‘redistribute wealth’, knowing a percentage of that wealth will go to Democrat wealth and power.

  9. The politicians and schools do not face accountability, because the electorate in these cities vote them back in. Many cities, like Boston, Chicago , NYC and Baltimore, have adopted election rules that give public unions outsized influence. The municipal elections for mayor in these cities are held in off-off years (odd years), in Chicago the mayoral election day is in February and an odd year. This leads to a very low turn out for these elections – don’t let progressives claim they want people to vote. Who does turn out, public union members. The mayors in these cities know, they need the teachers union, police union, and all the other unions to be re-elected – nothing else matters. Government employees are also given the day off (teachers) or time during the day to vote (police and fire), many cities also require residency for employees. I doubt this lady voted in the last election, while trying to hold down three jobs. I am sure everyone of her sons “teachers” voted. This is the least surprising news I will read today.

    1. It’s difficult to replace school board members in elections when no one runs against them, as is the case in my city. Apathy is just as big and just as real a problem in many places.

      1. Why run when there is no chance? My mother would tell to run in Boston, but it would have been a waste of time and money.

  10. This will continue especially if H.R.1 “for the people” is passed. Your vote will count for nothing as it did in the last election. If your White, White Hispanic ,Asian or conservative you’ll be blamed for all the problems the Democrats wish to bestow. As if American kids don’t have it hard enough there’s a truckload of illegal uneducated kids headed somewhere to a school near you. But wait as Geraldo said last night “who was going to pick your lettuce”? Now they want to permanently keep a quick response military battalion in are nation’s capital, WHY? Is this the United States of America or the United States of Banana?

    1. It’s been the United States of Banana since the 1950s with the United Banana coup in Guatamala, courtesy of Edward Bernays and the CIA.

      This is the Banana Sketch and we’re all Kermit the Frog.

    2. Margot, your vote in the last election counted just like it’s supposed to and you apparently lost. It happens in a democracy.

      HR1 if passed – let’s hope – will end gerrymandering and force the GOP to face all of America’s voters, not just the one it selects to maintain a dwindling minority. It’ll be good for the party and America.

      1. It did ?

        How do you know ?

        Do you know how many votes from dead people, people who do not live in the state, people who do not exist were counted ?
        Do you know how many people voted twice ?
        Do you know how many people voted for others ?
        Do you know how many people were coerced into voting for someone ?
        Do you know how many people were induced – PAID for their votes ?

        If you claim to be able to answer any of those questions – you are a LIAR – because no one else can.

        And if you can not answer all of those questions with small numbers, then you can not claim to have had honest and fair elections.

        Can you name one place where there was actual scrutiny of any of those things ?

        In the US there are atleast 20M people on voter registration lists that are dead or do not exist.

        There is no mechanism to prevent votes from being cast in those names.
        This is just one of the myriads of problems with mailin voting.

        Beyond the other obvious problems with the 2020 election – the FACT is the election was LAWLESS.

        State election laws and constitutions were ignored.

        Those of you on the law do not seem to understand that “the rule of law” is not whimsy.

        You do not just get to make up the rules as you go to suit your political wishes.

        If you do not like the law or constitution – you change it. Through legitimate process. Not through executive or judicial fiat.

        We know that you are terrified by the purported insurrection at the capital in January.

        What are you going to do when there is a REAL insurrection ?

        Read the declaration of independence – when government becomes abusive of peoples rights, it is the right of the citizens to abolish that government – BY FORCE IF NECESCARY.

        That is where you are headed.

        1. “In the US there are atleast 20M people on voter registration lists that are dead or do not exist.”


          Any chance you have the original source at hand? (That request is not intended as a hostile challenge. I’d really like to check out the primary documentation.)

      2. This article is about the failure of education in this country.

        How is it that we can expect those who graduated in the top half of their class with a 0.13 GPA or with honors with a 1.0 GPA

        Are capable of running an honest election ?

        Why should anyone trust them – not that they are not decent and honest people – unlike those such as yourself who inflicted this disasterous education on them ?

        Having inflicted this abysmal education system on minorities – why should anyone trust you over anything ?

        The left has succeeded at what the KKK was never able to accomplish – destroying minorities.

        You have ranted that those of us who disagree with you are racists, hateful, hating haters – but the EVIDENCE is that YOU are the racist. YOU and the hater.

        Over the decades you have demanded more money for education – because as those on the left know, money fixes everything.
        As Turley’s article notes – the worst educational performance in the country is where the most is being spent.

        I completely disagree with Turley’s remarks about “white flight” – as a parent – white, black, …. MY FIRST obligation is to MY kids.
        To get them the best education I can. And if that means leaving a crappy city school – I will do so in heart beat.

        Regardless, the point is that you have failed to run even tolerably bad school systems.

        Why should anyone trust you to run an election ?

        Why should anyone trust you at all about anything ?

      3. “HR1 if passed – let’s hope – will end gerrymandering”

        Not too bright. Lacks knowledge of history, fact and common sense.

    3. “ But wait as Geraldo said last night “who was going to pick your lettuce”?”

      Not Blacks. Hispanics get to work the jobs Blacks refuse to do

  11. 234currency, teachers were rightly afraid of Covid-19 like many, but do not generalize us as liberals like to do. I joined the union only because, as a special education teacher, the malpractice insurance was a must. That safeguard was the only thing that the union provided me in my 30 years as a teacher. The cause for the decline of the schools belongs to the unions, administrations afraid of law suits, and parents who rely on teachers to raise their children. Yes, there are mediocre teachers out there as there are mediocre employees in any business. I will tell you first hand that those teachers who care about the future of their students cringe when they go to their administrators about a student who is not coming to school, or not performing to their potential and the administration, for the sake of their reputation in the school district, direct the teacher to grade the little work turned in and pass them, no questioned asked. Teachers are the little fish in a big pond of politicians, self-servicing union bosses, school administrators, and parents.

  12. The following quote is from the Baltimore Board of School Commissioners. It appears that members of the board are appointed by either the mayor or governor, not elected.
    ..”The Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners is responsible for ensuring excellence in education for every student at every level. The Board does this by focusing on quality instruction, managing systems efficiently and sustaining a culture of excellence.”
    It would be nice if they lived up to that statement.

  13. I wanted to find out a bit about the school Prof. Turley is discussing. These are the vision and mission statements for AFSIVA:

    We envision AFSIVA as a learning community in which we create a place where students, parents and community feel safe and welcome–where expression, college and high achievement is the expectation, not the exception.

    The Mission of Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts is that we will prepare 21st Century leaders and learners in a safe learning artistic community where student achievement is our priority.


  14. Dear Sir,
    The vast majority of your posts are of interest to me. That may be because I raised a lawyer. In you I see a gentleman of distinction who holds a vast wealth of knowledge.
    As my life begins to wind down, my greatest desire is to see those who have the correct knowledge, along with what I see as the proper attitude on government and law, to be the ones to step up and run for office. Your heart is seated in jurisprudence. Your mind is correctly aligned with what I see as true American values, guided by proper reason, logic, and critical thinking. You have a voice and the ability to succinctly get the message across, usually without too much hyperbole.
    If my shift were not winding down, I would try to run for my local towns office, although I feel woefully inadequate for such a job, I would find it my civic duty to attempt to do it for at least a term.
    In these times, the United States is in need of wise direction. Please, seriously consider taking a sabbatical to preform a civic duty for a term or two. I feel certain you could bring much of what is needed to the current government.
    Thank you for taking the time to at least listen. I hope you will act.
    An American citizen

  15. All the evidence needed that charter schools has been proven to close the racial achievement gap is provided by Thomas Sowell in his book, Charter Schools and Their Enemies.

    This exasperated mother is one of millions that can’t get their kids a decent education because Democrats kowtowing to teachers’ unions won’t allow it.

    There’s a million children on charter school waiting lists. This isn’t because the charter schools don’t have the ability to grow, but because they aren’t allowed to grow to be able to teach these children.

    1. ANYTHING beyond the disasterous mess that we have with public schools.

      The left rants that everyone not on the left is racist – yet the destruction of public schools – PARTICULARLY the destruction of public schools for minorities has been driven entirely by the left.

      The most significant problem that minorities in this country face is the abysmal education inflicted on them by the left.

      If you were to beleive the left and the media today – Crackers from the KKK are infiltrating blue cities and taking over their police departments and schoold.

      The most racist failures – the worst systemic racism in this nation is the mismanagment by the left of the cities and particularly the schools of the country.

      1. John Say with the garden variety version of using public schools as another bludgeon in partisan wars, so discount him.

        The problem is at least partly intractable due to black families themselves, which were systematically destroyed during slavery and maintained in circumstances intended to keep them that way until 55 years ago. Gee, big surprise that education is not as highly valued in the remaining culture, except slowly. Anyone knows good education follow active parental involvement and safe home conditions, and the schools do not control either. This is another problem we are all paying for that derives from slavery and it’s imperfect ending. We’d be dreaming fools to think it would resolve quickly or easily.

        1. “John Say with the garden variety version of using public schools as another bludgeon in partisan wars, so discount him.”

          Pure foolishness and ignorance especially since the Sowell Book and study on Charter schools in NYC was released demonstrating a tremendous increase in math and English proficiency in NYC charter schools. The difference isn’t slight or just good. the difference is night and day closing the gap substantially between the so-called privileged and the minorities. At the same time the left is trying to reduce or close down charter schools.

          AnonJF deals only with the fantasies that pop into his head. Truth to him is a distraction.

          1. “Charter schools” have the benefit of selecting students and more lax standards. That’s a hard to beat combo, but not a model for success for public schools.

            1. JF, I specify NYC schools where the statistics prove your claims rubbish.

              “selecting students “ selection is made based on lottery.
              “lax standards.” The grading process was NYS testing provided to all.

              Comparisons that you can do include: siblings, same building same grade, those that lost the lottery etc.

              AnonJF you make things up as you go along and you have been proven to have no significant collection of data to prove any of your points. Most of your data is fallacious. Most of your conclusions do not agree with fact. This continuous barrage of falsities on your part is entirely due to your total incompetence and lack of knowledge.

              1. Charter schools are not required to deal with special needs kids – as public schools are – and the lottery group is pre-qualified. Another factor limiting public schools are the numerous demands dictated by politicians and parents, not all of which are conducive to the latitude necessary for targeted education. We have partly created the monster and ask for more than it can deliver, i.e., a solution to all our social ills.

                1. Charter schools are not required to deal with special needs kids –

                  The presence of youngsters who need one-on-one instructions is not why public schools stink. Come up with another excuse.

                2. AnonJF, you are ignorant with no desire for the truth or to learn. You might as well be brainless.

                  “Charter schools are not required to deal with special needs kids – as public schools are “

                  Not True. If the kids can go to public school they can be chosen at random for the charter school.

                  “– and the lottery group is pre-qualified.”

                  There is no pre-qualification.

                  ” Another factor limiting public schools are the numerous demands dictated by politicians and parents, not all of which are conducive to the latitude necessary for targeted education.”

                  That is the leftist desire to turn out brain dead children so that children don’t ask the wrong questions that leftists like yourself can’t answer.

                  Parents have more control over the curriculum in a charter school than they do in the NYC public school system.

                  We have partly created the monster and ask for more than it can deliver, i.e., a solution to all our social ills.

                  The left has created the monster and he is you. Brainless, no desire to learn, ignorance, severe bias surrounded by lies and fiction, and arrogance.

        2. “The problem is at least partly intractable due to black families themselves, which were systematically destroyed during slavery and maintained in circumstances intended to keep them that way until 55 years ago.”

          Hogwash. Statistics show otherwise.

          The problem is mostly due to leftist and Democrat behavior.

        3. AnonJF,
          “Anyone knows good education follow active parental involvement and safe home conditions, and the schools do not control either.” I agree, though there are things they may be able to do to encourage and reinforce more active participation.

          I disagree that the problems in black families and the problems in kids’ education should be blamed on slavery–there’s been a great deal of water under the bridge since then. Black families were fairly intact until the 1960s or 70s or so. There’s a complicated mess that feeds into the disastrous problems plaguing low-income people across the board. I am pretty sure Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and Martin Luther King, Jr. would all be appalled by what’s going on, as would Malcolm X–he read all the time and loved to learn and was a devoted family man.

          Glenn Loury and John McWhorter discuss some of the things that may play a role in attitudes towards education, among other things:

          The larger discussion of theirs: InDefense of Knowledge

    2. E.D. Hirsch also has an excellent book on the importance of knowledge not only for helping close the racial achievement gap but also for building a citizen who can wrestle with his/her responsibilities as the foundation of the government and as a member of a complex society.

      How to Educate a Citizen: The Power of Shared Knowledge to Unify a Nation.

      He looks at both charter schools and public schools in his book.

        1. S. Meyer,
          The charter schools he looks at are in the Bronx: (why go to New Orleans–they aren’t so good there) 😉

          South Bronx Classical Charter School
          Success Academy Bronx 2
          Icahn Core Knowledge charter schools

          He also looked at regular public schools that instituted changes to focus on a knowledge-based curriculum:
          Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy (Alexandria, VA)
          PS 69 in District 10 of the South Bronx

          1. He seems to appreciate the charter schools. Did you notice how he discussed the narrowing of the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged? Isn’t the gaps in all sorts of things what the left always focus’s on? Yet the left wants to keep the gap in order to protect the teachers union that funds the left and provides a significant voting block. They don’t care about the kids that are suffering.

            One of the reasons my comments are so negative about Democrats is because they have done very little to help the young in the big metropolitan cities that they control.

        2. Part II:

          At all these schools, public and charter, there is a shared-knowledge approach. “Knowledge [would] build on knowledge cumulatively” (60). At Lyles-Crouch, Hirsch notes that “the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students diminished” (63). And, like the charter schools you mentioned in an earlier conversation, Lyles-Crouch student scores rose above even some elementary schools in more well-off neighborhoods.

          At PS69, the principal notes that “our curriculum is unified both vertically [across the different grade levels] and horizontally [across different classrooms within the same grade]” (67). It, too, is a shared-knowledge curriculum.

          Hirsch says of the charter schools in the South Bronx:
          “Among the sixty-eight charter schools in the Bronx, seven have garnered the Reward School recognition for high scores accompanied by a strong narrowing of the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. All the students in these charters come from the same general pool of students within this low-income area of the South Bronx” (68). The schools focus on shared-knowledge.

          Some quotes I liked:
          “I see knowledge as building on itself, and that we learn through analogy (that is, what we already know)” (69).

          “An increasing number of kids today have extreme deficits in core knowledge, which impede reading comprehension and their acquisition of further knowledge” (70).

          “The chief difference between an advantaged and a disadvantaged student is background knowledge” (71).

          “Like Sheila Durant over at PS69, Jeff Litt [of the Icahn Core Knowledge Schools] encourages independence and helps students internalize the common knowledge and ethical laws that make good citizens. This independent-mindedness not only makes for good debaters, it also makes able self-starters at the high school level” (72).

          “Here are seven schools in the South Bronx that are so attractive to parents and children alike that, even when a family moves to a highly rated money-no-object school system, they will not leave their beloved school…So, what is Jeff’s secret? There are two characteristics that any American elementary school could duplicate. The first is an explicit, planned-out curriculum with the topics clearly defined for all; a curriculum that engages not just the children but also the teachers and the parents” (74).

          “The key difference between all seven of the Reward Schools in the South Bronx, and the contrasting results from the hundreds of less successful schools there and across the country, is chiefly the focus on specific topic shared by all students and an imperative to teach actual content to each grade consistently year to year so that knowledge builds on knowledge and an effective speech community is formed” (75-76).

  16. This is Exactly What the DEM’s, Elites, WOKE Crowd want. They want two classes, The Select Elite and the rest of us. They do not want an educated population they simply want followers, dependent on hand outs, robots to support and follow elite rule.

    The Teachers/Teachers Union don’t want to work, they want their PAY and Raises and never have to come to work. We see this in Chicago, especially the Teachers Union Leader demanding not to return to work while she is on the Beach.

    Yes, Corrupt election have consequences being led by Her Majesty Queen Pelosi and he court of Woke Jesters.

  17. Elections have consequences. The voters in Baltimore perennially elect the same type of politicians. This is their reward.

    Keep bleating about systemic racism and voting Democrat.

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