I have previously written about the near total meltdown of our public education system in some major cities. Prominent in these discussions has been Baltimore, which continues to fail inner city children in teaching the most basic subjects. This week, that failure is on full display with a report that forty percent of Baltimore’s schools lack a single student who has achieved grade-level proficiency in math. In various cities, the response of administrators has often been to lower the standards to continue to move kids out of the system without the skills needed to thrive in this economy.
In a prior column, I was particularly moved by the frustration of a mother in Baltimore who complained that her son was in the top half of his class despite failing all but three of his classes. Graduating students without proficiency in English or Math is the worst possible path for these students, schools and society.
The crisis continues with the new report that looked at 32 high schools administering the standardized test and found that 13 produced no students who proved proficient in math. Three-fourths of the Baltimore students taking the test were given the lowest possible score of one out of four.
At the five “elite” high schools, only 11.4 percent of students were math proficient.
We previously discussed the Baltimore public educational system as an example of where billions of dollars have been spent on a system with continuing failing scores and standards. Recent data adds another chilling statistic: 41 percent of students in the Baltimore system have a 1.0 (D) GPA or less.
Public schools and boards are making the case for school choice advocates with failing scores and rising controversies.
Baltimore City Public Schools responded to this shocking report with an effective shrug: “We acknowledge that some of our high school students continue to experience challenges in math following the pandemic, especially if they were struggling beforehand.” However, the system was failing these students long before the pandemic.
BCPS has a $1.7 billion dollar budget and was given an addition $799 million of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds this school year. Despite the massive infusion of money, the administrators have demonstrably failed these students who are left with few options in the workplace beyond low-level jobs.
Baltimore is not alone. The entire state of Minnesota reported a zero percent math proficiency rate in 75 of its schools during the 2022-23 school year.
What is baffling is that voters do not blame their political leadership for this disaster. Whole generations are being lost due to the inability of these districts to reach mere proficiency on basic subjects. Yet, there seems few political consequences for political leaders. Many seem to just accept that this is the fate of inner city children as politicians focus on other issues.
Again, the response of the Baltimore school district is maddening: “The work is underway to improve outcomes for students. But treating student achievement as an ‘if-then’ proposition does a great disservice to our community.”
I am not sure what the “if-then proposition” may be, but the greatest disservice to the community is the failure to offer these inner city kids a basic education to be able to succeed in the workplace. The “work has been underway” for decades with lost generations of kids lured into criminal activities by the lack of any real opportunity to advance in our society. As a father of four, I cannot imagine how desperate many of these parents must be in cities like Baltimore where schools offer little hope for the future.
We have been discussing these low scores for years with little progress. Baltimore and other cities simply demand more money while deflecting any responsibility for their poor records. The true cost is not borne by the teachers, the unions, or the administrators. It is borne by these families who see the same failures replicated in every generation, processing their children out of school without needed skills.