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October Newsletter

City Schools to Simplify School Choice

Baltimore City Public Schools is modifying the student school choice process to simplify how students and families select the middle and high schools they will attend. This is a positive step in ensuring students and families can easily understand and navigate the educational system to access the high-quality learning opportunities they deserve.

The changes align with recommendations made in the Fund’s 2017 report, Calculated Choices: Equity and Opportunity in Baltimore City Public Schools. This study examined school choice through student and parent perspectives, in-depth analysis, and realistic, actionable recommendations. Our conversations with community members and research into school choice revealed an urgent need to simplify the process and make it more equitable for students – no matter their neighborhood or socioeconomic status.

The new changes to school choice in Baltimore City Public Schools include:

  • Removing entrance criteria from Career & Technical Education (CTE)-focused schools:
    More than half of City Schools students are enrolled in a CTE program, in fields such as mechanics, surgical tech, fashion and welding. Previously, the high schools offering CTE programs had academic performance-oriented entrance criteria. This entrance criteria excluded students for whom CTE programs may have been a preferred path. City Schools is removing that criteria. The result: a simpler choice process with more options and fewer barriers for students interested in CTE.
  • Modification to the Composite Score Calculation for SY20-21 Choice Season: This year, due to the pandemic, the formula for calculating a student’s composite score will be adjusted. Typically, composite scores are calculated using attendance, grades, and standardized test scores. The score is used by the district and families to determine which schools a student is eligible to attend. Given the disparate impacts of COVID on City Schools students, City Schools will not include attendance and standardized test scores as part of the calculation for composite scores for the fall 2020 choice season.
  • Making the composite score formula consistent: Many entrance criteria schools emphasize specific subject areas in their instruction. In the past, these focuses resulted in different formulas used to calculate a student’s composite score – depending on which school was considered. For some, math mattered more. For others, it was science. The district has now made those formulas more consistent among schools, reducing complexity for students and parents in the process.

These changes are a fantastic step toward simplifying school choice and expanding access to high-quality learning for all students. Beginning in November, the Fund is offering on-demand school choice workshops to support students and families in navigating the process. Click here to request a workshop.

The Fund regularly releases reports that analyze pressing issues in Baltimore education, enlisting community perspectives and making recommendations for improvements. To explore all of the Fund’s reports, examining issues like CTE programs, college readiness and community priorities, click here.

Under Armour Supporting Student-Athletes Through COVID-19

The Baltimore Student Athlete Coalition, a Fund-managed partnership between Under Armour and City Schools, improves the student-athlete experience in Baltimore City Public Schools through facility improvements, academic supports, and new uniforms for all student-athletes. With in-person classes canceled and sports on pause due to COVID-19, Under Armour has continued working on behalf of students and communities. Here’s how:

  • Facility Upgrades: The Baltimore Student Athlete Coalition is working to ensure that students return to state-of-the-art facilities once schools are safe to open. Beginning this month, Under Armour is underwriting the renovation of 23 high school gyms with refinished floors, customized wall padding, and, in some cases, new bleachers and scoreboards. The investment will provide all current and future City Schools high school students with premium quality athletic facilities.
  • Mask Distribution: Under Armour is distributing its Performance Masks to all 5,600+ Baltimore City student-athletes as part of their donation of 35,000 sportsmasks to school districts nationwide. These masks were created by Under Armour specifically for use in athletics and will help student-athletes safely train during canceled or delayed sports seasons. For more details on the masks and their distribution, click here.
  • Student Athlete (virtual!) Leadership Council: This cohort delivering mentorship, guidance and collective support to 60+ student-athletes representing every high school has shifted its programs to the virtual space, with monthly sessions.
  • Positive Coaching Alliance: Last week, more than 200 athletic coaches received training to support their leadership of student-athletes. The program is organized by Under Armour and the Baltimore Ravens providing 6 coach workshops (2 per season) each year.

The Fund is proud to partner with Under Armour and City Schools to manage the Baltimore Student Athlete Coalition. Thanks to Under Armour’s commitment to Baltimore’s communities, this multifaceted program ensures student-athletes and those guiding them have high-quality resources available. To learn more about the Baltimore Student Athlete Coalition, click here.

Of Note:

Additional insights, updates and resources:

  • October is National Principals Month! Thank one of the incredible Baltimore City principals for their tireless efforts on behalf of students and families and check out the stories of past Heart of the School Award winners – the annual awards and grant-making program managed by the Fund: YouTube
  • Make your voice heard: the Baltimore City Public Schools Board of Commissioners is seeking survey responses from community members about its revised priorities and vision. Find it here.
  • City Schools recently announced plans for in-person learning opportunities available for the rest of the semester. Read the letter from CEO Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, here
  • Five takeaways from a legislative hearing about Maryland’s school reopening plans: Baltimore Sun

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