Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Don't cream twice?

In this on-line chat with Dr. Alonso one of the things that sticks out in my mind was the discussion about Citywide high schools. My interpretation was that he saw the need and value of citywides when he typed “There will always be a place for City and Poly and the others. They are great schools. I certainly benefited from an Ivy League education.” What sticks out to me was the rest of the statement – that the schools have to be held to a high standard and “don't try to cream twice!”

My first hand experience at citywides finished about 30 years ago, and my second hand experience has to do with a 9th grader who has no point of reference. I don’t think I’m an expert; I’m just a concerned party. That being said, I think the analogy is flawed. In my college experience they did cream twice – first the acceptance rate was fairly low and then the engineering courses had a pretty high failure rate. You could argue that failing a class doesn’t put you out of school, but in reality it usually does. Lost scholarships and financial aid puts you out of a school. Parents stop paying college tuition if you fail classes. There was no intervention plans or extra support. Maybe there should have been, but in the end you did what you needed to do or you figured out you weren’t cut out to be an engineer.I’m not saying that a citywide should operate in the same way, but it seemed to me that the threat of being sent to a school that you saw as less desirable was a pretty big motivator when I was at Western.

Another fallacy in the “once you accept them, you need to keep them” concept is that the current acceptance criteria are tough enough and fair enough to really know that these kids are going to be able to make it through four years at a citywide. Maybe an answer would be to have more/better objective entrance requirements.

I’d like to make these arguments to Dr. Alonso, but it seems to me that those with first hand experience (i.e. teachers from citywides with at least a few years experience) probably have a clearer picture of how things stand and how they are changing. It would be nice if some experts would give me some feedback here or better yet communicate directly with Dr. Alonso and let me know what he said.
The picture of Dr. Alonso was shamelessly stolen from

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Another family choosing Baltimore's Public Schools

I found this post at Baltimore Brew inspirational. I've known many families who have made the same choice that we have - to remain in City Schools while watching friends and neighbors flee. You just don't usually hear the reasons why they make this choice. I'm guessing that many parents share the feelings expressed in the article. It's very nice to see an articulately written piece expressing why a family with options would choose to go to City Schools.