We hope that what we heard from participants in this community study will inform new CEO Dr. Gregory Thornton’s thinking about how to tackle the challenges of Baltimore City Public Schools and build on its recent successes as well. Acting on any of these findings would signal a real willingness to listen to and collaborate with communities, but based on what we heard most, our recommendations to City Schools are to:
- Create more welcoming school environments. This involves everyone in a school from front-office staff to teachers and support staff to the principal, and it’s not necessarily confined to the school building. Making a district-wide cultural shift to more open, responsive interactions with families and community members is a prerequisite for addressing many of the other concerns participants identified.
- Leverage the tools at your disposal to reward, retain, and develop teachers. The compensation system created jointly by City Schools and the Baltimore Teachers Union pays teachers more for the things they do to improve their instruction and make learning gains with students. Continuing and refining that system, as well as using performance evaluations to inform professional development for individual teachers, will help to retain and develop talented, invested staff.
- Develop a comprehensive set of college and career readiness benchmarks and report out to individual students and families where they are performing against these benchmarks. Creating an explicit roadmap to a bright future for students, then telling students where they are on track and where they are falling short, demonstrates high expectations. It also engages families as partners in college and career readiness.
- Offer a wider variety of courses during school and more after-school activities for students. This might involve engaging with the Mayor’s office, other City agencies, university partners, and community organizations to allow students opportunities to explore new interests and figure out what they love to do. It would have the added benefit of keeping kids off the streets after school hours.