Toward the end of 2013, the Fund for Educational Excellence embarked on an intensive study of Baltimore residents’ views on their public schools. Over the course of four months in 2014, we heard from 859 Baltimore residents representing all 55 community statistical areas (CSAs) in Baltimore City through a series of intimate conversations about schools and neighborhoods.
In the Beechfield/Ten Hills/West Hills/Westgate CSA, we heard from 19 participants. We held two ‘kitchen table conversations’ in this CSA, one at the Beechfield United Methodist Church in the Beechfield neighborhood on May 12, 2014 and another at West Baltimore United Methodist Church in Westgate on May 21, 2014. Along with these conversations, we received some additional responses via an online survey. All 19 participants chose to submit at least some demographic data.
Some of the themes that we heard most often from participants in our discussions included:
- Participants shared their desire for a richer and more comprehensive curriculum that also provides students with more real-life/practical experiences.
- There were a number of comments regarding the current state of facilities in the district. Participants shared their belief that school buildings are outdated and inadequate for providing a great education. There was praise for the 21st Century Buildings Plan, but also the clear feeling that other improvements will also be necessary.
- Participants talked about behavior and discipline, specifically regarding the lack of respect some students demonstrate and the idea that school rules and policies currently are not enforced like they should be.
- There is a perception that there are issues with the curriculum and instruction in schools, specifically that the standards and expectations are too low and schools are too test-focused.