Neighborhood Public Schools Are Where It’s At

A detail of the mural outside The Barclay School in Charles Village. Photo credit: Adam Bednar, North Baltimore Patch

Here’s some brain food to tide you over between now and the end of Thanksgiving Weekend. (I’m going on vacation.)

There’s a lot of good stuff on the problems with top-down education reform in Dana Goldstein‘s extended essay on Occupy Wall Street and public education, published yesterday in The Awl. Here’s the choicest bit:

… the 1-percent education reformers must truly grasp, deep in their bones, that we need to provide every child with a decent education—not just the ones who attend charter schools, or choice schools, or whose parents can afford to move to the suburbs or live in Tribeca. This means we should focus reform efforts on traditional neighborhood schools

I actually don’t care whether the one percent grasp it or not. But it’s time for what there is of Baltimore’s middle and aspiring classes to realize that neighborhood schools are where it’s at. (I’m for dropping the “traditional” label, so entrepreneurially trained bureaucrats might begin to admit that neighborhood schools can innovate.) The more people get riled up to support their zoned schools, the better. Especially if those people might actually send their children to those schools.

Speaking of not giving up on neighborhood schools, did you see the Charles Village schools piece Adam Bednar wrote for North Baltimore Patch? It’s about the Village Parents’ efforts to draw middle class families to Margaret Brent and Barclay. Check this out:

“A big part of the challenge is to get people that live in the neighborhood to come through the door,” said [Melanie] Cornelisse, a former teacher who runs the elementary school’s Story Pals and Math Matches volunteer programs.

…Cornelisse, who has a son in a Margaret Brent pre-kindergarten class, said the group is still trying to figure out which parents are most likely to send their kids to public schools.

While Charles Village is a middle-class neighborhood, Cornelisse pointed out that 94 percent of Margaret Brent’s students receive free or reduced meals. That would indicate a substantial number of families are sending their children to private or charter schools.

But in doing so, those parents may be missing out on the benefits of attending a neighborhood public school, she said.

If you live in Charles Village or RemingtonBolton Hill, or Hampden/Wyman Park, and you think you might become one of “those parents,” click the relevant link and find some good people who are rallying around your neighborhood school(s). Parents in Federal Hill are on the neighborhood school tip, too. There are probably other groups out there that I don’t know about. You can always dial your zoned school directly to find out if there are ways to help out. Use the school locator on Baltimore City Public Schools website and give your school a call. Talk to someone. Take a look. And get involved (before the 1-percenters do it for you).


4 Comments to “Neighborhood Public Schools Are Where It’s At”

  1. Minnesota has had universal choice for 20 years. This is not a new experiment with no data. Specifically, Saint Paul, a district of 45,000 kids, bused 89% of the students. Minneapolis was the same. If choice is supposed to be such a miracle cure, why did it do nothing to shrink the achievement gap in Minnesota, our national shame? We tried it for twenty freaking years. We bused 89% of the kids to wherever they wanted to go.

    You now what happened. Massive racial isolation. The families who were used to leveraging all society has to offer, leveraged it. The families on the margins got concentrated in a few schools. With parents who don’t speak English, parents working two or even three jobs, or no parents at all, these kids had no voice. their school closes. They move on. Blah blah. Finally, our super has scaled back universal choice in the city to regional choice with a few city wide magnets.

    I worked at a school under the old system that went from 2000 to 1500 to 1000 to eventually 800 kids. They closed us down, changed the system, changed our name, made all the teachers re-apply, sent all the students to the four winds to graduate from some other school. We have re-opened. I am back at the same building. Under the new, more sane system, we are still 90% poverty, 90% minority, 50%+ second language, but we now have the second longest waiting list to get in in the city. Next year we’ll be back at 2,000 kids.

    Don’t let your district take 20 years to learn what has already been learned.


  2. A wonderful post, Edit!! Anyone familiar with the way the 1% works should realize from the get-go that all their schemes to “improve” education by providing substitutes for neighborhood schools is just an elaborate scheme to transfer tax dollars to some rich guy’s pocket. That’s the Way of the World for the 1%–and like OWS, I’m tired of it!

    Enjoy your vacation!


    • And what evidence do you have to make this claim? From what I know Teach For America, KIPP, and even the schools mentioned in this blog have received support from your alleged 1%.

      Let’s not knock down anyone interested in better education through unsubstantiated allegations.


  3. Thanks for highlighting these two schools. The work going on here is part of a larger effort developing under a partnership of the Goldseker Foundation and Healthy Neighborhoods to identify and market strong neighborhood schools as assets in strong “Healthy Neighborhoods.”

    In addition to these two schools Baltimoreans are also working with six other schools in West Baltimore, Northwest Baltimore, and in Northeast Baltimore. Here is a link to one of the early stories announcing this effort:


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