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Charter evaluation a flawed measure of Baltimore Montessori's success

I am writing to share one perspective on the charter renewal process and provide more information about Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School ("Panel urges cutting ties to 6 schools," Jan. 11). We set out to offer a personalized approach to teaching and learning for kids in Baltimore. How? By embracing the whole child, providing inspiring and challenging work within a very diverse and supportive community.

First, let me say that the review process did include multiple measures and a rubric explaining the weight of each measure in the overall decision. However, the main measure of academic performance relied wholly on a test that Baltimore City Public Schools and the State of Maryland are in the process of scrapping.

Why does this matter? Fifty percent of a charter renewal depended upon this single instrument. The other measure of teaching and learning, a one-time visit by a school review team, consisted of surprisingly brief visits to the classrooms. We welcome classroom observations to demonstrate our rigorous curriculum, self-disciplined approach and positive learning environment, especially considering the majority of our student population is too young to take the MSA.

BMPCS is in its fifth year. With the help of community and foundation support, we have transformed a vacant building into a beautiful school and community center for New Greenmount West. Where there were broken windows and cracked asphalt, there is now an urban orchard, apiary, a vegetated swale, and children's cooking garden. BMPCS students learn while doing. While we have made great accomplishments, we have more to do to build the evidence of a model program; fortunately, we have talented teachers and devoted families at the ready. It is for these reasons that we have high levels of student and parent satisfaction and a waiting list of more than 1,000 children.

We started BMPCS to address the challenges of urban education. To date, we have succeeded in building a vibrant learning community made up of students from 23 ZIP codes in Baltimore City. Our school is more than the MSAs. Ours is a diverse, caring school community that values all students and where everyone is deeply engaged in collaborative and meaningful learning. We invite you to visit and see for yourself.

Allison Shecter, Baltimore

The writer is founder and director of Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School #336 and #383.

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