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Mixed results for schools started by Baltimore mayoral candidates

Throughout the campaign, candidates for Baltimore mayor have called for a greater role in running the city's schools.

State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh has proposed taking control of the system. Businessman David L. Warnock said he would set the vision for the schools. And City Councilman Carl Stokes says he wants to be a "co-CEO" with the schools superintendent.

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These three candidates have a track record: Each helped to found at least one Baltimore school. The results have been mixed, according to school system reviews.

•Stokes has founded two charter schools in East Baltimore: Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy East and Banneker Blake Academy of Arts and Science.

Banneker Blake, which opened last year, is too new to be evaluated. The students wear uniforms and participate in after-school and summer programming. The school focuses on "rigorous" science, arts and technology studies.

Bluford closed in 2014 after years of financial mismanagement that Stokes deemed "a mess."

A school system report faulted the school for low academic performance and low enrollment. In 2009, the school had strong test scores for middle-schoolers in reading and math, with 67 percent and 55 percent proficiency, respectively — and Stokes noted the success on his council website.

But those scores dropped by 2012 to just 52 and 40 percent after Stokes says he turned over control of the school to other operators. The school closed even though Bluford students protested before the school board, holding signs that read: "He who closes a school opens a prison."

•Warnock is co-founder of Green Street Academy, a West Baltimore charter school serving grades six to 12 that he says is one of the most in-demand schools in the city. School officials say students there "embrace the green movement," and the school has a tank filled with tilapia, a vegetable-growing greenhouse and a chicken coop.

But its test scores are well below the city's average. Fewer than 5 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders met state standards for math, and fewer than 5 percent of seventh-graders met state standards for English, according to a new state test on which many schools performed poorly.

Even so, the school generally receives high scores in its reviews from the school system, including in fiscal management and providing quality programming. Only the school's performance for middle-school reading was deemed "not effective."

•Pugh helped found the Baltimore Design School. The public middle-high school teaches fashion, architecture and design. But its test scores — with the exception of 10th-grade English — are even lower than Green Street's on the new state test.

Fewer than 5 percent of middle-schoolers met state expectations in math, and a school system review deemed the school "not effective" in middle-school math, parent-teacher-student satisfaction and providing programs for students with disabilities. Still, the system deemed the school generally "effective" in academics and fiscal management.

The school has also been troubled by reports of fights. In a letter to parents at the beginning of the school year, Principal Melissa Patrylo blamed middle-school students who "have come to our school without any interest in art/design. ... It is sad to say but some come from families who use fighting as a daily way to settle simple disputes."

"It's a culture that all our schools are facing," she wrote.

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