Keith Gordon, who graduated Saturday from Baltimore City College, wrote an essay for his senior English class arguing against trying to keep struggling students at his alma mater. He is frustrated that a few students with academic and behavioral problems are damaging the experience of others at City. In light of our discussion last week on the retention rates at Baltimore's prestigious magnet high schools, I asked Keith's permission for us to post his essay here.

A refresher on the topic: The city's elite high schools -- City, Poly and Western -- historically have not kept about a third of the students who enter as freshmen. Dr. Alonso says that's unacceptable, that the schools are already starting with the most academically able students in the city and must do all they can to help them be successful. The schools must now document the steps they've taken to provide assistance before they can kick a student out.


For a teacher's perspective, see the Epiphany in Baltimore blog.

For Keith's essay, keep reading.

Keith Gordon
Reassignment Essay

Students at Baltimore City College should be reassigned for poor grades or behavioral problems because those students plague this proud institution of academic vigor with their impotence. It seems illogical to keep students around who spoil and infect the learning experience for those who want to learn and do what is expected of a Baltimore City College student. I feel outraged that people who continue to receive poor grades or who continue to misbehave after disciplinary actions have been taken should return year after year. A change should occur because it is only for the better that we remove those who don't follow the "City College Way".

Before attending this school, I heard nothing but good things about it which led me to choose it over the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. But after a year and a half here, I see that this once rigorous, strict institution is falling apart right before our eyes. Fights, cruel pranks, arson attempts occurring day after day — things have changed since the days when you could proudly name your alma-mater without people making snarky remarks about how the school has gone to hell. And who is to blame for this calamity? A small bunch of delinquents and degenerates who don't appreciate the opportunities offered by one of the best institutions in the city of Baltimore and who, consequently, ruin the learning experience of others who do appreciate the opportunities. In Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart, there is a proverb that states, "The finger that brings oil soils the others" and it is easy to see how this adage is applicable to City. So why keep those people here?

Now you may think, "Yes, these are serious problems which need to be solved properly, but these things happen in other schools all around the country." I agree, but understand that this is not just any other school — this is Baltimore City College. This is one of the most revered schools in all of Maryland — one of the most revered in the country — because of its level of academic excellence and history of alumni. We are one of the oldest high schools in the United States. So if we have such high status now — with cancerous, disruptive, and unruly students in our midst — what would we be if we could eliminate all our "rotten apples"? How high would our status rise if we could remove those who simply don't care about what is being offered to them and bring in more people ecstatic for academic success? It would be like the Baltimore Orioles winning the World Series!

It may seem cruel to reassign all students with academic problems because, yes, some students struggle with certain subjects. Therefore, students with academic problems should be allowed to have a short period of time to improve themselves, but if that goal cannot be reached by the end of that period, then the proper action of reassignment should be taken. I spoke with my grandfather a while ago and he expressed his disgust of the new grading policies. He could not fathom the reasons why the standard of passing had been to a sixty — especially in schools such as City and Poly. He remembered the days when the "Castle on the Hill" seemed like a kite stuck within the grasp of a tree's branches to him because his grades weren't of the "City caliber". He was angered that "nowadays, anyone can get in and stay in if he got the lowest grade possible." I thought about what he said to me and I agreed. It is appalling that sixty has become the new standard for "average". For City and all the high academic schools out there, that is unacceptable.

I propose that City raises its passing level so that those who can't keep up with the scholastic vigor be reassigned and placed somewhere where they can.