End-of-year message from Dr. Alonso

Here is the text of the end-of-year-message Andres Alonso sent out today. What do you think about what he says?

June 26, 2009


Dear City Schools Colleagues, Staff, Partners and Friends,

Next week we begin the 2009-10 fiscal year, and I want to thank you again for your part
in making this past year a tremendous one for our students and schools.


This time a year ago I wrote to you about changes we were implementing throughout
Baltimore City Public Schools to allow us, together, to build a system of great schools. It
was a time marked by uncertainty, but also by hope and imagining what could be.

Then, throughout the 2008-09 year, we saw those possibilities take root and begin to
become reality. We saw record and historic student achievement gains; the first
enrollment growth in four decades; a brand-new level of family and community
engagement in our schools; and elected officials, partners and friends rallying around our
students like never before. We saw what can happen when the work of a city and its
school system is all about what is best for kids, staying true to that focus and being
accountable for our students' success. We saw not only that great things can happen in
City Schools, but that great things are happening in City Schools.

The transformation of City Schools is under way. And I'd like to share with you a few
things about the past year that give me cause for such confidence.

The foundation we began building last year to transform City Schools is largely in place.
We have put schools at the center of the City Schools universe by giving them resources
and decision-making authority and holding them accountable for student achievement.
We have right-sized and reorganized our central office to support schools, and on July 1
we will launch school networks, a new central office system for delivering service to
schools. We are expanding school options for students and families by reviewing our
existing school programs and expanding those that are working well for students and
closing those that are not.

But this foundation, this strategy for transforming our school system, only matters to the
extent that our kids are in school and learning and achieving.

I am extremely happy to report that in the last two years, more of our kids came to school
and more stayed to learn. Overall, nearly 40 percent of all of our students across all
grades had perfect or excellent attendance in 2008-09; the number of high school students
who dropped out during the year is down; and we know from the number of students who
graduated this spring that when students stay in school, they succeed. We do not yet have
the final graduation and dropout data for the year, but so far we know that we had about
500 fewer dropouts in 2008-09 than in 2007-08, and 1,000 fewer than two years ago. We
also know that, so far, 94 percent of all members of the Class of 2009 have met the state
High School Assessment (HSA) requirement for graduation. I will be writing you in the
weeks ahead with these final results—as well as our Maryland School Assessment
(MSA) results for 2008-09.

Finally, in the last year, we saw student progress at every level. Standardized test results
and state reports show that, more than ever, our students, from kindergarten to high
school, are ready to reach, learn and advance. Our kindergartners came to school this year
more prepared than in years past to learn. Our 1st- and 2nd-graders exceeded the national
average on standardized tests for the first time. Our 3rd- through 8th-graders registered
their best scores ever on the MSA. And our high schoolers faced and met the challenge of
the new High School Assessment (HSA) requirement for graduation. We now have
growth at every level of Pre-K-12 education in City Schools, which suggests that the hard
work of our students, teachers, families and schools will continue to pay off.
But with 2009-10 comes perhaps the hardest work yet. We must now build on our
foundation and maintain our kids' momentum in the most challenging funding
environment in years. We must continue to provide better support for schools with a
central office that is 33 percent smaller than two years ago. We will do that by
maintaining our focus on and commitment to our kids, and by holding ourselves—and
everybody around us—accountable for their success.

For me, a second year as CEO of City Schools has ended. For so many of you, it is
another year on the heels of many years, even decades, of hard work. And for that hard
work, for your enduring commitment to our 82,500 great kids, and for the continuing
improvement we are seeing among our students and in our schools, I truly thank you.
May your summer be enjoyable and restful, and here's to an even better 2009-10.


Andrés A. Alonso, Ed.D.
Baltimore City Public Schools