Baltimore County public schools proudly announced the news yesterday. Forbes.com had named the system the fourth-best among the nation's largest.
"This survey confirms what we in Baltimore County already know: Our school system is among the best in the nation," Superintendent Joe A. Hairston said in the statement. "Because of our unwavering focus on the academic needs and achievement of every child in Baltimore County, we celebrate our placement on this survey today."
But was a celebration really in order?
The folks at Forbes.com, the online version of Forbes magazine, were looking at "The Best Education in the Biggest Cities."
Using high school graduation rates, median home prices and available educational resources, the study ranked Boston, Salt Lake City, Raleigh, N.C., and Baltimore as the top four such cities. Rounding out the top 10 were New Orleans, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte and San Diego.
"Too often, families uproot themselves to relocate to the suburbs, condemning Dad - and increasingly Mom as well - to the purgatory of commuting long distances every day," the article said. "But, as our list reveals, there are actually some cities where parents can feel good about sending their kids to the local public schools and are still able to get home at night in time to see them."
But for Baltimore, the study looked at the county schools - and not the city system that is facing a $58 million deficit.
The writer of the piece apparently didn't realize that Baltimore City and Baltimore County are different places with separate schools systems, said Forbes.com executive editor Charles Dubow.
Putting Baltimore County on the list was "an honest mistake," Dubow said.
"While one of my colleagues up in Baltimore County says it's a wonderful place, the person who wrote the story unfortunately just got the two confused," he said.
By last night, the Web site had removed Baltimore County from the piece, with an editor's note reading, "An earlier version of this story improperly stated that Baltimore and Atlanta were among the Biggest Cities With The Best Education."
Baltimore County school system spokesman Douglas J. Neilson said he was "greatly disappointed" in the case of mistaken identity.
"Obviously, our statistics hold up against what they were using for comparison," he said. "It's just that we are not the school district they thought we were."