A statewide rating system for public schools produced mixed results for the southwestern part of Baltimore County when the rankings were published Tuesday.
Western School of Technology & Environmental Sciences, a public magnet school, was given a five-star rating and Catonsville High earned four stars, while on the other end of the spectrum, Lansdowne and Woodlawn high each received two stars.
All told, 132 schools out of 160 in Baltimore County were rated with either three, four or five stars. Sixteen schools were rated with two stars and two schools were rated with one star.
The new star ratings for public schools, which were developed over two years as part of an accountability system required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (also known as ESSA), gauged the effectiveness of schools by using a holistic approach. The evaluations took into account different factors, including access to curriculum, absenteeism and academic achievement.
Lansdowne’s and Woodlawn’s ratings were dragged down by chronic absenteeism and a curriculum regarded as not “well-rounded.” The schools earned scores of 4.4 and 4.7 points, respectively, out of 10 points for access to curriculum and just one point each, out of 15 possible points, for having chronically absent students.
Amanda Green, president of Lansdowne’s PTSA, said she does not think the star rating should define the school.
“Get involved, see what’s going on, don’t just take it for granted,” she said.
When her son, now a junior at Lansdowne, was getting ready to graduate from Arbutus Middle School to a high school, Green did not want him going to Lansdowne initially.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my kid is not going to Lansdowne.’ Then I didn’t have a choice,” Green said. But now, she says she doesn’t have any regrets.
Green pointed to Lansdowne High’s faculty, clubs, athletic programs and staff — all variables that are not evaluated in the state’s star rating system — as some of Lansdowne’s greatest strengths.
“I think it’s unfortunate, I think we always get the short end of the stick because of our location,” Green said. “It’s such a great school, not a building, the building is terrible. But the staff and the teachers, it’s not like we have crappier teachers; we have the best teachers. I have had teachers that say to me they’d rather teach at Lansdowne than anywhere else.”
Some other factors and scores for the four southwest area high schools:
- Catonsville High received 17 out of a possible 30 points for academic achievement and 14 points of 15 for on-time graduations.
- Catonsville High received 8 of 15 points for students not being chronically absent and 6.7 of 10 points for having access to a well-rounded curriculum.
- Western Tech received 23 of 30 points on academic achievement and 15 of 15 points for on-time graduations.
- Western Tech received 12 of 15 points for not having chronically absent students and 9.6 of 10 points for have access to a well-rounded curriculum.
- Lansdowne High and Woodlawn High both received 8 of 30 possible points for academic achievement, measured through performance on statewide tests.
- Lansdowne and Woodlawn both received 13 of 15 points for students graduating on time.
Baltimore County Public Schools on Tuesday lauded the fact that 73 percent of its elementary schools received three- or four-star ratings.
Interim Superintendent Verletta White said in a statement that she was pleased to see the school system do well overall. The school system is “fully engaged in elevating the performance of all schools” and “working to ensure that all of our schools are high-performing schools in the eyes of their communities and according to the data.”
Lisa Mack, the newly elected Board of Education member for the 1st District, which includes Lansdowne, Catonsville, Western Tech and Woodlawn, said Wednesday night that she had been unable to dig into the ratings because of the technical difficulties many experienced accessing the state website when the reports were published.
“I am a data person and I need to look into the data,” said Mack, a retired Verizon executive. “I think there are things that are more easily addressed than others, but I still need to see the data.”