Baltimore city school's method of calculating school poverty rates undercounts many immigrant children, school leaders say.  (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

In a recent front page article, The Sun reported that Baltimore school students scored near the bottom in reading and math compared to children in other cities and large urban areas on an important national assessment given in 2017 ("Baltimore students trail in key U.S. assessment," April 10). In fourth and eighth grade reading, only 13 percent of city students are considered proficient. In fourth grade math, only 14 percent were proficient, and in eighth grade math only 11 percent were proficient, putting Baltimore ahead of only Detroit and Cleveland.

The article goes on to cite planned improvements to increase student proficiency. In 2017, "Project Baltimore" analyzed 2017 state testing data and found one-third of Baltimore High Schools in 2016 had zero students proficient in math. In 2015, an assessment showed a decline in Baltimore City fourth grade grade public school students average reading scores, while 15 other major national urban districts reflected either no measurable change (no decline) in scores or some improvements in scores. Going back to 2011, The Sun reported that nearly 90 percent of Baltimore elementary and middle schools fell short of academic targets on state assessments ("Number of city schools missing academic targets surges," July 14, 2011). Only 15 of the 141 city schools met federally mandated progress goals in reading and math on the Maryland School Assessments. It is apparent that, despite repeated efforts to improve student learning outcomes, city efforts to improve student results have not been effective, even though Baltimore spends $15,564 per pupil, the fourth highest per student expenditure out of the 100 largest school districts in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Admittedly, city poverty and systemic environmental issues have a continuing impact on both students and teachers ("Heating problems highlight inequity for Baltimore schools," Jan. 5). But statistics show that other urban areas have at least stemmed the decline and in many cases shown improvements over the last eight years. The recent reporting of school closures due to lack of heat and general decay of school buildings and equipment vis-a-vis the high per student expenditure levels begs the question as to how well (or poorly) the city is managing and administering the school system.

Our city children deserve better. Education is the primary path to long term mitigation of systemic poverty and opportunities for meaningful employment, and it's time we replace ineffective rhetoric with a broad scale priority effort and meaningful plan, patterned on other successful urban areas, to provide our youth the education they both need and deserve.

Jerry Cothran, Baltimore

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