Foundations Provide Help for City Schools
Baltimore City Public Schools are back in session Aug. 29. Across the city, students are getting ready for a new year at their neighborhood school, a charter school, a specialized high school or a transformation school.
Their school might be brand new or have 172 years of tradition. Their learning experience might include lots of projects, a focus on science and math, student leadership, the arts or language immersion.
These options are signs of health, growth and increased family choices within the Baltimore City Schools System. Whatever the type of school, its grades or its curricular focus, all Baltimore public schools share their accountability as part of one Baltimore City Public School System.
There is great depth and breadth to the growth of choices within the school system. It has made school choice an option for all middle and high school students while also investing in creating new options such as the REACH! Partnership School.
Choice comes with its own challenges. It can be hard to keep up with the changes and know how to get all the information you need about your choices within the city school system. But recent experience indicates improvements in educating students and families about their options.
Making a difference
This year almost 99 percent of students entering middle and high school chose the school they wished to attend, compared to 88 percent five years ago. Being able to select middle or high school or a charter school is the ultimate parent engagement strategy.
Funders, community leaders, institutions and individuals have stepped up to make school choice a reality for Baltimore's kids. Local foundations provide crucial startup funds for new schools.
Several foundations also created Supporting Public Schools of Choice, a project to support charter, transformation, and other contract schools operated by the Baltimore City Public School System and hosted by the Maryland Philanthropy Network.
The Living Classrooms Foundation, Civic Works, Coppin State University, and most recently Maryland Institute College of Art are all operating partners of public schools.
The Goldseker Foundation is creatively supporting partnerships between neighborhood groups and local schools. One of these neighborhood collectives features a traditional, a charter and a parochial school.
With one email question and one hour of research, I identified more than 30 graduates of the Greater Baltimore Committee's Leadership program who are active board members of a public school.
Another 10 are leaders in organizations or businesses with robust public school partnerships. Five more replied, "Not involved now but how do I get more involved?”
This is a skewed sample of the civically minded, for sure, but I am impressed to find folks asking how they can get involved with the city's schools.
As the city school system works to provide support for all schools so that progress is made for all students, community partners have never had so many opportunities to make a difference.
Join a board of a charter school or the school and community council of a traditional school. Help marketing efforts that will make school choices in Baltimore more robust.
Provide financial support for city-wide efforts to educate parents, guardians and community-based service organizations about how to select a school and how to get involved.
For more information, visit www.volunteerforcityschools.org or contact Baltimore City Public Schools' Office of Partnerships, Communications and Community Engagement at 410-545-1870.
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