Baltimore School Takeover a First Under “No Child Left Behind”

Eleven public schools in Maryland that have failed to meet the academic standards of President Bush's signature education law “No Child Left Behind” will be under new management.

The Maryland State Board of Education recently voted to take control of four Baltimore high schools and seven middle schools. The move will be effective with the 2007-2008 school year. The schools have failed to meet adequate yearly progress on state tests for a number of years.

The Baltimore City Public School System will have the option of bringing in a third-party to manage the seven middle schools or converting them to charter schools, says the state department's website. Those schools, it says, “have been in school improvement since at least 1997 and achievement at those schools has been low, declining, or erratic.” According to the State Department of Education, the only option open for the four high schools &#0151 which have not registered “significant progress,” says the department &#0151 is to engage a third-party to manage the schools.

Dan Lips, an education policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, says allowing the state to put a third party in charge of turning around the high schools is a step in the right direction, but not a panacea.

“These schools are really some of the lowest performing schools in the state, and something needs to change,” Lips acknowledges. “And there's talk about turning some of these schools into charter schools, which we've seen some success in Baltimore and other cities.”

But the analyst suggests another remedy. “Another option, one that I would favor, would be to give parents greater choice through school-choice-type programs that would allow parents to pick the best school for their child,” he says.

The schools have repeatedly failed to meet academic requirements under federal law. Lips says he finds it troubling that Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and others are fighting the takeover.

“I'm surprised that some of the politicians would resist changing schools that really have been failing for a long time,” Lips offers. “In some of these schools, the proficiency rates for students are considerably low &#0151 10, 20%. These children deserve better, and anything that gets us in that direction should be supported from Republicans and Democrats alike.”

Mayor O'Malley, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor this year, has been quoted as calling the move a “political election-year cheap shot.” But State Board president Edward L. Root told The Washington Post that he questioned whether O'Malley and the other lawmakers opposed to the board's action were satisfied with the status quo. “If you saw those test scores, you could understand our concern,” Root said.

According to Lips, there have been state takeovers of schools in the past, but he says this is the most dramatic one under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

(This article courtesy of Agape Press.)

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