Monday, September 28, 2009

The Kipp Approach

After Health Care, another one of President's Obama's big initiatives is Education reform. Once again Baltimore is a great example of the need for Education reform. With Baltimore City Public Schools among the worst in the Country it may surprise you to find out that a key to Education reform is right here in Baltimore.

I've done a few posts on School Construction and how to build new School Buildings while reducing excess Classroom Space at the same time but I haven't tackled the big Elephant sitting in the middle of the room or should I say classroom. The Elephant in this case is curriculum and access to "Magnet Schools" that far exceed those of their counterparts. Those who apply and are accepted into Magnet Schools are given a far more stimulating and satisfactory Education experience than those who don't and have a much better chance of completing High School and continuing their Education.

Now, is this fair? Just because you're born into a household that values Education more than others you have the opportunity to have a far greater Education experience than one who doesn't. Not only that, your Education is fun and you're far more willing to learn.

Now Education reform can go hand and hand with rebuilding new Schools. When Schools are closed and combined, their new School that opens in their place will have the overhauled curriculum. This will eventually spread Citywide and will return every student to their districted neighborhood School with all the benefits of a Magnet School. Obviously, Baltimore's neighborhoods where Schools are struggling the most will be the first to be rebuilt and reformed.

Now I'm sure you're wondering which Magnet Program will be implemented Citywide. Well, my idea for this post came when I was reading about the Kipp Ujima Elementary/Middle and Harmony Academy what it is they offer. Kipp Ujima Elementary/Middle runs in the old Greensring/ Dr. Roland N. Patterson Middle and Harmony Academy which opened this past School Year, operates in the old Malcolm X Elementary both in Park Heights.

Now what makes Kipp Ujima Elementary/Middle and Harmony Academy so good? Well I'll give you a crash course in their offerings. The two Schools operate under the same umbrella. Their School Day is 9.25 hours long, 6.25 hours for three weeks of the summer and three hours on select Saturdays throughout the year. I call this "The Kipp Approach" there is a large emphasis on Athletics and the team work exercise it builds. The Kipp Schools are the highest performing Schools in the City and are among the best in the State.

Now students who come from homes that value Education yet have not been accepted to one of the Kippp Schools will be delighted to receive the same Educational opportunities as those who do. This will be a life line thrown to them that they will eagerly catch. The transition from traditional Public Schools to a new School using The Kipp Approach will be great.

Now we come to the sector of Students the Kipp Approach will help the most in the long run but at the same time will be the most resistant to it. These Kids will be deemed "at risk" factors for an at risk child include; suspensions, arrests, drug use, drug use in the family, constantly packing up and moving, bouncing back and forth from different relatives, and gang activity.

These Students, in addition to the regular curriculum offered at their neighborhood "Kipp" School they will attend mandatory after School sessions that range from tutoring to emotional therapy to deal with their problems at home. The tutoring sessions, will insure that each Student finishes their Homework for the next day before they leave School. In fact, it will kept at School to insure it's turned in. This additional time after School coupled with a "no suspension" and dropping out only being allowed after a Student tuns 18 rather than 16 may impact some of these Students greatly and put them out of the "at risk" category. Of course, students who are a constant disruption to the class will be sent to a new Citywide School on North Avenue that deals more in depth with at risk Students.

Now, Students aren't born at risk, they're raised or in many cases not raised that way. So how do we deal with that? Well, with each and every one of these New Schools will be mandatory Head Start that every child must be enrolled in by age two and a half. Parents or Social Services may deem it necessary to enroll a child younger. Parents have the option of enrolling their child as early as six months old. With emphasizing the roll of Education at such a young age it will keep children off the streets which can turn good kids into criminals almost overnight. The less time they spend there and the more time at School, the better. Think of the streets as a drug and the Schools as a detox plan.

Finally, perhaps the greatest reward of Education Reform is a High School Diploma. What happens after High School? Well, for rich kids it's College. In Baltimore, Graduates of City Schools aren't always that lucky. Well, it's time that changed. The Kipp Ujima Schools as it stands now only accept College Bound Students. So with every School eventually taking the Kipp approach it stands to reason that all Baltimore City Students are now College Bound. So once the flat hats are thrown up in the air in celebration, Students whose Family income is below $50,000 will receive a full scholarship to any in State School they're accepted into with an allowance to those who choose to continue their Education out of State.

With such sweeping Education reform the question is where to Start? First, we'll start in the neighborhood that currently houses the two Kipp Schools: Park Heights. Then it's off to Cherry Hill (this includes Westport, Lakeland, Morrell Park, and Violetville) then the neighborhoods of Old West Baltimore; Harlem Park, Sandtown, Druid Heights, and Upton. Although not part of Old West Baltimore, Lockerman Bundy, Franklin Square, and Bentalou Elementaries will be included in this phase. Next, it's East Baltimore, this should be quite simple because Oliver, Oldtown, Middle East, Jonestown, and Broadway East have had a high number of School Closures already. Then we go to Barclay, East Baltimore Midway, and Coldstream Homestead Montebello. Next it's Rosemont, Walbrook Junction, and Edmondson Village. These are the areas of the City where there are the highest number of at risk Students, the Test Scores are the lowest, the drop out rate the highest, and the School Buildings are in the worst shape.

At a much slower pace the rest of Baltimore will receive the Kipp Approach but the neighborhoods listed need it the most. How much will this cost? A lot but everybody says "Children are our Future" and also that future generations will be worse off than their Parents. It's time troubled School Systems look to the approach I'm proposing for Baltimore and that approach is the Kipp Approach.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Smaller Learner Communities:Not Enough Seats Lost

All Maps from Google Earth

During the O' Malley years (as Mayor) the School System was under intense pressure to raise the High School Graduation rate, Raise Test Scores, Lower the dropout rate, and shed excess Classroom space. Any they had to do it without adding to the debt the School System accrued in the ballpark of $57-$60 Million. What was their solution?

A phase-out of the City's most troubled High Schools and reopening them as Magnet Schools or Smaller Learning Communities as they've been known to be called. Their goal was to reduce class sizes and focus on career goals students had. Their attendance area is Citywide, allowing kids from troubled neighborhoods to go to better Schools without paying for Private Schools.

Now High Schools as we know them as well as Elementary and Middle Schools have "closed." Their Buildings however, have reopened at a very low Capacity Rate. Schools will be half full and instead of reducing the number of open seats, it's keeping them the same or in some cases increasing the number of seats. Elmer A. Henderson Elementary in Middle East, Madison Square Elementary in Oliver, and Malcolm X Elementary have reopened as Charter Schools in recent years. Now what's happened to Middle Schools that have supposedly closed? Harlem Park Middle Still operates as the Augusta Fells Academy for Visual Arts, Benjamin Franklin Middle has become Masonville Cove Academy (a Middle/High School), Lombard and Robert Poole Middles both have other Schools in operation in their Buildings. The propsed closure of Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle already has a use if the School does indeed "close." One can only wonder what "New Schools" will open in the Buildings of Hamilton Middle, Southeast Middle, Canton Middle, West Baltimore Midde, and Diggs Johnson Middle. Two Middle Schools have appeared to have remained closed for good. They are Pimlico and Highlandtown Middles which have been used by the Fire and Rescue Department and a Mixed Use Development respectively.

Now when these Schools were closed a big reason was low test scores and declining enrollment. Another factor was the condition of the School Building. It would only seem natural that when these buildings reopen that have undergone massive renovations. Well guess again, they haven't. The City School system is shooting itself in the foot by allowing these buildings to remain open because they have been and are continuing lose out on School Construction Funds from the State and the Feds due to an overwhelmingly large percentage of unfilled seats. So in creating these Smaller Learning Communities, the City has failed to reduce the number of unfilled seats.

What these Smaller Learning Communities have done is create safer more nurturing learning environments for Students lucky enough to attend them. Therein lies another problem. I said in the last sentence "for Students lucky enough to attend them" since these are Magnet Schools I'm sure there are Students who can't get in for various reasons. Students still at traditional High Schools are struggling to learn and are disrupted by constant fights and fires. Teachers have even been caught in the crossfire.

Ok, so we've identified the problems; too many under utilized Schools, said Schools are completely outdated, Students in traditional High Schools (also under utilized and outdated) are not providing Students with the Education needed for them to pursue College and the World of Work. Now that I've identified the problems wouldn't it be fit for me to offer solutions? Well if no answered no too bad I'm offering them anyway.

What's needed is a return to traditional High Schools Districts with Students who live in said Districts will attend School there no matter what. The curriculum offered at each Smaller Learning Community or Magnet School will be offered at every new "Neighborhood High School" everything from Maritime Industries to Visual Arts will be offered in all of these brand new State of the Art Buildings which from the closing (and continued closure) of existing buildings will be funded by the State and Feds because Baltimore will have lost enough Classroom space to warrant it. Now how about we see where these new Buildings will be located and what neighborhoods will attend them.

Edmondson High: This undercrowded School will receive a boost in enrollment from the recently shuttered Southwestern High. In fact, close to the entire Southwestern District will now go to Edmondson. The Southwestern High Building will house these Students as Edmondson High is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up at its current site.

Fredrick Douglass High: Although Douglass High is the Nation's second oldest School for African Americans and enjoys a proud history as such it has been housed in many buildings since 1883. It will move from its current Gwynns Falls Parkway digs to the site of the William H. Lemmel Middle. This will be a more centralized location within the District and will allow the new Building to be smaller to fit the School's current enrollment trends.

Park Heights High: This will be built on the site of the former Greenspring/Dr. Roland Patterson Middle) The Kipp Ujima Schools will be relocated elsewhere (I will dedicate an entire post for this) This location was chosen because I would close Northwestern High and open a new smaller School in the heart of the Community it serves.

Forest Park High: Declining enrollment, lack of Student Safety, and a rapidly aging Building plagues this once proud High School. A new building located on the grounds of Garrison Middle (which I would close) and redistricting Glen and Fallstaff here to boost enrollment will assist in making Forest Park a School to envy. Redevelopment of troubled apartment complexes in the District may curve the violence at Forest Park.

Roland Park High: This new School will be located where the current Western High is. Polytech, Western High, and City College will be the three remaining Magnet Schools in the City. Polytech and Western will share the current Polytech Building. I've done the enrollment math and it's a perfect fit. Roland Park High will draw from the following neighborhoods; Roland Park, Poplar Hill, Coldspring New Town, Cross Keys, Mount Washington, Cheswolde, Cross Country,Woodberry, Hampden, Medfield, Hoes Heights, Homeland,Guilford, Tuscany-Canterberry, Remington, Charles Village, and Abell.

Govans High: This new School will be built on the grounds of the former Winston Middle and will draw from the following neighborhoods; Govans, Chinquapin Park, Cedarcroft, New and Original Northwood, Loch Raven, Hillen, Glen Oaks, Kenilworth, Idlewood, Perring Loch, Cameron Village, Ramblewood, and Stonewood Pentwood Winston.

Hamilton High: It's not surprising that this School would be built on the grounds of the former and once troubled Hamilton Middle. It will serve the following Neighborhoods; Hamilton, Lauraville, Mayfield, Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Morgan Park, Waltherson, Woodring, North Harford Road, Cedmont, Overlea, Christopher, Glenham Belford, Moravia Walther, Taylor Heights, Wilson Heights, and Rosemont East.

Herring Run High: This new School will be located on the grounds of the current Northeast Middle (which I would close) and will serve the Communities of Belair Edison, Frankford, Cedonia, Orangeville, South Clifton Park, Orchard Ridge, and Armistead Gardens.

Dunbar High: Declining enrollment due to widespread vacancies and closures of high yielding Public Housing Developments and the new homes in their place not producing a lot of students has left this School one third full. However, this is one of the few Schools undergoing a renovation. A demolition would be a waste to say the least but Dunbar's population can't fill this building. What I suggest would be to sell off the newly renovated School and turn it into mixed income apartments seeing as the Hopkins neighborhoods are experiencing a rebirth. The new Dunbar High will be built on the grounds of the closed Thomas G. Hayes Elementary with a Capacity of 600 which caters to Dunbar's current enrollment. The new School's athletic fields will be on the grounds of the School itself rather than several blocks northwest.

Fels Point-Canton High:This is basically Patterson High's District. That being said, there are several reasons the current Patterson High isn't a good fit. It's too far from the heart of the Community it serves, it's under crowded, and the ever expanding Bayview Medical Campus would probably love to buy the land the School sits on. The new Schools will be built on the site of the closed Canton Middle. I would have preferred the Highlandtown Middle site but that's actually being converted into something different; mixed use retail/residential.

Federal Hill High: This will serve Downtown and South Baltimore. It will be located in the old Southern High Building which, before it was converted to Magnet Schools was renovated. This has proven to be the exception not the rule but why look a Gift Horse in the Mouth? Federal Hill High is ready for occupancy! This school will grow as its neighborhoods are redeveloped.

Cherry Hill High:Cherry Hill yields a lot of Public School Students so it's not surprising that it would get its own High School. The new School will be built on the grounds of the former Arnett J. Brown Middle which currently houses Southside and New Era Academies. About a year and a half ago there was a fight between the two Schools that resulted in a lock down in both Schools and several arrests and suspensions. Obviously this is unacceptable and some of these students may have to be put in classes that address their anger problems.

Brooklyn/Curtis Bay High: I always thought Brooklyn/Curtis Bay brought small town life to the Big City. I will continue this tradition by giving it its own High School that only will serve the Brooklyn/Curtis Bay area. It will be built on the grounds of the former Benjamin Franklin/Masonville Academy site.

North Avenue: This school, which will be located on the Eastern Parking Lot of the Baltimore City Public School System's Headquarters. Its district will be Citywide. It will be for High School Students who are "at risk" What do I mean by "at risk?" Well, students with multiple Disciplinary Referrals for class disruptions, Suspensions, Truants, and Arrests and may suffer from Drug Addiction. Their curriculum, in addition to regular academics will provide counseling to put them on the path to College rather than the vicious cycle of the Drug Culture that so many Baltimore School Children have been caught up in.

Well I've presented a plan to tackle all the High School woes. I've gotten rid of wasteful space allowing for State and Federal Funding for School Construction, I've added Magnet Programs to traditional High Schools, and I've implemented a plan to increase the graduation rate. Now when a School closes lets keep it that way.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Public Health Option:Meet Baltimore

I'm sure this is the last thing you want to read about; Health Care Reform. Many proponents and critics of Obama's Health Care Reform haven't gone to a place where lack of Health Care has torn a Community apart. Luckily, the Washington Fat Cats don't have to travel far to find one; Baltimore City.

Beyond the Glitzy Inner Harbor lies the Baltimore nobody wants you to see, but I've taken you there through photographs and the written word and I'll do it again. I visited Obama's Health Care Reform Website and clicked on Maryland to see how it would benefit from reform. The results of Maryland's Health Care deficits are alarming and must be reversed. Many of these figures are higher in Baltimore because of the dense poverty.

13.8% of all Marylanders are uninsured 46% of all "Poor Adults" are uninsured. Maryland is home to two of the Countrie's richest County's and it comes up with Stats like this? A large percentage of the population hasn't had Collerectal Screenings, Mammograms, Papshmears, Bloodwork, or Annual Checkups. Since Baltimore contains many "Poor Adults" one can only imagine what its percentage of insured residents is.

Why don't we fix this? I though President Obama had been trying to pass a Health Care Bill that provides coverage for most if not all of the 48,00,000 uninsured Americans. Now I hear he's entertaining the idea of passing the Bill without a Public Option? Try telling that to the thousands of Baltimoreans who have never had a Primary Care Physician and are going without Prescriptions to pay their Gas & Electric Bill.

Many Americans complain about "sacrifices" they've made due to rising Health Care costs. They can't take a vacation, or send their kids to Private Schools, in Baltimore they should be so lucky. Baltimore should be the face of real Health Care Reform because it would benefit so much from it. Well, if there were a Public Option in the Bill.

Just the fact that Obama has said to be entertaining the idea of a Bill without a Public Health Option shows the influence large Insurance Companies have over Government. In Baltimore there is a different kind of influence over its residents; Drug Dealers.

Drug abuse and the violence that comes with it has over taken Baltimore. Baltimore needs the Public Health Option not only to provide Doctors and Routine Exams it's needed for Drug Rehab. There are lot of attics in the City who would love to kick the habit but don't have the resources to better themselves. Drug Dealers, just like any other Business will have to cut their staff due to a decline in sales. Their "staff" is usually Children who have found that drug dealing will give them a better life than School. With these kids out of work, they'd be forced to go back School.

Isn't it ironic that Baltimore has some of the best Hospitals and so few of its Citizens are able to use them? They are rushed there after being victims of Gang Violence brought about through illegal drugs. Speaking of Emergency Rooms, didn't former President George W. Bush say that the answer to the Health Care Crisis was to go to the Emergency Room? By law, they have to treat you. What the former President failed to mention that after treatment, you're responsible for paying your Hospital Bills if you have no insurance. From December 31, 2007 to January 3rd, 2008 I was hospitalized due to a life threatening infection in my left hand. Had I not had Insurance I would have been stuck paying almost $5,000 for my stay. Nice try Bush.

It's time to overhaul our Nation's Healthcare System and give Insurance to those who can't afford it through a public option and through that competition, Health Insurance Companies will have to lower premiums and co-pays. Just look at Baltimore and you will see how great the need is.