State Board of Education

11 Troubled Baltimore Schools Facing Takeover

By John Wagner and Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Maryland State Board of Education will be presented with a plan today to turn over 11 low-achieving Baltimore middle and high schools to independent management, according to city school officials, who said they were briefed about the proposal yesterday.

Brian D. Morris, chairman of the Baltimore Board of School Commissioners, said school officials were told of the plan -- which is certain to reverberate in this year's gubernatorial race -- by state officials.

William Reinhard, a spokesman for State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick, said details of a plan to improve performance at the city's low-achieving schools would be made public at today's state board meeting in Baltimore. He declined to comment further.

Morris said any action taken by the state board should be viewed in the context of a relationship that has often been openly antagonistic in recent years.

"There's no question that the severely damaged relationship between the state and the city school system eats away at the ability to increase the trajectory of our progress," he said.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who is Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) have highlighted shortcomings of Baltimore schools.

On the campaign trail, O'Malley has steered attention to rising test scores among students in lower grades and to an uptick last year in the high school graduation rate. And he argues that Baltimore schools should be measured against other urban systems.

Without discussing specifics, however, state board members have signaled a growing impatience with the pace of improvements in Baltimore schools. "We've got to do something," said board President Edward L. Root (Cumberland).

David F. Tufaro (Baltimore) said he was "increasingly frustrated" with the city schools. "The incremental changes they've been making will not do anything to address the fundamental problems in the system," said Tufaro, a Republican who ran against O'Malley for mayor in 1999.

In a letter this month to legislative leaders, Grasmick said that the performance of the city's elementary schools "holds promise" but that state officials are "gravely concerned" about the system's middle and high schools.

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