© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What some Baltimore City high school students think of the Blueprint’s promises for college prep

Baltimore City Public Schools' high school Baltimore Polytechnic Institute commonly known as Poly.
Shan Wallace/The Baltimore Banner
Baltimore City Public Schools' high school Baltimore Polytechnic Institute commonly known as Poly.

After one more year in the classroom, Ruby Polansky is on track to graduate from a high school in Baltimore City.

Polansky, a junior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, is taking courses for academic and college preparation at her high school. But she isn’t sure that the current curriculum prepares students for everyday life after school is over.

“I think [Baltimore Polytechnic Institute] really prepares you with being able to manage workloads and things like that because you're in these high academic classes, but I don't feel as though they're preparing you as a whole human,” Polansky told WYPR.

But officials from the state to the local level are hoping that feeling may change for future students. As it stands, students are considered ready to graduate if they are able to pass a community college course, which is determined by standardized test scores.

The sweeping public education overhaul known as The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future which invests $3.8 billion across the state each year for the next 10 years includes measures to improve how many students graduate high school.

On average, 86.3 percent of students statewide graduated high school in 2022, according to data released by the Maryland State Department of Education this week. That’s a slight drop from 87.2 percent compared to one school year prior. Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020, nearly three years ago, graduation rates statewide have remained largely consistent, state data shows.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future plans to improve success rates by creating a new standard for College and Career Readiness. Pillar three of five, focuses on developing a statewide curriculum that enables students to achieve “college- and career-ready” by tenth grade and compete academically on an international level.

While today’s high school students will not reap the benefits of the legislation, some current students said more support for students is needed. And they have ideas about how they want to see education in the state and Baltimore City transform over the years.

Quinn Katz Zogby is a senior at Baltimore School for the Arts.

Katz Zogby said he did not know much about the Blueprint until he joined the school board as the student commissioner earlier this school year.

He said he wants to see funding equity across Maryland's school districts.

“I do think that there's only so much that [The Blueprint] can do as it still has not challenged a lot of the differences in education access in between counties and the city,” he said.

Some school districts like Baltimore City, have already made an effort to address college and career readiness through their own strategic plans which include individualized student learning plans, student progress tracking systems and post-graduation support.

Additionally, the school system introduced the Blueprint for Success in 2017, which focuses on student wholeness, literacy, and leadership. Because of the similar names, many city school officials refer to the state law simply as Kirwan.

Sandi Jacobs, the Baltimore City Public School district's Blueprint implementation coordinator said the goal is to ensure that the main objectives of the two plans align.

“We don't want Kirwan to either be something that ends up some siloed set of activities that are separate from everything else that we're doing. We want to make sure it's all integrated,” Jacobs said.

The Blueprint Implementation Plan requires the state department of education to recruit an external contractor to conduct a study on current standards.

While looking forward to the changes the new law will bring, Jacobs said the implementation timeline can be daunting.

“It's a lot to do very quickly. The funding accelerates over time but we have a lot to do before the funding hits,” she said. “Especially for a district like city schools that have been so historically underfunded.”

Jacob said she admires how the Blueprint provides intervention for students who are not on track to meet the readiness standards.

“They're not forgotten about and not just to get them to the CCR standard but to also make sure that they are accessing the career pathways," she said.

Another aspect of Pillar 3 is increasing opportunities for students to choose from pathways. The Blueprint aims to offer students hands-on experience, apprenticeships, and career exploration through Career and Technical Education programs often known as CTE.

Rachel Pfeifer, executive director of academics for Baltimore City Schools, said the programs offer students opportunities to explore careers and graduate with credentials.

“Every student will need a career and there are many paths to get there,” Pfeifer said.

Courses in career and technical education programs and apprenticeships can range from cosmetology, culinary, plumbing, computer science and more. Students in programs graduate with workforce experience and certifications in their respective fields.

“It helps our students to earn a certification that is recognized by employers and gives them a leg up when they go into the workforce, whether that's after college or straight after high school,” Pfeifer said.

Brandon Isabel, who is also a junior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute said he looks forward to the Blueprint expanding career pathways and diversity of instruction.

“Students who aren't as into academics can choose internships, and trades that are more in line with their skills and talents,” Isabel said.

Zshekinah Collier is WYPR’s 2022-2023 Report for America Corps Member, where she covers Education. @Zshekinahgf
Related Content