Failure factory: Majority of freshmen at Baltimore high school read at an elementary school level

Failure factory: Majority of freshmen at Baltimore high school read at an elementary school level

This story is already more than 2 weeks old since I missed it when it was published prior to Christmas, but I think it still deserves attention. Last year you may recall there was a local news story about a high school in Baltimore where a student with a 0.13 GPA turned out to be roughly in the middle of his class. In other words, nearly half the students in his grade had a GPA that was lower than 0.13. How was that possible?

The local reporter followed up that initial story with a whole series of reports which suggested the answer to that question was organized fraud by teachers and administrators. In fact, the school was enrolling so-called “ghost students” in classes that they never attended, apparently as a way to claim more resources from the state.

The reporter kept digging and kept making more shocking discoveries. For instance, it wasn’t just the one bad high school where students were outright failing. After gaining access to documents that showed the GPA of every high school student in Baltimore, he found that 41% of them had a GPA below 1.0.

Then in September a report issued by Baltimore City Schools (which for some reason took two years to complete) concluded that ghost students and ghost classes were common at the high school that initially prompted all of this. Last month reporter Chris Papst came back with another report based on new documents which showed a majority of freshmen entering that high school were reading at an elementary school level:

The data we received is from before the COVID shutdowns. During the 2018-2019 school year, 48 Augusta Fells juniors took the reading test, 11 tested at a third-grade reading level. In that same year, out of 54 tenth graders tested, 27 were reading at a third or fourth-grade level. We don’t know where the other half tested. City Schools won’t release the data. Fifty-five freshman took the reading test during the 2017-2018 school year, and well over half, at least 39, were reading at elementary school levels.

Those findings didn’t surprise a former middle school teacher who asked to remain anonymous:

“I cried the whole way home my first day after working, because I was like, ‘Is this America, if this is what is happening in our schools?’. I mean, I remember, I just wanted to tell everyone, I was like, this is happening in America, and no one’s really saying anything about it,” said the former teacher.

The former Baltimore City teacher told us she had 28 students in her eighth-grade class.

“I would say around half of them couldn’t read to the point where they could fully understand what they were supposed to be doing,” said the teacher.

Obviously this helps explain how 40% of Baltimore high school students have a GPA below 1.0. If you can’t read it’s going to be pretty hard to succeed in higher grades. The problem in Baltimore isn’t starting with bad high schools, that’s just where teachers and administrators are taking desperate (potentially illegal) action to cover up for years of failure.

But the most striking thing about this story is that it remains a local news story. How is it possible that an American city can be failing students this completely and it never even makes the national news? In fact, it barely seems to make the local news outside of this one reporter. People should be mad as hell about what is happening here. Parents should be screaming at school officials and demanding better for their kids and as you’ll see in the report below, some of them are.

The local station behind all of these reports put together this 15-minute special called “Failure Factory.” This story really should get some national media attention. Will it finally?

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