Our New Report on Career & Tech Ed in Baltimore City Public Schools Calls for Significant Restructuring to Improve Student Outcomes

While Baltimore City Public Schools describes career and technical education (CTE) as giving students “a leg up toward an in-demand, well-paid career,” students report struggling to navigate an inflexible program lacking promised hands-on experiences and career advising. Many who successfully complete CTE programs earn poverty-level wages six years after graduating from high school.

Those are just some of the conclusions in the report we released today: Broken Pathways: The Cracks in Career and Technical Education in Baltimore City Public Schools.

Reports produced by the Fund take an honest look at systems and issues with a significant impact on City School students’ access to an excellent education. Our goal is to shine a light on what works, what doesn’t and what is required to create the environment where all students can succeed. In the process, we bring student, family and community voices to policy discussions – enlisting their perspectives and sharing their ideas for progress.

Broken Pathways: The Cracks in Career and Technical Education in Baltimore City Public Schools is the product of individual interviews with almost 140 former CTE students and current teachers. The “bottom line” recommendation is that the district should restructure CTE in order to provide students with experiences and training that will lead to meaningful careers and wages.

Report Findings

More than 9,500 Baltimore City public high school students – 44% of the high school population – are enrolled in CTE. According to the district, CTE provides students with “rigorous academic courses and….work-based learning opportunities, including job shadowing, mentoring with industry professionals or internships.”

Yet, 67% of the students interviewed reported an annual salary of less than $12,200. A 2016 Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC) study we cite in Broken Pathways shows those who successfully complete a CTE program earn an annual median income of under $13,000 six years after high school graduation. 

Student and teacher voices in the report describe a program in need of an overhaul, with flawed implementation and structure.

Our interviews reveal that there is minimal career-related advising and little exposure to real-world work experiences. Often, students are illogically placed in CTE programs – sometimes ones in which they have no interest. Most students don’t earn the certifications required to obtain a related job – especially if their teacher leaves before the completion of the program. And students are often unable to transfer to different programs should they want to do so.

CTE teachers reported light course-loads (some only instruct 15-30 students a year), ineffective professional development, and uncertainty about the certification deadlines required to maintain teaching positions. Teachers also had challenges with funding allocations for materials, equipment, and out-of-school experiences.

The report provides a range of student stories that illustrate these concerns.

Report Recommendations

Broken Pathways: The Cracks in Career and Technical Education in Baltimore City Public Schools lists wide-ranging and practical recommendations rooted in student and teacher experiences.

  • The majority of Baltimore City Public School CTE programming should be located at two or three easily accessible centers. Students would take CTE classes at these centers and core academic classes at their home schools. This structure would give students access to all programs regardless of home school and enhance teacher collaboration while reducing the redundant finances required in a system with dozens of sites housing CTE programs.
  • In order to ensure students have the reading and math proficiency required for entry-level jobs aligned to specific CTE programs, establish clearly-defined program specific academic           prerequisites.
  •  Students should be given more than a single 45- or 72-minute period each day to master their CTE course material.
  • Each CTE center should have a team of work-based learning coordinators to match students with internships, as well as at least one counselor for every 250 students.
  • Stakeholders in local industries should review CTE curricula, advise on how to align instruction with industry practices, and advocate for programs connected to their industry.
  • Year-round, paid internships should be arranged for all CTE students via district partnership with Youthworks.

These recommendations have the potential to improve post-graduate outcomes for many of the students currently enrolled in CTE programs. If we are truly committed to preparing them for 21st century careers and personal success, then we must create programming that matches that commitment.

The full report is available here. Interested in learning more? Contact sydneys@ffee.org to set up a briefing on our findings and recommendations.

Heart of the School Awards: Join us in Celebrating Baltimore City Public Schools Principals Monday May 23rd at 6:00 at the Hippodrome Theater

Giving-back_FINALBeing a principal in an urban school district is one of the toughest and most important jobs there is. A principal is a strategic planner, staff motivator, curriculum developer, business manager, and the caring, trusted adult students turn to day after day– all rolled into one.

Spend a day with a principal and I guarantee you will understand how much respect, support, and thanks our City Schools principals deserve every day of the year.

That is why all of us at the Fund are so excited to be joining with Baltimore City Public Schools and over 40 community businesses and partners to recognize and celebrate our City Schools’ principals at the first annual Heart of the School Awards on May 23rd at the beautiful Hippodrome Theater.  The evening will include special guests along with the presentation of the Inaugural Heart of the School Awards, immediately followed by food, drink and celebration.

If you haven’t yet, please take a minute now to purchase a ticket or make a donation to the Heart of the School Awards.

Proceeds from the event will help establish a new Principal Support Fund that will provide grants to a wide variety of principal-driven projects. Principals need and deserve our support throughout the school year, and this new grant program is one way that we can help principals jump start innovative ideas that benefit students and schools across our city.

Please join the Heart of the Schools Awards celebration on May 23rd and help us show principals how much their efforts and commitment are valued by our community.


Heart of the School Awards: Thanking our exceptional principals

Behind every high-achieving school is a great principal. This is a fact borne out in national research, as well as nearly every conversation I’ve had with parents or students about their school.

logo_hotsa_colorIt’s hard to think of a more difficult – or important – job than being a principal. Creating a culture that gives every child the opportunity to thrive academically requires a high degree of leadership, dedication, motivation, and hard work — especially in an urban district like ours. The individuals who do this job well deserve our thanks.

All of us here at the Fund for Educational Excellence are excited and honored to be joining together with Baltimore City Public Schools, as well as business, foundation and community partners, to host the first annual Heart of the School Awards on May 23, 2016. This will be an opportunity to celebrate and thank all City Schools principals, and recognize a handful of exceptional leaders who have demonstrated exemplary innovation, execution, and leadership, building strong school cultures.

We need your help in getting the message out to make this event a success. Please share this email with anyone you think might be interested to let them know that nominations are now being accepted for the Heart of the School Awards. If you personally know of a principal who is excelling and should be recognized at the event, please nominate him or her! The nomination process is quick and easy and only takes a few minutes to complete at: www.HeartoftheSchoolAwards.org.

All nominations are due by February 12, 2016. Principals from every school type and grade level (elementary, middle, high; traditional and charter; alternative and specialized), are eligible.

Based on the nominations we receive, a group composed of the Fund, community members, and district staff will select finalists for the award, with winners announced at the May 23rd event. We will keep you posted on plans for the Heart of the School event as we get closer to the date.

Thank you in advance for helping us let our principals know just how much the community values their commitment to our schools and children!

Betsy Nelson named Chair of the Board of the Fund for Educational Excellence

On behalf of the Board and Staff of the Fund for Educational Excellence, I am pleased to announce that Betsy Nelson has been named Chair of our Board of Directors. Ms. Nelson takes over the Chair from Jim Mathias who has provided us with both strong leadership and direction for seven years.

Ms. Nelson served as President of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers from 1990 through 2012, leading ABAG to a leadership role in the region and within the Regional Association of Grantmakers movement nationwide. An active and devoted member of the Baltimore community, she has served on many Boards and committees across the city lending her expertise in institutional development, as well as professional and volunteer capacities. All of us at the Fund are thrilled and honored that Ms. Nelson has agreed to share her expertise and leadership with us as the new Chair of our Board.

I also want to express the Fund’s deep gratitude to Mr. Mathias for his many years of service and guidance to the Fund. Mr. Mathias is a Partner at DLA Piper where he serves as Co-Chair, Corporate and Securities Litigation and Chair, Baltimore Litigation. He has been an invaluable advisor throughout my tenure at the Fund, and an active proponent for the development of the Fund’s new Analysis and Engagement effort. Our latest report, Building a Bright Future: Understanding College Readiness in Baltimore City Public Schools, was released earlier this week. I am so glad that he will be continuing to serve on both our Board and Executive Committee.

City Speaks: Community Voices on Baltimore Schools

Today I am very excited to share with all of you our new report, City Speaks: Community Voices on FFEE-Blog03Baltimore Schools. The report documents the results of our comprehensive, citywide listening campaign to engage the community – in all its diversity – in defining priorities for our public schools. The report highlights four key themes we heard from 859 participants across Baltimore City, as well as our recommendations for next steps.

I hope you will take a few minutes to read the report here.

The City Speaks study has been both fascinating and satisfying for all of us here at the Fund. Hearing the voices of our communities, especially their strong commitment to our students and clear desire to help improve our public education system, has been an incredibly energizing experience. I want to thank our more than 100 volunteers – hosts, facilitators and advisors – who made this effort possible.

I want to invite you to visit our dedicated City Speaks website. There you’ll find information on the top ten themes identified by participants, as well as community profiles that detail the priorities we heard in each of Baltimore City’s 55 community statistical areas.

And, be sure to check out both the op ed and article that appeared in today’s Baltimore Sun about the study.

The City Speaks report represents the first public release of the Fund’s ongoing Analysis and Engagement effort to identify and advance interventions that can significantly improve student outcomes. Our goal is to create both community demand and tangible opportunities to build a better public education system for all our students. I look forward to sharing more of this work with you in the future.

City Speaks is all about hearing people’s voices, and I hope you will help us continue this discussion on Facebook or Twitter at #cityspeaks. I look forward to your thoughts and input in the days and weeks to come.


Roger Schulman