NAF Soccer Coach Reflects on Impact of Facilities Upgrades and Support by Under Armour

The National Academy Foundation soccer team took the field this year as a mosaic of the new faces that are rapidly populating Baltimore City Public schools. Bypassing the traditionally dominant fall sport of football, these student-athletes found brotherhood and community through a shared love of sport.

Few equate Baltimore City Public Schools with the immigrant, English Language Learner students that make up the fastest growing demographic in the city. Yet the NAF soccer team is emblematic of this shift, as we bring together students born in six different countries, oscillate between English and Spanish, and provide a family for student-athletes not just new to high school, but to the United States as a whole.

In a year’s time NAF grew from having no soccer program to sporting both a boys and girls varsity team. As we continue to build our program up from its infancy, we intentionally mold our brand. Thanks to Under Armour, we now have the opportunity of fresh new jerseys, a state-of-the-art weight-room, and coaches receiving the highest quality training and development. In the past, our lack of resources placed a ceiling on what we could accomplish. A year ago as fall sports drew to a close, this meant the few student-athletes who remained dedicated were confined to running through stairs and hallways. With our new weight-room at the core of the recruiting pitch, our rosters for Indoor Track have sky-rocketed to over 25 for both a Varsity boys and girls team. The myriad of resources Under Armour has provided grant our soccer community the opportunity to expand from a season-long team into a year-round family and athletic department.

The motto scribed on our gym and shirts, We Will, extends beyond the workout for the day or game for the week. First and foremost it applies to what is demanded of student-athletes to be a part of our family by following our team’s code of conduct academically and behaviorally. More importantly, it speaks to what brings our student-athletes from diverse backgrounds together; that we aren’t just fighting for the next win, but for the opportunity for a better life. Juggling learning English, rigorous class schedules, immigration challenges, and part time-jobs requires a familial support system to ground us in the belief that whatever the obstacle: We Will.

A Reflection of my Summer Internship at the Fund for Educational Excellence

If I had to describe my summer internship at the Fund for Education Excellence in one word, it would be “confidence.” Through piloting a new community mapping project, revamping the School Choice presentation process, and meeting with stakeholders and community members, my experience this summer helped me to build confidence in who I am becoming as a person, what I am passionate about, and where I want to take my career in education.

Being raised in a low-income single-parent household in Baltimore City, finding and following your passion was treated as a privilege. As a result, when I graduated in May and watched my friends heading to medical school or Fortune 500 companies, I felt guilty for my decision to pursue my interest in education. Could I help to bring my family out of poverty working in the nonprofit sector? Could I really make a difference in the education system? My summer internship completely changed my perspective.

Over the course of nine weeks, I co-led two major projects. First, I and two staff members worked to identify and map community assets in the Sandtown-Winchester community, highlighting important community leaders and centers that will be used as internal contacts for the Fund to have a deeper level of engagement. We canvassed the neighborhood and talked to a variety of leaders including those from an Enoch Pratt branch library and Safe Streets, a grassroots organization that strives to prevent gun violence. The experience taught me the importance of conducting and publishing research and the importance of sharing community input and voices.

I also helped redesign the School Choice Guide presentation, which serves to assist parents and students in better understanding and navigating the school choice process. After seeking input from City Schools’ families and students, the goal of the project was to make the current presentation more digestible to parents, guardians, and students. I helped to reorganize the presentation so it was more comprehensible and interactive. I enjoyed the research process and the opportunity to improve my research skills and realized that I am particularly interested in promoting educational policies with the potential to give students an effective and equitable education.

Lastly, the Fund exposed me to a diverse pool of connections and resources. I have met with community leaders from City Hall to Baltimore City Public School System that offered career pathway, secondary education, and self-care advice. From learning about Doctorate in Education (EdD) programs to the importance of self-care, these connections have helped me to better understand the endless possibilities that exist in the education field.

My career goal is to research, develop, and advocate for educational policies that enhance the lives of students in marginalized communities. This internship has already proven to be one of the most invaluable experiences in the start of my career in education because it emphasized being an organized, flexible, and creative problem solver and provided the resources and mentorship to improve my skills needed to work on educational issues. I am grateful for the Fund’s opportunities that have helped me to become more confident in myself and my passions in the sphere of education.

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 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:

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!