Baltimore is making progress in our schools with the help of new investment and much-needed reforms. We know, however, that our efforts to improve facilities and teacher performance can only be successful if every student is present and ready to learn. Too many students, beginning at a young age, become chronically absent from school, and diverge from the path to success. The 2012 Maryland School Assessment test results show that chronically absent students are on average 33% less proficient in math and 24% less proficient in reading than students who are not chronically absent.
To help students and their families develop a new commitment to attendance, we launched the Mayor’s Attendance Campaign. The Campaign is a new and dynamic partnership between the Mayor’s Office, the Baltimore City Public Schools, area nonprofits, and businesses, including Comcast and Under Armour.
Students, schools, and most importantly families have responded in the competitions in a big way. Under the inspired leadership of Principal Brian Pluim, Westside Elementary School was the winner of our first contest, which included pre-k and kindergarten students. Westside Elementary boosted their daily attendance from an average of 88.73% last year to 95.4% this year. The winning students enjoyed themselves at Baltimore’s premier kids’ museum, Port Discovery, and they received other exciting prizes.
During the Orioles playoff run, we surprised elementary school students at the Steuart Hill Academic Academy with a visit from the Oriole Bird to celebrate their improved attendance, which rose from 89% last year to 93% this year. The impressive gain was led by an effort by Principal Tanyaneka Lipscomb.
We are looking forward to announcing the winner of our competition between first through fifth grade students later this month. Next year, we will challenge middle and high schools to improve their attendance. This portion is a greater challenge, because it is in the middle school grades when truancy produces serious negative outcomes for young people. The large partnership that built this Attendance Campaign can offer more resources to schools, students, and families to ensure the barriers to success can be lifted.
Together, we have made school attendance a community priority. By leveraging the power of families and committed volunteers, we can see great improvement in our schools this year, and for years to come.