If Baltimore City parents want to know how well their schools are doing, it just got a little more difficult. The school system has changed the way it reports important information.
Last year, Fox45 broke the story that 13 Baltimore City high schools had zero students proficient in math and six schools had zero students proficient in anything, math or English. But this year, we don’t know if those schools have improved, or if others are falling behind, because City Schools changed the way it releases that data.
Every year, Maryland students are tested by the state to gauge their proficiency in math and English. It’s called PARCC. The scores are then released, so the public can see how every school performs.
In 2017, parents and taxpayers could see exactly how many students were proficient in each City school. But now, if a school has fewer than 10 students proficient, it’s denoted with an asterisk. So, we don’t know if a school has zero students proficient. All we can see is an asterisk that means it has fewer than 10 students proficient.
We asked City Schools why they changed how they release information. We received this statement: “City Schools has aligned its data-reporting practices with those of the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), both to ensure clarity and correspondence across MSDE’s and our own data reports and to better protect student privacy. For example, if a data report indicates that 100 percent of students at a particular school are directly certified as low income, the report effectively indicates that individual students are living in poverty. Similarly, a report that indicates no students scored at proficient levels on an assessment also indicates that individual students did not do so. MSDE typically reports percentages as lower than 5 or greater than 95; for the latest PARCC results, City Schools omits the number of students in a particular achievement group if the number is below 10.” -Edie House Foster, Office of Communications
While the public can no longer see how many schools have zero students proficient, we can tell you that 44 City schools have fewer than 10 students proficient in both math and English. That’s about a quarter of all City Schools.
It’s unclear if this change in transparency was prompted by media coverage. But we do know this isn’t the first time North Avenue has changed its public reporting shortly after a Project Baltimore investigation. Last year, Fox45 exposed an alarming spike in Bridge graduation rates in City Schools. Bridge is an alternative way to earn a diploma if a student cannot pass senior exams. After that story, North Avenue stopped reporting bridge graduation data on its school profiles.