Reporting Gigi Barnett
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– New numbers released on Friday show a reversal in the city’s low graduation rate. It’s a problem that plagues large school districts nationwide.
And as Gigi Barnett explains, Baltimore may have found the key to turning it around.
All of the students at Vivien T. Thomas High School in West Baltimore wear lab coats. Even the teachers wear them. It allows students to see themselves as future doctors, surgeons or scientists.
School leaders say it’s a vision that helps students stay in school. That means fewer dropouts and more diplomas.
“When you see all these kids in their lab coats, they have redefined what success is for themselves,” said Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of the Baltimore City Schools.
School leaders say it’s, in part, why they’re seeing record shattering numbers in the graduation and dropout rates.
New numbers released Friday show over the last four years, the city’s graduation rate is nearly 72 percent. That’s a 20 percent increase.
And as the grad numbers go up, the dropout rate is going down. During the same time, about four percent of students left school. That means 55 percent more are staying in class.
“I went from having U.S. history as a freshman to taking AP government as a sophomore and still acing it with an A,” Brienna Ash, a student at Vivien T. Thomas High School, said.
Alonso says boosting the graduation rate was one of his priorities when he took over the district back in 2007.
He closed failing schools, increased the number of AP courses and added more schools like Vivien T. Thomas that focus on career and technical classes.
“Every once in a while, you get something back that basically tells you, keep at it and keep going,” he said.
Another reason why city schools are seeing a boost in the number of graduates is because the district has a campaign that allows volunteers and teachers to go door-to-door asking dropouts to go back to class.
Last year, more than 4,500 students graduated in the city. That’s roughly a six percent increase from the year before.