Baltimore City schools have a new CEO

But is this what the doctor recommends?

The beginning of Dr. Gregory Thornton’s tenure as the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools began in July. Since then, he’s seen his share of issues from both internal and external forces. Dr. Thornton inherits a school system that’s subject to the controversial Common Core Initiative and the mixed opinions of Baltimore residents. Then, there’s a recent report released by the Fund for Education Excellence (FFEE) nonprofit that highlights even further changes that some say are needed within the city’s schools. So the question is, is the new CEO up to the task?

Dr. Thornton’s previous experience with the education system comes from his time spent in Milwaukee, where he was the superintendent in a city whose political climate and school system walked hand-in-hand. Now, he hopes to move the school system forward while building upon the steps that the previous CEO, Dr. Andres Alonso, built. In an interview conducted by the City Paper last month, Dr. Thornton expressed his belief in the 21st Century Schools Initiative, a project that aims to upgrade the city’s schools to effectively compete with the digital age. However, the initiative itself is coming under fire from concerned parties about its funding and if it will continue past its initial stage.

Whatever happens with the 21st Century Schools initiative in the future, the city’s schools will also fall under the scrutiny of the aforementioned Common Core initiative. This nationwide testing assessment judges schools by the scores of the students in various subjects. Dr. Thornton feels that while the assessment does create a “one-size-fits-all” approach to the city schools, it also provides numbers in “a world of accountability.” In other words, it allows investors to see the data presented in a clear manner, without any other information getting in the way.

The Baltimore Brew reported that the purpose of the FFEE report was to “identify a set of priorities” for Dr. Thornton, after speaking with a total of 859 people throughout 55 communities in the city. The full report can be found online, and four points stand out:

• A stronger involvement between parents and the community with the schools, as well as a more inviting school environment.

• Teachers and school staff who are not only talented, but also want to invest in the students.

• Higher academic expectations for students to properly prepare them for the rigors of life after high school.

• Activities for students that last not only throughout the school day, but also outside of the school year.

The report also mentioned several other recommendations for Dr. Thornton. With the first half of the school year quickly drawing to a close, 2015 might be the year that could answer the question of whether Dr. Gregory Thornton has what BCPS needs to transition themselves and their students to be able to navigate the changing times in an effective manner.

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