The State of BCPS – Strong, growing stronger
Schools superintendent reviews progress, announces new initiatives
TOWSON, MD—Baltimore County Public Schools is strong and making “clear strides” to support globally competitive graduates, Superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance said at the second annual State of the Schools luncheon at Martins West in Woodlawn.
And he wasn’t the only one saying so.
Many of the more than 40,000 responses to a recent BCPS satisfaction survey also expressed support for the school system, Dr. Dance noted during his keynote address Wednesday — 80 percent of parent responses rated BCPS as effective or highly effective, while 91 percent of parent responses said the same about their children’s school.
“That lets us know that parents are largely satisfied with their child’s school and, as a system, we’re doing some things well,” Dr. Dance said. A full report of the survey of students, parents, educators, and others will be released this spring.
But if most parents are satisfied with the job the school system is doing, Dr. Dance made it clear there is much more work ahead if BCPS is to achieve its goal of preparing every student to be globally competitive in a 21st century world.
“I am humbled by the charge before us – to look at each student and recognize that they deserve what our own sons and daughters deserve: the best education possible,” he said. “And they need this education not next year or five years from now, but now. . . . And not just for some students. Not just for students in certain schools or from certain neighborhoods. Not just for enough students that our test scores or graduation rates remain above average or rise. But for all students. Now.”
Last year at his first State of the Schools address, Dr. Dance launched the system’s five-year strategic plan, Blueprint 2.0, and focused on two key initiatives: ensuring that every student has an equitable, effective digital learning environment and that every student has access to learning and becoming proficient in a second language.
This year, Dr. Dance reviewed the progress on those and other initiatives of the past year related to the four pillars of Blueprint 2.0 – academics, safety, communications and organizational effectiveness. Calling for continued and vigorous progress, he highlighted a variety of programs and advancements designed to move the school system forward beginning next school year, including:
- Rollout of the Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (S.T.A.T.) program, including start-up of the system’s 10 Lighthouse elementary schools to pilot the 1:1 digital learning initiative;
- Piloting a Grade 4 Spanish program in 10 elementary schools that will blend educators with technology to provide a comprehensive learning platform;
- A proposed equity policy for the school system to ensure equitable access to quality learning opportunities for every child;
- A boost in pre-school resources focusing on students with special needs and those enrolled in free and reduced-price meals;
- Implementation of the One Card building access and attendance monitoring systems in every school;
- A systemwide focus on rigorous learning opportunities for middle school students, such as expanding world languages for Grade 6 students, providing avenues for every Grade 8 student to acquire high school credits, and exploration of a hybrid middle school – high school project.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our schools is strong,” he said. “In every Blueprint 2.0 goal area, we are making clear strides to support globally competitive students.”
Dr. Dance announced two additional new initiatives for the coming year. To support high-quality curriculum, instruction and teacher training, BCPS will expand its partnership with Towson University, including efforts like helping to redesign the university’s School of Education and creating a lab school with School of Education faculty.
He also announced the launch of the BCPS Parent University, a resource that offers in-person workshops from both BCPS staff and other organizations across the county as well as a wealth of online resources designed to provide practical information and assistance to parents to help students and families succeed. “Parent University is an initiative that reinforces the concept of Team BCPS: the fact that our students will succeed only if we all join together to support them,” Dr. Dance said.
The event also celebrated the talents and achievements of Baltimore County’s school students, including performances from the Towson High School Marching Band, Sudbrook Magnet Middle School Choir, Perry Hall High School String Ensemble, BCPS Honors Dance Ensemble, JROTC students and soloists from across the school system.
Sharing the podium with Dr. Dance and Board of Education President Lawrence Schmidt were students Karen Chongwa of Windsor Mill Middle School, Luis Fernando Colindres-Rivera of Dundalk High School, Yakov Drumm of Pikesville Middle School, and Aaliyah Powell of Halstead Academy, who spoke about their school experiences.
More than 1,000 students, parents, business leaders, government officials and administrators attended the luncheon. Viewers also tuned in via live-stream at www.BCPS.org. The complete archived video can be seen at www.BCPS.org or on BCPS-TV, available on Comcast cable channel 73 or Verizon FiOS channel 34.
The Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools hosted the event in conjunction with more than 50 business sponsors. AdvancePath Academics, which partners with school systems to deliver educational solutions that work for students at every level of academic achievement, was the presenting sponsor.