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MIKE BOWLER: Inside The Baltimore Test Score Rally

48208152 Mike Bowler gives us the inside scoop on yesterday's wildly enthusiastic test score results bash at Abbotston Elementary in Baltimore, held to trumpet the city’s performance on the 2009 Maryland School Assessment:

"In all my nearly 40 years observing the Baltimore City school system I never saw the likes of yesterday's love-in at Abbottston Elementary School.

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Bowler, continued:

Everyone who is anyone was there — the district CEO, the mayor, the governor, the state schools superintendent, the school board, half of the City Council, numerous state senators and delegates, city school principals, union types, PTA types, the nonprofit “partners,” the foundations.

Six TV cameras recorded the event. Edie House, the district’s public relations person, festooned the stage with flowers.

There was some dispute about just how the main attraction, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, ended up at the event. Governor O'Malley said that Duncan wanted to come to Baltimore “when he heard about these test scores.” Sources say CEO Andres A. Alonso actually proffered the invitation.

Either way, the Abbottston auditorium was packed. District buses transported folks in from headquarters on North Avenue just to make sure.

Abbottston has a checkered history. It was the first pilot school of Success for All in 1987, though the program didn't last. Then, about five years ago, the city wanted to close the school but community protests kept it alive.

On Tuesday, news came out that every student at the school had scored proficient or advanced on the Maryland tests. A huge accomplishment given the givens. Good reason for celebration.  And celebrate they did! Standing ovations. Emotional speeches. Bromides from the famous. State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick announced that the city has been removed from the state NCLB “corrective action” list. Huge applause! Mayor Sheila Dixon, a product of city schools, got her biggest applause at the beginning: “Make sure this is the lead story in the Baltimore Sun tomorrow!” (It was the off-lede.) Only Duncan seemed a little flat. 

No doubt, the city has pulled things together in recent years. The number of students exceeding the state reading standard increased by 92 percent over the last two years, and the number of students exceeding the state math standard increased by 107 percent. All this apparently without any of the standards-lowering that other states have engaged in.

The district still ranks near the bottom of Maryland's 24 districts. But it’s worth celebrating.

"Without celebration, we lose our sense of community,” said Alonso.

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"The district still ranks near the bottom of Maryland's 24 districts. But it’s worth celebrating."

Who's conning who? Whatever happened to the aspiration, "No child left behind"?

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