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Schools In Baltimore's Poorest Neighborhoods Outpacing Others Statewide

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Cracking the code. They are schools in the city's poorest neighborhoods. But when it comes to good grades and top test scores, students are outpacing other children in more affluent areas statewide.

That's the result of a new study.

As Gigi Barnett explains, some experts say those schools hold the key to high achievement.

Nearly 100 percent of the students at Cecil Elementary in Baltimore receive a free or reduced lunch. To an educator, that means a low-income family and can result in low grades. But almost all of the students are acing state reading and math tests and beating other students in more affluent neighborhoods across the state.

"Cash doesn't tie in to what a child is capable of learning," Roxanne Forr said.

That's the conclusion of a new report by the nonprofit group Maryland Campaign for Achievement Now--also called "Maryland Can."

Forr is the principal at Cecil. She hires highly qualified teachers, gives them time to collaborate and pays attention to data that shows teachers where students need the most help.

"If you put all of those small things into place, you get the buy-in of the entire community and huge things start to happen," Forr said.

The year-long study discovered that Baltimore has seven other schools like Cecil: The Empowerment Academy, Liberty Academy, Medfield Heights Elementary, The Mount Washington School, Turnbridge Public Charter School, Hamilton Elementary and Thomas Johnson Middle.

Maryland Can calls them opportunity schools.

"We want this quality to be the norm, not the exception," said Jason Botel, Maryland Can, executive director.

Botel heads up Maryland Can. He wants school leaders to repeat the success formula of opportunity schools at other city schools.

"Only seven percent of kids who qualify for free and reduced price meals in Baltimore are going to schools that are leading them to outperforming the state averages," he said. "We could take that seven percent number that we have now, and get it all the way up past 50 percent by 2022."

Maryland Can did not find a single high school that made the opportunity schools list last year.

Maryland Can plans to present its report to Baltimore school leaders next week.

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