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Podcast: Baltimore schools chief

Since Andrés Alonso took the helm at Baltimore Public Schools in July 2007, enrollment has risen, albeit modestly, for the first time in four decades.

Dropout rates have fallen, test scores are on the upswing and more low-performing teachers are losing their jobs.

And yet after a rocky start, Alonso has a mostly harmonious relationship with the Baltimore teachers union, an American Federation of Teachers affiliate, and the strong support of his school board.

Alonso spoke in Denver Friday, as part of the Hot Lunch series sponsored by the Donnell-Kay and Piton foundations. You can listen to the podcast by clicking the arrow [CLICK ARROW]. Or download it here.

For some background on Alonso, read this three-part series from the Baltimore Sun. And here is part of a biographical sketch from the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents:

At the age of 12, Dr. Andres Alonso emigrated to the United States from Cuba with his parents. Originally speaking no English, he attended public schools in Union City, New Jersey, and ultimately graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University. Dr. Alonso went on to earn a J.D. from Harvard Law School and practiced law in New York City before changing course to become an educator. In 2006 he was awarded a Doctorate in Education from Harvard University.

Baltimore Schools Supt. Andres Alonso
Baltimore Schools Supt. Andres Alonso

From 1987 to 1998, Dr. Alonso taught emotionally disturbed special education adolescents and English language learners in Newark, New Jersey. He worked at the New York City Department of Education from 2003 to 2007, working closely with the Chancellor in planning and implementing the reform of the largest educational system in the nation. During Dr. Alonso’s tenure, New York City students reached their highest performance levels and cohort graduation rates, for all groups, since standards-based assessments were introduced to the city in 1999.

On July 1, 2007, Dr. Alonso was named CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools), and immediately launched a series of innovative programs. In the first year of his tenure, Baltimore City students (elementary, middle and high school) reached their highest outcomes and greatest gains in standards-based assessments.

The centerpiece of Dr. Alonso’s reform program was Fair Student Funding, which moves money and resources from central administration to schools, while ensuring that every student enjoys equal educational opportunities and every school accepts accountability for improvements in student outcomes. He also implemented an ambitious initiative to create 24 new “Transformation Schools,” combining grades 6-12, in the next four years. At the same time he doubled the number of alternative education seats in one year. His Community Support Initiative hired community organizations to work with more than 60 schools to increase the number of parent organizations and enlarge the role of parents in the decision-making process.

Disclosure: The Donnell-Kay and Piton foundations are funders of Education News Colorado.

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