The Best Elementary Schools in Baltimore (and one High School) - 5 of SchoolSparrow’s Out-Performers - SchoolSparrow - Fair School Ratings

The Best Elementary Schools in Baltimore (and one High School)

The Best Elementary Schools in Baltimore | Parent’s moving to the area want to know: what are the best elementary schools in Baltimore? Here we identify 5 elementary schools (and one high school) you might overlook if you rely on GreatSchools Ratings.

A SchoolSparrow Out-Performer has a low rating (6/10 or below) as displayed on Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com, Homesnap, etc. But on our more fair and equitable rating system, the same school has a high score (7/10 or above).

You can view our ratings for all schools in Maryland at this link.

But beware: just because a school has a low SchoolSparrow rating doesn’t mean it’s a bad school. One number cannot possibly encapsulate all the factors that make a child love her school. And that begs the question: why do we bother to publish school ratings at all?

The short answer is because today’s school ratings aren’t communicating what parents think they are communicating.

In this list there is one school that has a 5/10 GreatSchools rating, but a 9/10 on SchoolSparrow.

So how can two school ratings systems have such different results for the same school, using the same data?

The Influencers of Student Performance

To understand this question, you must first understand what drives student performance on standardized tests.

Research has shown repeatedly that the largest influencer of a child’s score on a standardized test is the socio-economic status of the child’s parents.

In fact, the school community is only 20-30% influential while parent income is 70-80% influential. 

So why is this? Consider a child’s experience from 0-5 years old in a wealthy family vs a family experiencing poverty.

A wealthy family’s child gets read to nearly every night, hears more words, has more books, flashcards, educational games, iPads, internet access, trips to museums, vacations, is more likely to have college educated parents, parents who are still married (or both involved and supportive), and possibly one parent that stays at home. If one parent is not at home, the wealthy child gets expensive daycares and preschools that actually have a curriculum. Often they start school already reading.

In the home of the child experiencing poverty, things are different. There are more single parent households, less educating parents, minimum wage jobs, etc. The family’s need for food and shelter is primary. Education just can’t be supported the way it can in a family with more resources.

And in addition to a 5 year head start at a time when the brain is wiring itself, the access to tutors, test prep, summer educational programs, and other resources once school starts makes the contrast even more stark.

As a result, kids from wealthy families have higher test scores compared to kids from low income families.

That’s why a rating system significantly influenced by test scores is biased towards schools where parents have high incomes. And it gives low marks to schools where parents have diverse or moderate to low incomes. Notice that school effectiveness and quality of instruction is not even part of the equation.

The Problem With Today’s Ratings

There is an achievement gap between kids from higher income families and kids from lower income families. There are many societal factors that contribute to the achievement gap, but those factors have little to do with the school itself. It’s not fair to lay the responsibility of the achievement gap on the shoulders of public schools. Yet that is exactly what today’s school rating system is doing.

Today’s school ratings evaluate test scores without the context of parent income, and hold public schools responsible for the achievement gap. Communities are being harmed economically through underrated schools that decrease the value proposition of entire neighborhoods and cities nationwide.

Today’s school rating system communicates a damaging narrative. A narrative that schools where parents have high incomes are high-quality, and schools where parents have diverse incomes are low-quality. 

But that is not always true.

Click here if you want to help change this narrative.

A Better Public School Rating System

There are thousands of schools in higher income areas where the school is doing little to push student performance. And there are thousands of schools in lower income areas where schools are moving mountains. Our focus is on the latter.

SchoolSparrow’s algorithm accounts for parent income and other factors that impact student performance on test scores. We provide a more truthful evaluation of how teachers and student support staff are impacting student performance on standardized tests. 

Test scores are one tiny metric when evaluating school quality. But if you must evaluate test scores, then the context of parent income has to be accounted for. Otherwise you are simply comparing the size of parent’s wallets.

Our algorithm is a multi-variable non-linear regression analysis that accurately predicts the average test score for schools with similar demographics. By comparing this with actual test scores, our rating system uncovers the school’s impact on test scores. A University of Chicago data scientist has validated our algorithm. Read more about our rating system.

So, How Does One School Have Both a 5/10 and a 9/10?

GreatSchools analyzes test scores without the context of parent income, and uses the achievement gap as a school quality measure. This has the net effect of underrating schools with socio-economic diversity, and schools where parents have moderate to low incomes.

That’s why today’s system rates Catonsville High as a 5/10.

Our algorithm assigns Catonsville a 9/10 because they have a large difference between their actual and expected test scores. By evaluating Catonsville test scores in the context of parent income, we uncover the school’s influence on student performance. We are so pleased to recognize Catonsville High as a high-quality school where talented teachers are truly educating students.

Baltimore’s Public Schools

Realtors report that most parents want a minimum school quality rating of 7/10, or they’ll pass over the school. Parents moving to Baltimore will find 12 elementary schools rated at least 7/10 on today’s rating system.

But SchoolSparrow’s algorithm identifies 30 elementary schools rated a 7/10 or above in Baltimore. Folks, that’s 150% more high quality elementary schools than indicated by our nation’s de facto rating. 

How many parents have been deterred from Baltimore because they couldn’t find an affordable home with a highly rated school? What economic impact has this had on Baltimore? How many parents are spending time away from their families with long commutes in the pursuit of highly rated schools?

Parents are being steered away from high-quality schools becuase vibrant socio-economic diversity results in artificially low school ratings.  Parents, please understand this: the ratings aren’t communicating what you think they are communicating.

Attributes of Out-Performing Schools

We’ve interviewed school leaders at 13 Out-Performing Chicago elementary schools, and we discovered several themes. 

Namely, there is often a strong principal at the helm, the school has a safe inclusive culture of excellence, high teacher morale, low teacher turnover, and at least 3 significant relationships with outside community organizations providing support services to the school. 

Children thrive in these environments. 

The Value of Diversity

Often SchoolSparrow’s Out-Performers have greater diversity compared to schools where parents predominantly have high incomes.

Research has shown that children raised in diverse environments gain cognitive benefits that cannot be replicated at a homogenous school. 

Including better teamwork and decision making skills, better social-emotional development, more acceptance of other cultures, and possibly even higher IQ’s. These are the kids that we want leading the next generation. 

So it’s no surprise to us that the schools on this list tend to have high levels of diversity.

Baltimore’s Out-Performers

Our hats are off to the students, parents, support staff, administrators, and especially to the talented and hard-working teachers at these high-quality Baltimore elementary schools. We see you! 

Parents, don’t believe the biased ratings you see on all the real estate search portals. This list has just a few examples of high-quality schools that you might overlook if you rely on GreatSchools ratings.

Note: The scores mentioned below refer to the % of kids that were deemed proficient on the Reading/Language Arts section of the standardized test in 2019. The Expected Score is our algorithm’s predicted average score for schools with similar demographics. Schools are rated by the difference between their Actual Scores and the Expected Score. Each School’s Percentile Rank in the state is based on this difference. The Diversity Score is calculated by the % representation by students of different races/cultures. A school where at least 2 groups are at least 10% represented get a 10/40 rating. A school where at least 3 groups are 20% represented get a 40/40 rating.

1. Park Elementary, 201 East 11th Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21225

Park Elementary is underrated with a 6/10 rating. But SchoolSparrow assigns a 9/10 rating based on being in the top 8% of public schools in Maryland.

Expected ScoreActual ScoreDiversity Score 
30.847.040/40

For more information, check out their website.

Thinking about moving to the area? Check out this 3BD home located in the attendance boundaries and currently listed for $219,000.  And a very important note about this listing: the middle school should be a 7/10 and the high school an 8/10, not the low scores published by a biased rating system.

2. Chadwick Elementary, 1918 Winder Rd, Windsor Mill, MD 21244

Chadwick Elementary is underrated with a 6/10rating. But SchoolSparrow assigns a 9/10 rating based on being in the top 12% of public schools in Maryland.

Expected ScoreActual ScoreDiversity Score 
32.146.020/40
The Best Elementary Schools in Baltimore

For more information, check out their website.

Thinking about moving to the area? Check out this 3BD home located in the attendance boundaries and currently listed for $219,000.

3. Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle, 100 E Heath St, Baltimore, MD 21230

Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle is underrated with a 6/10rating. But SchoolSparrow assigns a 9/10 rating based on being in the top 14% of public schools in Maryland.

Expected ScoreActual ScoreDiversity Score 
49.162.015/40
The Best Elementary Schools in Baltimore

For more information, check out their website.

Thinking about moving to the area? Check out this 3BD home located in the attendance boundaries and currently listed for $249,000.

4. Brooklyn Park Elementary, 200 14th Ave, Baltimore, MD 21225

Brooklyn Park Elementary is underrated with a 5/10rating. But SchoolSparrow assigns a 8/10 rating based on being in the top 27% of public schools in Maryland.

Expected ScoreActual ScoreDiversity Score 
34.542.040/40
The Best Elementary Schools in Baltimore

For more information, check out their website.

Thinking about moving to the area? Check out this 5BD home located in the attendance boundaries and currently listed for $225,000.

5. Catonsville High School, 421 Bloomsbury Ave, Baltimore, MD 21228

We couldn’t help but mention a high school in this elementary school post. The level to which this high quality school is unfairly portrayed is egregious.

Catonsville High School is underrated with a 5/10rating. But SchoolSparrow assigns a 9/10 rating based on being in the top 11% of public schools in Maryland.

Expected ScoreActual ScoreDiversity Score 
54.669.020/40
The Best Elementary Schools in Baltimore

For more information, visit their website.

Thinking about moving to the area? Check out this 3BD home located in the attendance boundaries and currently listed for $229,900.

6. Honorable Mention: Bedford Elementary, 7407 Dorman Dr, Baltimore, MD 21208

A special shout out to Bedford Elementary! Parents, don’t believe the 6/10 rating for Bedford. This is a high-quality elementary school that is doing an incredible job educating kids.

For more information, visit their website

Thinking about moving to the area? Check out this 4BD home located in the attendance boundaries and currently listed for $239,900.

How You Can Help

Do you want to see more fair and equitable school ratings for America’s public schools? You can tweet this message:

Retweet if you support fair school ratings that tell more truth about how schools are impacting student performance. Parents need a more balanced view on school quality when making a housing decision. @zillow @Redfin @realtordotcom @homesnap

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Our mission is to bring equitable school rankings to all families in the US, so that a home purchase decision can be made with a more balanced view of school quality. Today school rankings are biased towards privileged neighborhoods, and they unfairly discount schools with the socio-economic diversity. We aim to bring equity to school rankings.

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