Partnership Programs Help ‘At-Risk’ Youth


Middle Grades Partnership (MGP) enrichment programs have been making a difference in the lives of over 500 Baltimore City public school students a year since 2005. But it wasn’t until recently that MGP was able to measure its success.

On June 25 Johns Hopkins University released a study showing that students participating in MGP have higher attendance rates, demonstrate better reading and math skills, and are five times more likely to qualify for competitive high schools than other Baltimore City school students. “Before MGP I didn’t care about school,” said MGP student D’Andrea Roberts. “But now I do.”

MGP offers academically promising Baltimore middle school students the opportunity to excel in the city's most challenging high schools by providing comprehensive summer and after-school learning opportunities. Its goals include providing students the reading and writing skills needed to excel in the 21st century through individualized attention. Teachers are trained to assess students' strengths and weaknesses while teaching for maximum student learning across cultural boundaries.

“This is not a remediation program,” said MGP Executive Director Beth Casey.

“We’re targeting kids who the principals and teachers believe should be on a path to send to college. The first step along the way is an academically enriching high school.”

For MGP participants, Casey said MGP eliminates the “summer slide.” Student achievement levels drop over the course of middle school, and the summer break is a heavy contributing factor. “A kid can have a great year but then take a three-month break and come back and not do so well,” she said. “They are at risk for falling off.”

Casey said almost all MGP students live in low-income neighborhoods, over 90 percent come from single or no-parent homes, receive free or reduced lunch, and nearly half have a friend in a gang. But, on average, MGP kids miss six days of school a year, whereas other BCPS students miss an average of 18 days.

All MGP students are selected for the program by their teachers or principal after completing fifth grade due to scoring proficient on exams, having a “B” average and strong family support. “MGP makes learning fun,” said Malcolm Neeley, a MGP student. “It’s better than staying home or sitting out on the street in the summer. Plus, it keeps our skills up over the summer.”

Adds Sabriaya Shipley, who will be a ninth-grader at the Institute of Notre Dame in the fall: “I am happy that Middle Grades Partnership has come into my life, and this summer I am going to be a mentor to others to help them the way I have been helped.”

Casey said there are a number of significant payoffs for a program like MGP, but the most important benefit reflected in Johns Hopkins’ study was the qualitative analysis.

“[The study shows] our kids report a high level of self confidence … they believe in themselves,” she said. “There’s a lot to be learned from our program and knowledge gained from our model which can be replicated anywhere.”

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