History of Baltimore City College - Recent History

Recent History

By 1990, the school's academic program was once again deteriorating and enrollment was declining. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools raised questions about the ability of City College to offer students an academically rigorous course of study. During this period of decline, the "A" Course was discontinued by Principal Joseph Antenson, who contended that the program was racially discriminatory—an argument Paquin had made nearly three decades earlier—and opted for a standardized curriculum. However, the change did little to improve the school; therefore, in 1992, the school system hired a private contractor to run City College. That action was a part of the unsuccessful "Educational Alternatives program", which lasted for about 14 months. Then, in 1994, Joseph M. Wilson was appointed principal of City College. Wilson, with the aid of alumni and parents, was able to secure more funding and autonomy from the school system, which were used to redesign the curriculum and to introduce the IB Diploma Program in 1998.

The new academic program attracted increased attention to the school. In 2000, City College was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, which placed it among the best schools in the country. The following year, the Toronto National Post reported on the two-month long task of searching for the perfect high school in Great Britain, the United States, and Canada. It "never found the perfect school ... we found a few outstanding ones," the paper concluded. And one of these—the subject of a prominent feature article—was City College, led by Wilson. The school's rankings in Newsweek's report of the nation's top high schools improved during this period. In 2003, it was ranked 593. Three years later, in 2006, City College was ranked 206, and in 2007 it was ranked 258. Given an estimated 27,500 public high schools across the nation, in 2007 ranking placed City College in the top one percent of all high schools. In its criteria, Newsweek divided the number of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests taken by the number of graduating seniors. The magazine stated that the measure showed schools which were committed to helping students take college-level courses.

In addition to the academic resurgence of the school, the building was recognized for its historical and architectural interest. The Castle on the Hill was honored in 2003 by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This designation coincided with the 75th anniversary of the structure and campus as well as City College's 165th year of existence. On April 24, 2007 it earned the additional distinction of being listed as a Baltimore City Landmark. Mayor Sheila Dixon stated that: "The castle on the hill, as City College is known, is truly a historic landmark. It is worthy of preservation and acknowledgment."

The landmark status bill was passed by the city council in accordance with a recommendation made by the council's staff, which found that the building dates from a historic and architecturally significant period. This new status prevents the building's exterior from being altered without the approval of the city's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. However, the previous year City College was a victim of vandalism at the hands of a group of children ranging in age from 8 to 15, as a renovation of the school neared completion. In the summer of 2007, scenes from the 2008 sequel Step Up 2 were filmed at City College. Interior and campus shots were used to form the fictional Maryland School for the Arts.

In 2007 controversy about the academic program arose, when members of the Baltimore City College Alumni Association argued that the IB Program was diverting a significant amount of the school's resources to benefit a fraction of the student population. Approximately 30 students out of 1300 were enrolled in the full IB Diploma Program at City College. Some members also argued that the rigidity of the program did not give students enough flexibility. Citing these concerns, the alumni association encouraged the school to replace the IB Program with the "A course" and expand the number of Advanced Placement courses offered. In December 2008 City announced the donation of $50,000 by alumnus H. Corbin Gwaltney '39. The founder and longtime editor of Johns Hopkins Magazine, Gwaltney's donation will benefit the modernization of City's library. This is the second largest donation by a single alumnus to the school, David Rubenstein, founder of the Carlyle Group donated the largest amount—$100,000 in 2006.

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