A group of high school students plan to walk out and rally in front of City Schools headquarters Friday to protest standardized testing.
The walkout, set to begin at 12 p.m., is being organized by a youth-led education advocacy group called the Baltimore Algebra Project. The group says a rally will follow on North Avenue at 1 p.m.
The PARCC test is at the center of the protest, a biannual assessment exam aligned with Maryland's Common Core standards that says students should learn the same information nationwide. Students however, say the exam is designed for failure, particularly for students of color.
“The PARCC undermines students’ creativity and their desire to learn,” said My Tran, a junior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and an organizer with the Baltimore Algebra Project.
“The Baltimore Algebra Project feels as though they’re spending too much money on state standardized testing alone. We feel the state could budget this money in a way that would create youth jobs rather than testing students for no reason,” she said.
Tran says students are against the possibility of PARCC exams becoming a graduation requirement in 2017, an act she believes would negatively affect both rising seniors and the school system as a whole.
"If this becomes a graduation requirement," Tran says, "the graduation rate for Baltimore City Public Schools will go down and it will make the high schools and the system look bad because a lot of students won't graduate how they should be."
Tran said roughly 75 to 100 students from City College, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Frederick Douglass High School, Western High School and Baltimore Design School plan to walk out of class and join the call. She said school administrators have pushed back, however, threatening the removal of privileges such as senior prom, if students attempt to leave.
For those willing to take the risk, Tran said supporters will be waiting on North Avenue to make sure the school board hears their collective voice.
“We hope the people on North Avenue listen to us and see that the youth are very passionate and that we want to make a difference in our society,” she said. “We should be able to take a stand and voice our opinions, so they can take that into consideration and help us make a difference. Don’t make the PARCC test a graduation requirement in 2017.”
Baltimore City Schools declined to comment on the protest. City schools spokesperson Edie House Foster said the PARCC test is not a requirement for graduation this year, and that city schools follow state mandates.
"Whatever the state has put in place for how to administer PARCC and what the guidelines are in terms of graduation, it's a state mandate. It's not Baltimore City Schools," she said.
Later Friday afternoon, the school system released a statement saying in part that school leaders support student social activism and are interested in hearing students' concerns.
"Last night, Dr. Thornton and other district leaders met with organizers of the protest to understand student concerns and address questions," the statement read. "City Schools leaders are committed to maintaining a good working relationship with the organizers in order to engage in ongoing productive discussions."
Students who are purposefully absent may be subject to provisions outlined in the schools' Code of Conduct, the statement read.
— Algebra Project (@AlgebraProject) April 15, 2016