In a high-needs urban public school district, the focus and resources are often directed toward lower-performing students. Baltimore City Public Schools has offered few rigorous academic programs for the high-achieving student beyond five selective admission high schools. Even those programs are challenged to maintain high standards, given the prevailing forces against investment in gifted students with the needs of so many others.
Inaugurated by the Abell Foundation in 1995, The Ingenuity Project is an ambitious effort in concert with City Schools to provide an accelerated and enriched math, science and research curriculum to eligible Baltimore City middle-and high-school students. The goal of the Ingenuity Project is to nurture and develop a diverse group of advanced city public school students early enough and intensely enough to become the next generation of STEM (science, math, engineering and technology) leaders.
This past year, 543 highly motivated students in grades six through 12 participated in the Ingenuity program at three city middle schools and one flagship high school – Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. A hallmark of Ingenuity's middle school and high school program is its high expectations for student achievement: Ingenuity teaches challenging and dynamic coursework with an emphasis on inquiry, investigation, strong work habits, and deep mastery of concepts. Middle school students experience hands-on research within the curriculum to spark enthusiasm for learning and enter their projects into school and regional science fairs. In addition to a rigorous course load in science and math, Ingenuity at Poly students participate in the cutting-edge Ingenuity Research Practicum, conducting original research at Baltimore’s top universities, hospitals and research institutions and entering national and international STEM competitions.Through 2015, Ingenuity has proudly sponsored six Intel finalists, including three students who placed in the top ten nationwide. The majority of Ingenuity students advance to highly selective colleges and universities when they major in math and science; most continue onto graduate school. Poly graduated its largest Ingenuity class ever in 2015 with 41 students, representing an 85 percent retention rate; these students earned more than $9 million in scholarships.
Ingenuity students represent a socio-economic group that includes 50% of students from African American and Hispanic backgrounds and 40 percent eligible for a free or reduced lunch; half of Ingenuity participants are female. The program engages a range of families; some who have chosen to keep their children educated in Baltimore City Public Schools rather than send them to private schools, and some who are preparing their children to become the first in the family to attend college.
Findings from a BERC 2014 evaluation show that students who participated in the Ingenuity program out-performed comparable peers in terms of academic behaviors (e.g., advanced course and AP exam-taking), and high school academic outcomes. Concerning postsecondary persistence and degree completion outcomes, Ingenuity participants had similar college enrollment rates but were more likely to complete a four-year degree than comparable students.