Abell Salutes: Uniform Services Academy

September 2001 / Salutes / Education

“‘Still becoming,’ and getting better as we go along.”

The Uniform Services Academy (USA), a Baltimore City public high school, offers a unique program: it combines small classes with curriculum content directed to specific careers. It has been designed to “infuse relevance and real life educational experience into the urban education process”— in short, to provide an environment in which students struggling with the problems of urban education will be stimulated to attend
school, stay in school, and achieve academically.

USA functions as four schools within one, Walbrook Senior High School. The four schools are Maritime and Transportation, Criminal Justice, Fire and Emergency, and Business and Technology. Graduates are expected to continue their education in college, or to move directly into the field for which they have been preparing. (In fact, they do both, with most electing to go on to college.)

USA was launched in 1998 with high expectations as part of the city’s New Schools Initiative program, which contracts with third parties to operate public schools. Four school years have now gone by; results suggest that the expectations have been realized to a degree that warrants recognition. Hard data support a record of modest success.

  • Enrollment: For the four years, 9th-, 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade enrollments have increased from 1,341 to 2,032. Of note is that the number of students in the senior class doubled from 169 students in 1997-1998 to 335 students in 2000-2001.
  • Attendance: Over four years attendance has increased from 72 percent to 81.5 percent. According to Dr. Andrey C. Bundley, principal, the figure is 10 percent higher than comparable City-zoned schools.
  • Achievement: Pass rates on the Maryland Functional Tests increased for 9th-grade students dramatically. Increases are shown here as a percentage of passing:
    • Reading: 83 percent to 91 percent;
    • Math: 31 percent to 64 percent;
    • Writing: 55 percent to 76 percent.
  • Suspension Rate: Over three years, the number of suspensions dropped: short term, from 723 to 556; long term, from 60 to 17.

Leadership of the program and much of the energy that enlivens it lie with Dr. Andrey Bundley, a product of Baltimore City inner-city schools who went on to earn his Master’s and Doctorate degrees at Penn State University. A committed educator, Dr. Bundley is sensitive, on the one hand, to the special problems the students face, and on the other, to the realistic goals they must meet. Though proud of the school’s overall achievement, he recognizes that there is a long way to go.

The Abell Foundation salutes USA, and shares Dr. Bundley’s optimism for the program’s continued growth and enrichment, justified because, as Dr. Bundley puts it, “We’re ‘still becoming,’ and getting better all the time.”