Program Summary: Maryland’s Tomorrow was founded in 1988 and has operated in school districts within the state of Maryland. Baltimore County Public Schools offers this program to help youth who need extra support services. It is a drop-out prevention program, the goal of which is to increase high school graduation. The program operates in five high schools: Chesapeake, Dundalk, Kenwood, Patapsco, and Sparrows Point. Students are identified for the program in eighth grade.
Maryland’s Tomorrow staff are located at the high school and provide transition services, guidance services, and activities that are both classroom and community-based. Students are encouraged to stay in the program throughout their high school years. Program features include emphasis on basic reading and writing skills, career exploration, rewards and recognition for achievement, educational field trips, and a student-to-teacher or -counselor ratio conducive to individual attention. Between 15 and 20% of the youth have identified disabilities.
Maryland’s Tomorrow staff work closely with special education teachers in implementing each student’s individual education plan (IEP) and in providing any needed accommodations. While learning disabilities are the most prevalent type of disability, this program serves youth with all types of disabilities.
Program Structure/Design: Students are identified for the Maryland’s Tomorrow Program during the later half of their eighth-grade school year. Maryland’s Tomorrow staff meets with staff from feeder middle schools to identify students who are most at risk of not completing high school. Criteria used to identify students include the following: absences in excess of 20 days in the school year; grade average below 2.0; and below–grade-level skills in math and English.
Maryland’s Tomorrow staff is housed within the high schools that offer the program. The staff includes one or more teachers and a counselor. Each staff person maintains a caseload of students. Teachers and counselors provide classroom instruction and support to students, maintain relationships with teachers, plan and implement activities, and interact with parents. The core of the Maryland’s Tomorrow program is the individualized attention and support provided to those students who have been identified as most at risk of not completing high school. This support continues throughout the students’ high school years.
All ninth-grade students attend a study skills class where the ratio of students to teachers is 15 (or fewer) to one. The emphasis is on reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. In tenth grade, students attend a career planning class, and during the eleventh and twelfth grades, students can, at their option, attend advanced study skills classes. Each high school has flexibility in implementing activities within the basic program design. All participating schools use motivational activities such as incentive programs, awards ceremonies, and field trips to engage and retain students. Many of these field trips provide exposure to cultural activities and to jobs within the communities. Students participate in job shadowing and go on college tours. Guest speakers are used to introduce students to careers. After-school and summer programs provide additional tutoring and remediation. Students also participate in an after-school mentoring program. Students in the program may participate in vocational offerings provided by the high school, including work-study programs in their last year of high school.
States of Operation: MD
• In-school youth
• Runaway and homeless youth
• Youth with disabilities
• Pregnant or parenting youth
• Youth offenders
• Youth in foster care or aging out
• Minority youth
School-Based Preparatory Experiences: Two of the goals for the Maryland’s Tomorrow program are for all seniors to pass Maryland’s state tests and graduate, and for all participating students to improve their grade point averages. This program focuses heavily on academic performance. The ninth grade study skills program emphasizes reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Students are in a class where the ratio of students to teachers is 15 (or fewer) to one, allowing for individualized attention. The curriculum is designed to engage students and to provide a real world context for their learning. For example, there is a unit that addresses gun violence within the community, in which students are challenged to think about their views towards guns, read relevant articles, and write persuasive essays. After-school tutoring and study programs are held regularly for students who need extra academic support. Students are connected to summer school programs and to credit retrieval programs for those who are behind in credits towards graduation. Eleventh and twelfth grade study skills classes are provided for students who need to bring up their academic performance and can benefit from the extra support provided through low student-to-teacher ratios.
Connecting Activities: The hallmark of the Maryland’s Tomorrow program is the individualized support provided to participants. Each staff person has a caseload of students with whom they are responsible for maintaining contact, whose attendance and academic performance they must monitor, and for whom they provide support; in addition, staff people are responsible for helping to resolve any discipline issues, contacting parents, and assisting students in assessing other services and supports they may need.
Students receive counseling services with a much lower counselor-to-student ratio than is available to other students within the high school. The extra support helps students to deal with conflict resolution and peer pressure, to develop interpersonal and social skills, and to address academic issues. Every effort is made to engage parents. Parent meetings are held and parents are contacted regularly, particularly when issues such as attendance, academic, or behavior problems arise.Maryland’s Tomorrow staff works closely with teachers, including special education teachers. The staff attends regular school meetings for students with IEPs, serving as student advocates and providing support. IEP and accommodation plans are used in making sure that classroom and extracurricular activities meet the needs of the students. Teachers routinely refer disciplinary problems to the program’s case managers for resolution. The case managers help students access other services they may need. For example, the program staff has an ongoing relationship with the County Health Department.
Management: Having qualified and dedicated staff is key to the success of the Maryland’s Tomorrow program. The program uses only certified teachers and counselors. The counselors meet bi-monthly with a social worker who provides assistance in working with the youth and helps develop strategies for individual students. All staff are brought together bi-monthly to address any operational issues, to provide input to the program, and to share experiences. Staff members also receive regular in-service training. Four times a year, the entire staff is brought together for a training that includes guest speakers.