January 14, 2010

Maryland schools stay at number one

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com
Maryland public schools remain tops in the nation for the second year in a row, according to the latest report card by Education Week magazine.

The state school system moved up a notch to a B+ from last year’s B. With a score of 87.5, Maryland is 3.5 points ahead of its nearest competitor, New York. It is a full five points ahead of Massachusetts, which it barely edged out last year.

Virginia schools are number 4 with a B-, moving down 1 point this year to 83.2

“The states pay a lot of attention to the report,” said Chris Swanson, vice president for research and development for Editorial Projects in Education, which produces the magazine. “They’ve invested a lot of time” in responding to the survey.

Maryland’s higher grade this year partly reflects big improvement in a section of the report card on “the teaching profession.” Maryland moved up from a C- to a B in that category.

The national ranking comprises the cumulative scores from six categories, only one of which measures “K-12 achievement.” The other four categories are: “school finance,” in which Maryland gets a B; “transitions and alignments” (Maryland kept its A) which measures how a state assesses student readiness to go on to the next level of education or to enter the workforce; “standards, assessments and accountability,” in which the state moved up to a B+; and “chance for success,” (B+), which measures demographics such as personal income and educational levels of the population.

Here are grades for Maryland’s other neighbors and economic competitors: Pennsylvania, B- (80.5), ranked number 6; West Virginia, B- (80.2), ranked number 9; Delaware, C+ (76.5), ranked 22nd; New Jersey, B- (80.4), ranked number 7; and North Carolina, C (75.1), ranked number 32.

Since Maryland achieved its top ranking last year, Gov. Martin O’Malley and other state officials have repeatedly touted the state as “best in the nation,” saying it justifies a massive infusion of state dollars into K-12 schools. House Speaker Michael Busch last week, in response to a question about business tax incentives, said the quality of Maryland schools was a significant factor in attracting business to the state.

Liz Bowie in The Baltimore Sun treats other aspects of the Education Week report, as does Leah Fabel in the Washington Examiner and Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post.