A Democratic senator scolded the Republican vice president of the state school board for his choice of words at an Annapolis hearing Wednesday when describing what he called Maryland’s low-ranking accountability standard used to measure student academic achievement. Chester Finn, vice president of the Maryland State Board of Education, said legislation approved by the state legislature last year placed Maryland “in the cellar” in terms of how U.S. schools rate student academic outcomes, which makes Maryland “second lowest” in the country.
The Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education wrapped up its preliminary report Monday during a sometimes contentious discussion over how much the massive $1.3 billion infusion of new education funding from 2002 to 2008 had improved Maryland schools. “Putting it bluntly, despite a significant increase in State funding over the past 15 years, Maryland students still perform in the middle of the pack within the US, which is in the middle of the pack against the rest of the modern world,” says the report.
A key Democratic narrative this election year is that Maryland used to have the best public schools in the country, but Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has short changed them so much that they have now slipped to 5th place. The problem with this partisan talking point is that the Education Week Quality County report card on which the claim is based has always been a dubious indicator of how good the schools were. Weeks before Hogan took office in 2015, Maryland had already slipped to third place as Education Week began to give more weight to student outcomes.Even if the complicated rating standards were not questionable, Maryland’s slipping ratings are based mostly on lagging data from test scores in O’Malley budget years.
Big increases in teacher salaries along with the creation of statewide career ladder that would put teachers in line with other “high-status professions” are among the key recommendations a statewide commission on school funding will make to the legislature this year. The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, charged with looking at a wide range of education issues, will also recommend teams of teachers be given greater autonomy and spend less time in the classroom and more time collaborating on teaching strategies.
Building additional schools and pushing for more up-to-date, efficient and innovative design proposals is under review by a state panel charged with examining school construction. This includes giving counties more flexibility to reduce costs.
In 2016, there were 97,857 students in Maryland enrolled in career and technology education programs across the 237 schools that offered them. A state education commission, helmed by former University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan, is weighing how to increase the scope and funding for these programs as part of its broad look into improving Maryland schools.
Suddenly last week, Chairman Brit Kirwan said the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education wouldn’t be able to meet the deadline established for recommending new school funding formulas. Last year’s prediction of a broad and contentious debate about how to dole out state aid for education this coming session was off by at least a year.
The commission charged with revising state school funding formulas will not be able to finish its work by its Dec. 31 deadline, commission chair Brit Kirwan told the panel Wednesday. “It will take more time to do our work completely and accurately,” said Kirwan, the former university system chancellor. The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education is trying to reach consensus on major changes on how the state and local governments should spend the largest single slice of state and local budgets.
Maryland has one of the highest household incomes in the U.S., but only 40% of its students met proficiency standards in reading and math on the PARCC assessments in 2017, a Johns Hopkins University researcher told the Kirwin Commission last week. A $1.46 billion plan using one-on-one and small group and tutoring would help close the gap between top performing students and those who struggle to keep up, the researcher said.
Talk on the far left about “free” college tuition got a boost last week from an acolyte of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the foremost proponent of this marvelous-sounding idea. Benjamin Jealous, former head of the NAACP who is running for governor, told a group of college students and progressive activists, to no one’s surprise, that his gubernatorial pitch includes free education for Marylanders at the state’s public colleges and universities.