Maryland Education Secretary Resigns

Maryland Education Secretary, State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery, has resigned to pursue an opportunity with an Ohio nonprofit, as reported in the Baltimore Sun. The article describes,

Lowery, who has led the state’s 24 school systems through a series of difficult and highly contentious changes, leaves shortly after Gov. Larry Hogan appointed five new state school board members. Those new members have taken their seats only in the past few months.

“We are losing an extraordinary leader, a talented State Superintendent of Schools,” state board president Guffrie Smith said. “Dr. Lowery led Maryland through a time of tremendous transition and progress. She positioned our State as a national leader in preparing students to be college and career ready.”

The Deputy Superintendent, Jack Smith, will assume the position to complete the remaining term through next summer. Dr. Smith was the Calvert County Superintendent for seven years, and participated as a speaker at MACo conferences and events.

For more information see the full story from the Sun.

A press release from the Department is also available online.

Local Schools Describe Costs of New Student Assessment, State Reports Savings

While the State Department of Education reports cost-savings associated with the new student assessment, PARCC, local school systems describe cost increases to administer the exam, according to the Maryland Reporter.

The expense of implementing and administering the exam range from technology updates to staffing, as described in the Maryland Reporter,

Costs associated with outfitting schools with Wi-Fi, the purchase of computer tablets to take the exams, training and even hiring people to serve as graders for manual portions of the exam – at about $13 per hour –are part of the local tab needed to support the PARCC tests given last year in certain grades to Maryland public school students.

For more information, read the whole story from the Maryland Reporter.

State Board of Education Meeting: PARCC, Charters, Bullying

The State Board of Education met today at the Baltimore offices of the Maryland State Department of Education. The monthly meeting had a full agenda today, ranging from progress on PARCC assessments, an update on charter school legislation, and a progress report on programs to stop bullying in schools. There are many new members on the State Board of Education appointed by Governor Hogan.


On PARCC, the student assessments associated with the Common Core Standards, the Board heard a report from on the status of PARCC assessments in Maryland following the spring of 2015.  The Executive Summary of the report states,

While there were no major issues during the administration of the PARCC assessments in 2014-2015, there were still concerns among school districts in several areas, including test scheduling, access to technology, and disruption of the instructional program.


Chapter 311, the Governor’s Public Charter School Expansion and Improvement Act of 2015, was passed by the legislature and signed into law this year.  The law had several elements, one of which was to require the State Board to develop standards and criteria by which an eligible public charter school shall be assessed during a review for a charter. After an overview of the revised law the State Board of Education named board members Chester Finn, Andy Smarick, and Madhu Sidhu to work on developing these standards and criteria.


The State Board of Education heard a report on the various types of bullying prevention and reporting programs that have been implemented in our schools from the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Student, Family, and School Support. The Division’s data shows a decline in the number of reported cases of bullying in the 2014-2014 year (the last year for which data is available). School intervention strategies that have been implemented include:

  • Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (all 24 school districts)
  • Olweus (Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, and Prince George’s)
  • Character Counts (Baltimore City, Talbot, Dorchester, and Wicomico)
  • Restorative Practices (St. Mary’s, Montgomery, Garrett, and Wicomico)
  • Text-2-Stop It (Queen Anne’s and Talbot)

For more information about the State Board’s recent meeting, contact Robin Clark at MACo.

Prince George’s County Earns National Award for Employment and Training

As the State’s Department of Education and Labor, Licensing and Regulation begin to building a new apprenticeship pilot program under Apprenticeship Maryland, Prince George’s County has received national recognition for Tech Prince George’s, a program to develop a career pipeline and interceptive strategies to improve student matriculation and eventual career success in technology fields.

As described by the National Association of Counties press release for the National Achievement Award for Employment and Training for County Residents, the goal of the Prince George’s County program is to identify and develop students in the Prince George’s County who have demonstrated a sustained aptitude and interest in IT and to cultivate their educational and career growth so that they become future contributors to the economic success and viability of Prince George’s County. This is made possible through partnerships between Prince George’s County Government, Prince George’s County Public School System (PGCPS), institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations and private industry.

“We take great pride in our innovative IT efforts to engage our residents, employees and summer youth students. It is great to be recognized with this honor by NACo,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. “We are always happy to share best practices and welcome inquiries to help other government IT interested in expanding their programs.”

As described on the Prince George’s County website, the program began in the summer of 2014, when eighteen public school students were divided into six teams that were mentored by business students from Bowie State University. Each team was charged with using technology to address some of the most challenging issues facing the County’s six Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative (TNI) communities of

  • Langley Park
  • East Riverdale/Bladensburg
  • Kentland/Palmer
  • Park Hillcrest Heights/Marlow Heights
  • Suitland
  • Glassmanor/Oxon Hill.

Read more on the STEAM Teams’ projects and presentations.  View the showcase ceremony video.

Tech Prince George’s and progress on statewide apprenticeship programs was the focus of a recent MACo’s Summer conference session. For more information, see our post, State Leaders Share Achievements, Aspirations for Apprenticeships in Maryland.

State Leaders Share Achievements, Aspirations for Apprenticeships in Maryland

Maryland DLLR Secretary Schulz presents at the MACo Summer Conference as Maryland Education Secretary Lowery looks on.

At the MACo Summer Conference, education, workforce development, and tech leaders shared progress on new programs and initiatives in connecting Maryland’s youth with careers through apprenticeships.

Delegate Eric G. Luedtke of Montgomery County moderated the session, sharing the legislature’s interest in the area of apprenticeships, and spoke about the bill he co-sponsored last session, HB942 Apprenticeship Maryland, which will create an apprenticeship pilot program beginning in the summer of 2016. Luedtke is a former teacher and a member of the House Ways & Means Committee.

State Superintendent of Schools, Lillian Lowery described how the Governor has assembled everyone around the table to make sure that Apprenticeship Maryland fulfills its aim. In Maryland, we have closely defined the meaning of college-ready, she said, and now through cross-jurisdictional work on Apprenticeship Maryland, we now have the opportunity to define what career-ready means. The College and Career Ready Standards were implemented in Maryland schools in 2013-14.

Secretary Schulz of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation described how under her leadership, her department is expanding the number of apprenticeship programs and the type of apprenticeships.  Beyond the traditional apprenticeships in the skilled trades, they are reaching out to a variety of businesses and looking at best practices in South Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, and abroad. In Maryland, she said, we have the unique opportunity to design an apprenticeship program that suits our economy.

Maryland Association of Community Colleges Executive Director Dr. Bernie Sadusky spoke about the need to adapt to the skill needs of a changing world. He shared how the diversity of the community colleges continues to grow, and the commitment of community colleges to educating and training a diverse student-body through modifications to their delivery instruction, class schedules, and special language offerings. With statistics on the amount of students from community colleges who make Maryland their home, he showed the importance of community college training and education in our communities. With data on salaries and wages for a range of trade careers, he emphasized the value of career training opportunities to community college students.

Prince George’s County CIO, Vennard Wright shared the broad approach that his county is taking towards connecting students to careers and, at the same time, to address the inequities in the number of minorities in technology careers. He described the variety of activities, internships, and programs that the county is implementing as part of a multi-pronged approach to improving opportunities for students. Some of the initiatives, including career days, are low-cost programs that any county could implement.

For more information about this session, see this Press Release from the Maryland State Department of Education.


Baltimore-Washington Corridor Counties Drive Record Statewide School Enrollment

As reported in the Washington Post, student enrollment in Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest school district by student population, is expected to surge again during the coming school year, driving gains that could set a statewide record. Maryland education officials said Tuesday that if projected trends hold, the state could top 870,000 students in the 2015-2016 school year, as described in the Post.

Other counties along the Baltimore-Washington corridor are also experiencing growing student populations, as reported,

As Montgomery is anticipating growth, so, too, are those in other school districts along the Baltimore-Washington corridor, including Prince George’s, Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties. All have projected increases of nearly 1,000 students or higher, according to district officials.

For more information, see the full story from the Washington Post and see historical data on student enrollment by county from the Maryland State Department of Education Fact Books (enrollment data is typically printed on page 4 of the PDFs).

Most Maryland Schools Are Starting In Late August

In Maryland, most schools are starting in late August, with Worcester County, home to Ocean City, Maryland, the sole jurisdiction with a post-Labor Day start date.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, public schools in the Baltimore region are starting in late August.

According to the Maryland State Department of Education, August 19 is the earliest school start date in Maryland. Washington and St. Mary’s counties start then. Worcester County’s September 8 start date is the latest school start date in Maryland.

The Maryland Comptroller has championed legislation requiring a statewide post-Labor Day start date to encourage additional economic activity and increased tax revenue. As described by the Office of Comptroller,

In August 2013, Comptroller Franchot released an economic development impact report on a post-Labor Day start for public schools.  Completed by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates, the report found that a delayed school start in Maryland would result in an additional $74.3 million in direct economic activity, including $3.7 million in new wages and a separate $7.7 million in state and local revenue.

Local school boards have opposed a statewide mandate to start school post-Labor Day, preferring the local autonomy to determine a start date. As described by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education,

MABE supports preserving and protecting the rights of local communities and their respective boards of education to adopt school calendars; school calendars that reflect not only state testing schedules and mandated holidays, but also other important local considerations. Local boards serve a broad constituency of professional educators, parents, students, businesses and other community groups. Local boards believe that imposing a statewide start date for the school year would impose unwarranted restrictions on the prerogative of local communities to consider and decide on their local school system calendar.

For more information on school start dates, see the full story in the Baltimore Sun, legislation including Senate Bill 455/House Bill 389 which would have prohibited public schools from opening before the day after Labor Day, and the complete list of start times and other closings and holidays from the Maryland State Department of Education.

States Under Pressure to Fund Education

State constitutional requirements to fund education are a reminder, and, in some cases, a legal basis for forcing state education funding increases. As reported in Slate, the courts have found that Washington State needs to supplement education funding provided by local governments to account for differences in statewide education funding and teacher salaries. As described,

A decadeslong standoff over school funding in Washington state reached a dramatic climax last week when the state’s Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to pay a fine of $100,000 a day until lawmakers figure out a more equitable way to fund K–12 education before 2018. . . The daily six-figure fine doesn’t seem to be adding excessive urgency to proceedings. Compared with other solutions that have been floated, $100,000 a day is actually somewhat conservative. When, in 1976, New Jersey was in a similar situation, the Supreme Court shut down the schools for eight days. The fruits of that conflict remain with New Jerseyites to this day, for the need to fund schools more fairly is what led New Jersey in 2011 to adopt a state income tax for the first time.

In Maryland, the State government now pays approximately half of the funding for K-12 education (48%), with local governments providing the other half (46%) and the federal government making up the difference, as described by the Department of Legislative Services.

This was not always the case, however. Prior to a 1994 lawsuit by the ACLU and the subsequent Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002, the State provided a significantly smaller share of education funding.

As described by the Department of Legislative Services,

The Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act of 2002 increased the State’s financial support for public schools significantly, especially during the phase-in of the Act through fiscal 2008. State education aid increased from $2.9 billion in fiscal 2002 to $5.1 billion in fiscal 2008. . . This represents an increase of 79.0% in State support for public education. Since fiscal 2008, State aid has increased more modestly, growing $888 million, or 17.0%. Even so, State aid will grow at an average annual increase of 5.9% from fiscal 2002 to 2015, outpacing the 4.1% average rate of general fund revenue growth expected over the same 13-year period.

The State of Maryland is currently undertaking a new study of the adequacy of education funding. For more information about this study, and links to its interim reports, see our previous posts, Is Maryland Counting Its Low-Income Students Correctly?, and Study Recommends School Formula Changes For Enrollment Gains, Drops.

For more information on education funding in Washington State, see the whole story from Slate, and for more information about education funding in Maryland, see the Legislative Handbook, Education in Maryland, from the Department of Legislative Services.

Partnering for Baltimore: Schmoke Shares Perspective at #MACoCon

On Friday, August 14, 2015, Phil Tilghman of PAC-14 news interviewed Kurt Schmoke, President of the University of Baltimore and the City of Baltimore’s first elected African American mayor. Schmoke spoke to a full house of county elected officials and state and local government representatives.

Partnering for Baltimore

In speaking about the City of Baltimore, Schmoke said that public-private partnerships could be a great help in addressing issues, and highlighted the City’s efforts to place youth in jobs this past summer as an example of success found when the public and private sector are working together.

“A Public Health War on Drugs”

Schmoke noted the importance of confronting opioid addiction as a public health issue, recalling a policy-shift that he championed while serving as the City’s Mayor. Schmoke said there should be a war on drugs, but it should be a public health war.

“Your Zip Code Shouldn’t Be Your Destiny”

On K-12 education, the former Mayor said that parents should have the right of school choice. If a school is not performing, a parent should not be forced to send her child there, he said. In response to a question about the State’s education funding following the Thornton Commission, he said, “Your zip code shouldn’t be your destiny.”

“The University for Baltimore”

As President of the University of Baltimore, part of Schmoke’s mission for the institution is that it serves the City. Not only the University of Baltimore, but the University for Baltimore, to improve the lives of City residents and enhance the City’s economic development.

Schmoke became state’s attorney for the City of Baltimore in 1982 and was elected mayor in 1987. During his tenure as Baltimore’s mayor, Schmoke initiated a number of innovative programs in housing, education, public health and economic development.

This special feature of MACo’s Conference will be aired on PAC-14 news. Check back on Conduit Street for a link to the video.



Prisoners May Soon be Eligible for Federal Student Aid

Federal and state prisoners may soon be eligible for federal student aid if efforts to restore Pell Grants are successful. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a potential pilot program last Friday at Goucher College’s Prison Education Partnership at the Maryland Correctional Institution. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

Reps. Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Danny Davis, D-Ill., introduced legislation in May that would reinstate Pell Grant eligibility for federal and state prisoners. At the time, Edwards said it would go a long way to helping curb the nation’s high incarceration rate through education.

Congress passed legislation in 1994 banning government student aid to prisoners in federal or state institutions. By setting up the proposed “experimental sites,” the administration would be seeking to get around the ban with a pilot program.

The experimental sites section of the Higher Education Act of 1965 gives federal officials flexibility to test the effectiveness of temporary changes to the way federal student aid is distributed. The tests could give the Education Department data to support possible revisions to laws or regulations.

Advocates for expanding federal student aid to prisoners point to societal benefits. A 2013 Rand study found that inmates who took part in education programs behind bars had 43 percent lower odds of returning to prison than inmates who had not. Supporters say the correctional education programs are cost-effective compared with the costs of re-incarceration.

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun.