Setting Maryland’s Next Education Accountability Plan

A report on the State Board’s discussion of the State’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Accountability Plan.

As reported by the Maryland Association of Counties, at the August meeting of the State Board, the Board engaged in an lengthy discussion of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015. This bipartisan measure reauthorizes the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the nation’s national education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students.

One component of ESSA is State-developed identification and intervention with support for the bottom 5% of schools, schools where subgroups are falling behind, and high schools with high dropout rates.

From MABE’s coverage,


ESSA Accountability Plan
State Superintendent Karen Salmon introduced Assistant Superintendent Mary Gable and Frederick County Superintendent Terry Alban to present an update and engage the State Board in discussion on the development of the State’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Accountability Plan. Board President Smarick opened the discussion by describing the State Board’s ongoing process of engaging stakeholders to inform the Board’s decisions on how to reform the State’s accountability system.

Dr. Alban, representing the Public School Superintendent’s Association of Maryland (PSSAM), which is represented on the State’s ESSA stakeholder group by Baltimore County Superintendent Dallas Dance and Talbot County Superintendent Kelly Griffith, provided her association’s perspectives and positions on a number of key issues. She noted that the pending federal regulations appear to try to take away some of the authority the law had given to states, including how to determine the N size (in Maryland, groups of 10 or more students by category), and how a state may determine the 95% participation rate on assessments. Dr. Alban emphasized that the timeline is not realistic, based on the availability of baseline student assessment results, the development of the new accountability system, including the adoption of high stakes cut scores. In addition, she pointed out the interesting mode effect differences in student performance relative to paper and online assessments, and that this and other issues should be studied further before assessments become high stakes.

Dr. Alban also spoke in support of using a customer service survey to show multiple factors such as strong parent engagement and support for improvements ongoing at a school which might otherwise be labeled based on a single score. Therefore, she recommended developing a dashboard approach to showing multiple measures of success, citing achievement, growth, and equity as three components all groups can embrace.

Dr. Alban noted that the new accountability system is likely to have to last a decade or more, based on the longevity of NCLB, and therefore requested that Maryland build in flexibility to allow for adjustments over time. She reiterated that she recognizes using multiple measures can be a heavy lift, but research institutions in the state could be of assistance in developing this system.   

Mr. Smarick shared that he loves the idea of embedding a parent, student, and community survey of satisfaction with schools. Dr. Alban responded that many school systems do already conduct such surveys and would want to continue to do so, but she also shared that superintendents, especially in small systems with fewer resources, would appreciate the state having a survey available that is aligned with the tenets and principles of school success.

Mr. Smarick also asked about equity issues. Dr. Alban responded that issues such as access to AP, IB and other higher level courses should be considered as measures of equity and incorporated into the accountability system.

Board Vice President Gates stated that he wanted to push back on some of what Dr. Alban had said. He stressed that for him it is the students to whom we should be accountable, and described the rapidly changing world of self-driving trucks and other automated services impacting the workplace. He connected this to the need for IT instruction and also the need for online instruction and assessments rather than focusing on mode effect issues arising from paper and pencil tests. In addition, Dr. Gates noted his support for using a dashboard, but also that the Olympics points out that the real world cares whether you are first, second, or third place and that students need to understand that. . .

For more coverage, see The Monitor’s full coverage of Board’s August meeting by The Maryland Association of Boards of Education and the State Superintendent’s handout, Memo and Stakeholder Feedback Report.