Maryland Board Approves New Rating System for Schools

Every public school in Maryland will be judged on a five-star rating system beginning next school year, under a plan the state school board approved Tuesday.

The rating system, which will award one star to the lowest performing schools and five stars to the highest performing, is designed to give parents and others a simple guide to the quality of a school.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

For the first time, schools will be judged not just on test scores but on a whole list of factors — including academic achievement, parent surveys, attendance rates and student enrollment in a range of subjects.

“We have a new way of providing information to the public on school and district performance,” Andrew Smarick, the president of the state board, said after the vote. He said he hopes the new rating provides more clarity to parents.

Maryland will also identify the bottom five percent of all schools in the state based only on academic indicators, including the percentage of students passing tests and whether student achievement improved over a school year. The state will give those schools more attention and could require they make changes.

The grading system is part of a much larger plan the state board will send this week to the governor and the legislature for review. The lawmakers’ input is considered advisory, but the board can choose to make changes to the plan before it must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in September.

Every state is required under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, to submit a school accountability plan that spells out the guidelines for how schools will be judged through 2030.

For more than a decade schools have been judged largely on how their students scored on reading and math, an emphasis which caused some principals to focus solely on those subjects in the early grades at the expense of social studies, science and the arts.

Under ESSA elementary and middle schools will get points based on whether students are enrolled in fine arts, social studies, physical education and health classes. Middle schools also will be judged on how their students score on social studies and science tests the state is introducing over the next several years.

High schools will be judged on the percentage of students that complete advanced classes, master various career skills, meet University of Maryland entry requirements, or get a high enough SAT score.

ESSA replaces the No Child Left Behind Act, a law that was in effect for more than a decade and was widely criticized for being too punitive because schools were judged almost solely on test scores. ESSA was designed to give more authority back to the states for how schools are held accountable.

The rating system will attempt to take into account the progress of students in low achieving schools, not just whether students pass tests. The plan does not lay out how the different star levels will be determined. Board members said five star schools would have to be in the top percentage and meet all of the targets set for students of different races and economic backgrounds, among other groups.

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