The Maryland State Board of Education (MSDE) is proposing a new accountability system for public schools that allows low-performing schools to have a lower student pass rate on standardized tests than high-performing schools.
According to The Baltimore Sun,
Under the new system, a school that has only 10 percent of its students passing the statewide tests in 2017 will be required to have at least 55 percent of its students passing the tests by 2030. Meanwhile, a school with 60 percent of its students passing the tests this year will be required to have 80 percent passing by 2030.
The practical result of the differing standards is that there will be less pressure to pass the tests on low-income, minority students who are more likely to be in low-performing schools. At the same time, a larger percentage of more affluent students in high-performing schools will be expected to pass.
State school board members have been grappling with how high to set these targets since the passage of No Child Left Behind, federal legislation that mandated all school systems had 100% of their students passing the tests by 2014, a target that most legislators and educators agreed was unattainable.
When No Child Left Behind was replaced by ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) in 2015, MSDE began crafting this new proposal, which aims to align accountability measures to school improvement efforts in order to provide equitable opportunities for all students. The goal is to avoid past mistakes (i.e. setting unrealistic expectations) while, at the same time, setting the bar high enough to encourage schools to have high expectations for their students.
Systems for elementary, middle, and high schools all focus on academic achievement, English language proficiency, and school quality/student success. While elementary and middle schools also focus on academic progress, high schools will be held accountable for the graduation rate.
Schools and school systems will be placed into one of five categories with a star ranking. Based on performance on the accountability measures, schools may be identified for supports to help them improve beginning in the 2018-19 school years.
MSDE must submit the new accountability plan to the U.S. Department of Education by September 18, which must give final approval. The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, heard testimony on the plan during its last meeting. Click here to read Kirwan Commission coverage on the Conduit Street blog.