Kirwan Commission Begins Finalizing Recommendations

High-profile education commission begins finalizing recommendations on early childhood education, teacher pay, and career and college readiness pathways.

The [Kirwan] Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting today in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the Commission heard reports from three of the four working groups tasked with developing a consensus on the design, implementation plan, and cost for each of the Commission’s preliminary recommendations.

Although cost estimates are not expected to be available until early September, the Commission received reports from the Early Childhood Education, High-Quality Teachers and Leaders, and College and Career Readiness Pathways working groups.

Dr. Kirwan cautioned that these reports are subject to change depending on input from the Commission. However, he urged the Commissioners to use discretion when suggesting substantive changes. “We simply do not have the time and therefore cannot redo the work of the working groups [at our next meeting,]” he said.

Early Childhood Education

Montgomery County Councilmember and MACo appointee to the Kirwan Commission, Craig Rice, served as the moderator of the Early Childhood Education working group and presented its findings to the Commission.

Expanding high–quality pre-K to four-year-olds based on a sliding scale and three-year-olds from low-income families is a major piece of the working group’s report.

Pre-Kindergarten

  • Expand full-day Pre-K at no cost for four–year–olds and three–year–olds from families with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL) (approximately $75,000 for a family of four), and for four–year–olds from families with incomes between 300% and 600% FPL (approximately $75,000 to $150,000 for a family of four) using a sliding scale.
  • Families with incomes above $150,000 will pay the full cost to attend a four–year–old pre–K program. This will be phased in on a 10-year timeline.
  • The State will expand access to publicly funded full-day pre-K for all three-year-olds from low–income families (a family with an income up to 300% FPL/$75,000 based on a family of four). This will be phased-in on a 10-year timeline.
  • Family enrollment in pre-K will be voluntary.
  • Provision of publicly funded pre-K will include both public school-based pre-K programs and participating community-based pre-K programs.
  • All publicly funded full-day pre-K programs will be a minimum of 6.5 hours and at least 180 school days.
  • In order to receive public funding, all participating programs, whether based at public schools or in community settings, will follow State public pre-K standards set forth in the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR).
  • Community providers must publish at least at a level 3 ranking on the EXCELS quality scale with a plan approved by MSDE to achieve level 5 within five years. Public school-based pre-K programs must publish in EXCELS at least at a level 4 with a plan approved by MSDE to achieve level 5 within five years.

Implementation Decisions

Priority in the expansion of pre–K will be focused on four-year-olds from low-income families, while gradually expanding to three–year–olds from low–income families. Expansion efforts in the early years will be focused on making pre–K available for all four–year–olds from low-income families in half–day slots, while half-day slots are being converted into full-day slots. Therefore, by year four, all four–year–olds from low-income families will be offered full–day pre–K.

Full–day pre–K for three–year–olds from low–income families will be phased–in over the 10 year period by a minimum of 10% per year. Therefore, by year 10, all three–year–olds from low–income families will be offered full–day pre–K.

The State will require that a minimum percentage of pre–K slots be provided in participating community–based settings. This minimum requirement will be phased–in over the 10 year period in 10% per year increments in years one through four, and remain constant at 50% beginning in year 5.

Priority in the expansion of high-quality pre-K for four–year–olds and three–year–olds will be given to:

(a) special education students, regardless of income; and

(b) students who are English Learners, regardless of income.

Public funding to support special education students and English Learners will follow the student and go to the provider that is serving the student.

Local education agencies will enter into agreements with community–based providers to provide publicly–funded pre–K programs to four–year–olds and three–year–olds, which must include the provision of services for students with special needs.

Priority in the expansion of high–quality pre–K will be given to areas and regions where there are fewer providers and programs available to serve the four–year– old and three–year–old populations in the area or region. Local education agencies (LEAs) must prioritize these areas as part of accountability requirements. LEAs will be encouraged to collaborate to explore innovative ways to address child care deserts, including regional cross–county programming and reciprocity with border states.

Year one of the implementation schedule will use 70% of families as a starting target for the voluntary enrollment of four-year-olds in publicly funded pre–K, as some families will choose private providers or keep children at home until kindergarten. The target participation rate will increase to 80% in year five and continue at 80% through year 10 as more families take advantage of available publicly funded pre–K programs.

The implementation schedule will use 80% of families as the target for the voluntary enrollment of three–year–olds from low–income families in publicly funded pre–K, as some families will choose private providers or keep children at home.

Phase-in Timeline Decisions

  • EXCELS: To receive public funding, a community provider must achieve at least a level 3 with a plan approved by MSDE to achieve level 5 within five years. Public pre–K programs must achieve at least a level 4 with a plan approved by MSDE to achieve level 5 within five years.
  • Minimum Percentage of pre–K Slots in Community–based Settings:
    • Starting in year 1, there will a requirement that a percentage of pre–K slots (either for four-year-olds or three-year-olds) are provided in community–based settings. This minimum requirement will be phased–in over the 10 year period in 10% per year increments in years one through four, and remain constant at 50% beginning in year 5.
  • Expansion of slots for four–year–olds and three–year–olds from low–income families (Family income below 300% FPL/$75,000 for a family of four): Pre–K will be available at no charge for four–year–olds and three– year–olds from low–income families.
    • In year one, all four–year–olds from low–income families will have access to half–day pre–K. 10% of three–year–olds from low–income families will have access to full-day pre–K.
    • In year four, all four–year–olds from low–income families will have access to full-day pre–K. 40% of three–year–olds from low–income families will have access to full-day pre–K.
    • In year 10, all four–year–olds from low–income families will have access to full-day pre–K. 100% of three–year–olds from low–income families will have access to full-day pre–K.
  • Sliding Scale for Four-Year-Olds (Family income between 300–600% FPL/$75,000–$150,000 for a family of four):
    • Beginning in year five, public funding will be provided to families with incomes between 300–600% FPL/$75,000 and $150,000 for a family of four. Even with this public support, these families will still be expected to pay a portion of the cost to attend a pre–K program so that as a family’s income increases, the amount of public support decreases (sliding scale).
    • To avoid a cliff effect whereby a small increase in income results in a significant loss of public support, there will be approximately 15 steps, with a 6–7 percentage point difference between each step.
    • Families with incomes above 600% FPL/$150,000 for a family of four will pay the full cost for four–year–old pre–K.

High-Quality Teachers and Leaders 

Senator Paul Pinsky served as moderator for the High-Quality Teachers and Leaders workgroup and presented its report to the Commission. Senator Pinsky did not mince words when describing the potential fiscal impact of the report. “It’s going to be expensive. Let me be perfectly clear, when fully phased-in, its equivalent to hiring 20% more teachers.”

Recruiting better educated, more rigorously trained teachers, along with eliminating the gap in compensation between teachers and high-status professions that require comparable levels of education, are major pieces of the working group’s report. Notable recommendations include:

  • Raise teacher pay to make it equitable with other highly trained professionals with the same amount of education.
    • Teacher pay will continue to be negotiated collectively at the local level for cost of living increases and increases beyond the State Framework for the Educator Career Ladder.
    • The State will conduct periodic benchmarking studies of teacher salary to include comparability with other professionals with similar education and experience levels at the State and regional levels. Each county and local union will receive from the State at the start of each collective bargaining process the weighted average salary of comparable professionals as identified by the Commission (e.g., accountants, registered nurses) in the State and region.
    • Over the first three years of implementation, teacher salaries will be increased by 10% to reach the average salary of teachers in Massachusetts and New Jersey as a head start to improve teacher salaries and make teaching a more attractive profession prior to full implementation of the career ladder.
    • Pay increases above and beyond these initial increases will largely be a function of movement up the career ladder.
  • Develop career ladders for teachers and school leaders comparable in design to the career ladders found in Singapore and Shanghai, with respect to standards for advancement and relationship to the system for compensating teachers and school leaders.
    • The State will provide a set of design parameters for the career ladder system. Although districts can implement the ladder in different ways, they must remain within these parameters or they will not be eligible for State funding.
    • There are many more teachers at the bottom rungs of the ladder than at the top.
    • Movement up the ladder is a function of performance and experience, (i.e., knowledge, skills and responsibilities) as well as availability of the position the teacher is seeking.
    • The ladders will have two tracks: Teacher Leadership Track and Administrative Track.
    • Teachers can move laterally across the tracks if their interests change.
    • The first two levels will be common to both tracks: State Licensed Teacher and National Board Certified Teacher.

  • Raise standards for licensing new teachers in Maryland to levels comparable to the standards for teachers in the top-performing nations.
    • Teachers will be required to pass a test of teaching ability to earn a Maryland license (e.g., PPAT, edTPA) no later than 5 years after implementation of legislation. This requirement applies to all teachers including alternative preparation programs except those who are teaching CTE courses. Teachers coming from out of state must pass the assessment within 18 months of being hired by a Maryland district or hold an active National Board Certification. After sufficient data has been collected that demonstrates that one assessment is more valuable than another, the State should adjust the licensure requirement.
    • Teachers will be required to pass State-specific exams of teacher mastery of reading and content that will be at least on par with the rigor of Massachusetts for elementary education (K-6) and for the middle and high school grade levels by a date certain.
    • Teacher candidates who are midcareer changers and taking the one-year alternative certification option will participate in a three-year mentorship and induction program under an experienced mentor.

College and Career Readiness Pathways

Commissioner Chester Finn served as moderator for the College and Career Readiness Pathways working group and presented its findings to the Commission. Implementing a new College and Career Readiness (CCR) standard and creating a new Career and Technical Education Subcabinet are major pieces of the working group’s report. Notable recommendations include:

  • The State will establish a standard of literacy in English and mathematics (and when practicable also science) at the level needed to assure a high probability of success in the first-year programs of the State’s community colleges. This will be called the College and Career Readiness or CCR standard.
    • When the system the Commission envisions is fully implemented in ten years, 65 percent of the students entering high school should be expected to achieve this standard by the end of the 10th grade. But the CCR examinations will be available earlier, so some will be able to meet the standard before 10th grade.
    • Seventy-five-percent will be expected to achieve it by the time they leave high school, and another 5 percent by age 21. If the system the Commission is proposing is as effective as the Commission expects, 80 percent of all young Maryland students will be achieving CCR ten years from implementation (and many others will still earn high school diplomas).
    • Over the long term—and the Commission’s earnest goal—is that almost every Maryland student entering into adulthood will reach the CCR standard before they leave high school. Since a standard of this sort is met by fewer than half of Maryland’s students today, the Commission’s plan envisions massive improvement in performance and will open opportunities to most of our young people that are far out of reach now.
    • It will also provide an enormous boost in the capacity of the Maryland workforce to compete effectively in the state, national and global economy.

  • A new Career and Technical Education Subcabinet will be created to drive the process of building a world-class career and technical education system for Maryland, in the context of priorities established by the Economic Development Commission.
    • The CTE Subcabinet will be staffed by an Executive Director and other staff.
    • The CTE Subcabinet chair will be selected jointly by the Governor, the President of
      the Senate, and the Speaker of the House. The chair will serve as an Ex Officio
      member of the State Board of Education, the Higher Education Commission, the
      Governor’s Workforce Development Board, the Maryland Apprenticeship and
      Training Council, the Skills Standards Board (see below) and, at the Governor’s
      discretion, other agencies that play a key role in economic development and
      workforce development. If this individual is not a State employee, the State should
      provide compensation for this position.
    • The CTE Subcabinet will have the authority to issue whatever regulations are required to implement the statewide framework that it develops for CTE, allocating roles and responsibilities to agencies, mandating required offerings and resolving conflicts that arise among agencies in the course of carrying out those responsibilities. The Subcabinet will issue regulations describing all approved course sequences for CTE.
    • The CTE Subcabinet should also address operational issues incident to the development of a modern work-based learning system, such as transportation to and from work-based learning venues and insurance for firms providing places for young people.
    • The CTE Subcabinet will review all agency budget requests for CTE-related programs and make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on the disposition of those requests.
    • The CTE Subcabinet will also have a substantial budget of its own, with which to make start-up grants, invest in promising innovations and experiments, contract for needed research and analysis, and more

Working group four, More Resources for At-Risk Students, did not present its report to the Commission. That report is expected at the next meeting.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission. MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation.

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

Materials from today’s meeting are available on the Department of Legislative Services website, and the meetings viewable online by searching the House Appropriations Committee room on the dates of each meeting.

The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 5, 2018; 10:00 am-5:00 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

Final Report – Working Group One – Early Childhood Education

Final Report – Working Group Two – High-Quality Teachers and Leaders

Final Report – Working Group Three – College and Career Readiness Pathways

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Education Funding Hot Topic at #MACoCon

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