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.


Time to Stop for School Buses

The Governor’s Office releases more than $500,000 in grant funds to help jurisdictions enforce school bus safety laws.

The Governor’s Office recently released its appropriations for the School Bus Safety Enforcement Fund. Next year, thanks to leadership from the Governor’s Office and advocacy from MACo, local jurisdictions may apply to use the funds for previously a variety of school safety purposes.

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School bus safety grant awards, courtesy of the Governor’s Office.

As described by the Governor’s Office,

Following the 2016 legislative session, Governor Hogan signed SB 83, which renamed the School Bus Safety Enforcement Fund to the School Safety Enforcement Fund. The legislation will expand the purposes of the Fund, provide localities with additional flexibility to address school safety needs, and allow county boards of education, in addition to law enforcement entities, to apply for the grants. The changes will take effect October 1, 2016, and will be incorporated into the next notice of funding availability for the program.

MACo supported expanding the purpose of the School Bus Safety Enforcement Fund, with an amendment to ensure continued geographic distribution of the funding allocations. The amendment was accepted by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention and included in the law as enacted.

For more information, see the Governor’s Office press release and Conduit Street‘s previous post, MACo Supports School Safety Fund, Seeks Regional Distribution

New School Keeps County Just Ahead of the Curve

The first new middle school built in 11 years in Montgomery County opens this year as enrollment in the district continue to grow.

As reported by the Washington Post, a new middle school opens as school enrollment rises in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Hallie Wells Middle School comes as another sign of surging enrollment in a fast-growing suburban district that ranks as Maryland’s largest. Planners expect 159,000 students in all, with an uptick of more than 2,000 students for an eighth consecutive year.

MACo tracks school construction and its costs as part of its advocacy on behalf of county governments. In fiscal year 2016, Maryland counties provided more than $1 billion in capital funding to the state’s school systems.

The costs of school construction have been rising as a result of many variables, including new technology in classrooms and expanded extracurricular areas. As described by the Post,

Two years ago, the 22-acre Wells site was an undeveloped field. Now it is a $42 million school with more than three dozen classrooms, a technology-friendly media center, a gleaming main gym and three auxiliary gyms.

For more information, see A new school year, and a 204th school, as enrollment surges in Maryland district in the Washington Post.


Compare Maryland School Districts’ Internet Costs, Services, Providers

Education SuperHighway has collected data on US school districts internet spending and collated it to allow for comparison of service and costs between districts.

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Education SuperHighway’s report includes cost and bandwidth analysis of internet service in Maryland schools.

EducationSuperHighway is a non-profit focused on upgrading the Internet access in every public school classroom in America so that students may take advantage of digital learning. The organization is working with the National Governor’s Association and promoting cost-saving solutions, including use of federal grant programs, to improve internet access in schools.

The Compare and Connect Report from Education SuperHighway includes information from each of Maryland’s 24 school districts. In several districts, the State, the County, or network Maryland are listed among internet service providers. Education SuperHighway recently met with MACo staff about additional opportunities for school districts to partner with counties on internet services.

For most of the districts, Education SuperHighway has collected:

  • Internet Access $/megabits per second
  • Internet Access Total Bandwidth
  • Internet Access Per Student
  • Services providers
  • Monthly costs
  • Total cost per student

To see this data, register for free at Education SuperHighway.

Schools for the Future and How to Build Them

The State’s 21st Century School Commission heard expert testimony this week on innovative school designs and the costs of school construction.

Presentations included:

  • Classrooms of the Future from Victoria Bergsagel, Architects of Achievement and Mary Filardo, 21st Century School Fund
  • The Cost of School Construction
    • Comparison of Conventional School Facilities and the Monarch Global Academy and a School Facility Cost Containment Study from Alex Szachnowicz, P.E., Chief Operating Officer, Anne Arundel County Public Schools and David Lever, former Executive Director of the IAC
    • Case Study Analysis of Alternative Approaches to School Construction from Gary McGuigan, Maryland Stadium Authority and Jay Brinson, City School Partners o Will Mangrum, City School Partners

Bergsagel’s presentation was delivered via Skype from the West Coast. She featured several examples of innovative school design throughout the world that enhance students’ learning experiences by:

  • creating connections between the school’s location (genus loci),
  • bringing children into nature as part of the curriculum,
  • modular designs that allow for different interactions between students and teachers,
  • creative designs that create a joyful learning setting,
  • tech-focused learning that takes advantage of local industries.

Filardo spoke about the potential for use of school spaces for a variety of needs in the community, especially as the country’s population ages. She described the possibilities for schools to host:

  • daycare
  • job training
  • meals and exercise for older adults

To better pursue multi-use schools in this way, Filardo advised improving the ability to make intergovernmental agreements and to reconsider the design of schools with these potential uses in mind.

Szachnowicz described how Anne Arundel County had used public-private partnerships to meet increasing enrollments in two areas of the county. Through partnership with Greenberg Gibbons Commercial Corp., the school system added a 12-room addition to Meade High School to accommodate and influx of students from BRAC. In another part of the county, the school system contracted with The Children’s Guild to build and operate a school for a fifteen year term for K-7th grade students.

For more information about each presentation at the Commission, watch the video of the meeting and review the meetings material’s.

The next meeting of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission will be held on September 15, 2016. The subject of the meeting will be “Needs of Facilities to Meet Needs of Students.”

Court Halts Transgender Rules for Public Schools

As reported in the Washington Post, a federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked an Obama administration directive on bathroom access for transgender students.

As described by the Post,

Texas and a dozen other states sued in an attempt to block the federal directive shortly after it was released in May, and in a 38-page opinion issued Sunday, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas temporarily prohibited the federal government from enforcing it as that lawsuit proceeds. The Obama administration has said that schools must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and school facilities that match their gender identity, citing it as a civil rights issue protected under the federal sex-discrimination law known as Title IX.

Civil liberties advocates state that schools must continue to provide transgender students with rights under Title IX, despite this ruling. From the Post‘s article,

“A ruling by a single judge in one circuit cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination,” the ACLU said in a statement. “This unfortunate and premature ruling may, however, confuse school districts that are simply trying to support their students, including their transgender students. So let us make it clear to those districts: your obligations under the law have not changed, and you are still not only allowed but required to treat transgender students fairly.”

For more information, see the full story from the Washington PostFederal judge temporarily halts Obama’s directive to schools on accommodating transgender students.

For information on Maryland school’s reaction to the directive, see our previous coverage, Locals Check the Ins and Outs of New Federal School Bathroom Guidelines and MSDE’s Guidance.


Caroline Commissioners Donate to Imagination Library Program

Caroline County Commissioners Larry Porter, Wilbur Levengood and Dan Franklin recently supported Imagine Library by approving a $3,000 allocation toward the program for FY17.

From The Times-Record,

Available free of charge to all children living in Caroline County, Imagination Library sends participants one new, high-quality children’s book, mailed to their home every month, from birth to age 5.

“The commissioners recognize that reading to young children and having good books in the home goes a long way toward creating lifelong learners in our county,” said Amanda Courie, youth services manager, Caroline County Public Library. “Their commitment to the education of our youngest children is wonderful.”

Courtesy of The Times-Record

Imagination Library of Caroline County is an affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and is administered by the Caroline County Public Library. A partnership of community leaders assists in fundraising and marketing, and includes the following organizations: Maryland Rural Development Corporation, Family Support Center, Greensboro and Federalsburg Judy Centers, Caroline County Chamber of Commerce, Caroline Economic Development Corporation, Caroline County Human Services Council, Caroline County Public Schools, Caroline County Recreation and Parks, Caroline County Family YMCA and the Caroline County Commissioners Office.

Enrollment in the program, which opened one year ago, is now close to 1,100 children. The Dollywood Foundation provides administrative support for the program, with all other funds being raised locally. The cost is $25 per year, which covers the cost of 12 books and postage for one child. The program is free to participants and is funded through grants and donations.

Read the full article for more information.


Maryland’s New State School Superintendent Talks Education

Dr. Karen Salmon, the recently appointed state school superintendent, talked to WBAL TV about the focus being placed on teaching for non-traditional jobs. She said Maryland’s public education system is in good shape, but she did not dismiss the challenges that lie ahead.

The superintendent said while the primary learning focus is academics, the state can’t afford to overlook the need to prepare students for traditional and non-traditional jobs. “One thing I thank we traditionally do is that we are always preparing kids, in my opinion, for our past and not their future, and that’s something I think we have to get away from,” Salmon said.

Salmon said students, while still in high school, must be exposed to tech-driven, hands-on careers, many that may not require a college degree.

“We have opportunities for students to have wonderful careers that make tons of money as electricians and plumbers and HVAC folks. We just really need to enhance career and technology-education programs,” Salmon said.

See the WBAL TV interview below.

Rising to the Surface in School Construction

As counties and the State’s 21st Century School Facilities Commission study school construction, a few topics emerge as focal points for change.

At this year’s MACo Conference, Chair of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, Martin Knott, and MACo’s representative to the Commission, Jan Gardner shared insights into school constuction in a panel moderated by Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the Maryland House of Delegates.

This past year, MACo sought strong and smart funding for school construction as a top legislative initiative. MACo represented the interests of counties seeking to expand their school facility capacity for more students, and those in need of funding to update aging infrastructure. For 2017, counties received continued support for school construction in the State budget and are participating in discussions regarding how to make the most effective use of school construction funding.

maggie and martin modern
School construction is one of the most important issues facing the State, as described by Chairwoman McIntosh.

In the session titled, To Boldly Go. . . Toward Better Modern Schools, Delegate McIntosh introduced the subject and gave an overview of the two major statewide studies underway currently, the Study of Adequacy of Funding for Education in the State of Maryland and the 21st Century School Facilities Commission.

Chairman Knott then described the charge of the Commission, and shared feedback from the meetings the Commission has held so far. The Chairman announced that the Commission would continue beyond the date initially set-out for its final report this December, indicating that while the Commission will release a report at that time, there will be more work to be done.

Ideas that are rising to the top of discussion of the Commission, according to Chairman Knott, include:

  • Prototype designs for schools
  • The school construction timeline, including the points at which contractors are involved in the process
  • Value-engineering incentives
  • The State Department of General Services’ involvement with school construction

Knott emphasized his interest in county input into the Commission. As he said,

The rubber hits the road in the counties, at the local level.

County Executive Gardner spoke from the perspective of a county representative on the Commission and also shared information from the work of a Frederick County task force she has charged with reducing school construction costs.

jan modern
“School investment lifts all boats,” County Executive Jan Gardner stated in describing the effect of school construction on families, property values, and businesses.

Gardner began with some background – while the state and the counties have met the school construction investment goals set by the 2004 Kopp Commission on school construction, investments have fallen short of needs because of rising school construction costs.

Gardner shared a several ideas for reform of the school construction program that could create cost savings for counties. A few ideas include:

  • Revise prevailing wage regulations to reduce the paperwork and penalties that scare off small contractors from bidding on projects
  • Create a state standard for green building to reduce the costs and administrative burdens of complying with the LEED program
  • Develop incentives for innovative design and construction and value-engineering, such as allowing local boards of education to share in cost-savings that would otherwise only revert to the State.

Following the presentations, the audience asked questions regarding funding for systemic preventative maintenance, solving workforce shortages, and ways to tie school construction into new infrastructure development.

Both Knott and Gardner invited additional input into the work of the Commission from county governments. To provide suggestions to the Commission, contact Robin Clark at MACo.

The October 13 meeting of the Commission will focus on funding needs.

Post Questions Tax Exemption For Universities

The Washington Post Editorial Board published “Universities shouldn’t be exempt from D.C. property taxes” last week, questioning the long-standing given that institutions of higher education enjoy exemption from (most) state, local and federal taxes. Opines The Post: 

The rationale for this long-standing policy is a wise one: namely, that these institutions seek to serve broad public needs, not provide a return on shareholder investment.

Yet, in modern times, that argument runs into the blunt fact that some institutions of higher education have morphed into economically impactful entities employing thousands of people, occupying hundreds of acres and investing endowments that sometimes surpass $1 billion[.]

Naturally, higher education institutions in the D.C. area have long fought (successfully) against proposals to assess them a local property tax. They argue that the schools provide substantial public services, such as generating economic activity, providing security, and running shuttle buses for students.  The Post responds:

As for the stimulus universities provide for the local economy, and the services they provide students, both are fair points — but it’s equally true that the universities’ ability to attract students in the first place depends in some measure on the city’s infrastructure and amenities, paid for by local households and businesses.

Tax-exempt properties accounted for 11% of the total assessable property tax base in Maryland as of January 2014 – and as much as 31.6% in Baltimore City. For more information about property tax exemptions in Maryland, see the Department of Legislative Services’ presentation, Property Tax Exemptions and Payments in Lieu of Taxes in Maryland.