Maryland Department of Education and Blueprint Board Collaborate to Enhance Elementary School Literacy Scores

The Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board has approved a proposal to send literacy experts to schools in Maryland’s counties and Baltimore by the end of this school year. The goal is to improve literacy achievement in elementary schools and ensure that third-grade students are reading at a proficient level. School leaders must complete a draft literacy plan by Jan. 15 before the teams arrive at the schools.

According to the latest standardized test scores, 48% of third-grade students in Maryland are proficient in English language arts, an increase from 41% in 2019 and 46% last year. However, some schools have fewer than 7% of students at a proficient level.

The initiative will involve ten literacy experts visiting 10% of elementary schools in all 24 school systems starting in January. The experts will observe classroom instruction, evaluate literacy plans, and assess whether instruction is consistent with the state’s “Science of Reading” program. The literacy teams will then submit a report with recommendations to the department, the Blueprint board, and each school system.

The cost of the initiative is estimated to be $1.3 million, which will cover the visits to schools and the formation of instructional support teams. The experts will work with teachers, administrators, and other staff to improve early literacy instruction. Depending on the outcomes, a similar process may be used to assess math in elementary schools next year.

Interim Superintendent Carey Wright supports the use of literacy teams, citing the success of the “Mississippi Miracle” in improving literacy rates and standardized test scores in Mississippi. The teams will provide feedback to help districts improve without an evaluative approach.

Reading Partners Baltimore, a nonprofit literacy tutoring organization, applauds the decision to provide literacy experts to support reading instruction in Maryland. They believe this step will give students the opportunities they need to succeed in school and beyond.