Maryland Education Boards Approve Targets for Test Scores, Absenteeism, and Teacher Diversity

Two state education boards unveiled ambitious new objectives on Tuesday for student achievement, fostering and retaining a diverse teaching workforce, and reducing chronic absenteeism.

For the second time this year, the Maryland State Board of Education and the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board convened for a joint session to establish higher benchmarks deliberately.

“To make significant progress, you need to set challenging targets,” remarked William “Brit” Kirwan, vice chair of the Blueprint board and former chancellor of the University System of Maryland, during a break in Tuesday’s meeting.

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Among the newly approved objectives by the boards, notable changes were proposed in student achievement scores.

The boards endorsed setting a new target for proficiency in literacy, previously termed as English language arts, increasing from 48% in 2023 to 63% by the 2025-26 school year for all third through eighth-grade students.

The aim to enhance math proficiency is even more ambitious. The target for fifth graders is to elevate proficiency from 27% to 46% during the same period. For students in grades three through eight, the proficiency level goal is set to rise from 23% to 46%.

Maryland Superintendent Carey Wright emphasized, “When you have an overall math proficiency rate of 23%, significant improvement is a long way to go. If you don’t aim high, you won’t achieve high results. Setting low bars results in subpar outcomes.”

Detailed in a report to state legislators this year, one of Wright’s educational goals is to place Maryland in the top 10 in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) by 2027, where the state currently ranks 40th.

Besides focusing on student achievement, the state’s objectives include enhancing teacher diversity and retention.

This year, approximately 46% of newly-hired teachers in Maryland were educators of color. The boards are targeting to raise this figure to 55% by the 2026-27 school year.

Although teachers of color are currently retained at a rate of 74% for three years, surpassing the 70% target, the boards have voted to heighten the retention rate to 78% in the next three years.

Additionally, the state aims to halve chronic absenteeism from 30% in the 2022-23 academic year to 15% by the 2025-26 school year. Students missing 10% of school days are identified as chronically absent.

As per state law, the Blueprint board is obliged to finalize approvals on any materials, initiatives, and proposals concerning the 10-year education reform plan, collaborating with the state’s Department of Education to enhance learning expertise.

In alignment with departmental goals on workforce diversity, at least one aligns with the Blueprint’s priority of recruiting and retaining high-quality and diverse teachers. The remaining four priorities or “pillars” focus on early childhood education, providing additional assistance for students in need, equipping students for college and technical professions, and governance and accountability.

Clarence Crawford, concluding his term as the president of the state Board of Education, analogized the state’s educational improvements to a football strategy.

“Our aim is to establish a lasting legacy, focusing on the cultural shift required to achieve and sustain our targets,” he remarked.

“This is more than just academic objectives; it directly alters individuals’ lives. That’s the scope,” emphasized Crawford. “While it may not be easy, it is within our grasp. There will be hurdles, but I firmly believe we can attain success.”

Blueprint strategies

Both educational entities also explored Blueprint updates incorporating implementation proposals recently submitted by every school district in the state to the AIB.

State officials revealed that over the past week, department and AIB personnel meticulously reviewed all 24 district plans, offering recommendations for revisions.

Following the brief March reports, in which school officials addressed the primary obstacles faced in implementing the Blueprint, the May submissions served as an update.

While no specific district was mentioned during the meeting, common themes emerging from the plans included prioritizing stakeholder engagement, enhancing collaboration with district staff and local schools, and identifying support mechanisms for students not meeting college and career readiness benchmarks.

Emma Pellerin, the AIB’s implementation plan director, disclosed that her team and department staff dedicated approximately 10 hours to scrutinizing each of the 24 school district plans.

State officials are actively assessing all district plans, providing feedback and suggesting potential revisions, in an ongoing review process.

Rachel Hise, executive director with the AIB, indicated that some plans may potentially receive approval from the Blueprint board on July 18.

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