Maryland Superintendent Launches Task Force to Evaluate Academic Achievement

After being appointed as Maryland’s permanent superintendent of schools by the State Board of Education, Carey Wright convened a news briefing on Monday to unveil the establishment of a task force aimed at evaluating academic achievement.

The task force, comprising local superintendents, principals, and representatives from higher education, will work towards enhancing the assessment of student progress in classrooms. It will be spearheaded by the Center for Assessment, a nationwide education nonprofit dedicated to developing, executing, and appraising accountability frameworks to gauge learning outcomes.

This initiative is a response to the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP), which evaluates students’ proficiency in mathematics, English, and science.

The evaluation of overall school performance, including graduation rates, attendance, and academic results, is conducted through the Maryland Report Card, which employs a star-based rating system ranging from one to five stars.

MCAP outcomes contribute to determining the state’s report card and school star rating system.

In the latest state report card released in December, 76% of Maryland schools garnered a rating of at least three out of five stars, but only 47% of students in third to eighth grades scored proficiently in English language arts, with math proficiency even lower at nearly 25%.

“That’s doesn’t ring true,” emphasized Wright, highlighting the incongruity between school ratings and student performance.

The task force, set to convene bi-monthly beginning this Thursday, will deliver recommendations to the State Board of Education by December. Given that this accountability framework is enshrined in state legislation, any modifications must be resolved before the Maryland General Assembly commences its 90-day legislative session in January.

Plans are underway to enhance the accessibility and comprehensibility of the online report card for parents, guardians, and students.

“The report card website needs to be a lot more accessible for folks to understand and be able to access data for their schools in their districts,” noted Joshua Michael, school board vice president, expressing optimism with Dr. Wright overseeing this accountability facet.

Commencing her official term on July 1 sans the interim title, Wright stressed the immediate necessity of diversifying Maryland’s teaching workforce.

This aligns with the goals outlined in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, although challenges persist in hiring, retaining, and recruiting qualified teachers, especially teachers of color, as evidenced by local school leaders.

Despite Maryland’s diverse demographic composition, a report from The Century Foundation in September 2023 revealed an imbalanced representation in the teaching workforce, with 70% of teachers being white, compared to 19% Black and 4% Latino.

Recalling a successful program implemented during her tenure as Mississippi’s superintendent, Wright aspires to replicate it in Maryland to address the teacher shortage and diversity disparity.

During her tenure in Mississippi, she led the launch of a state-operated residency teacher program, pioneering efforts to fill teaching vacancies and bolster diversity among educators.

“There’s a need for enhanced campaigning and outreach,” Wright articulated, emphasizing the importance of showcasing diverse educators to inspire and connect with students.

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