By Matthew Cregger
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The Maryland State Board of Education is considering updates to the annual school report cards that found in its first report 70 percent of schools across the state earned four stars out of five.
The new school accountability system is being updated to provide more information to the public and more accountability for schools, officials said. Teachers, in the new indicators, will have a say in what they think the quality of the school is.
“The accountability system is designed to evolve,” said Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland Board of Education. “So this coming year we are adding a teacher survey and funding data as well as gauging equity within schools.”
The current school report cards include grades on such factors as graduation rates, academic achievement, English language proficiency, post-high school readiness, and school quality. It scales all of these on points earned over points possible and provides a percentage. That percentage, in turn, is displayed as a star rating with a maximum of five.
With the update, not only will teachers have a vote on school quality but also parents can learn about funding for their schools, and data on the academic success and support of different demographics within each school.
“We are fully engaged in elevating the performance of all schools – through our budget process, staffing, curriculum development, support services, professional development, and community partnerships,” said Interim Superintendent Verletta White. “We are working to ensure that all of our schools are high-performing schools in the eyes of their communities and according to the data.”
Officials said that with the new indicators in place not only will the public have better access to school information, but administrators will be forced to find solutions quicker as the information is presented in a clear-cut fashion and, therefore, more actionable.
“For teachers, it’s not what you learn,” said President Abbey Beytin of the Teacher’s Association of Baltimore County. “It’s teaching students how to learn.”
For teachers, the pressure put upon them to get their student up to standards is unwelcomed, Beytin said. Of course, they want their students to succeed; however, they would much rather have research done on what could be done to remove obstacles to learning rather than learning where the failures are happening.
“The amount of work is astronomical for teachers at schools that are not up to standard,” said Beytin. “The amount of paper work schools have to fill out just to prove that the school is improving can itself impede the process.”
Beytin later said that everything is based on a bell curve and that there will always be a back portion to the bell curve. She continued that those who are on the back end do not need pressure. They need help.
“Our goal is to improve every school throughout our State, and prepare every student for a bright future,” said State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon. “The new Maryland Report Card will help parents, educators, policymakers, and the general public gain a better understanding about how each school is doing based on our accountability measures.”
The annual school report cards received a massive overhaul in 2017 when the state Board of Education decided it would be necessary for schools, legislators and parents to have a better tool to evaluate the schools. It was made with the intention of being easy to understand and effective in evaluating key performance indicators.
The school report cards were first released last December.