We have a requirement to re-imagine education post-COVID. Fortunately, the Maryland Department of Education in collaboration with local school systems has advanced enabling foundational initiatives.
The $400 million in emergency funding has changed the landscape by improving device penetration, platforms for virtual learning, the expansion of connectivity, and materials to support the safe reopening of in-person instruction. Maryland’s pandemic response was steered by guardrails detailed in Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education. This plan was developed in collaboration with local school systems and was one of the first comprehensive guides of its kind in the country.
Much of the public dialogue about the COVID response in our schools has focused on the disparity of local responses. Maryland has a long history of local control of education, as reflected in the shared fiscal responsibility for the cost of educating Maryland students. Moreover, Maryland’s diversity in culture, population, COVID positivity, health resources, education infrastructure and geography further support the practice of local leaders making decisions on behalf of their constituencies.
As we navigate local control guided by centralized guardrails, the goal is to work together to deliver the highest quality programs and outcomes across the state.
What are the promising initiatives that Maryland families can expect will provide the hoped-for progress?
- The Every Student Succeeds Act ushered in new accountability requirements, a Consolidated State Plan, Consolidated Local Plans, revised report card requirements and revised school-level per-pupil funding. Over two years of work on ESSA resulted in the publication of the Maryland Accountability Report Card, offering parents and stakeholders the most information and data about individual schools in state history.
- HB 1415 — Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. As a result of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, MSDE administered Learning in Extended Academic Programs, or LEAP, as well as programs that focus on early literacy and innovative career and technology education.
- SB 1030 — Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. MSDE’s implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, SB 1030, administered grant programs for teacher salary incentives, students with disabilities, transitional supplemental instruction, the concentration of poverty, mental health and supplemental prekindergarten.
Given the energy of many in the community dedicated to advancing Maryland educational outcomes it is with great disappointment that we read the recent opinion by Kalman R. “Buzzy” Hettleman [“Emergency Action Needed to Confront State Mismanagement of School Funding,” Maryland Matters, Jan. 13], which included many unsubstantiated and unattributed claims.
MSDE has developed and managed countless programs and initiatives to meet the growing state and federal legislative and policy mandates with very little growth in the administrative resources dedicated to this work.
MSDE staff has admirably and unwaveringly carried the great weight of increasing responsibility – to suggest otherwise is to offend the hardworking MSDE staff who have been working determinably through the pandemic to serve Maryland’s families and children.
Our education and social problems are complex and our responses will require collaborative leadership. Our goals are best achieved by constructive, factually accurate, public debate informed by the engagement of all stakeholders.
— CLARENCE C. CRAWFORD
The writer is president of the Maryland State Board of Education.