The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board recommends that local health and social service agencies share names and contact information with local school systems for families with children who could be eligible to enroll in free prekindergarten.
However, to be eligible under terms of the Blueprint plan, a family needs to apply for “economic services” and a child must turn 3 or 4 years old by Sept.1. The proposal to have health and social workers make referrals would require a legislative change when the General Assembly convenes in January, staff told the board.
The board, also known as the AIB, summarized this and other recommendations for implementing the Blueprint comprehensive plan for education reform during an online session Thursday.
Although the Blueprint document was approved in December, state legislation allows the board to make changes and updates every year by Aug. 1.
The board focused on changes in early childhood education and recruiting and retaining high-quality and diverse teachers and leaders.
Other recommendations include to provide start-up grants for new Patty and Judy Centers focused on early childhood learning; to require school systems to submit a report to the Blueprint board on the diversity of the teacher workforce by Dec. 1 every year; and to require assistant principals to spend at least 20% of their “working hours” in direct interactions with students. A previous draft required assistant principals to teach in classrooms for that portion of time.
The board is scheduled to approve the Blueprint comprehensive plan and first submissions of local school system Blueprint plans July 27.
Each plan submitted must detail work that school officials have conducted, completed and will continue to implement through the 2023-24 school year. All plans must include details about how schools will make progress in the Blueprint’s top priorities: expanding early childhood education, hiring and retaining high-quality and diverse teachers, preparing students for college and technical careers and providing additional resources for students in need.
If a school system’s plan isn’t ready for approval next week, officials have until Oct. 1 to submit their plans. That date coincides with an appeal process for officials to use if they disagree with the board’s decision to withhold money for the next fiscal year.
However, that would only happen if the Blueprint board decided a school system didn’t meet certain requirements of the Blueprint plan.
“We’re hoping to not use the appeal process this year,” AIB executive director Rachel Hise said.
By March 2024 school systems must submit plans that outline how they will continue to achieve Blueprint priorities through the 2026-27 school year.
A third and final submission is due in four years to cover plans for school years between 2027-28 and 2031-32.
Meanwhile, the board approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center (MLDSC), an independent unit of state government, for almost $203,300 to pay for research, data analysis and consultation services.
That contract went into effect July 1 and continues through June 30, 2024. The contract provides two, one-year renewal options if both parties agree in writing.
If more work and support is needed on a project, a lead researcher from the center can receive help from AIB staff or graduate school students. The data center has done work with various colleges and universities in the state.
The board also voted to retain William “Brit” Kirwan, who is chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland, as vice chair. According to the board’s bylaws, Kirwan would serve for two years until the board’s annual meeting in July 2025. Prior to Thursday’s vote, his term was set to expire July 1, 2024.
Kirwan led a group that the legislature established seven years ago to make recommendations that are outlined in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future comprehensive plan.
“He is a walking expert on much of what we’ve done with the Blueprint,” Blueprint board chair Isiah “Ike” Leggett said. “He really crystalizes the issues of public education for all of us. I cannot have been more delighted in support of his leadership.”