Published: January 6, 2005
Standards and Accountability: Maryland is one of a dozen states earning A’s in this category this year, largely because it has implemented the key elements of a strong accountability system.
The state has clear and specific standards for English, mathematics, and science—three out of the four core subject areas—in elementary, middle, and high school. Social studies/history standards are clear and specific at the middle and high school levels only. Standards-based exams exist in all grade spans in English and math. But history and science tests aligned with the state’s content standards are given only in high school.
A strength of Maryland’s accountability system is that the tests themselves rely on a variety of items, including multiple-choice, short-answer, and extended-response questions.
Maryland uses test data as part of its system for holding schools accountable for results. The state publishes test scores on school report cards and assigns ratings to schools based in part on those scores. Maryland then uses the ratings to target schools that are rated low-performing or failing for help or sanctions. The state rewards high-performing and improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Maryland requires candidates to pass the full battery of basic-skills, subject-knowledge, and subject-specific-pedagogy tests to earn their beginning-teacher licenses. The state also requires more student teaching—20 weeks—than any other state.
But while high school teachers in Maryland must have majored in the subjects they teach, middle school teachers are not required to major, or even minor, in their subjects. The state is developing a content-specific certificate for middle school teachers that will require a minimum amount of subject-area coursework. The state fails to require and finance induction programs for all new teachers.
Maryland does, however, encourage the continued professional growth of its veteran teachers by providing both financial and licensure incentives for teachers to earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The state also pays for professional development for teachers.
In addition, the state’s Resident Teacher alternative-certification program requires applicants to have degrees in the subjects they will teach and to pass the same content-area licensure required of all other teacher-candidates in the state. The alternative-route teachers are mentored for the duration of the one-year program.
School Climate: Maryland earned the lowest grade of any state in school climate, in part because the state has few policies to provide parents with a greater choice among public schools. The state has no open-enrollment policy, and the state charter law is deemed weak by the Center for Education Reform.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress background survey places the state at or below average nationally on most indicators of parent involvement, student engagement, and school safety.
The state also loses points because, compared with other states, few students in Maryland attend small schools. For example, just 11 percent of elementary school students and 10 percent of high school students attend small schools.
Equity: Maryland ranks last out of the 50 states for its wealth-neutrality score, a measure of the extent to which local property wealth is related to the state and local revenue available to districts. Maryland’s score shows that there are wide disparities in funding across the state related to the property wealth of districts. Maryland does better on the two other indicators of equity, ranking 18th on the McLoone Index and sixth on the coefficient of variation. Those indicators show that the state doesn’t have much variation in funding across districts compared with other states.
Spending: Maryland spends more than 110 percent of the national average on education, with $8,517 per pupil in the 2001-02 school year.
Almost 98 percent of its students are in districts that spend at least the national average, placing the state seventh among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Maryland also scores a 99.9 on the spending index, indicating that even those districts spending below the national average are not far below that bar.
The state spends 4 percent of its total taxable resources on education, which is above the national average.
The only indicator on which Maryland is below average is the state’s average annual rate of change from 1992 to 2002. After adjusting for inflation, education spending during that time increased an average of 1.3 percent a year. The national average is 1.8 percent.
Vol. 24, Issue 17, Page 120