School & District Management

Md. Panel Urges Merit Pay, Other Policy Changes

By Karla Scoon Reid — September 27, 2005 4 min read

Maryland’s latest bid to improve its schools includes proposals to adopt a statewide pay-for-performance system for teachers, enact a stronger charter school law, and begin a program of school ratings.

But some education experts are unimpressed with the recommendations made by the Governor’s Commission on Quality Education in Maryland, saying that many of the high-profile panel’s proposals are in progress or have been suggested before.

The 30-member commission, which was assembled by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, was charged with examining four areas: teacher and principal accountability and growth; links between schools and the community; best practices in education; and school readiness.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele led the commission, which held its first meetings in September of last year. In preparing the 54-page report, Mr. Steele visited 38 schools, and the panel gathered advice from more than 1,000 students and about 600 teachers in Maryland. The panel also held several public hearings.

Long-Term Planning

BRIC ARCHIVE

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s Commission on Quality Education issued recommendations this month. Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele chaired the panel, whose ideas have received a mixed reaction from teachers and lawmakers.

• Devise a teacher-compensation system that would pay teachers according to their levels of expertise, their effectiveness, and the staffing needs of their schools.
• Rate schools based on their academic performance.
• Expand the alternative-path certification process for principals and teachers to increase the pool of highly qualified prospective school employees.
• Revamp the state’s charter school law to give more instructional flexibility to public charter schools.
• Give principals more authority over school budgets, personnel, and facilities management.
• Create a new pension system that would let teachers keep their pension plans if they move to other states or switch careers.

SOURCE: Maryland Office of the Governor

According to the report, which was released this month, the commission’s goal is to use the effort to “re-energize the discussion of new ideas, to be followed by focused action to improve education in Maryland.”

“Gov. Ehrlich and I are committed to bringing quality education to every child in Maryland,” Lt. Gov. Steele said in a news release. “This report provides the next steps in our education system to make this commitment a reality.”

How Much Input?

Robert J. Kemmery, the commission’s executive director, said he was working to draft specific policy proposals based on the report’s 30 recommendations. The state board of education, the governor, or the state higher education commission could carry out some proposals, he said, while others would need legislative approval.

“It will take political will to move on some of these things,” Mr. Kemmery said.

But state Delegate Nancy J. King, a Democrat who was on the commission, said that all of the panel’s recommendations deserve a public vetting of some sort and that none should simply be regulatory changes.

Ms. King, a member of the legislature’s lower house, pointed out that commission members were barred from speaking to the news media.

And, she added, the commission was divided into four subcommittees, which under the state’s open-meetings law allowed those sessions to be held in private.

“It bothered me that there was not any opportunity for the public to see what we were talking about,” Ms. King said.

Mr. Kemmery countered that holding the subcommittee meetings in private provided a “fair, frank, and honest discussion to look at all of these topics.”

He said all subcommittee work was reported back during the full commission meetings, which were open to the public. Lt. Gov. Steele also wanted to be the only person to speak to the media until the panel finished its work, Mr. Kemmery added.

Pat Foerster, the president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, criticized the commission for tackling what she sees as minute policy matters. She called its report “a collection of ideas that we’ve heard many other times in other places.”

Ms. Foerster, who represents the 62,000 teachers who are members of the state’s National Education Association affiliate, blasted the commission’s proposal to adopt a statewide compensation system that would base teachers’ pay on their expertise, effectiveness, and the challenges of staffing their schools. She said the plan skirts the main issue: Maryland teachers are poorly paid.

Ms. Foerster added that a recommendation to revamp the pension system to allow teachers and principals to keep their retirement plans if they change careers or move out of state is illogical because it encourages educators to leave Maryland and the teaching profession.

Instead, she said, state lawmakers should bolster the state’s benefit packages for teachers, which, according to union evaluations, is the worst in the nation.

Others challenged the commission’s proposal to permit nonprofit organizations, colleges, and other entities to oversee charter schools. John Woolums, the director of governmental relations for the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, said his group would continue to advocate that local school boards retain sole chartering authority.

“If charter schools continue to be public schools and not private schools by another name, we strongly oppose any other independent authority to establish those schools,” he said.

The report also suggests that the state adopt a school rating system, much like those in Florida and Texas, as a way to distinguish between high- and low-performing schools, and to set the highest possible goals for individual schools.

Mr. Woolums took issue with the recommendation, saying that school comparisons are difficult to implement fairly, especially when a small group of students can skew a school’s test results.

Conversely, Mr. Woolums said, the commission’s proposal for a value-added measurement model that tracks student progress on tests from year to year would be useful.

A version of this article appeared in the September 28, 2005 edition of Education Week as Md. Panel Urges Merit Pay, Other Policy Changes

Events

School & District Management Live Event EdWeek Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Districts Are Spending Millions on ‘Unproven’ Air Purifiers
Schools are buying technology that academic air-quality experts warn can lull them into a false sense of security or even harm kids.
Lauren Weber, Kaiser Health News & Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News
13 min read
A student listens to a presentation in Health class at Windsor Locks High School in Windsor Locks, Conn. on March 18, 2021.
A student listens to a presentation in health class at Windsor Locks High School in Windsor Locks, Conn.
Jessica Hill/AP
School & District Management Teachers' Mental Health Has Suffered in the Pandemic. Here's How Districts Can Help
Teachers’ stress and anxiety have soared during the pandemic, making it critical for districts to look after their mental health.
9 min read
Woman working at computer.
Getty
School & District Management Remote Learning Isn't Going Away. Will It Create Separate—and Unequal—School Systems?
Demand for remote learning is likely to continue in the fall, raising concerns about the quality of education virtual students will receive.
9 min read
Veronica Esquivel, 10, finishes her homework after her virtual school hours while her brother Isias Esquivel sits in front of his computer on Feb. 10, 2021, at their residence in Chicago's predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood. Her mother, Rosa, worries that her diabetes and her husband's high blood pressure could put their lives at risk if their kids brought the coronavirus home from school.
Veronica Esquivel, 10, finishes her homework after virtual school, while her brother Isias Esquivel sits in front of his computer in their Chicago home in February. Their mother worried that sending them back to in-person learning would put her and her husband at risk for getting COVID-19.
Shafkat Anowar/AP
School & District Management Opinion Young People Have a Desire to Save Their World. How Can We Help?
Young people have an interest in learning and an innate desire to be part of saving society. Why do adults stand in the way?
Michael Fullan & Joanne Quinn
5 min read
Michael Fullan   FCG
Shutterstock