by Megan Werden ‘17
An education bill received final approval in the Democratic-controlled State legislature on Tuesday, The bill, which passed each chamber with a veto-proof majority, now heads to the Governor Larry Hogan.
Eric Luedtke, a Maryland State delegate of Montgomery County, proposed the bill titled “Protect Our Schools Act” to sets limits on how much of a school’s state-assessed “quality” can be determined by test scores.
The federally mandated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), currently under challenge by the Trump Administration, requires two categories of school quality indicators, which are academics and school quality factors. Academic factors are based on test scores and graduation rates. School-quality indicators are based off measures such as teacher quality, absence rates, and climate surveys.
The state bill’s intention is that schools will focus more on other indicators beside test scores to judge schools. “The end result will likely be a decrease in emphasis on testing, which are currently the sole standard for school quality, as schools seeks to improve their performance on all measures,” said Luedtke.
The Md. Senate amended the bill to say 65 percent of a school’s “accountability rating” should be based on indicators such as standardized testing, student achievement, student growth and graduation, compared with 55 percent in the original version. Hogan has warned that the bill is “designed to hide the failures of school leaders and administrators.”
The second part of the Protect Ours Schools Act prevents the state of Maryland from being able to come into a county school system, such as MCPS, and to use extreme solutions to improve a school such as a forced charter conversion (that leads to closure of the school) and distribution vouchers.
The proposed bill includes many provisions in order to prevent the privatization of public schools. Principals, teachers, and other staff members must be included when making decisions about improvement plans. The State Department of Education cannot require any district to use a special form of intervention, and therefore the school’s local district has the first chance to make any decisions on how to make a school better.