For all of the problems you read about Baltimore, one thing which can be said for Maryland in general is that they’ve done a fairly decent job of cleaning up their school system over the past decade or more. It’s still not a wonderland of charter schools or parental choice in education, but they’ve brought up their ratings considerably. All of that is now in danger of being lost. It’s a rare day when I find myself agreeing with the editorial board of the Washington Post, but they really hit one out of the park on this issue today. Calling for the state’s elected leadership to Resist(!) the urge to bow to the teachers’ unions, the WaPo begins talking sense.
Among the factors that have helped Maryland develop a national reputation for its education system is the authority the State Board of Education enjoys to set policy and make decisions that best serve student interests without political interference. Sadly, that may soon become a thing of the past. The General Assembly is set to gut the board’s power to establish key educational standards in a move that threatens to cripple efforts for further school improvement.
At issue is legislation that would tie the hands of the state board as it devises a new accountability system for school performance, which is required under the Every Student Succeeds Act federal education law. Under the proposal, the board would be barred from emphasizing student achievement.
The two bills in question are available for your perusal here and here, but it’s pretty much what we’ve seen in blue states around the nation. Teachers hate having any metrics recorded which might hold them accountable for the poor performance of students. That’s why the new plan (which was pretty much bought and paid for by the unions before it showed up in the state legislature) only allows for actual metrics of school performance to be considered in 55% of the school’s rating. The rest would come from things such as… teacher satisfaction surveys. They also don’t want the teachers having to give out letter based grades to the students. (I guess everyone gets a trophy.) Oh, and as far as forcing failing schools to reform, the new legislation would effectively eliminate the state board’s ability to enforce changes.
Governor Larry Hogan (who just coincidentally is a Republican) has said he would veto the bill if it passes, but the Democrats control so much of the state legislator and are so deeply in the pockets of the teachers unions that he may be overridden. How much more of this are parents and the rest of the state’s taxpayers supposed to put up with? I mean, how can anyone approach the question of these “reforms” with a straight face? It’s preposterous to think that parents shouldn’t be able to expect their local school to be measured in terms of the education they deliver and how many of their kids graduate and go on to college. And if the school comes up short the parents should be able to demand some sort of remedy to the situation. Some additional harsh words from the Washington Post. (Emphasis added)
Lawmakers need to put aside their partisan animus toward the governor as well as their obeisance to the teachers unions and realize the damage that this ill-conceived proposal poses for the state and its schoolchildren. For a good example of placing student interests first, they should look to the neighboring District of Columbia, where the State Board of Education this week approved an accountability plan that emphasizes rigor and transparency.
The WaPo board correctly predicts that Maryland is well on the way to becoming, “a national leader in de-prioritizing student achievement and success” if these measures go through. And if they do, the voters have nobody to blame but themselves. They did manage to elect Larry Hogan as governor, but they keep on putting the same Democrats who are a wholly owned subsidiary of the unions in office year after year. And when the unions donate that much money to Democrats every election they expect results. Now they’re on the verge of getting them, to the detriment of Maryland’s students yet again.