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From Blueprint to Reality: the Future of Maryland's Schools

On Friday, February 7, both chambers of the Maryland legislature introduced sweeping legislation to implement the recommendations of the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission. The purpose of the legislation is to “transform Maryland's early childhood, primary, and secondary education system to levels of high-performing systems around the world.” This legislation (HB1300/SB1000)provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our schools to make them stronger for our families, teachers, workers, and communities.

The legislation builds on the five policy areas contained in the commission recommendations:

Early Childhood Education: Expands high-quality full-day kindergarten and provides funding for pre-K for families that cannot afford to send their children to pre-school.

High-Quality and Diverse Teachers and Leaders: Includes making teacher preparation programs more rigorous, raising licensing standards for new teachers, and raising teacher pay to make it more equitable with other highly trained professions.

College and Career Readiness Pathways: Recognizes the need to have students graduate from high school ready to move into a job or pursue higher education, based on the establishment of a college and career readiness (CCR) standard. The CCR would certify them, by the end of tenth grade, as ready to pursue a two-year associate’s degree, International Baccalaureate courses, Advanced Placement courses, workplace training, or a combination.

More Resources to Ensure All Students Are Successful: Entails a new funding formula for areas of concentrated poverty that would insure that the additional resources necessary for students in high-poverty areas would be available. For schools that meet these criteria, a Community Schools Coordinator would be provided, along with a health services coordinator.

Governance and Accountability: Establishes an independent oversight board of education policy experts to insure that the recommendations are implemented with fidelity.

I support this legislation because it addresses both a comprehensive list of areas that need improvement, as well as a smart list of where we need better and more efficient investments.

Passage of this legislation would enable us to invest in ways that insure the greatest return on our investment. Here is why:

1. If we insure all our children have access to pre-school and high-quality kindergarten, we are far less likely to spend time and money later on helping our children to catch up.

2. When we can attract, train, and retain the best teachers, educational outcomes get better. And we are less likely to have to coach and replace as many teachers.

3. When our children emerge from school having met a credible CCR standard, their future and ours get brighter. We need high school graduates who are ready to move forward with their careers and contribute to a healthy, sustainable community.

4. When the children who have the highest needs are able to get the resources they require, we are far less likely to pay the price of our most vulnerable children's unmet needs. Even more importantly, all our children will have the opportunity to access the educational opportunities that will transform their lives and continue to build the strong community we all cherish.

5. Finally, accountability is critical if the blueprint is going to work. We cannot have a sound functioning society without good public education. It's as simple as that. And accountability is how you build the necessary trust, the core of great public education.

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