The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board has approved updates to the statewide comprehensive education reform plan, on schedule with a law that calls for the massive plan to be revised each year by Aug. 1.
Some changes the board made Tuesday were discussed July 20, such as requiring local health and social service agencies to share with local school systems the names and contact information of families with children who could be eligible to enroll in free prekindergarten.
This and other revisions — which were recommended by staff of the state Department of Education and other state agencies, as well as by local school leaders, parents and other stakeholders — focus on most of the Blueprint’s priorities: expanding early childhood education, hiring and retaining high-quality and diverse teachers, preparing students for college and technical careers and providing additional resources for students in need.
The other priority is governance and accountability for the Blueprint board, also known as the AIB, that was established by lawmakers to oversee the education reform plan until 2032. The board decided that, together with the Department of Education, they will develop a framework to identify areas of technical assistance that need to be provided to school systems and what agencies should provide it.
“I just feel like this process has worked extremely well and that we’ve been very open and accommodated the input that has come from a variety of different quarters,” said Blueprint Board Vice Chair William “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland.
Blueprint Board Chair Isiah “Ike” Leggett, who served three terms as Montgomery County’s executive, said the work isn’t over, with another meeting scheduled for Aug. 10.
“This is an important document, but it’s a document to some degree [that] will be subject to changes as we look at new approaches to education and new changes that need to be made,” he said. “We have put in an awful lot of work and we’re still not through. We’ve accomplished a great deal with all our supporting personnel and organizations that have worked with us.”
Last week, the Blueprint board approved all 24 school systems’ first submissions of local reform plans.
Most counties have already planned to increase salaries for teachers, prepare to expand prekindergarten opportunities for 3- and 4-year-old children and provide career counseling for middle and high school students.
The plans also detail how local officials will implement Blueprint strategies through the upcoming 2023-24 school year.
Some members of the AIB praised a couple of school systems for their work during an online meeting Thursday.
Kirwan said that Anne Arundel County public schools’ plan to expand the number teachers to achieve National Board Certification “really stands out.”
AIB Executive Director Rachel Hise said Anne Arundel has one of the highest number of teachers with that credential in Maryland.
Blueprint Boardmember Joseph Manko said Frederick County’s plan to create a teacher pipeline with higher education institutions should be replicated by other school systems.
“Teacher shortages are a challenge across the state, but it seems like in Frederick County there’s been a really deep connection with their local institutes of higher education,” he said.
Between May 20 and June 25, each local school system received two rounds of feedback from staff of the AIB and the state Department of Education.
Twenty school systems received unanimous approval last week for their local reform plans. Calvert, Charles and Garrett counties need to amend documentation on a Career and Counseling Memorandum of Understanding.
Queen Anne’s also received unanimous approval, on the condition that it convert $1,000 teacher stipends from the current and two previous fiscal years into the base salary for all teachers. The stipends were paid because school officials realized they couldn’t provide a 10% increase for teachers this fiscal year, as required by the Blueprint law.
Each school system’s plan will provide a roadmap for local school officials to receive assistance from staff of various agencies as they prepare documents that outline strategies through the 2026-27 school years and in order to submit them to the board by March.
Meanwhile, the AIB made available summaries of each approved school system’s plans along with feedback from AIB staff specifying “areas of strength and opportunity” and “areas for further growth and improvement.”
Here’s a snapshot of the feedback for each school district on the Mid-Shore
Caroline – Strength: “Caroline County provided comprehensive responses in its implementation plan overall, but particularly in describing its K-12 mathematics and literacy instructional plans. Caroline’s process for identifying and selecting both high-quality and culturally responsive instructional materials by utilizing the MABE [Maryland Association of Boards of Education] equity lens and evaluating potential materials against a culturally responsive scorecard is particularly noteworthy. AIB staff look forward to following Caroline’s progress in forming a workgroup to identify specific criteria for culturally responsive materials in the 2023-24 academic year.”
Improvement: “Caroline’s implementation of CTE [career and technical education] programs could benefit from a greater focus on opportunities that CTE pathways present for students to attain high-wage, high-skill jobs. This could also help to encourage more students to pursue industry credentials and enroll in high school apprenticeships.”
Dorchester – Strength: “DCPS is expanding its pipeline of teachers through partnerships with the Teacher Academy of Maryland (TAM) program, Chesapeake College, and Salisbury University with a specific focus on efforts that will diversify the teaching force to better mirror the student body. Continue to seek solutions to fill hard to staff positions through these and additional collaborations.”
Improvement: “DCPS describes how staffing challenges are impacting implementation throughout the plan, including professional development and supporting students who are not yet meeting college and career [readiness] (CCR) expectations. As strategies are developed to overcome these challenges, DCPS has the opportunity to consider creative approaches that will position the district as an early innovator in implementing the Blueprint, particularly with regards to meeting career ladder expectations. Such strategies could include teacher leaders returning to teaching for part of the day while creating, leading and monitoring professional development efforts; using high quality, school day tutoring funded through grants; and reallocating central office staffing to ensure teachers are in the classroom and students are receiving necessary support, etc.”
Kent – Strength: “Given Kent’s need to provide CCR [college and career readiness] support for very large numbers of students, the LEA [local education agency] has some strong structures in place now to build on including their Trojan Time period (to offer support/enrichment during the school day) and the summer programming that combines academic catchup with CTE exploration. The LEA [local education agency] is thinking about the support it provides as needing to be engaging to students [and] Kent County is collaborating with neighboring Cecil County to organize community schools.”
Improvement: “Like most LEAs, Kent’s focus on the career ladder to date has been on supporting teachers working to achieve National Board Certification. The district needs to think through how to structure new teacher roles and organize staffing to better serve students in their schools. The LEA will benefit from technical assistance and guidance to develop a career ladder that goes beyond a focus on National Board Certification/salary incentives and leverages teacher leadership to improve teaching and learning.”
Queen Anne’s – Strength: “Queen Anne’s has created a continuous improvement process for their dual enrollment program. Data on how students perform prior to and in their dual enrollment courses will be used to help future students navigate whether to participate and which classes to take and help shape their partnerships with IHEs (institutions of higher education).”
Improvement: “QACPS has historically had trouble staffing math, world language, and secondary science teachers; recent shortages and decreasing enrollment in teacher preparation programs have made it hard for them to staff special education, elementary, and secondary positions in all levels. Queen Anne’s actively recruits at a number of events, but because of these shortages, the LEA [local education agency] needs to consider additional strategies to build strong teacher and teaching assistant pipelines, including through new recruitment and retention strategies (especially those targeting historically underrepresented populations).”
Talbot – Strength: “There is a comprehensive plan and commitment to monitoring key data and intervening early for students who are not on track as they enter high school, including an organizational audit to look for connections between policies and practices that either support or hinder student success [and] partnering with neighboring counties to collaborate on cross-county CTE [career and technical education] program offerings to broaden student options.”
Improvement: “As a smaller county, Talbot faces a number of challenges in Blueprint implementation including expanding early childhood education options (no private providers and no 3 [year] olds enrolled currently) and attracting the needed mix of teachers, support staff, and English Learner specialists. These were acknowledged and strategies were discussed but will need ongoing attention.”