Approval of local plans for reforming Maryland’s public schools will be delayed until July because state education officials are taking additional time to assess them.
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), which met in person Thursday for the first time since December, could’ve begun approving some plans this month.
Board Chair Isiah “Ike” Leggett said the delay stems from “an unforced error” in communication, and that it is especially important to rectify any misunderstandings when dealing with a multi-billion-dollar plan to reform Maryland’s education structure.
“This is a major transformation. The Blueprint is not just simply dotting the I’s [and] crossing the T’s,” he said. “We are…making a huge change as it relates to education. We anticipate some challenges and disagreements.”
The miscommunication involves the process for assessing each Blueprint plan from the state’s 24 local school systems.
The state Department of Education continues to review school system documents based on “Criteria for Success” which emphasize early childhood education, recruiting and retaining high-quality and diverse teachers and leaders, ensuring that students are prepared for college and careers, and providing additional resources for students.
By state law, the department provides recommendations on the Blueprint plans and the accountability board grants final approval.
According to a timeline the department released Wednesday, plans would be reviewed between Wednesday and Monday and the department would submit recommendations to the accountability board by Tuesday.
If the state needs additional time to review plans — or plan revisions — beyond next week, review periods are scheduled for May 31-June 5 and June 21-June 26.
“MSDE’s Blueprint implementation team members have proactively engaged with AIB staff regularly and with great frequency since the AIB became operational to facilitate continued and appropriate collaboration…” according to a statement from the department. “The State Board [of Education] and MSDE remain committed to working with the AIB within the current statutory framework to deliver transformative educational outcomes for all of Maryland’s children and to help make Maryland the best place to live, learn, and succeed.”
Rachel Hise, executive director for the accountability board, said information has been shared. However, some Blueprint feedback has gone directly to local school systems (also referred to as local education agencies or LEAs), creating a “two-step process.”
“The hope was that the MSDE feedback and the AIB feedback would be given to the LEAs at the same time…so that there would be one revision process,” Hise said after the nearly two-hour meeting. “Now, there will be a two-step process and the potential that the AIB may ask LEAs to revise their plans again after they’ve revised them for MSDE. We’re trying to avoid that as much as possible.”
There also lies a small “quirk” in state law.
Blueprint plans can be reviewed but cannot be approved in the month of June, to avoid confusion about funding when a new fiscal year begins July 1.
“The month of June is like a no go in the statute,” Hise said.
The board isn’t scheduled to meet again until June 8.
Meanwhile, the board approved a $76,747 expenditure to hire Ad Adstra Inc. of Montgomery County to transcribe all of this year’s Blueprint plans into Spanish.
Hise said school districts reported that Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language behind English.
The goal will be to review future long-term contracts with Ad Adstra or other companies to transcribe future Blueprint plans and other documents into more languages, board members agreed.
Thursday marked the first meeting for Justin K. Robinson, whom Gov. Wes Moore (D) appointed to join the seven-member board.
Robinson currently serves as the only educator on the board. He teaches eighth grade math and helps mentor other teachers in Prince George’s County public schools.
By William J. Ford