An education commission gave a preliminary update on its assessment of Maryland public schools on Thursday, issuing policy recommendations that include expanded early-childhood education and increasing teacher salaries.
The meeting at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt laid out the early recommendations from the report by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, known as the Kirwan Commission, released earlier this week.
In addition to universal pre-K and salary increases over the next four to five years for state teachers, the commission also called for making sure high school students are college- and career-ready by the end of the 10th grade and raising certain benchmarks such as professional development.
State Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-District 22) of University Park, who serves on the 25-member commission, said the price tag to implement a new statewide system of education could be at least $2 billion.
“If we are going to have a lot of success, how much is it going to cost?” Pinsky said. “If you want a world-class system … it’s going to take a lot of changes.”
Pinsky admitted a tax hike to pay for restructuring the system — especially in an election year — is “scary,” but said he’s willing to raise taxes nonetheless.
The state legislature created the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in 2016 to assess and possibly revise state formula to distribute money for schools and enact new policies. The commission is led by William E. Kirwan, former chancellor of the University of Maryland system.
The new recommendations are partly based on five policy areas: early childhood education; ample supply of high quality and diverse teachers and school leaders; college and career readiness pathways; more resources for at-risk students; and governance and accountability.
According to the draft document, some of the recommendations come from education systems in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey. Those states pay its teachers at least 16 percent more in salaries than Maryland.
In addition, the report highlights how the three states pay an average of $2,200 more per student as opposed to Maryland.
Student achievement ranks “average” among others states based on figures from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), viewed as the nation’s record.
In 2015, the state ranked 29th and 25th in fourth-grade and eighth-grade math, respectively. For reading in the same year for those students, it ranked 26th for fourth-graders and 18th for eighth-graders.
“Putting it bluntly, despite a significant increase in state funding over the past 15 years, Maryland students still perform in the middle of the pack within the US, which is in the middle of the pack against the rest of the modern world,” according to the report.
Other proposals in the report:
• Mandate that universities improve the quality and rigor of their teacher preparation programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels;
• Require all community colleges to enroll students that achieve the 10th grade standard in initial credit-bearing coursework without remediation;
• Distribute money equitably, but with fewer resources to wealthier jurisdictions.
The report doesn’t address specifically how much money should go to rural or urban areas. It also didn’t mention school construction, a question raised by Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan.
“Our charge was operations and instruction, not bricks and mortar,” said Pinsky, who added a final report wouldn’t be completed until the fall.
Although the report advocates for more money toward students in low-income and other economically distressed areas, it doesn’t give some specific ideas to hire a diverse pool of teachers to help lead those students.
Charlene Mahoney, a member of the education advisory committee in District 2, said the school system should hire teachers who speak at least two languages.
“I know this is more of a strategy being discussed, but more diversity should be focused on students who don’t speak full English,” she said. “We are a majority African-American community, but we must also make sure other students succeed, too.”