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Some balk at teaching mandate for local school administrators under Maryland's Kirwan plan

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board met on Nov. 10 and dozens shared opinions during public comment.
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board met on Nov. 10 and dozens shared opinions during public comment.

Dozens of speakers, from public school district educators to education advocacy group representatives, testified during a board meeting this week about the most recent draft of the major overhaul of the state’s public school system known as the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The state Accountability and Implementation Board, or AIB for short, was created by the Kirwan Commission and is tasked to move the $3.9 billion plan forward hashing out all the details for school districts statewide. The goal is to significantly improve the quality of education in Maryland public schools and spend the money by 2034.

The Blueprint plan has five policy areas known as pillars; Early Childhood Education, High-Quality and Diverse Teachers and Leaders, College and Career Readiness, More Resources for Students to be Successful and Governance and Accountability.

But not everyone agrees on the details, many speakers asked the board to change the rules, even though the board was only seeking feedback and not to “rewrite the legislation” said board chair Isiah Leggett.

“It’s about how we can make the plan that we have more efficient and effective so that we can move forward,” Leggett said on Thursday.

For example, the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals, an advocacy group for administrators in the state, recommended board members to drop requirements that administrators must teach classes. School principals are expected to teach 10% of their work day while assistant principals must teach 20% of the day, which means several hours in the classroom in addition to administrative tasks.

“We need to value the role that administrators play in schools and we play a very significant role in instructional and teaching and learning focus areas, '' said Afie Mirshah-Nayar, president of the association.

Baltimore City Public Schools already sent some of its administrators into the classroom in August amid a crippling teacher shortage. Long-term practice of this may dissuade administrators from taking the job which historically removes them from the daily classroom tasks.

“We don't want to devalue the role of administrators by asking them to teach because our job is very very different,” Mirshah-Nayar said.

Janine Bacquie is responsible for rolling out the Blueprint at the state’s largest school district, Montgomery County Public Schools. Bacquie was concerned about lack of funding for early childhood education providers.

Public schools statewide are expected to expand pre-kindergarten programs from half-days to full days for low income families. But pre-K teachers need state certification in early childhood education and teaching assistants need a child development associate certificate by 2026. There’s already a shortage of qualified teachers which may be exacerbated by the early childhood push, she said. During the transition period, teachers can work with a bachelors degree while assistants can be in the classroom with an associate’s degree while they pursue certifications.

Bacquie said “ more time and [Maryland State Department of Education] support is needed to meet the requirements.”

Several people testified during the meeting that the state’s education reform plan funding model is flawed and were concerned that historically underfunded schools will need a larger share of the money to catch up to higher performing districts.

A former member of the Kirwan Commission, Buzzy Hettleman, said the board and its education overhaul plan lacked regulatory guidance and the Maryland State Department of Education should step up to help school districts. Hettleman said the oversight board “does not have the staff to get it done.”

But that the department of education is in the position to help but has been “allowing local education agencies [to] do their own thing.”

And that discrepancy is “an obvious recipe for lowering standards and abandoning accountability,” he said.

Some people wanted the board to hire a racial equity expert, others pushed for the board to prioritize arts education with the same rigor as mathematics or English.

Dara Case, a parent and Music educator in Prince George’s County said arts education was important to her.

“The arts are a critical part of a world class education, supporting children's academic development, social and emotional well being and sense of belonging,” Case said.

The board is seeking public comment until Nov. 23 which can be emailed to [email protected] according to its website. The statewide education plan is expected to be finalized on Dec. 1.

Zshekinah Collier is WYPR’s 2022-2023 Report for America Corps Member, where she covers Education. @Zshekinahgf
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