If Maryland’s education policy experts were middle schoolers, they’d probably be grounded for the foreseeable future for bringing home grades like this. According to StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s advocacy organization, our state’s educational policies and reforms get a D or a D+ in the key areas of empowering parents, elevating teachers, and spending wisely. Ouch.
In Maryland’s case, StudentsFirst praises efforts to attract and identify good teachers, but claims that there’s work to be done in retaining those educators. The state draws the heaviest fire for not basing personnel decisions on performance evaluations (a cornerstone of Rhee’s preferred policies), and instead sometimes basing layoffs on seniority. “Prioritizing students and great teachers requires that performance, evidence through strong evaluations, be the driving influence for all personnel decisions,” the report card notes. The state also gets failing grades for not empowering parents with information and not having a robust public charter school system. The good news? Maryland tends to spend education money wisely, and allows for alternative teacher certifications.
Of course, if this were the sort of report card that got graded on a curve, we’d be in better shape. No state got above a B- (those went to Louisiana and Florida), which either indicates that Rhee is being too hard on us all, or that the U.S. public education system is floundering. Rhee’s take on the situation is well-documented, but the ideas she’s pushing (via StudentsFirst) have their detractors. This Washington Post blog does a nice job in laying out those criticisms, including the fact that StudentsFirst’s report card doesn’t take into account standardized test scores, and its questionable favoritism toward Louisiana and Florida. (“Louisiana is the state where Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal instituted a statewide voucher program that gave public money to scores of Christian schools that teach Young Earth Creationism, the belief that the Earth and the universe were created by God no more than 10,000 years ago. Kids learn that dinosaurs co-existed with humans. That’s the state that got Rhee’s top grade.”)
California, which (unsurprisingly) got a solid F on Rhee’s report card, claimed that grade as a “badge of honor,” according to the state’s chief deputy superintendent. And then, as the Baltimore Sun points out, Education Week ranked Maryland as the top school system in the country not so long ago — so maybe we shouldn’t be grounded after all.
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