The Baltimore City Public Schools System office at 200 E. North Ave. Photo by Eli Pousson/Baltimore Heritage via Flickr Creative Commons.

The Maryland State Department of Education has granted $169 million to local school districts to support staff retention, reading instruction and other areas of education, the state education department announced Tuesday.

Awarded through the state’s new Maryland Leads program, the grant funds were distributed across all 24 of Maryland’s public school districts. From February through early April, each school district had the chance to propose a plan that encompasses two or more of the seven strategies that Maryland Leads believes will yield high numbers of student and teacher success. 

These seven strategy areas include “Grow Your Own Staff,” “Staff & Support Retention,” “The Science of Reading,” “High-Quality Day Tutoring,” “Reimagining the Use of Time,” “Innovative School Models,” and “Transforming Neighborhoods Through Excellent Community Schools.”

Throughout the summer, local school districts are expected to implement grant activities to continue through the next two school years.

Within the seven strategy areas, grant proponents can follow several different practices, each based on evidence gleaned from research about what yields the highest results from students, teachers, and school districts.

Of the seven strategy areas, the “Grow Your Own Staff” and “The Science of Reading” programs received the largest awarded investments, with about $47 million and $53 million in funds, respectively.

Practices within the Grow Your Own Staff strategy “have the potential to generate more than 300 new teachers, 100 new paraprofessionals, support for more than 400 conditionally certified teachers to pass licensure exams, and build sustainable talent pipelines for years to come,” the Maryland State Department of Education said in a press release.

The Science of Reading awards encompass training for K-3 teachers, principals, special education teachers, and literary specialists. With the Science of Reading grants, school districts awarded have made a commitment to “high-quality, content-rich, and culturally relevant” Science of Reading instructional materials for classrooms and progress monitoring in all K-3 classes, state education department officials said.

The Maryland Leads initiative is in part meant to realize the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation. Passed in 2021, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future seeks to reform and invest in Maryland’s schools, with increased resources for early childhood education, staffing, and other areas.

On the Maryland Leads website, the officials say the program uses federal funds to mitigate COVID-related learning loss. The initiative is also meant to narrow opportunity gaps and heighten support for historically underserved students.

Data collected by the Maryland State Department of Education through standardized tests taken since the pandemic began demonstrate low proficiency levels in math and English.

“All of our districts chose to step up and take on the challenge of the Maryland Leads program, which will seed transformational change. This program provides a critical opportunity to further recover from the pandemic, fuel the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and lay the foundation for our students’ success in the years to come – well after the pandemic is behind us,” State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said in a statement.

Liv Barry

Liv Barry is Baltimore Fishbowl's 2022 summer reporting intern. Barry is rising junior at Washington College, where she is majoring in communication and media studies and double minoring in journalism,...