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Michelle Rhee's education organization gives Maryland policy, reforms a grade of D+

StudentsFirst issues first national report cards grading state policies, reforms

Erica L. Green

1:24 PM EST, January 7, 2013

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A controversial set of national report cards issued this week by StudentsFirst--the advocacy and lobbying organization started by former Washington, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee-- gave Maryland's educational policies and reforms a grade of D+ in a state-by-state analysis.

The report cards were issued in an interactive map on the StudentsFirst website. The organization analyzed three key areas, and several sub-groups, assessing states' ability to 1.) empower parents, 2.) elevate teachers, and 3.) spend wisely and govern well.

Maryland received an overall grade of D or D+ in those three umbrella categories. You can see the state's full report card by clicking here.

The categories reflect and encompass several policy approaches championed by Rhee and that align with the StudentsFirst organization's platform. The organization issued Rhee's old stomping ground, Washington D.C., a grade of C+. The highest grades of B- were issued to Louisiana to Florida. 

No state aced the exam.

The organization lauded Maryland's efforts to improve teaching, but the state received the worst scores in the areas of using evaluations to fire, layoff or tenure teachers (one of the most controversial trademarks of Rhee's administration.)

The state also does a poor job, the report card said, with empowering parents with information about the quality of their childrens' schools--for instance issuing letter grades to schools or notifying parents when their student is placed in the classroom with an ineffective teacher.

It also echoed longstanding criticism that the state's charter school law is weak, and contributes to a lack of quality choices for families throughout the state.

Maryland scored highest in the sub-category that linked spending money wisely and student outcomes, earning a grade of a B+. But the organization said the state should also look at laws that would "initiate governance changes in school districts where resources were mismanaged."

The organization also gave the state a C+ in providing comparable resources for all public schools, and for its oversight of alternative certification programs.

The report cards have been met with a mixed reception across the country.

The American Federation of Teachers--the second-largest union in the country and the parent organization of the Baltimore Teachers Union--said the StudentsFirst report cards were merely "scorecards designed to push the organization's agenda." The AFT also pointed out that their release was strategic to coincide with the convening of 2013 legislative sessions across the country.

The AFT also compared the letter grades issued by StudentsFirst to similar report cards issued by other national organizations, like Education Week and the National Assessment of Education Progress.

Most recently, Education Week issued Maryland a grade of B+, and its fourth reigning year as the No. 1 school system in the country.

"The real issue with these report cards is that they fail to measure what matters most to parents, teachers and students," the AFT said.

"The report cards are silent regarding student achievement, school safety, small class sizes, early childhood education, investments in education, graduation rates or reading instruction." 

erica.green@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EricaLG