Except for a delay in a new teacher-evaluation program, Maryland has made a strong start toward achieving the ambitious school reform goals that won the state a coveted $250 million grant, according to federal officials.
Maryland, one of 11 states and the District of Columbia to receive Race to the Top funding in 2010 in exchange for committing to school reform, made strides in several areas in the first year of the four-year grant program, U.S. Department of Education officials said in a progress report to be released Tuesday.
The report said the state prepared more than 6,000 teachers from every school in the state for the rollout of a new statewide curriculum; improved teacher quality through partnerships and recruitment efforts; intervened to turn around 11 of the lowest-performing schools; and launched several science, technology, engineering and math programs.
The progress report, though, also cited a couple of problem areas that the state would have to address in the coming year. A controversial plan to base half of a teacher's job rating on the performance of students was delayed a year, with statewide implementation now scheduled for the 2013-2014 school year.
In addition, the report said, the state faced difficulty hiring enough qualified staff to implement some of the reform programs, particularly those involving data systems to support instruction and the educator evaluation system.
Still, Maryland is "on track with their plan to build statewide, comprehensive education reform," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. "This first year helped lay the foundation for further progress, and I look forward to seeing their work continue. These states are poised to lead the country."
Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, acknowledged the difficulties cited in the report but noted that the state had set a high bar for success. "If these things were simple, they would have been done a long time ago," he said.
The federal assessment of the state's progress, though, "really is akin to getting straight A's on your report card," he said. "We're on our way."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun