Maryland to release school star ratings this week, with some tweaks in second year of the ranking system

Maryland education officials are set to release their second set of school star ratings this week, adding surveys of students and teachers to this year’s assessment of the quality of education in each of the state’s 1,400 public schools.

The rankings system, which was introduced last year, grades schools in a more holistic way by factoring in not just students’ standardized test scores, but a variety of other, less traditional measures of quality.


Schools are judged on criteria such as how effective they are in preventing high absentee rates and whether they offer a well-rounded curriculum with music, art and social studies. Schools with low-performing students from concentrated poverty can earn points, for instance, if they help students who are significantly behind make great academic gains in a school year.

Each school receives a rating of one to five stars, based on the points it receives in each of the criteria.


Because it is the second year, the ratings will include comparative school performance data.

“What we are able to show is improvement from the prior year," said Carol Williamson, the deputy state superintendent for teaching and learning.

The system was developed after the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation limiting the role standardized test scores could play in school ratings. The legislation, approved in 2017, said test scores could account for no more than 65% of the formula.

For the first time this year, the rankings factor in surveys that were completed by students and educators, as well as results from the new elementary and middle school science test. The Maryland State School Board had designed the system to add those two criteria, but could not implement a reliable survey fast enough to include it in the scores for the 2017-2018 school year.

The survey asked questions about each school’s safety, environment and culture, including whether students and educators felt safe and free of bullying, whether the school respected diversity, whether student behavior was under control, and whether there were enough academic supports for students.

A final set of questions asked about the relationships between teachers and students.

Chandra Haislet, director of accountability at the Maryland State Department of Education, said officials there have faith in the new measures.

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“There was a very high participation rate" in the survey, she said. “We got a lot of support from our school systems.”


Next school year, the state will add results from a middle school social studies test to the rating system, fully phasing in all the criteria.

The addition of new criteria may change the rankings, and state administrators said they would discuss whether the star ratings accurately reflect the quality of schools.

The state originally designed the system so it would be difficult to get a five-star rating. But after 60 percent of the state’s schools earned four or five stars last year, the state school board considered whether to change the weight of some criteria. Ninety-five percent of Carroll County schools and 91 percent of Howard County schools earned four or five stars. Only 35 schools received one star, 23 of which were in Baltimore City. Many of the other one-star schools were alternative schools in counties across the state.

But Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon and others argued a year ago that the board should not make changes to the formula after just a year of results. She said the board could review the results each year to see if an adjustment was needed.

Last year, some three-star schools barely missed getting a four- or five-star rating because of a fluke in their data or because they did not have a well-rounded curriculum. Those schools are likely to have made adjustments in the past year that will allow them to score better and earn another star.

The rankings were developed by state leaders over an intensive two-year process as part of an accountability system required by the federal government under the Every Student Succeeds Act.