Maryland gets poor grade on expectations for students

Maryland's expectations for students may be too low and unclear to teachers who must write the lesson plans, according to a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a research and education advocacy group.

In the study released Wednesday, Maryland got a "D" for its math standards and a "C" for its English standards. Fordham called the math standards "some of the worst in the country."

Standards give a detailed explanation of what a student should know in each grade in math and English. For instance, the standards tell a teacher in which grade percentages should be taught or what types of writing a student should be able to perform in middle school. But too often, those standards were not clearly written, the study said.

"In Maryland, they have been relatively vague and left out important concepts," said Mike Petrilli, Fordham's vice president for national programs and policy. "There is no doubt that Maryland should be proud of its high or relatively high achievement. But not too proud. Much of that is related to demographics" rather than high-quality standards.

That will change soon. Maryland's state school board, along with those of half the states in the nation, has adopted a new set of standards developed collaboratively and called the common core standards.

After the new standards and tests are put in place, "some of the parents may find their students aren't doing fine," Petrilli said.

Though Fordham has been critical of Maryland's standards in the past, other organizations have not, said William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education.

"But since we are moving to the common core, discussions about the old standards are moot," he said.

State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick has said that she believes the new standards, which will be put into place in the next year, will raise the bar for students in the state.

The institute looked at all states, comparing their existing standards to the new common core to determine whether each state's are better or worse. The standards in 33 states, including Maryland, were considered not nearly as good as the common core.

The remaining states were considered "too close to call" in math. In English, California, Illinois and the District of Columbia had superior standards.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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