As the Maryland State Board of Education readies implementation of new standards for college and career readiness outlined in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, likely coming next month, Howard County Public School students are able to access some of the features of the plan, including free access to Advanced Placement exams and community college courses.
HCPSS Blueprint coordinator and Director of Assessment and Reporting Tim Guy discussed the standards and features with Board of Education members on Nov. 2.
When the decade-long Blueprint rollout is complete, students will be locked into a pathway in grade 10, Guy said. For now, students may access some features before being locked into a path.
“In these interim years we are not limiting access, we’re providing a smorgasbord where students are picking and choosing different parts of it and not getting as much of a locked-in pathway,” Guy said.
Students deemed college and career ready by the end of their 10th-grade year will have a choice from among three pathways: career and technical education, dual enrollment, or Advanced Placement, according to the Blueprint’s College and Career Readiness pillar. Students may choose an International Baccalaureate program instead of AP.
Students who do not qualify for a pathway are considered to be on the “support” pathway so they can receive the resources necessary to become college and career ready, Guy said.
The State Board of Education is likely to implement new standards for college and career readiness next month, Guy said. While students who pass both English 10 and Algebra 1 exams will continue to be considered college and career ready, new standards would allow students with a grade-point average of 3.0 and above to also be considered college and career ready, provided they also demonstrate competence in mathematics by achieving a score of proficient or higher in Maryland’s Algebra 1 comprehensive assessment or achieving at least a C in their algebra 1 class.
“The biggest change for a parent is really having the access to pathways and understanding of the pathways,” Guy said.
Howard school board chair Antonia Watts thanked Guy for clarifying that college and career readiness is more like a doorway to access pathways, rather than a pathway itself. Watts said she is concerned that students could be pigeonholed into a pathway, rather than counseled about all their future options.
Board member Jolene Mosley also shared concerns with the process and said she thought it would be better to start preparing students for careers as early as sixth grade.
“This marker at 10th grade really is creating a barrier for a lot of students, and I’m actually afraid that it might encourage students to drop out if they feel like they can’t be college and career ready by 10th grade,” Mosley said. “That’s something that concerns me.”
An Accountability and Implementation Board grant will provide each Maryland school system with up to $100,000 of technical assistance services rendered by a strategic facilitator, according to Blueprint’s Accountability and Implementation Board. Heather Sauers will serve as the strategic facilitator for Howard County.
Howard’s focus will be to use the grant-funded strategic facilitator’s services to bolster stakeholder engagement and participation, as well as to improve grant writing, use of National Board Certified teachers, and to work on Howard’s Blueprint implementation plan for next year.
“Our focus is going to be starting with stakeholder engagement and participation, and building out some of that work,” Guy said.
Hammond, Glenelg and River Hill high schools will also receive a visit from a five- to six-person state review team, Guy said, to review the first year of Blueprint’s implementation.
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“The expert review team members are have a varied set of experiences,” Guy said. “They’re coming out and they’re doing focus groups, they’re doing classroom observation, and they are reviewing documentation that our principals as well as the central office can demonstrate that we had high-quality curriculum materials and evaluation systems in place.”
The goal is to visit about 10% of schools each year, but Guy said this year’s evaluation is understaffed. Next year’s review will assess about one in 10 schools, he said, and will continue to throughout Blueprint’s rollout. Each annual sweep of schools will endeavor to review different schools than the previous year, and schools with varied performance and geography.