On Thursday, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) acknowledged an achievement it has celebrated the past four years: Education Week, the nation’s leading education newspaper, ranked Maryland’s public schools as the best in the nation.
The state’s grade of "B+" placed it at the top of the list in the newspaper’s annual “Quality Counts” report, which analyzes the state’s K-12 achievement, funding for schools, and scores on standardized tests, among other things.
"Schools are only as good as the school in your neighborhood, where your child or grandchild goes to class, or where you work as a teacher," Interim State Schools Superintendent Bernard Sadusky said in a statement. "Education Week's detailed analysis offers us a positive review of our efforts, and we are immensely proud of the ranking.”
In years’ past, former Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick touted the ranking as a feather in her political cap, using it to ward off Gov. Martin O’Malley. At the height of their battles, the state school board renewed Grasmick’s contract, despite opposition from O’Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch.
Still, as a lifelong Prince George’s County resident and a former education reporter, I find it difficult to fully embrace the ranking.
At a county school board meeting last week, the school system acknowledged a declining enrollment, although it’s unclear where the students are going. The system’s $1.61 billion fiscal 2013 operating budget also promises cuts in local schools and anticipates flat funding from the county.
Just 41 percent of the county’s black eighth-graders and 42 percent of Hispanic eighth-graders scored “proficient” on last year’s Maryland School Assessments (MSA) in math, according to MSDE.
Conversely, 69 percent of the county’s white eighth-graders and 77 percent of its Asian eighth-graders scored “proficient” on the math MSA, the data shows.
So while there’s certainly room for celebration, an achievement gap persists locally. Tell us how you feel in the comments section.