Maryland House Passes the Protect Our Schools Act

Friday, March 10, 2017
Steven Hershkowitz
(410) 353-0755

Senate Will Begin Work on Major School Accountability Bill Next Week

Legislation to improve the way Maryland schools are held accountable for student outcomes and other measures of quality passed the House today, 91-46. The bill, if passed this session, would set parameters for the Maryland State Department of Education and state school board in how they implement a new national K-12 education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The Protect Our Schools Act (HB978/SB871) has two main sections: one that balances test scores with “opportunity” indicators—like class size, access to a well-rounded curriculum, and attendance rates—in measuring school success, and the other prevents the state from privatizing low-performing schools.

“We have a once in a generation opportunity for Maryland to redefine and improve public school success, with less emphasis on testing and a greater focus on closing opportunity gaps,” said Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association. “We applaud the House for showing leadership in this critical moment and look forward to working with the Senate as they move forward to do the same.”

As amended by the House, the legislation:

  • Reserves 45% of the school accountability score to non-testing “opportunity” indicators—like class size, school climate, chronic absenteeism, access to arts education, and other suggested metrics (the bill does not mandate which indicators are used); this means the other 55% is based on testing-based academic indicators
  • Requires that at least three opportunity indicators are used in measuring school success in the accountability system
  • Directs the Maryland State Department of Education to allocate federal funding for school support and improvement based on a need-based formula
  • Protects local autonomy in school improvement plans for three years; if a low-performing school does not improve after that amount of time, the state must step in to develop new improvement strategies
  • Prohibits that state from using privatization interventions in turnaround plans, including: creating a state-run or new school district, converting a public school to a charter school, issuing private schools vouchers in any form, and hiring a for-profit management company

The Senate Education Subcommittee is planning to begin their work on the House-approved legislation next week.

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