Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan just named two new members of the state Board of Education — both supporters of the Common Core as well as charter schools.
Hogan, a Republican, tapped Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Andy Smarick, partner at Bellwether Education Partners, to take the open seats on the 12-person board created by the departures of Charlene M. Dukes and Donna Hill Staton.
Hogan, who was sworn in as Maryland governor in January, had during the campaign characterized the implementation of school reforms in the state as “a train wreck” and said he believed in local control of assessments. In late January, a spokeswoman for Hogan said in an e-mail, “Governor Hogan believes that we need to hit the ‘pause’ button on Common Core and give control back to teachers and parents.”
Still, he has not publicly attacked the Core in the way that a number of other Republican governors have. And his choice of two Core supporters, Smarick and Finn, suggests he no longer sees the Core as an issue that he wants to revisit. Maryland school districts have been implementing the Core for several years; the state Board of Education adopted them unanimously in 2010.
The state mandates that students take a Common Core-aligned test called the PARCC, which was the work of a multi-state consortium (the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) funded by the federal government to create new assessments. Though Hogan has said repeatedly he prefers locally created assessments, it is unclear whether he would move to replace the PARCC.
The legislature this past session passed a bill creating a blue-ribbon committee of teachers, parents, superintendents and others to analyze how many tests Maryland students take and how much time is taken away from academic instruction as a result of testing. The panel’s work could lead to a reduction in the number of tests Maryland schools are required to give.
Smarick and Finn are supporters of school choice, including the expansion of charter schools, which Hogan also supports. Finn, of Montgomery County, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute in California, where he is chairman of the K-12 Education Task Force. He has led the conservative Fordham Institute since 1997; before that, he worked in education and government, including as professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University and assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. Smarick, of Queen Anne’s County, served as a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and an education aide at The White House Domestic Policy Council. He was also New Jersey’s deputy commissioner of education.
The Maryland governor appoints all members of the Board of Education, with advise and consent by the state Senate. Hogan will have more chances to appoint members to the board this year, with four members ending their terms, including the student member. (The governor appoints the student member from a list of two people nominated by the Maryland Association of Student Councils.) By the end of the year, then, he could have appointed as many as half the members of the board, and next year, a few more members are retiring.
State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery’s contract expires in 2016, meaning that Hogan will have influence in whether she gets a new contract or is replaced.