The Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis in 2015. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

AMONG THE factors that have helped Maryland develop a national reputation for its education system is the authority the State Board of Education enjoys to set policy and make decisions that best serve student interests without political interference. Sadly, that may soon become a thing of the past. The General Assembly is set to gut the board’s power to establish key educational standards in a move that threatens to cripple efforts for further school improvement.

At issue is legislation that would tie the hands of the state board as it devises a new accountability system for school performance, which is required under the Every Student Succeeds Act federal education law. Under the proposal, the board would be barred from emphasizing student achievement. Among the restrictions being advanced by lawmakers: limiting measures of actual school effectiveness (student achievement, student growth and graduation) to 55 percent of a school’s accountability rating, in favor of factors such as teacher satisfaction; forbidding easy-to-understand letter grades for schools; and barring the state from taking significant actions to reform the worst-performing schools, even after districts have had years to set them straight.

Put bluntly, if this legislation becomes law, the state board won’t be able to prioritize student learning or be clear about school performance or do meaningful things when schools fail. That may serve the interests of the teachers unions, which predictably have been the main pushers of this legislation, but it would not help students, particularly those — minority and low-income — who lag behind their more affluent counterparts.

The legislation, House Bill 978 and Senate Bill 871, is moving quickly through the legislature, and is seen as having a good chance of winning final approval. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has vowed to veto the measure, but unfortunately there may be sufficient votes in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly for a successful override. Lawmakers need to put aside their partisan animus toward the governor as well as their obeisance to the teachers unions and realize the damage that this ill-conceived proposal poses for the state and its schoolchildren. For a good example of placing student interests first, they should look to the neighboring District of Columbia, where the State Board of Education this week approved an accountability plan that emphasizes rigor and transparency.

The Maryland board is in the midst of a fact-finding effort, including getting input from a variety of experts and stakeholders, to help it determine the contours of Maryland’s accountability system. It should be allowed to do so — unimpeded and unhindered. If not, the reputation Maryland will earn will be as a national leader in de-prioritizing student achievement and success.