MARYLAND EDUCATION officials recently unveiled a new system for tracking the performance of schools in the state. They are on the right track in trying to provide as much information as possible in the most user-friendly way, and the new system is a vast improvement over the old one. Unfortunately, there are still shortcomings. That, though, is not the fault of education officials but rather of Maryland lawmakers who tied the bureaucracy’s hands on critical academic measures.
The new online Maryland Report Card rolled out by the state education department assesses all 1,400 public schools in the state, giving them a ranking from one to five stars. The schools are evaluated according to a formula that includes some test scores, year-to-year progress, attendance, curriculum, success of English-language learners and other factors. It’s easy one-stop shopping for parents wanting information and the ability to make comparisons.
But the fact that more than half of Maryland’s schools, as The Post’s Donna St. George reported, received the highest ratings — four or five stars — suggests a far rosier picture of school performance is being presented than actually exists. That’s because the Maryland General Assembly, passing the Protect Our Schools Act over the objections of the state Board of Education, limited the use of academic achievement as a measure. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed the measure, which had been strongly backed by the state’s powerful teacher unions. But the veto was overridden, resulting in Maryland having the second-lowest accountability standards in the nation under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
There is no question that many factors should be considered in judging a school’s performance, but diluting the importance of whether students are actually learning does a grave disservice. It’s good, then, that Montgomery County announced its plans to supplement the rating system with information that includes student grades and results on districtwide exams. Other districts should follow suit, and the state Board of Education should continue to press lawmakers on the need to accurately measure how schools perform in the area that matters most: whether children are learning.