Maryland Wins Big on ESSA Thanks to the Protect Our Schools Act

MSEA-initiated legislation keeps testing at no more than 65% of a school’s accountability score

Photo © Stephen Cherry

In September, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) submitted our state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan for federal approval. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) replied in December with a list of plan provisions that in their judgment did not comply with ESSA.

The Protect Our Schools Act — passed last year with the help of educators, parents, and civil rights groups — ensures that no more than 65% of a school’s accountability score can be based on standardized test scores or other testing-based metrics.

(Note to readers: Governor Hogan vetoed the legislation, but the General Assembly overrode that veto and protected students and educators from the over-testing that skyrocketed under the mandates of No Child Left Behind.)

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Federal law requires that such academic indicators make up a majority of the score. However, USDE considered one of Maryland’s academic indicators to be a different kind of indicator, putting Maryland’s weighting in high schools below the majority threshold.

MSEA President Betty Weller sent a letter to MSDE asking them to move 10% of the score from that disputed indicator into other testing-related indicators to ensure that 35% of the score could still be reserved for school quality metrics like student attendance, access to well-rounded learning opportunities, and school climate. That suggestion was adopted by MSDE, and, finalizing a big win for educators, USDE approved Maryland’s plan on January 16.