MSEA President Cheryl Bost on Maryland’s New Star Rating System

“Rating schools doesn’t improve them; educators and parents in their communities do.”

MSEA President Cheryl Bost

On December 4, I sat before the State Board of Education to be sure our voice was heard concerning Maryland’s new star rating system for school accountability. Our position is firm: rating schools doesn’t improve them; educators and parents in their communities do.

School accountability only works if educators and parents drive change in their schools and have sustainable funding to put in place new strategies — whether it’s hiring more counselors or adding a wellness center with medical services.

I also made it clear that this is not a completed accountability system. It’s missing a large piece which MSEA fought for as part of the Protect Our Schools Act (POSA): the school climate survey. That’s where we get to know a school’s true culture from the people within each school.

And I reminded them that, although POSA limited how much the ratings were based on standardized tests, these ratings were still heavily based upon PARCC — a test that is going away. We won’t see real trend data until we start a new test.

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Ultimately, it was no surprise that the results of the ratings largely reflected levels of poverty in school communities. And while we need to deal with concentrated poverty, we know that each of our schools is underfunded by an average of $2 million every year. That’s unacceptable and can’t be allowed to continue.

It’s time for all schools — whether one-star or five-star — to have conversations about your strengths and weaknesses and strongly advocate for the changes and funding that you, your colleagues, and your community need.

I hope you’ll join me in Annapolis on March 11 to do exactly that at MSEA’s March for Our Schools. It’s time to end the underfunding of our schools, make sure that policymakers listen to educators, and give all students the support they deserve. It’s going to be the biggest rally Annapolis has seen in years. Make sure you’re there!