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January 23, 2012

How We Got Where We Are

Cindy A. Rose

Before we get all warm and fuzzy over Education Week reporting Maryland is ranked the #1 school in the nation, take a closer look at the list of criteria to get that #1 ranking.


·        Chance for Success Index (B+)

·        K-12 Achievement (B)

·        School Finance (B+)

·        Standards, Assessments, and Accountability (B+) (our lowest ranking, 22nd, yet the category that contains the most about actual academics)

·        Teaching Profession (B)

·        Transitions and Alignment (A)


A detailed outline of what those categories actually contain can be obtained from me; it’s long and lengthy and only a small percentage reflects what our children are learning vs. how we teach them, account for it and the life conditions surrounding them.


Examples: Family Income, Parent Education, Parent Employment, Linguistic Integration, Pre-School Enrollment, Annual Income and Steady Employment, Wealth Neutrality, Statewide Student ID, Teacher Pay Parity, Managing Teacher Talent. You get the idea.


If you read all the tedious indicators you will likely glean what I gleaned: Maryland isn’t ranked #1 because our children are the best educated. We are ranked #1 in this report because the Maryland education machine does a lot of things and spends a lot of money assessing and accounting for educating our children.


Few of the criteria are actually about how much our students know and more about what we offer, who we offer it to, do we account for it, can we transfer it, are we spending it equally and can our citizens pay more for it.


Don’t get me wrong, Maryland does a lot. We could argue over whether we should be embarrassed that we do so much with little results to show for it, or proud for all the mind-numbing ways we account for things unrelated to actual “learning.” We should be equally embarrassed when we drool over reports that rank us #1 without first learning how we earned the honor.


Let’s compare that report to the actual scores our children put out on the national stage.


According to published reports, Maryland had the following ranking in critical areas,


Math 4th grade:

2 States scored higher than Maryland;

9 were the same – no statistical difference.


Reading 4th grade:

1 State scored higher than Maryland;

2 were the same - no statistical difference.


Science 4th grade:

19 States scored higher than Maryland;

14 were the same – no statistical difference.


Writing 4th grade:

3 States scored higher than Maryland;

14 were the same – no statistical difference, and

6 had no data to compare.


Math 8th grade:

8 States scored higher than Maryland;

14 were the same – no statistical difference


Reading 8th grade:

3 States scored higher than Maryland;

12 were the same – no statistical difference.


Science 8th grade:

24 States scored higher than Maryland;

7 were the same - no statistical difference; and

4 had no data to compare.


Writing 8th grade:

3 States scored higher than Maryland;

11 were the same – no statistical difference; and

9 had no data to compare.


The Fordham Institute’s 2011 Grades for U.S. History ranked Maryland 15th with a grade of “C.”


Comparing these two reports, Maryland ranks #1 for accountability, but not as high in actual academic achievement.


The national comparison scores are decent in some areas and not so decent in others. Imagine how high we might get if we spent less time on the bureaucratic side of education and more on the academic side.


For additional information and a list of reports concerning these breakdowns, contact the columnist at


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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