Coalition of advocates in Maryland strongly opposes weak accountability measures embedded in HB 978
Baltimore, Md.—Today, Jenese Jones, interim executive director for MarylandCAN: The Maryland Campaign for Achievement Now released the following statement in strong opposition to the Protect Our Schools Act of 2017:
“I am deeply disappointed with the introduction of HB 978, both as an advocate and as a former educator. I have said time and again that we cannot fix what we cannot see. This bill actively denies schools and teachers valuable data and insight by reducing the weight and importance of academic indicators in the accountability system.
“Let’s put the jargon aside and be frank: This bill hurts children. It purposefully keeps important information about our students’ knowledge, skills and academic progress out of the conversation about school quality and disproportionately hurts children of color, like the scholars I’ve had the privilege of teaching in urban schools across the country. It elevates the interests of adults over our obligation to provide students—all students, from every walk of life—a high-quality education that prepares them for future success.”
MarylandCAN partners, prominent Baltimore community members and fellow advocates from both sides of the aisle joined Jones in strongly opposing the bill.
Michael Phillips, Senior Pastor for the Kingdom Life Church, member of Faith Leaders for Excellent Schools and board member of MarylandCAN, said the following:
A high-quality education matters. Students who are molded by a strong education, with high standards, effective teachers and individual and school-level accountability, grow to become successful, thriving adults. Children who remain trapped in poor schools graduate with few professional choices, a lower standard of living and a lower life expectancy than their better educated peers.
“If these are the stakes—and they are—how can we ensure that our young people are lifted by their schools instead of thwarted by them? At least one critical lever must be assessing the quality of our schools and the education they provide through our students’ demonstrated skills and knowledge. To be clear, no one is arguing for increased testing, nor the dreaded ‘teaching to the test.’ But we cannot support struggling schools and the students in them if we cannot identify areas for improvement and provide focused attention, resources and problem-solving toward these areas.”
Donald Manekin, MarylandCAN board chair and Seawall Development Company founding member, opposed the bill for its long term impacts on Baltimore’s economic future with the following statement:
“For Baltimore to succeed as a community and as an economy we must have a qualified, skilled and energetic workforce. Fundamental to that future is a robust public education system that meets its mandate to educate our children academically and have our seniors graduate fully prepared for the workforce and postsecondary education. Legislation that stands in the way of true accountability for schools, legislation such as the Protect Our Schools Act, does real harm to Baltimore—today and into our future.”
Lynn Jennings, education advocate and interim field director for the Education Trust, spoke out against the bill for its disproportionate, adverse effects on children and families of color:
“HB 978 would allow schools to shirk their responsibility to educate ALL Maryland students to high academic levels by making student learning a lower priority in the school accountability system. And it would withhold from families and communities critical information about how all groups of students—including low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities and English learners—are doing. The result would be less urgency to act when any group of students is struggling. We urge the Maryland legislature to keep their commitment to serving all students well by rejecting this proposal.”
Additionally, education advocate and President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute Michael Petrilli expressed concern for the lack of transparency this bill would usher in for Maryland schools:
“Parents and the public have a right to know how their local schools are performing. Maryland’s lawmakers seem intent on sweeping the truth under the rug. At a time when transparency in public life is more important than ever, this is a huge step in the wrong direction.”
Nicole Harris-Crest, executive director of the Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools, said the following:
“The proposed bill, which limits school reforms in Maryland, is most damaging for students within Maryland’s minority and low-income populations who need every opportunity available to them to lower the achievement gap—not being held to lower sub-par standards.”
For more information or interviews with Jenese Jones, contact Yam Menon at 203-767-7848.
MarylandCAN: Launched in 2012, MarylandCAN: The Maryland Campaign for Achievement Now advocates for the policies necessary to ensure that all children in Maryland receive a high-quality education. We improve policy to help all students thrive and share promising practices and stories to demonstrate that all kids CAN succeed.