ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland made important steps in the third year of implementing its $250 million Race to the Top education grant, but the state also faced multiple challenges, a U.S. Education Department report said Wednesday.
The department’s progress report said Maryland continued to score well above the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress last year.
Maryland showed slight increases in reading from 2011. The state also had a negligible decrease in overall math scores since 2011, but students scoring in the advanced range increased by 8 percent in grade four and 5 percent in grade eight.
In another positive development, the Maryland State Department of Education hosted its third set of academies last summer to provide Maryland Common Core State Curriculum professional development to principals and teachers from every school in the state, the report said.
Maryland launched systems to provide teachers with model units and lessons to support the Common Core curriculum for each grade level.
Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. They establish a uniform guide for the skills a student should have at each grade level.
The report also noted the state has increased access to resources to improve teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by partnering with the Maryland Business Roundtable to create an online repository of lessons, tools and videos to support instruction. Also in the third year of the program, Maryland provided professional development for teachers and leaders in struggling schools.
But the report said there were plenty of challenges in year three as well.
For example, Maryland has been slow to develop and implement tools to adjust instruction and improve learning. Maryland did not have a way to assess Common Core implementation in districts across the state or to identify additional supports needed by districts, the report said.
Maryland has run into significant delays in getting a vendor to create a repository of additional Common Core materials as part of its instructional toolkit project, and the state doesn’t anticipate the resources will be available until September. That’s a year later than first planned.
Maryland also faces challenges implementing teacher and principal evaluation systems, the report said. State lawmakers have approved legislation opposed the implementation of the evaluation systems until they become more closely aligned with a new curriculum.
Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery said the report notes that student achievement has improved, while areas that need improvement will require putting systems in place in a transitional period.
She said the remaining challenges cited in the progress report do not center on student achievement, but on the technical details of building systems.
The report mentioned important milestones for the fourth year of the initiative.
The state is scheduled to fully implement Common Core and administer a field test of a new reading and language arts and math assessments aligned to a portion of students in preparation for full implementation in the next school year.
Maryland also plans to develop and disseminate additional resources such as model units and lessons to support teachers in common core implementation through the state’s curriculum management system.
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