With 2023 ending, it's not only a great time to look backward, but also to look forward to what might happen in Maryland education in the upcoming year.
2023 was a real rollercoaster in education. There were some major issues in Maryland education.
First, even though counties and other local governments knew the economically crushing Blueprint for Maryland's Future was going into a second expensive year of implementation, 2023 was the year when local authorities finally woke up to the fact that their jurisdictions wouldn't be able to afford this monstrosity without huge tax increases. They voiced their concerns:
Apparently, the State paid attention to their statements and came out with an allowance for local districts to turn in their Blueprint plans in May instead of March. They also gave voice to loosening some of the draconian consequences for those locals who don't fully comply with every mandate of the Blueprint.
Of course, as we have learned in the past, this is something that Progressives do. They propose the worst and then when people complain, dial back to something that is still obnoxious and burdensome, just not to the extreme of the previous mandate. Then everyone celebrates how kind and understanding the state is.
Of course, one huge issue was the Superintendent, Mohammad Choudhury. His tyrannical, bombastic and demeaning method of dealing with people at the State Department as well as those in Annapolis left a sour taste in people's mouths. Pressure from the State Board pushed Choudhury out the door in the fall, ushering in interim State Superintendent Carey Wright. Will she be any better? She's from Montgomery and Prince George's County as well as being Mississippi State Superintendent where her "miracle" in State scores is being questioned. The jury is out.
There were other issues, juvenile justice and how it impacted student behavior in classrooms, and the constant struggle to get rights for parents while ideological bureaucracy and union tyrants insisted on teaching children explicit sex or getting them to question their gender. Luckily, one bill, HB 119/SB 199, which would have allowed the State to force specific sex education units on locals, died in the legislature.
And who can forget the dismal test scores. There were schools in Baltimore City that had zero students proficient in math. Zero. And then the Maryland State Department of Education actually removed scores from their website upon the direction of the Superintendent who ran into his office to avoid a reporter with questions. Hopefully the interim Superintendent won't do the same.
But now, to look forward to 2024. What are our predictions for this year?
Teacher shortages will continue as school districts are at a loss to recruit, hire and retain good, qualified teachers. Look for the State to continue to loosen requirements for teacher certification waiving competency tests, a degree in education, and even certification itself. Teaching candidates could end up being no more skilled in teaching than fast food workers.
Private childcare providers will go out of business as the state creates more three-year-old programs in the public schools. Restrictions and requirements will drive providers out of business while schools will not have capacity to serve the need. Parents will struggle to find childcare, especially for toddlers.
As the State Board of Education works to identify the standard for the Blueprint Pillar "College and Career Ready" they will promote the trend of college acceptance based on school GPA or scholastic portfolio rather than tests like the SAT's or ACT's. While this might sound great to those who don't test well, it will make secondary schools inflate grades even more than they are already inflated. Also, a portfolio process will be extremely subjective, allowing collegiate admission officers to play favorites based on non-academic or identity issues. Look for this policy to be adopted by some colleges in 2024.
There will be a court case regarding the Blueprint for Maryland's Future as county governments realize that they cannot fund the legislation without crippling tax hikes on citizens. The local governments will fight against state control over their local budgets.
The State will continue to force their way into managing private and homeschool education. The unions cannot abide the fact that either exist, particularly homeschooling. Look for new bills forcing both to meet more and more government mandates.
School choice will die on the vine as the Governor will take more funding away from any options that allow parents to take children out of failing schools and place them in private schools. He will blame his actions on the state deficit that he and his administration caused.
Test scores will start to improve. However, it will not be real improvement. It appears that Interim Superintendent Wright's "Mississippi Miracle" was not really very miraculous. Hiltzik: Mississippi's suspect reading test scores - Los Angeles Times (latimes.com) Wright disputes the allegations of this article, but we should keep on eye on this in Maryland to see if the same thing happens again. Correcting the record on Mississippi's historic education gains (magnoliatribune.com) Residents of Maryland have to remember that it was just last summer that the Maryland State Department of Education tried to hide scores of low performing groups by ridiculously claiming they were protecting student confidentiality. Remember, he who designs and scores tests and sets the standards can create whatever scores and standards they want. It will be grade inflation on the state level. Advice to parents? Disregard your child's grades and state test scores, read and do math with your child on a regular basis to see what they really know and can do.
With the advent of Community Schools and the placement of many more mental health professionals in public schools, look for the identification of many more children with mental health "disorders." Some of these will be correct, but many will be done to justify the added positions and money. Also, in Maryland, children 12 and under can consent to mental health treatment without parental consent. In the 80's the ADD "pandemic" started and with it the over medication of our kids. Will this be the same?
Parents will start to fight harder than ever before for parental rights. Recent decisions denying parents the right to opt out of certain subject matter in Montgomery County were made by judges because the parents suing had not been "hurt" by the practice. In other words, their children were not impacted by the gender ideology and sexualized content being taught. They could not prove harm. The next time this suit is presented, I believe the parents will have standing.
I believe that every election year since 1992 I have heard that the upcoming election for that year would be pivotal. This was mostly at the National level.
This year is no different. Every election has meaning and weight. If parents want to remain in control of their children's lives, have a say in what their children are taught, and want to make sure that their children graduate school with academic competency, promise and potential instead of division and hopelessness, they need to get involved by either running of working for candidates.
Let's hope they take this seriously, take time from their busy lives, and step up.
Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.