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Are Disparities in MD's Educational Achievement Fixable?

The 2018 Maryland Report Card offers public access to more details on measures of success in the state's 1,400 public schools. (Wokandapix/Pixabay)
The 2018 Maryland Report Card offers public access to more details on measures of success in the state's 1,400 public schools. (Wokandapix/Pixabay)
December 19, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Achievement gaps persist between students of color and white students, according to a new analysis of Maryland's public schools. Education advocates say the state needs to make finding solutions a priority.

The Baltimore Community Foundation commissioned the report by The Education Trust. It found that, "white students are twice as likely to meet expectations in fourth-grade reading and algebra one than black or Latino students," and said the achievement gap widens among higher-income students. However, more than half of Maryland schools received high ratings under a new tracking system for school performance.

Robert Ruffins, senior associate for national and state partnerships,with The Education Trust, said the ratings don't seem to reflect the ongoing needs of certain groups of students.

"You can be a four- or five-star school in Maryland, even if you're not serving black and Latino students well," he said, "and the signal that that sends is essentially that we, as a state, have not really prioritized closing these gaps."

Maryland education officials are touting the new ranking system and data-filled report card as a major step in transparency for how success is measured in public schools. Ruffins said one way to help close the gap is to ensure equitable funding across all districts so no one is shortchanged.

The Education Trust also found there isn't a mechanism in place to identify which schools are consistently under-serving one or more student groups. Ruffins said there is no single solution to closing the achievement gaps, but ensuring that experienced teachers are available and that students of color get access to college preparatory courses can help.

"We have to be holding ourselves accountable," he said, "saying, 'Are we actually providing black and Latino students adequate resources, and equitable resources, for them to be successful?' And right now, the story in Maryland is, we're not doing it."

The Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence has been working to devise a new funding formula and re-thinking many of the state's education policies. It's unclear when the final report will be released, but Ruffins said he hopes the recommendations also will help eliminate income and racial inequities.

The Education Trust Report is online at education.baltimorecommunityfoundation.org.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MD