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### Maryland’s Public Education Revolution: Blueprint for Dramatic Reform

Clarence Crawford, the president of the Maryland State Board of Education, opened the meeting on Tuesday with a bold statement, declaring an end to the status quo in Maryland’s public education system. The state is undergoing a comprehensive transformation of its educational framework through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a decade-long reform initiative supported by substantial funding. Educational leaders are grappling with significant adjustments in teacher compensation, literacy education, and academic benchmarks while navigating the financial implications of these reforms.

Acknowledging the valid concerns raised by stakeholders, Crawford stressed the importance of embracing change. In an interview, he highlighted the need for full commitment from all involved parties, emphasizing that there is no room for dissent or reluctance to align with the reform agenda.

Anticipating challenges during the implementation phase of the Blueprint, which was approved by the state legislature in 2021, Crawford emphasized the role of the Maryland State Department of Education in providing training and guidance. However, he underscored that teachers, principals, superintendents, and local school boards must ultimately accept and adapt to the proposed changes.

One of the key reforms involves the transition from balanced literacy to the science of reading in public schools. This evidence-based approach prioritizes phonics instruction over the whole-word recognition method. Additionally, Maryland is incentivizing teachers to pursue National Board certification, offering financial rewards for those who achieve this distinction, particularly in low-performing schools.

The focus on enhancing reading instruction has prompted revisions in educational materials, aligning them with the science of reading principles. Furthermore, the Blueprint includes measures such as raising the minimum teacher salary, expanding prekindergarten access for economically disadvantaged students, and establishing new graduation standards.

Despite the infusion of federal funds related to the pandemic, county superintendents are facing budget constraints as they transition to the Blueprint funding model. Some counties have proposed staff reductions and program cuts to manage their financial obligations effectively.

Looking ahead, Crawford hinted at a potential shift towards zero-based or mission-based budgeting to prioritize essential initiatives and streamline expenditures. While acknowledging the possibility of future adjustments to the Blueprint, he emphasized the importance of first adhering to the original plan.

The collaboration between the State Board of Education and the Accountability and Implementation Board has strengthened over time, with both entities aligning their efforts and advocating for education policy reforms together. The recent focus on college and career readiness standards has sparked discussions on student evaluation criteria and interventions for those not meeting the benchmarks.

As the education landscape in Maryland evolves, the commitment to enhancing student outcomes and aligning with the Blueprint’s objectives remains a top priority for all stakeholders involved.