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Board approves deadline for state agencies to submit documents for education reform plan

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board convenes April 18, 2024. Board vice chair William “Brit” Kirwan raises his hand to ask a question to AIB Executive Rachel Hise on an update to literacy expert review teams. Screenshot.

Five state agencies that are key stakeholders in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future have less than two months to submit documents for implementing that education reform plan.

The June 15 deadline was set Thursday by the Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), which oversees the $3.8 billion plan through 2032.

That board created a “Criteria for Success” guide that must be followed by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), Career and Technical Education Committee (CTE), Consortium on Coordinated Community Supports and the Juvenile Services Education Board. The juvenile services board is part of an independent education program housed within the state’s Department of Juvenile Services.

Each body must answer questions about how officials in their group would implement the Blueprint with fidelity, ensure all students receive resources to be successful and identify any challenges and how they would address them. This would cover work from the current fiscal year through fiscal year 2027.

Rachel Hise, executive director of the AIB, said state agency officials didn’t have a template to follow when submitting Blueprint documents last year.

On Thursday the board added another criterion for the agencies to follow, which Hise read: “The response should indicate the agency’s efforts to leverage existing funds to support Blueprint implementation.”

“That is capturing what I was hoping to include,” said William “Brit” Kirwan, who is Blueprint board vice chair and chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland. Kirwan requested adding that language.

Although board chair Isiah “Ike” Leggett, a former Montgomery County executive, attended the first part of the nearly three-hour online meeting, he left early to attend a “mandatory training.” The unanimous vote on the state agency deadline happened afterward.

Meanwhile, local school officials have until May 1 to provide data on how they will achieve the Blueprint’s five priorities, which the AIB calls “pillars”: , , ,  and governance and accountability.

The AIB will evaluate responses based on a “Criteria for Success” checklist.

A second set of Blueprint documents from all 24 school systems reveal ongoing challenges to implementing the plan, such as expanding pre-kindergarten to 3- and 4-year-old students, sustaining funding and incorporating college and career readiness programs.

Some documents noted problems with hiring and retaining qualified teachers, including more males and educators of color.

Del. Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City) said in an interview last month that school leaders need to be more proactive in attracting new educators, and especially in drawing a more diverse group of teachers to local school systems.

“I think this effort requires [local school systems] to revisit that, if what you’ve done to date hasn’t yielded the diversity in the pipeline, then you need to rethink your strategies,” she said. “You can’t use the excuse, ‘I can’t find people’ when we are literally one of the most racially diverse states in the United States….”

Some school leaders in jurisdictions such as are experiencing challenges in “meaningful stakeholder engagement.”

Katie Ridgway, director of strategic initiatives for that county’s school district, said there are 160 people who serve on five local Blueprint committees. Public meetings, distribution of surveys and other forms of communication were conducted and continue in the district with slightly more than 38,000 students.

“You have engaged parents, but that engagement is finite. They can either be engaged in the PTA (parent teacher association), or the band boosters,” said Ridgway, who also serves as the district’s Blueprint coordinator, in an interview last month. “It is a challenge to get the time and attention of various stakeholders. But let me say this, we support the goals and mission of the Blueprint. You can only transform to doing better for kids if you are opening to do so.”

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