EducationLocalWilliam J. Ford

Future For Md. Schools Uncertain

With Maryland public schools remained closed for the remainder of the school year, students will have about one month left of distance and online learning.

Free meals will also be provided throughout the state before the hundreds of thousands of students begin their summer vacation.

Preliminary discussions are taking place in jurisdictions such as Prince George’s County on providing and assessing summer school enrichment. The topic could come up when the school board meets Thursday.

“We will be sharing that informing before the close of school this year,” said public schools CEO Monica Goldson.

An unknown future to education spending comes due to the state spending about $3 billion to combat the novel coronavirus.

Because of the virus’s impact on all 24 school systems and its dependence on state funding, the Maryland Department of Education published a 54-page recovery plan to “restore, reconstruct and redesign” education.

State Superintendent Karen Salmon said the plan doesn’t mandate that schools adhere to it, but offers guidance.

For instance, close the achievement gap with “extended-year” programs in the summer. Other proposals school systems could implement with a post-COVID-19 agenda include:

– Offer courses on Saturdays.
– Increase dual enrollment opportunities at a local community college.
– Incremental student openings by grade to provide social distancing when they return in the fall.
– Students, educators and other staff wear masks or face coverings.
– When students return to the school, have teachers change from classroom to classroom to avoid crowded hallways.

According to a study from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, students who received limited instruction with schools closed during the pandemic can become negatively affected.

The average mathematics ranges between 37 percent to 50 percent, according to the study. Due to the school closures that lasted about two months, those figures could decrease.

Student achievement gains in reading typically range between 63 percent to 68 percent, but could remain steady when students return in the fall because they can read independently at home.

“While we are unable to account for students’ exposure to virtual instruction while schools are closed, our learning loss projections imply that educators and policymakers will need to prepare for many students to be substantially behind academically when they return,” the researchers wrote in the document.

Meanwhile, some Maryland lawmakers and education advocates remain concerned Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto on the nearly $4 billion annual Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation will have a negative impact in the future.

Lawmakers approved the first three of years the plan that seeks to expand early childhood education, add special education resources and increase teacher salaries.

But Hogan vetoed the legislation largely due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is increasingly clear that we will be facing significant fiscal and economic challenges for the foreseeable future as we recover from this global pandemic and the massive economic crash it caused,” Hogan wrote in a letter Thursday.

“The economic fallout from this pandemic simply makes it impossible to fund new program, impose any new tax hikes, nor adopt any legislation” regardless of the legislation’s merits, he wrote.

Hogan received plenty of criticism for his decision, as detractors urged the Democratic-controlled legislature to override his veto when lawmakers return in January.

“Educating the state’s children is not a new program, and it deserves priority funding now more than ever!” Edna Harvin Battle and Tonya Sweet, members of the Maryland PTA, wrote in a letter Monday. “Maryland PTA calls upon State lawmakers to step in and flex that veto-proof muscle to override the governor’s pandemic-filled spin that began long before the coronavirus landed on U.S. soil.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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