Board of Education hears final report on students’ college and career readiness

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(The Center Square) — The Maryland State Board of Education gathered Tuesday to review a report on whether state high schools were adequately preparing students for college or a career and the validity of the state’s current standards for college and career readiness.

CCR is an essential part of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2021 to improve the state’s education system.

The Maryland State Department of Education commissioned two studies on these issues. The results from the initial exploratory study were reviewed last year, and the organization that conducted the long-term study, the American Institutes of Research, presented its final findings.

“This is important. You are going to make history with this. You are going to change lives with this,” said Mohammed Choudhury, Maryland state superintendent of schools.

The presentation was divided into two, with a discussion following: The compatibility of Maryland’s high school education offerings with its beginning college classes and whether the current CCR standard accurately predicts college success.

The first segment reviewed AIR’s assessment in which Maryland high schools’ English language arts, math and science courses were compared to first-year state community college courses in the same subjects according to content and rigor alignment. The study concluded that, by and large, high schools do prepare students for college.

There were limitations to the study, however. It assessed the state’s community colleges, which contain most “entry level” and developmental courses, based on online course descriptions and syllabi. First-year courses at Maryland’s four-year universities were not evaluated.

Isiah Leggett of the Board of Regents for Maryland’s university system questioned why so many Maryland students aren’t meeting CCR standards if they’re being adequately prepared.

“What is the problem if we’re covering fairly extensively the coursework, we’re doing it with rigor and we have the content, yet when we look a year or so later, we see a divergence between that alignment and our remediation in community colleges?” Legget said, citing statistics like “probably less than 40% of our students are college- and career-ready” and “probably 70% need remediation.”

Rickles responded and underscored the scope of the study.

“It’s the right question to raise,” Rickles said. “We were tasked with looking at the alignment of the Maryland K-12 content standards….In order to get to the answer to your question, there needs to be a deeper look at what is actually enacted in the classroom in terms of content and the quality of that instruction.”

The second segment focused on the sufficiency of the current interim CCR standard and its alternatives. The current standard is scores of at least three or four in English and math on the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (or a 520 on the math SAT) by the end of students’ 10th-grade year.

The conclusion was that it’s not high school or first-year college courses that are flawed, at least on paper; it’s the current CCR standard that doesn’t capture many students that can go on to do well in college, according to the study.

Guest speaker Daria Willis from Howard Community College argued for incorporating additional measures of student aptitude like GPA, portfolios or competency-based learning, as did Choudhury.

“Our traditional definition of meritocracy is slowly becoming irrelevant. The premise that we assess CCR readiness based on a single standardized test score is flawed,” Choudhury said.

The board will focus on recommendations for an updated CCR standard in October, a public hearing in November, and will decide in December.

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