National report card gives Maryland schools highest, lowest grades

MSPAP program earns an `A' for standards and accountability

January 11, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Maryland got the nation's best grades for school standards and accountability but failing marks on school climate and funding equity in a 50-state report card issued yesterday by the school news publication Education Week.

The fifth annual Quality Counts, a national survey of educational indicators, gave high marks to the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program for the quality of its curriculum standards and tests. New York was the only other state to receive an A, while five states - Minnesota, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Montana and Iowa - got F's.

The school climate grade was based on factors including class size, student absenteeism and the number of open-enrollment schools and charter schools in a state. (Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated.)

Since Maryland has no charter school law, "We got zip in that area," said Ronald A. Peiffer, assistant state superintendent for school and community outreach.

Ten other states joined Maryland on the school climate failure list. Connecticut earned the highest grade in that category, a B-minus.

The equity grade was based on the disparity between a state's wealthiest and poorest school districts. "That will be something for the governor and legislature to look at carefully," Peiffer said.

While the Quality Counts report praised the states for raising academic standards and improving teaching, it warned against an overemphasis on testing.

In a national poll of teachers accompanying Quality Counts, seven in 10 teachers said instruction stresses state tests "far" or "somewhat" too much, and 66 percent said state tests are forcing them to concentrate too much on what's tested to the detriment of other important topics.

The study was financed by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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