photo of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda

Number One in the Nation

The Maryland public school system was ranked number one in the nation for an unprecedented fifth consecutive year, according to an independent national report released January 10.

Education Week, the nation’s leading education publication, looked at data in six critical categories over the past five years, and once again found that Maryland’s state education system ranked at the head of the class.

Quality Counts uses more than 100 distinct indicators to develop its report, making it what many believe is the most broad-based look at educational quality that is currently available. Individual grades reported by Education Week show Maryland’s consistent strength throughout the report card.

Chance for Success: Maryland received a B+ grade (sixth in the nation). This category includes such factors as parental education, family income, student performance, and graduation rates.

Transitions and Alignment: Maryland was among eight States with an A grade. This category includes early childhood education, college readiness policies, and workforce policies.

School Finance: Maryland received a B grade (eighth in the nation). This category is based on school funding and equity in finance.

K-12 Achievement: Maryland received a B grade (third in the nation, 2012 data). This category includes National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores and an analysis of achievement gaps.

Standards, Assessments, and Accountability: Maryland received a B+ grade (2012 data). Maryland has a long history of high standards and detailed statewide accountability programs.

The Teaching Profession: Maryland ranked third in the nation with a B grade (third in the nation, 2012 data). Maryland continues to improve the quality of its education workforce.

Maryland’s grade of B+ placed at the top of the list in Education Week’s annual “Quality Counts” tally. Like last year, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia followed Maryland, with B grades. As has been the case since the report’s inception, most states received grades in the C ranges or below.

“From the earliest days of our Administration, job creation and its primary ingredient, education, have topped our agenda. Every year of this Administration, even during the toughest of times, we have invested to make this a reality,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Today we’re here to announce that, with better choices, we have built what Education Week magazine says is the #1 best public school system in America for the fifth year in a row because of our students, educators and parents who understand that the investments we make in education are investments in the future we all share.”

State Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery said the latest rankings serve as fuel for further improvement. The data reflect the strong support education receives throughout Maryland.

“Maryland public schools are so fortunate to have bipartisan support throughout the State,” Dr. Lowery said. “Our schools have the benefit of strong support from the governor, other elected officials, educators, parents, business leaders, and the public at large. This ranking could not be achieved without the support of every partner, and we won’t be able to continue our improvement without that broad coalition.”

Maryland has continued to build upon its success since gaining the top slot in the nation in 2009. In 2010, Maryland was awarded a portion of the federal government’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top funding, which has helped the State strengthen standards for students and educators, build a new data warehouse, and improve educator evaluation. Last year, Maryland received an additional four-year $50 million federal grant to help continue its reform efforts in critical early childhood education programs.

Maryland’s 2013 ranking in Quality Counts is based on State education policies and student performance that reflect nearly two decades of work to solidify the preK-12 curriculum; state accountability and standards; educator effectiveness; and work on school readiness, high school reform, and preparation for college and the workplace.

Today’s announcement by Education Week continues Maryland’s long history of success in the annual review. Maryland has consistently worked to strengthen policies and improve student achievement. The State placed third in 2008, the first year the publication issued a comprehensive ranking, before gaining the top spot for the first time in the 2009 “Quality Counts” report. Maryland’s lead on the rest of the nation grew with the 2010 report, and its success has been confirmed over the past three years.

“Every child, every parent, and every educator in Maryland has the right and expectation to have a world-class school in their neighborhood or where they work,” Dr. Lowery said. “Education Week’s analysis of our work illuminates many positives, but we also know where we need to improve. We’ll use this, and other information, to help make certain we have better classrooms for every student.”

Most of the state-level data gathered by Education Week comes from a policy survey of the states conducted in the summer and fall of 2012. In addition, the publication draws on data from such organizations as the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Bureau of the Census, and the American Federation of Teachers.

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