Marylanders across our state have conveyed a strong commitment and enduring support for public education. When asked how important the quality of Maryland’s public schools are to the success of the state, an overwhelming majority have said that it is extremely important. A strong majority have a positive view of Maryland public schools’ performance. At the same time, a diverse array of stakeholders have stressed key areas for improvement, the unmet challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and urgency about the need to transform educational experiences for all students at scale, especially those who have been historically underserved.
Ensuring high-quality reading and writing learning experiences in the early grades was a top priority among all stakeholder groups who completed the strategic planning survey. This reflects the critical importance that all Maryland students are proficient in reading by the end of third grade, and those who are not have the necessary supports to become proficient. Additionally, stakeholder groups, including teachers and school leaders, prioritized developing excellent teachers and recognizing and rewarding them among their top five priorities.
Furthermore, in addition to survey responses, in-depth dialogues fostered by roundtables highlighted meaningful nuances in the views and aspirations of Marylanders across our state. Black/African American respondents emphasized resources such as access to advanced course work and pathways, and high-quality teachers for underserved communities in their most frequently cited priorities. Participants in our educator roundtables stressed the urgency of addressing representation gaps in the teaching profession, supporting new teachers’ growth through close collaboration, observation, and feedback from highly effective mentors, and expanding access to job-embedded professional learning opportunities. Students and parents/guardians, in turn, advocated for stronger wraparound supports, engagement, and better educational resources for families to support their students success in school. Leaders from the business community passionately spoke about the need to elevate career and technical education and ensuring better coordination between industry and the educational system to facilitate students’ access and success with career exploration, work-based learning, and job placement opportunities.
Many of the themes that were prominent in the strategic planning survey and roundtables also emerged during listening sessions. Participants stressed the importance of strengthening health and wellness supports for students. They also emphasized creating seamless and equitable pathways to college and careers and the expectation that institutions of higher education, employers, and the educational system must collaborate effectively to make those pathways a reality for every Maryland student. Listening sessions also called attention to additional priorities, such as the need to address teacher shortages and expanding high-quality Pre-K and early childhood programs.
As we entered Phase 2 of our engagement efforts, we heard stakeholders advocate for innovative ways to recruit and retain high-quality teachers and staff during the regional data walks. The feedback mirrored previous conversations about pathways to college and careers and exposing students to more opportunities earlier in their educational journey. Data walks fostered a collaborative environment where local education leaders could connect and learn from one another reflecting a clear demand for more opportunities like this in the future.
In Phase 3, we gave our stakeholders a platform to become mutual authors of the plan through strategic planning charettes. We listened as participants shared their personal perspectives on early childhood, literacy, support in the middle grades, educator preparation, and ensuring students are ready for college and career. Through the charettes, stakeholders identified and ranked strategies grounded in research.
The Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education look forward to the continued implementation of the Strategic Plan and the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. By addressing the challenges, seizing the opportunities, and upholding the values that have been expressed throughout this process, we will ensure a brighter and more equitable future for the children of Maryland. Thank you for transforming Maryland with us!