Kirwan Commission eyes state education course that could raise cost

We present today a twofer on the recent work of the “Kirwan Commission” aka the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, after its major two-part public work session and hearing last Thursday.

The first is a broad-brush report last Friday from Conduit Street, the blog of the Maryland Association of Counties, who run the state’s dozens of school systems and would have to make any changes in the school landscape that survive the gauntlet of both the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and the administration of the Republican governor, Larry Hogan.

The second is a focused report on one proposed solution involving enhanced tutoring provision, under consideration from the commission that gets its informal name from its chairman, Brit Kirwan, former chancellor of the state university system. The account is provided by the news blog Maryland Reporter – which has given this potentially game-changing commission effort much the most attention of any of our news outlets.

We present today a twofer on the recent work of the “Kirwan Commission” aka the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, after its major two-part public work session and hearing last Thursday.

The first is a broad-brush report last Friday from Conduit Street, the blog of the Maryland Association of Counties, who run the state’s dozens of school systems and would have to make any changes in the school landscape that survive the gauntlet of both the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and the administration of the Republican governor, Larry Hogan.

The second is a focused report on one proposed solution involving enhanced tutoring provision, under consideration from the commission that gets its informal name from its chairman, Brit Kirwan, former chancellor of the state university system. The account is provided by the news blog Maryland Reporter – which has given this potentially game-changing commission effort much the most attention of any of our news outlets.slate_for_school.jpg

The commission was established in June 2016 to “review and assess current education financing formulas and accountability measures,” with members appointed by Hogan and the kingpins of the Assembly plus from stakeholder groups, and is to turn in a final report at the end of 2017.

The PM Blogspace reposted a detailed Maryland Reporter account in advance of last week’s meeting and hearing; it includes links to background material on the Commission’s work so far. Another work session is scheduled for Wednesday, October 25, in the House office building in Annapolis, followed by a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. at Largo High School in Prince George’s County.


Kirwan Commission Stays True To Form

/By Kevin Kinnally <> Conduit Street/ The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting today [Oct. 12] in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the Commission is charged with reviewing and assessing current education financing formulas and accountability measures.

It was widely anticipated that today’s meeting would focus on education funding, especially because some Commissioners recently expressed concerns over how little time has been spent analyzing proposed funding changes. Instead, staying true to form, the Commission spent the day listening to testimony on broad policy initiatives.

Robert Slavin, Director, Center for Research and Reform in Education, Johns Hopkins University, testified on the importance of intensive, individual programs, such as one-on-one tutoring, for students struggling to achieve proficiency standards. While the Commission seemed to agree on a philosophical level, some Commissioners said the approach was cost prohibitive.

Career and technical education (CTE) continued to be a hot topic of discussion. Commissioners agreed that Maryland’s CTE standard is less rigorous than the standard in top performing systems.

In addition to providing more rigorous CTE programs, the Commission recommends that Maryland implement a communication plan to dispel the notion that CTE programs are only meant for students who do not excel in traditional academic subjects. This communication plan will also inform students and parents that enrolling in a CTE program in no way precludes the ability to attend college.

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, representing MACo on the Commission, praised efforts to expand CTE programs in Maryland. According to Councilmember Rice:

CTE programs have been very successful in counties, and with a small state investment, these programs can continue to grow. Expanding CTE should rise to the top of our recommendations. A lot of the the recommendations we’re talking about are very expensive, this one isn’t. It’s a no brainer.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh, representing the Maryland House of Delegates on the Commission, expressed frustration with the lack of input from the business community on how to best expand CTE programs, she stated:

The business community worked side by side with the Thornton Commission, but now no one is here on behalf of the business community. We need a renewed dialouge with the business community.

The Commission also heard panel testimony from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE), the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland (PSSAM), and the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), among others.

MABE’s presentation included an emphasis on the importance of local boards of education having authority over local education spending. MSEA outlined their top three priorities:

  1. Increased salaries for teachers.
  2. Increased staffing for schools.
  3. Addressing poverty

The Commission’s next meeting will focus on the analysis from Augenblick, Palaich & Associates (APA) and the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). Dr. Kirwan has asked representatives from APA and NCEE to attend the meeting to discuss the methodology for costing out their proposed recommendations.

The 2016 Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education was created by legislation introduced in the General Assembly. The Commission membership parallels that of the earlier Thornton Commission. MACo is entitled to two representatives on the Commission, under the legislation.

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Chair, and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, MACo’s Education Subcommittee Vice Chair, represent MACo on the Commission.

The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 25, 2017; 9:30 am-5:00 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.

Materials for the Oct. 12 meeting are here.


Kirwan Commission considers large-scale tutoring plan to close proficiency gaps

/By Glynis Kazanjian <> for MarylandReporter.com / Maryland has one of the highest household incomes in the U.S., but only 40% of its students met proficiency standards in reading and math on the PARCC assessments in 2017, a Johns Hopkins University researcher told the Kirwan Commission last week.

A $1.46 billion plan using one-on-one and small group and tutoring would help close the gap between top performing students and those who struggle to keep up, Robert Slavin, Johns Hopkins University Director of Research and Reform in Education said.

“Nobody wants more taxes,” Slavin said. “But it’s not to the moon. It’s not something Maryland can’t do. The proposal outlines a statewide approach intended to enable virtually all students in Maryland to reach the proficient level on PARCC.”

The proficiency standard on the standardized test Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which is used in third through eighth grades, is defined as a score of 750, Slavin stated. But Maryland’s average score is 740, 10 points below the average.

“If you could get the average student in Maryland scoring 740 to a score of 750, Maryland would no longer be number 30 in terms of scores in the country, it would be number one,” Slavin said.

As part of his presentation, and for purposes of explanation, Slavin said 10 points in a PARCC score is equivalent to one band.

Tutoring cornerstone of plan

“But what you said was you wanted to get virtually all students in Maryland to the proficient standard,” Slavin said. “Getting kids at 740 to 750 could be done. That would be hard to do, but not impossible. Now let’s think about kids at 730. Twenty points – two bands – is a big lift. Frankly, there’s only thing we know about that can reliably increase student performance by two bands and that is tutoring. The only thing we know is tutoring, nothing but tutoring.”

Slavin broke his plan into a three-tier system.

Tier I uses proven classroom programs that reduce the need for tutoring and could be implemented tomorrow statewide, across all grades and subjects, at a relatively low cost. Slavin said there are approximately 101 of these types of programs, and some of them are already used in some Maryland public schools.

“These are programs you can hang your hat on,” the results, Slavin said. “They should be the first line of action.”

Tier II should primarily be one-to-small group instruction and if the budget was available, they could be implemented by January.

In the Tier II category, Slavin said groups of one-to-six children for 40 to 45 minutes per day, could result in student scores increasing their PARCC test scores by one-to-two bands, or 10 to 20 points.

Tier III would require one-to-one tutoring, which is “more effective than small group, but also more expensive,” Slavin said.

With this method, if a teacher worked with an individual student 30 minutes per day, every day, a student’s test score could increase by as much as five bands, or 50 points.

At an individual elementary school of 450 students with a 40% proficiency achievement level, 12 tutors would be required, Slavin said. He factored in an annual salary of $84,000 per teacher, which includes salary and benefits. He also factored in $200 per child for Tier I schools where tutors are not needed.

Budget shifts, cost savings could reduce cost of plan

The cost of the plan will be greatly reduced through using existing funding and cost savings — only 4.5% more than current expenditures, Slavin said. When the plan is in full operation, he said an existing $519 million for tutoring could be redirected and savings from reduced need for special education would free up another $379 million — so the true net cost would be about $555 million. The program could also be phased in to spread the cost out over time.

“The tutoring models I’m talking about are not experimental,” Slavin said. “They do not need another study. They do not need another pilot. They’re proven beyond a shadow of a doubt as far as educational research is concerned. What’s utterly unprecedented about this is building it around an entire state system or district system.”

Following Slavin’s presentation, Kirwan Commission Chair Brit Kirwan asked how many years a student would need to participate in one of the tiers.

“Maybe two-thirds of the kids would need one year of service,” Slavin said. “When kids need that year might be different. I will assume that the largest number of kids that receive tutoring would receive it around first grade.”

But Slavin said based on today’s test scores, there are vast numbers of kids in middle school that are way below the standard. If the program is implemented, in the beginning a lot of tutoring may be required in middle school until it is no longer necessary due to rising elementary students who have started at earlier ages.

Dramatic score improvements

Commissioner Craig Rice, a Montgomery County Councilmember, was concerned about demographic information that he said seemed to be missing from Slavin’s report, which left Rice feeling concerned.

“There are groups, districts and schools in Maryland where the problems are much greater,” Slavin said. “Naturally a lot of these resources would be devoted to those groups because the money would follow the performance of the students. The programs I’m talking about have primarily been used with students who are in poverty, are English language learners and in various kinds of difficulty. The things that unite them are students that need to be performing in school a whole lot better, and quickly.”   

Nancy Madden, a Johns Hopkins University education professor, said one of the studies referenced in the presentation was conducted in Baltimore City and targeted to the most needy students. They saw a 20-point improvement over a six month tutoring period in grades one to three, she said.

Madden also cited a school in Virginia that was studied over seven years that was performing 30 points below the state average on Virginia’s Standards of Learning assessment.

“This is a school that is 85% [recipients] of free and reduced lunch,” Madden said. “Students speak a variety of other languages; mostly they are predominantly immigrants, primarily African immigrants. Right now they are performing four points above the state average, in spite of their poverty and the demographics. That’s what can be done with the application.”