New Md. schools superintendent speaks on performance rankings, pays raises for teachers and more

Dr. Carey Wright has only been the fulltime State Superintendent of Maryland Schools for two weeks but she’s ready to make some changes.

Maryland’s public schools have often been ranked by various groups as some of the best in the nation. Previous state school leaders have touted the performance ratings. But something hasn’t felt right to the woman who’s now in charge of the state’s schools. How can Maryland rank so high when the its students score so low in English and math?

Wright joined WTOP’s Shawn Anderson on Tuesday afternoon to talk about the changes that will come in order to raise performance ratings in the state’s schools and how they can better support school staff.

Listen to the interview now or read the transcript below. The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity.

Carey Wright, Superintendent of Maryland Schools, speaks with WTOP

Shawn Anderson: First, congratulations on earning the position on a permanent basis. One of the first things you mentioned in your news conference announcing your appointment is that you want to have more honesty and transparency in the Maryland Report Card. That’s what measures school performance in the state. What is it about that that concerns you the most?

Carey Wright: Well, you outlined it very well. First, thank you so much. I’m very excited about the job. But you outlined it very well in your opening statement. There’s something not right with the two sentences that we’ve got 76% of our schools scoring with a 3, 4 or 5-star, and yet we’ve got a 47% proficiency rate in literacy and a 23% proficiency rate in mathematics.

So I felt it was important for us to really dig into why that is and what’s happening with that. Is our assessment system really measuring what we need it to be measuring? Is our accountability system really holding people accountable for learning?

So I formed an Assessment and Accountability Taskforce, [we] met for the first time this past week. It is being chaired by the Center for Assessment, which is the gold standard in dealing with assessments nationally, they’re in about 45 states. It’s a diverse group of superintendents and advocacy groups, principals and teachers, and folks from higher [education], to really take a look at what is what is our accountability system doing? And what is our assessment system doing? And do we need to change things?

Shawn Anderson: What do you want to do to improve how school performance is tracked?

Carey Wright: You mentioned transparency and that’s critical. I’ve heard a lot of criticism since I’ve been here about the lack of transparency where the Report Card is concerned. And a report card is something that should be easily readable, easily understandable, regardless of who’s looking at it and regardless of whether your background is in education or not. I think that we need to do a better job of letting our communities and our parents, and actually our schools know exactly what’s happening inside the school. And along that we’re also implementing the Science of Reading. And so we know that that’s a piece of research that’s decades old, and it proves positive that you can teach children in a very systematic way to read. It’s alarming to me that in Maryland we are where we are right now, but we can do better.

Shawn Anderson: We often hear about major accomplishments in places like Montgomery and Howard counties. We also hear, though about a lot of trouble in places like Prince George’s County and Baltimore City. You had a lot of experience with low-performing schools in your time as State Schools Superintendent in Mississippi. So what are your thoughts on how to address problems in lower-performing districts while maintaining standards in the higher-performing districts?

Carey Wright: It’s both, it’s not an either/or proposition. I believe that each one has its own context, each one has its own needs. And that’s the reason that you really need an accountability system that addresses that appropriately so that you are incentivizing of those districts that are really at the bottom to get better, while you also are incentivizing the districts that are scoring very well to keep scoring very well. And so you’ve got to really look at it district by district. But overall, we’ve got to have a foundational piece in place around ‘what does that mean? What is literacy need to look like in all schools? What does math instruction need to look like in all schools? How can we better support our teachers? What kinds of additional professional learning might they need and what kinds of additional professional learning might our leaders need in order to lead that work in each individual district?’ But it can be done.

Shawn Anderson: The so-called “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” calls for expanded pre-K and more raises for teachers. Are there resources available to achieve all that?

Carey Wright: There are and that’s what we’re working on as we speak. So I’m glad you asked about that, because I can’t say enough about the importance of high-quality early childhood education. So the idea of expanding pre-K is huge, and our teachers so deserve a raise. Teachers work very hard each and every day and so we are working to make sure that we get them their money that they’re due.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up