Are Md. schools really No. 1? Not so fast

WASHINGTON – For years, Maryland public schools have been the best in the country, but now there are new questions about how they got to the top.

More special education students in Maryland are excluded from the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests than any other state in the country. The Department of Education says that could be inflating the state’s test results.

The Baltimore Sun reports only 34 percent of students with disabilities took the 4th grade assessments — forcing the overall scores to come in seven points higher. Only 40 percent took the 8th grade assessments.

Jason Botel, executive director of the education advocacy group MarylandCAN, says that’s not honest.

“It’s really problematic,” he says. “We have a lot of people hanging their hats on this claim that Maryland public schools are number one in the country, and yet we are an outlier in terms of excluding so many children from the testing. We simply can’t make that claim.”

State officials say schools can exclude students from the tests if they need the questions read to them — an accommodation that isn’t allowed on the NAEP.

But Botel says those students should be evaluated like everyone else.

“I think that children in Maryland with disabilities can achieve at the same level as children in other states. There’s no reason why more children in Maryland need to have the test read to them than in other states,” he says.

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