A Baltimore Teachers Union member and an AFT-Maryland staff member testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, February 28 in support of House Bill 978, loosely referred to as the Protect Our Schools Act of 2017. The bill is a follow up of the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In the federal bill, states have the opportunity to craft assessments that are best for measuring the success and achievement of a given school.
Kate Englebrecht of Ben Franklin High School in Baltimore testified in support of the measure. She noted that simple assessments were not the most effective way of measuring all that her school does for the students that attend. She mentioned efforts such as keeping class sizes low, keeping attendance up, and following an intervention strategy proscribed by local leaders to use the community school model. Each initiative has been effective for her school and should be considered when assessing the success of a given school or school system.
AFT-Maryland Political Coordinator Todd Reynolds also testified in support of the bill. A key argument he made was that this legislation was an opportunity to move away from what he called the “test-and-punish” years of No Child Left Behind. Reynolds hopes the General Assembly will see this as an opportunity to scale back the high stakes testing that has run rampant in Maryland and across the United States. He noted some other potential metrics for school assessment included class size, school climate surveys, access to PreK programs or Advanced Placement Courses, industrial certification programs and the opportunity to enroll in Career, Technology, and Education Programs.