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Maryland Creates “Shadow” State Education Department, But Why?

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In this opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun, Kalman R. Hettleman describes the creation in Maryland of a new state agency that has the same functions as the Maryland State Department of Education and the power to override local control. This agency is supposed to guarantee “accountability,” but it’s limitless power leaves many unanswered questions.

A bombshell, with uncertain force, is about to land on school reform in Maryland. It’s the startup in the next several weeks of the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) created under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. More than any other part of the blueprint, the AIB is a radical experiment in school governance — untested anywhere in the U.S. — with virtually limitless authority to make or break school reform for generations to come.

The AIB’s super-muscle comes from its unambiguous power to fully govern public schools. This means it can usurp the functions of the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and control local school policies.

As a member of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (known as the Kirwan Commission) that drafted the blueprint, I favored the concept of the AIB. I still do. But I recognized that opponents, though some were overwrought, had a point. The seven-member board, to be appointed by the governor from a list of nine persons just selected by the AIB nominating committee, could actually cause more bureaucracy and less accountability, unless it acts wisely.

Predictably, formidable political groups opposed such a drastic departure from current law and practice. The MSDE board, state superintendent and local school district boards and superintendents argued that they would be micromanaged; in the process, they said, local control — so sacrosanct for so long — would be emasculated.

In addition, Maryland just appointed a State Superintendent with impeccable reform credentials.

Read the article. If you understand why the state is creating a powerful new agency to run its schools, please let me know.

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