ANNAPOLIS Maryland's Eastern Shore delegation of the General Assembly learned Friday about the state's plan to revamp its education curriculum to meet the needs of the growing technology economy and heard about funding issues facing community colleges.
The delegation members met with interim State Superintendent of Schools Bernard Sadusky, the former top administrator for Queen Anne's County Public Schools, and Chesapeake College President Barbara Viniar.
Gov. Martin O'Malley continues to hold education as one of the state's top priorities, and Sadusky spoke about how the public school curriculum needs to be changed to make Maryland students more competitive in the job market. For the past four years, Maryland schools have ranked top in the country.
"We are moving to a more rigorous curriculum, statewide," he said.
Sadusky said the world has changed, and the state cannot continue to operate schools on an out-dated curriculum and accountability program. He said globalization has happened and Maryland students must be internationally competitive.
Sadusky wants to see the state advance its math curriculum. He said higher math like Algebra II needs to become a core subject for students, and while statistics show 80 percent of students across the state are taking Algebra II, some districts have higher enrollment rates for advanced math than others.
"I wish I had more trained mathematics teachers certified mathematics teachers in the middle school, because a lot of this is pipeline stuff," Sadusky said.
Sadusky said getting more certified math and science teachers is a challenge due to the private market demand for those with such an education, and changing the state's curriculum takes a lot of work. He said, though, 6,000 teachers were given additional training last summer and another 6,000 will get it this summer.
Sadusky said he thinks preparatory programs for teachers-in-training need to be updated. He said the school administrative model created 50 to 60 years ago of a principal, vice principal and guidance counselor may need to be looked at, as well.
Sadusky said classroom teachers have the toughest job in education and spoke about plans for a new accountability program, in which teachers will be evaluated on quantitative measures involving student achievement along with the classic qualitative measures like lesson plan reviews and classroom observations.
"The issue is not to get rid of teachers. The issue is to make sure that students don't fall through the cracks," said Sadusky of the changes coming to teacher accountability.
Sadusky has seen how students learn differently now and said the state needs to bring more technology into the classrooms. He was impressed to see smartboards in so many classrooms when he visited Easton Elementary School earlier this year.
"Your excitement for education your passion is certainly obvious," Del. Adelaide Eckardt, R-37B-Dorchester, told Sadusky.
The state continues to face budgetary issues, and a pair of proposals changing in part how public education is paid for are of great concern to many county governments. Viniar spoke on how bills involving maintenance of effort funding and shifting the teacher pension burden from the state could affect community colleges.
Viniar said students already are shouldering 37 percent of Chesapeake's budget, while the state and local jurisdictions' share of community college budgets continue to decrease. She said the financial burden is leading students to drop out of Chesapeake.
"Community college, college is not an option anymore. It's a requirement for a decent job," Viniar said.
Bills currently are under consideration in the General Assembly making MOE which calls for counties to keep at least level their per pupil public school funding and to shift a portion of the teacher pensions costs to the counties, both of which Viniar said could lead to less local money for Chesapeake at a critical time.
Viniar said the college is continuing to push for funding from the five counties it serves for a new building housing its nursing program. The nursing program is currently based out of Memorial Hospital at Easton, a location Viniar said will not be available much longer.
With Shore Health planning to build a new regional medical center in Easton, Viniar said the future of Memorial Hospital is uncertain and Shore Health officials have told her they will not continue to have space available for Chesapeake's nursing program after 2017.
"We have been trying to get local funding for our Center for Allied Health and Athletics for two years. If we don't get it by this June, then the $27 million that's already there from the state goes away. We need $9 million from all five counties," she said.