Truthsquad on Maryland schools
Maryland has "America's number one public school system."
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on the state schools system.

Editor Findings

  • Silhouette_sml
    Half True

    In March 2011, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a news release that Maryland has "America's number one public school system." This claim, which was frequently used by O'Malley and other state leaders in campaign speeches, has been questioned by several experts and commentators, who cite evidence that Maryland public schools are behind other states on a number of key measurements.

    After reviewing the evidence and views of our community on this statement, NewsTrust editors find O'Malley's claim to be "HALF-TRUE."

    O'Malley's claim is based in part on research by the newspaper Education Week, which has given Maryland a No. 1 ranking for the past three years, based on 50 indicators, such as test scores, spending figures and graduation rates. Maryland schools also received a No. 1 ranking from the College Board for the state with the highest percentage of graduates who have been successful on Advanced Placement tests. And last year, "Maryland was one of only a dozen states to be awarded a $250 million competitive federal grant, known as "Race to the Top," as noted in a Baltimore Sun editorial. By these measures, the state's schools would appear to be among the nation's best.

    But a number of experts and media commentators have questioned these findings, suggesting that the formula used by Education Week gives too much weight to money spent over student achievement. Other reports suggest that in recent years, many Maryland public school graduates were unprepared for college. State-by-state comparisons of performance on standardized tests place several states ahead of Maryland in student achievement. Thomas B. Fordham Foundation gave relatively low marks to Maryland's standards in English language arts and math. And most observers we spoke to agree that Baltimore City's public schools face serious challenges that seem to contradict O'Malley's claim.

    To learn more about our findings, read our full report on the NewsTrust Baltimore blog.

    More »

Community Findings

Mostly False (2.4)
  • Jon Mitchell
    Jon Mitchell
    I'm trusting the experts on this, rather than the politician, which is admittedly my bias. But it appears from the evidence we've reviewed that, while there have been published, well-publicized statistics to support O'Malley's claim, experts in the field of education are dubious of the methodology and rigor behind those statistics. At best, I think it's a meaningless claim, but I'm willing to recognize a sliver of truth behind O'Malley's statement; at least someone else other than the governor said so.
  • Andrew Hazlett
    Andrew Hazlett
    Not Sure
    After considering all the arguments and evidence collected in the links on this page, my skepticism of this claim has only increased. Still, there's just enough supporting evidence for O'Malley's claim to keep me from labeling it as an outright falsehood. I am very skeptical that any state could make the claim that their schools are "number one" in the nation. Any state-by-state ranking masks profound inequalities and variations among schools within a state's boundaries. Contrary to many reformers' hopes, standards, testing, and statistical measures of achievement have proven all too malleable and fallible. Even if O'Malley's claim is "true" according to some (or even many) measures, I think it's empty and meaningless when paired with the realities in too many schools in Maryland (especially in Baltimore)
  • Mary Hartney
    Mary Hartney
    The claim is technically true, as O'Malley was pointing to a well-known ranking from Education Week. But in looking at Education Week's criteria, as well as other data and anecdotal evidence, I don't find this statement to be completely accurate.
  • Fabrice Florin
    Fabrice Florin
    Not Sure
    After reviewing the links on this page, I find this claim to be half-true at best. The real situation on the ground seems a lot more nuanced than the governor's boastful claim suggests. Depending on which metric is used to measure the performance of Maryland public schools, one can reach very different conclusions about their national rank. The Education Week report is thorough, but doesn't appear to factor actual student performance as much as other criteria. And a number of other credible reports linked here suggest that Maryland schools may in fact behind other states on criteria, like test scores or college readiness. Given the serious challenges faced by public schools in Baltimore City, Gov. O'Malley claim seems particularly misleading -- he would be more likely to earn my trust by avoiding shallow statements like these.
  • Gin Ferrara
    Gin Ferrara
    While the Education Week measures may rank Maryland schools as number one, many factors go into that decision, and the achievement gap is too great for such a high rating. The quote also does not state: "Maryland schools are ranked number one," but that Maryland has "America's number one public school system."
  • Kristin Gorski
    Kristin Gorski
    Not Sure
    What makes a school system #1? Governor O'Malley's claim got me thinking. While the Ed Week report indeed gives Maryland public school system its top score, a a B+, followers Massachusetts and New York received Bs (all other systems received Cs and below). All school systems have individual districts and schools that are sorely in need of improvement -- focusing on broad statements like who is "the best" compared to "the worst" doesn't inform.
  • Caleb Waldorf
    Caleb Waldorf
    Not Sure
  • Howard Libit
    Howard Libit
    The Education Week analysis of states is about the best system that we have for ranking the states. The long-term consistency of Dr. Nancy Grasmick has provided Maryland with the opportunity to enact reforms and see them through, particularly on such issues as student assessments and holding schools (and systems) accountable for achievement and teacher performance. Setting clear, consistent standards is really one of those things that makes the state stand out.
  • Fred Gatlin
    Fred Gatlin
    By one limited survey Maryland is first. If you read The Baltimore Sun Maryland’s Uneducated High School Graduates article if they are first what is happening in other states?
  • Benedicte Florin
    Benedicte Florin
    There is no NUMBER ONE school system. How can you measure the quality? Number one in what? in passing tests? in nr of entries into university? in nr of successful entrepreneurs? in producing happy balanced responsible enterprising and creative adults? in low level of violence at school? people could interpret that statement in any way they want, at least when taken out of context as it is now.
  • Sandy K. Johnson
    Sandy K. Johnson
    Not Sure
  • Marta Hummel Mossburg
    Marta Hummel Mossburg
    If the majority of those students who graduate from Maryland public high schools and then attend a state university need remedial education, a number one ranking is worthless. We only have the stats on students who go to college, what about the majority who do not? Worse, if Maryland is ranked as the best in the country, what is happening in the bottom tier of public school systems as ranked by Ed Week? A number one ranking should reflect student knowledge, not money spent and other inputs. The fact that the press in general has not questioned the Ed Week ranking means reporters are failing journalism 101.
  • Eric Newton
    Eric Newton
    If he said they are rated number one, he's speaking accurately, because that's a fact. If he says they "are" number one, he's offering an opinion that may be true or it may be false, Since he's offering an opinion, I'll offer the opposite one. I'd agree with the critics that different metrics will produce different results, and thus, I predict, some day in the future, when better information is at hand, this will be found to be false. Another opinion: Since people chose schools based on individual school districts, not states, the whole thing is a bunch of media hype. But still a good thing if it gets people talking about the high dropout rate and other educational issue.
  • Bob Herrschaft
    Bob Herrschaft
    Not Sure
    Political rhetoric can't readily be verified when using terms like "number one"(i.e. best). How do we define "number one? Even two Phds in education are likely to have a completely different definition. Do we go by the number of graduates that go onto higher educational institutions, some of which are sham factories of propaganda, or do we look at the approach to the individual student's capacity to enhance his or her aptitude for learning?
  • Khalilah Harris
    Khalilah Harris
    The state of Baltimore City schools, Prince George's County schools, schools in NW Baltimore County, etc. are evidence of this claim being questionable. I need evidence of a measure that pairs MD scores with states who use similar tests, rates family engagement, student success post high school, massive reduction of achievement gap on a school by school basis, and a large percentage of its most decrepit school buildings in good condition to agree with this. Being #1 with two of the wealthiest counties in the country is so very easy. Further, there is little to no evidence of efforts or reform that reduce poverty at a rate that would impact the necessary family investment in eliminating low expectations for children.
  • Carlos R. Candelaria
    Carlos R. Candelaria
  • Lawrence Lanahan
    Lawrence Lanahan
    Not Sure
    True in the sense that Maryland ended up ranking first in Education Week's last Quality Counts report. False in the sense that Education Week is not the last word on school quality and in the sense that no context was given--for instance, that there is serious inequality among these #1 schools, or that the grade that got Maryland that ranking was a B+ (does Governor O'Malley want his own kids to get B pluses or As?). And in the sense that lists and rankings are explicitly media bait, especially when coming from high-ranking officials. There are so many families in Maryland with kids in public schools who I'm sure would raise their eyebrows at O'Malley's claim. That's where the story is.
  • Joel Kulenkamp
    Joel Kulenkamp
    Not Sure
    Too simplistic and judgemental
  • J. B. Van Wely
    J. B. Van Wely
    I live in Baltimore. The schools are improving, and the system is trying a lot of inovative approaches. But this recent and the city has a long way to go.
  • Chip Molter
    Chip Molter
    False Providing effective education to young people inside Baltimore CIty is not an easy issue by any means. It is intertwined with so many other issues facing the city and its inhabitants. However, as long as Baltimore City and Anne Arrundel school systems occupy a second tier status within the state, it is difficult for the residents of those school districts to cheer along with the Governor as he congratulates himself for the fortune of the rest of the state's educational success.
  • Dwight Rousu
    Dwight Rousu
    Not Sure
    Finland has the number one world public school system, and it is absolutely 180 degrees different from the Republican/Obama/Gates direction that is being foisted upon the US education system. Since the US comes in at number 24, why worry about Maryland?
  • Warrior Wheatman
    Warrior Wheatman
    Not Sure
  • Christopher Siple
    Christopher Siple
  • no name
    no name
  • David Dresser
    David Dresser
    Not Sure
  • Robin Osborne McMullen
    Robin Osborne McMullen
    Two things: first, a politician made the statement and politicians are notoriously unconcerned with empirical evidence. Second, the claim would be difficult to prove, even if were true.
  • Bruce Goldfarb
    Bruce Goldfarb
    Not Sure
    It depends on the measures. A few outstanding schools (Howard County) can skew the results.
  • Neil Bergsman
    Neil Bergsman
    The latest Education Week ratings place Maryland at the top of the fifty states for the third year in a row, with an overall grade of B+. People can ague forever about whether Education Week has selected the right mix of indicators to include in its grade, and how much the state’s leaders have to do with Maryland’s score. There are a few findings that are clear: Maryland has, on average, a very good public school system, with good outcomes in test scores, college attendance rates, AP classes, and other important measures. The quality and productivity of Maryland’s workforce is a big part of Maryland’s success, and the accomplishments of the public schools are a big contributor to our workforce quality. However, the quality of the schools is very uneven. Some of the nation’s best schools are in Maryland’s DC Suburbs, but Maryland also harbors some “education deserts.” Adequate funding AND continued improvements in educational practices and accountability are critical to assuring Maryland’s continued success and to closing the achievement gaps.
  • Jack Dinkmeyer
    Jack Dinkmeyer
    Having only flown into Baltimore several times, I have no scientific basis for my answer. I chose "False" only because the assertion is based on the utterances of a politician.
  • Frank Whitman
    Frank Whitman
  • Mehmet Ekrem Koseterzi
    Mehmet Ekrem Koseterzi
  • Patricia W. Neal
    Patricia W. Neal
  • Bob Calder
    Bob Calder
    Education Week is NOT A METRIC!!!! MI and MN are in top ten worldwide in lower grades math on TIMSS. Wonder which of the many metrics he decided to use? But for sure nobody can be best in every measurement. Isn't your university system *part* of your public school system? The state's education budget says so. Then California and Michigan have a huge advantage.
  • Ajendra Ray
    Ajendra Ray
  • Daniel Callahan
    Daniel Callahan
  • Felix
    Not Sure
  • Nicholas Hartranft
    Nicholas Hartranft
    Not Sure
  • tosin adesina
    tosin adesina
    i just tend to believe on that... because basically as you can see it is possible by looking at its fact and statistic. thank you
  • Steve Spacek
    Steve Spacek
    In the 1990's-early 2000's, worked for state contractor that graded the Maryland Writing Test (required for HS graduation), which is not as rigorous, much easier to pass than similar tests in most other states (graded those states, too!). Secondly, Marylanders are rated poorly for Knowledge of Basic Road Laws by the GMAC Drivers Test, and another credible media outlet reported MD rated one of America's most violent states. How can ANY state have #1 public schools if supposed graduates are coming out of them physically violent and, under a state of functional iliteracy while operating a motor vehicle? I believe this ranking is a partisan political media ploy, since O'Malley is currently a national Democrat Party leader/Chair.
  • Kwstas Tozhs
    Kwstas Tozhs
  • Kyle Leslie
    Kyle Leslie
    Not Sure
    I think MOM should be happy that Ed. Week is grading on a curve. Much of the success in this area must be attributed to Grasmick, MOM's BFF. Now that she has gone, what happens next will be interesting. A few things to roll into this study. More private school students are being forced into the ranks of public schools due to family finances. Generally speaking, the extra pull on resources is offset by the quality of the student. Another factor is the growth of homeschooling. That means fewer students in the classroom, still get the tax money from the household and if the student does take placement exams....the public system can use those scores!
  • Jerome Freehill
    Jerome Freehill
  • Gabby Knighton
    Gabby Knighton
  • Heidi OMara
    Heidi OMara
  • Charles H. Patterson
    Charles H. Patterson
  • Virginia Kortenkamp
    Virginia Kortenkamp
  • William Davis
    William Davis
  • Honah Lee
    Honah Lee
  • Gary DeWayne Telford
    Gary DeWayne Telford
  • Michael P Scott
    Michael P Scott
  • Diallo Dabney
    Diallo Dabney
  • Edith Rose Chambers
    Edith Rose Chambers
  • Alan Mclaughlin
    Alan Mclaughlin
  • Ruth Ann Harnisch
    Ruth Ann Harnisch
  • Marian Clinton
    Marian Clinton
  • Donna Hansen
    Donna Hansen
  • ydkyglghk41
  • glasseshotsale
    True, Tom Ford Sunglasses Carla Graduated deep grey Description
  • Dillon Buckelew
    Dillon Buckelew
  • Jonathan Caso
    Jonathan Caso
  • William Baldree
    William Baldree
  • Elizabeth Evelyn
    Elizabeth Evelyn


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