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.