Maryland students have seen unprecedented disruption since March 2020. Despite the heroic efforts of teachers, education support professionals, and administrators the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis have harmed many students’ social, emotional and physical well-being on top of weakening their access to in-person classroom instruction and other learning opportunities. While the pandemic affected, and is continuing to affect, Maryland communities everywhere, it disproportionately impacted already disadvantaged communities and widened existing achievement gaps. Across the state, the number of failing grades have doubled and even tripled in some instances. Unsurprisingly, our Black and Latinx families have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Just in Montgomery County, we saw double-digit percentage increases in failing grades during the first quarter of last year among students in poverty, especially Latinx and Black students in poverty and English language learners.
Even before the pandemic, nearly half of Maryland’s Black and Latinx students attended school in one of the state’s three most underfunded districts. Students attending schools that served the highest concentrations of students of color were twice as likely to have first-year teachers, meaning they missed out on the benefits of learning from experienced educators. Low-income students, Black students and Latino students were less likely to be proficient in reading and math and ultimately less likely to enroll in college.
While the pandemic worsened opportunity and achievement gaps, it didn’t create them, and they won’t end after it’s over unless we take action. That’s why John believes we need to quickly seize the opportunity for recovery and use it not just to get us back to where we were pre-pandemic, but create long-term improvements that address pre-existing inequalities too long ignored.
As part of a statewide, multi-year recovery plan for our schools, John will:
Develop a statewide Student Support Corps, to allow adults to provide Maryland students with academic, social and emotional support.
- Introduce a Maryland Student Support Corps that would recruit, train, pay and coach adults, including recent college graduates and retired teachers, to work with small groups of students throughout the school year and continue working with them over multiple years.
- Using Americorps and other funds, the Student Support Corps will build on the Blueprint’s commitment to small group tutoring; students with the greatest needs will get more individualized support.
- Through the Student Support Corps, build a stable talent pipeline of diverse educators for our school system by offering well-paid positions that will draw diverse and talented individuals interested in education from across Maryland.
Provide all students with additional learning and enrichment activities, during the school year and over the summer.
- Work with teachers, community members and school system leaders to provide additional learning opportunities for Maryland students, that include both academic and enrichment activities, and keep teachers and school staff involved in designing the program every step of the way.
- Provide generous compensation to teachers and education support professionals for their time and valuable input in creating the process.
- Provide summer Acceleration and Enrichment Camps every year for students to enroll in, which will be voluntary summer educational programs that provide academic support in math and reading along with elective subjects like theater, sports and technology, all staffed by professional educators.
Support and improve the mental and physical health of Maryland’s students, their families and educators.
- Guarantee access to high-quality mental health services from licensed professionals to every child, family, teacher and administrator in Maryland schools.
- Provide 24-hour access to telemedicine so students, families, and school staff can privately and virtually access help from mental health providers in a stigma-free environment.
- Expand access to school-based health services, particularly in the highest need communities.
- Continue applying for federal waivers as Maryland has done throughout the pandemic to keep benefiting from federal pandemic food assistance programs for students that typically qualify for the National School Lunch Program.
- Make sure school districts whose nutrition program revenues have dropped during the crisis get appropriate financial support so that every child who needs a meal gets one, no matter where they live.
- Ramp up our physical education programs, support extracurricular programs that enhance student health, and support districts as they implement the healthy eating components of Maryland’s state standards for health education.