David Steiner, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, has been appointed to the Maryland State Board of Education for a four-year term by Gov. Larry Hogan. His appointment is effective retroactively to July 2016.
Steiner, also a member of the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education and former commissioner of education for the State of New York, said that two issues loom large on the board’s agenda.
First, Maryland must present in the coming year its ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) policies to the U.S. Department of Education. The policies cover many essential aspects of education policy, including how the state will hold schools accountable for student outcomes, ensure an equitable distribution of effective teachers, and partner with districts to turn around the lowest-performing schools.
Second, the board will collaborate with the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education as the Commission works to recommend spending levels and education policies to the state legislature and the governor.
“Ensuring that public funding is effectively tied to policies that truly advance student learning is the core element of our work,” said Steiner.
Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in the country, but its educational outcomes on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are “very average,” he said, and as is the case for other cities with concentrated poverty, the educational outcomes for K-12 students in Baltimore are low on the same measure.
“My colleagues on the board and in the state education department, working together, will craft policies that support more effective instruction for all of our state’s students, with a particular emphasis on those who are most disadvantaged,” he said.
Steiner noted that the work of the Institute for Education Policy is already providing research-based policy counsel on a weekly basis to state education chiefs, district superintendents, and membership bodies such as Chiefs for Change.
“The Institute for Education Policy is fortunate to have been established at the Johns Hopkins School of Education, with its outstanding research capabilities. Our access to cutting-edge findings enables us to evaluate the policy potential of interventions with strong research backing and to judge their practicality and cost,” Steiner explained.
He intends to share that expertise with his colleagues on the school board and with State Superintendent Karen Salmon and her team at the Maryland State Department of Education. The goal is to partner with teachers, school leaders, and parents to improve the educational opportunities of Maryland’s schoolchildren.
He encourages parents of school-age children, and indeed all citizens of the state, to pay attention to the board’s activities, because state education policy makes a “major difference” in the lives of children. In the 1990s, Steiner was a junior member of the team that created what has become known as the “Massachusetts Miracle,” a set of reforms that led to that state’s having the best academic performance in the country and one of the strongest in the world. By contrast, a state’s indifference to education can leave students performing at levels that deprive them of access to college or to a job that provides a living wage.
“There are heroic teachers in every state, but the education of almost a million schoolchildren cannot rely on heroes alone,” said Steiner. “They need excellent clinical preparation, access to great curriculum, outstanding professional development, innovative assessments, planning time, and enlightened school and district leadership. It is our job to help provide these conditions.”