Earlier this month, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) signed legislation that will establish accurate and honest comparisons of graduation rates from high school to high school and district to district. The new law supports the intent of the National Governors Association (NGA) Compact on Graduation Rates, now signed by all state governors, in which governors agreed to begin improving state data collection and implementing a standard 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate.
The NGA Compact was necessary because the U.S. Department of Education had permitted considerable latitude in the way graduation rate data is reported under the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. As a result, many states had taken advantage of that flexibility to mask the severity of their problems when reporting high school graduation rates to parents, residents, and the nation.
However, as Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, noted in his testimony before the Maryland House of Delegates’ Ways and Means Committee, signing the compact was not the end of the hard work. “As a former governor, I realize that the compact is neither a binding agreement nor a self-executing document,” Wise said. “On its face, the compact is simply an agreement between a governor and his colleagues. Without an act by the legislature to codify this commitment, there is no legal obligation for its terms to be honored this year or in future years.”
The legislation was originally introduced by Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez (D) and Maryland Senator Gwendolyn Britt (D). It was developed in collaboration with the Harvard Civil Rights Project and further refined by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Education Trust, and other NGA task force participants.
The Maryland initiative was backed by the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. Working with other interested parties, these two caucuses have also developed model legislation that can be introduced in state legislatures across the country, allowing others to follow Maryland’s exemplary lead on this issue.
“In enacting this legislation, the legislature and Governor Bob Ehrlich made the decision to hold their state accountable for real improvement in its graduation rate—not because the federal government held its feet to the fire, but because it is the right thing to do for all of Maryland’s kids,” Wise said. “Our nation’s future competitiveness and productivity depend on improving our high schools. But to make the right reform decisions, policymakers and educators need accurate, reliable information. Maryland has taken an important step toward that goal, which the rest of the country should applaud and emulate.”
Governor Wise’s complete testimony before the Maryland House of Delegates’ Ways and Means Committee is available here