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Maryland is experiencing a dire teacher shortage. Can the Blueprint plan help?

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Maryland is experiencing a dire teacher shortage. Can the Blueprint plan help?


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Fifth-grade teacher Melissa Carpenter works a 10-hour day on average during the week, and her job sometimes requires her to put in hours on weekends, too.

“I feel like teaching is one of those jobs where we go to work to do more work — to do work after work,” said Carpenter, who teaches at William B. Wade Elementary School in Waldorf, in Charles County.

Carpenter’s long hours are far from unique among Maryland’s educators, as the state and nation grapple with a teacher shortage.

The U.S. Department of Education keeps a Teacher Shortage Areas database — and it found that for the current school year, Maryland was short of teachers in 28 subjects, which the state defines as “areas of certification.” That’s up from 17 five years earlier. Some teacher certification areas — such as English as a second language, health science and special education — are short on teachers from pre-K through the 12th grade.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – a landmark state law reforming public education — aims to fix that problem by “elevating the stature of the teaching profession” through higher pay, better training and stronger recruitment efforts.

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However, experts and educators have mixed views about whether that will successfully address the root causes of the shortage.

“Money is a huge help, but it’s not everything,” said Simon Birenbaum, director of grading, assessment and scheduling at Baltimore City Public Schools. “Human capital is the biggest issue, and money can help with that problem, but recruiting, training and retaining high-quality teachers and staff has to be the primary focus. No amount of money can compensate for a lack of highly-skilled educators.”

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Maryland’s teacher shortage problem mirrors national trends

Maryland’s teacher woes follow national trends. The National Center for Education Statistics reported 86% of U.S. K-12 public schools faced challenges in hiring teachers for the current school year.

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Amid the shortage, the Blueprint calls for hiring an unspecified number of additional teachers to ease the workload of classroom veterans.

“You hear a lot about the teacher shortage — and how are we going to implement all these Blueprint programs, which require additional staffing, when we have a teacher shortage?” asked Addie Kaufman, executive director of the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals.

Shortages stem, in part, from the fact that teachers are leaving the profession. In Prince George’s County, 1,126 teachers resigned between July 2022 and July 2023 — up from 989 the previous year, The Washington Post reported. Meanwhile, 625 resigned in Montgomery County Public Schools, up from 576 a year earlier.Dorchester County experienced the highest attrition rate in Maryland during the 2021-22 school year at 18%, according to a Department of Education report.

“I used to never have people just quit in the middle of the year,” said Dorchester County Superintendent Dave Bromwell, who recently retired. “The pandemic told some people, you know what? If you’re not happy, move on.”

All those factors end up impacting teachers like Carpenter. She said her grade level saw an influx of students, with around 30 students in her own fifth grade class this year.

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“Our class sizes are growing, and we don’t have the support in place to help some of our struggling learners,” she said.

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Teacher numbers have been declining since the ’70s

Schools are suffering from a long-term decline in the number of people interested in becoming teachers.

That decline has been ongoing since the mid-‘70s, “but it gets worse and worse and worse, year over year,” said Mike Hansen, an education policy expert at the Brookings Institution.

According to the State Department of Education, 9,134 people were enrolled in teacher preparation programs in the state in 2012. That number plummeted by about half by 2017, but rose to 6,037 by 2020.

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Why is teaching becoming less appealing as a career? Zid Mancenido, a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has been studying that issue.

“One of the major findings of my research has been that people are taught over time that teaching isn’t a great career,” he said in a 2022 interview on the school’s website. “There are all these tiny interactions they have over their lifetime that give them this feeling that teaching isn’t approved, that they should be aspiring to other careers that might be more prestigious or well-paid.”

Amid the shortage, many schools hire less-credentialed “conditional” teachers — those who have not yet received their professional certifications. Maryland’s issuance of conditional certificates more than doubled between 2018 to 2022, a state Department of Education report said.

In Charles County, where Carpenter works, 12.4% of all teachers held conditional certificates by 2021 – a rate only surpassed by Baltimore City (13.4%) and Prince George’s County (14.3%).

Carpenter said experienced teachers are leaned on to help the conditional hires.

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“Which would be fine if you had one or two teachers who needed that support. But we have a massive amount of teachers who are conditional right now,” she said.

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Maryland’s Blueprint initiative increases teacher pay

In order to address the teacher shortage, the Blueprint provides a number of measures that lawmakers hope will encourage people to become teachers and ensure that existing ones don’t leave for more lucrative out-of-state positions – or exit the profession altogether.

A key Blueprint initiative increases teacher pay to a minimum of $60,000 by 2026. In some counties, that means a nearly $15,000 pay bump for new teachers.

David Larner, chief human resource and professional development officer at the Howard County Public School System, said the pay raise will attract teachers from other states and build up Maryland’s teacher workforce.

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“If our salaries are higher than salaries in surrounding states … then candidates are more likely to come,” Larner explained.

However, Hansen, of the Brookings Institution, expressed skepticism about the likely impact of the measure on the state’s teacher shortage.

Hansen argued that rather than a universal rise in minimum salary levels, money should be targeted where it’s needed the most – attracting teacher talent in high-need schools and specialized fields like STEM subjects and special education. He also highlighted research that suggests salary is just one of many factors that can lead to teacher attrition.

“I think we need to be paying teachers more – I don’t think paying a $60,000 minimum wage is the way to do it,” he said.

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Blueprint offers teacher salary increases for key certification

The Blueprint also aims to improve teacher quality by encouraging educators to obtain additional training.

The plan provides for a salary increase of $10,000 for teachers who become National Board Certified, an advanced teaching credential that fewer than 6% of Maryland teachers held at the start of 2023, according to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Teachers in high-need areas may see their annual salaries increase by up to $17,000 by becoming certified.

“We want to professionalize the career of teaching, and I think that is absolutely what we should be doing,” said Stephanie Novak Pappas, principal of the Holabird Academy, an elementary and middle school in Baltimore.

However, Hansen questioned the Blueprint’s emphasis on National Board certification.

“We don’t have a lot of evidence that actually getting your NBC makes you a better teacher,” Hansen said.

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The Blueprint also calls on school districts to create a diverse workforce. The Accountability and Implementation Board – which oversees the Blueprint – will evaluate those efforts.

A diverse workforce has significant benefits, according to David Blazar, an education policy expert at the University of Maryland.

Blazar said that increasing the share of Black teachers has “exceptionally large impacts on students’ short and long term outcomes,” he said. “I’d say some of the largest impacts I’ve seen across all of the educational intervention literature.”

But maximizing the benefits of a more diverse workforce will be complicated, Blazar said. Even if the state’s teacher workforce came to match the demographics of its students, there would likely still be “clustering of Black teachers within certain districts, and within certain schools within districts,” he said.

Hansen echoed those concerns, and said that teachers nationwide remain even more racially segregated than students. Rather than aiming to make the teachers within individual districts reflect the exact racial demographics as their students, he suggested that policymakers should “maximize exposure and access to a diverse set of teachers for every student” across different regions.

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What comes next as Maryland battles teacher shortage?

Beyond the Blueprint, the General Assembly last year passed the Maryland Educator Shortage Reduction Act, which requires the state to set recruitment goals for teacher education programs, creates an alternative teacher prep program for early childhood educators and establishes a $20,000 yearly stipend for eligible student teachers.

Gov. Wes Moore, who proposed the legislation, said upon signing it that it is intended to place “world class teachers in every classroom.”

Carpenter, the Charles County teacher, said future changes may be necessary, too.

“We will have new students next year, and they will [have] different needs. So we need to make sure that we are constantly evolving,” she said.

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Meanwhile, Sparkle Jefferson, an assistant principal at Flintstone Elementary School in Prince George’s County, stressed that reinforcing the teacher workforce is key to the Blueprint’s overall success.

“It lands in the hands of our educators, and if we don’t have educators who are highly qualified or able to do the work, then the Blueprint work would never get accomplished,” she said.

Local News Network Director Jerry Zremski contributed to this report.



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Carey Wright will continue to lead Maryland schools, state board announces

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Carey Wright will continue to lead Maryland schools, state board announces


The Maryland State Board of Education on Wednesday appointed Carey Wright, a former Mississippi schools chief who started her career in the D.C. region, to serve as the next state superintendent of schools.

Wright, the current interim state superintendent, will be charged with steering the department of education as it implements the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a landmark education law that funnels billions into public schools in hopes of making the state’s education system one of the best in the nation.

“Growing up in Maryland and spending a majority of my career in Maryland, I knew how good our schools were, and I also know how much better we can be,” Wright said after the vote.

In Maryland, the State Board of Education hires the superintendent, and the governor appoints members to that board. Gov. Wes Moore (D) has so far appointed six people to the 14-member board. Wright was unanimously approved by the state board members present; one member was absent.

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Wright was named interim state superintendent in October, after former state superintendent of schools Mohammed Choudhury lost support from the board.

An investigation by The Washington Post last year found that several former staffers alleged that Choudhury created a “toxic” work environment that drove out his former lieutenants and dozens of veterans in the education agency. Former employees alleged that he had a pattern of micromanagement that held up important work, and several district leaders quietly expressed confusion about the Blueprintand other guidance from the department. Choudhury said the former employees could not embrace change.

Since Choudhury’s departure, Wright has been guiding the state’s education department, which oversees 24 school districts with about 890,000 students enrolled. She was tasked by the state board with developing a literacy policy that would incorporate more elements of the “science of reading,” a methodology that places an emphasis on phonics while teaching kids how to read. The board set a goal of getting Maryland to place among the top 10 states in reading on the fourth- and eighth-grade National Assessment for Educational Progress, or NAEP — a standardized test sometimes called “the gold standard” of student assessment — by 2027.

The state ranked 40th in the nation in fourth grade reading on the most recent NAEP assessment. It ranked 25th for eighth graders.

Wright has had success boosting performance. She is known in the education world as the Mississippi superintendent who raised student reading and math performance in a state that for decades received low scores on the NAEP.

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Wright is a homegrown Maryland educator. She started her career in Prince George’s County Public Schools — the state’s second largest school system. She also served stints within the Howard and Montgomery county school systems, before becoming the chief academic officer and deputy chief for the D.C. Public Schools’ Office of Teaching and Learning.

In 2013, she was named Mississippi’s state superintendent of education. She retired from that post in 2022.

She will start her four-year term in Maryland on July 1.

This story will be updated.



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Officer Who Died In I-695 Crash Was Off-Duty: Police

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Officer Who Died In I-695 Crash Was Off-Duty: Police


BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD — The police officer who died this weekend in an Interstate 695 crash was off-duty, Patch confirmed Wednesday.

The Maryland State Police identified the victim as 36-year-old Anthony Gregory Ward of Rosedale.

The Baltimore Police Department said Ward was an active member of the city’s SWAT unit.

Find out what’s happening in Perry Hallwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

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“This is a terrible loss for Officer Ward’s family, his team members and the Baltimore Police Department on the whole,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley said in a press release. “My heart goes out to his loved ones. The Department extends its support and sympathies to them at this time.”

Find out what’s happening in Perry Hallwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

State police said the fatal crash happened Saturday around 4:30 p.m. on the inner loop of I-695 before the Jones Falls Expressway.

Troopers said Ward was driving a 2023 GMC Savana van when he changed lanes and ran into the back of a 1989 Ford tow truck.

Medics pronounced Ward dead at the scene, state police said.

“Our deepest condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, and the entire community mourning the loss of BPD’s SWAT member, Officer Anthony Ward,” the Baltimore Police Department said on Facebook. “May he rest in peace, and may the memories he’s created with his loved ones be eternal.”

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This map shows the area where troopers said the crash happened.


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Maryland’s education mandate is a blueprint for disaster; dangers of tianeptine | READER COMMENTARY

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Maryland’s education mandate is a blueprint for disaster;  dangers of tianeptine | READER COMMENTARY


Education mandate is blueprint for disaster

Recent polling indicates a broad-based endorsement of Maryland’s Blueprint for the Future, but beneath the surface, questions and concerns about this ambitious plan are mounting.

The Blueprint, designed to revamp Maryland’s education system, holds appeal in its promise to improve public education. The issue, however, isn’t with the idea of better education; who doesn’t want that? The real problem is with the Blueprint’s high cost and inadequate funding structure, leaving taxpayers and county governments grappling with how to foot the bill.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s initial veto of the Blueprint, which was overridden, foreshadowed the fiscal challenges we’re seeing today. With a Maryland General Assembly session that ended without substantial action to address these concerns, the looming question remains: How will we pay for the Blueprint? This is a question that state legislators and policymakers have yet to satisfactorily answer.

The Blueprint’s financial burden is being transferred to counties, which are forced to make cuts to crucial programs to meet the new mandates. In Harford County, this translates to reduced funding for safety and security, special education, magnet schools, class sizes, world languages, arts and music, athletics, and extracurricular activities. Harford County is not alone. Counties across Maryland are struggling to maintain these cherished education programs as limited resources are redirected to support Blueprint initiatives.

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A fiscal briefing released in January by the state Department of Legislative Services paints a stark picture. It predicts that Maryland will confront a structural deficit commencing in fiscal 2025, which will skyrocket to nearly $2.93 billion by 2029. This aligns with the projected cost of implementing the Blueprint, which is set to surpass $4 billion by 2029. Maryland’s ranking of 46th in the 2023 State Business Tax Climate Index underscores the severe repercussions of raising taxes to meet these demands. Further tax hikes potentially could drive both businesses and residents out of the state, exacerbating the financial predicament.

The Blueprint is an unfunded mandate that strips local boards of education of their autonomy, imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to education that doesn’t consider the unique needs of different counties. It also risks bankrupting local governments and undercuts community-driven initiatives that could offer more tailored solutions to educational challenges.

As much as we all desire to enhance public education, the Blueprint in its current form is not the solution. It jeopardizes the very essence of local control and poses a significant financial threat to the state’s future. Maryland legislators must scrutinize this plan and strive to restore control to local boards of education. Otherwise, we will confront a much graver crisis in the future, with irreversible harm to both our education system and our economy. It’s high time for Annapolis to reevaluate and devise a blueprint that is sustainable, adaptable, and respects local governance.

— Aaron Poynton

Poynton is the president of the Harford County Board of Education. The opinions expressed here are personal and don’t necessarily represent the views of the board or Harford County Public Schools.

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Dangers of tianeptine

“They’re selling that stuff at the smoke shop near us,” Bryan, my coworker said. “I’ve been told it’s highly addictive, causes seizures and many bad side effects, and overdoses, even death.”

Bryan taught me about tianeptine.  Marketed as a dietary supplement and energy drink (which means the federal Food & Drug Administration can’t regulate its sales), it’s sold in smoke shops, convenience stores, gas stations, and online right here in Harford County. Brand names include Za Za, Neptune’s Fix, Pegasus, Tianna Red, White Magic, and at least a half dozen others.  It’s sold in fancy flavors with appealing colors.

Outlawed in Florida, Ohio, Michigan and six other states, tianeptine pills and liquids are sold in Maryland.  There’s no age restriction to purchase, no health warnings on the labels and no warning signs at stores where it’s sold — often in boxes of 12 bottles each.

The FDA has issued alerts and press releases warning about the dangers of tianeptine.  Poison centers in many states report a dramatic increase in the number of calls from users and families about the life-threatening incidents of its use.

I purchased a 15-capsule bottle of Za Za in Aberdeen.  It cost $32.  A .338 fluid ounce of Neptune’s Fix costs $19.  Like most addictive substances, the more a person uses, the more tolerance he develops and has to use more the next time.

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The encouraging news is that two of our delegates — Teresa Reilly and Steve Johnson — co-sponsored H.B. 1230, the “Tianeptine Consumer Protection Act.”  It passed the House and Senate and now awaits Gov. Wes Moore’s signature.

Our county and city councils, health departments, and all policymakers should consider immediate action to ban or restrict the sale of any tianeptine products.

— Don Mathis, Havre de Grace

Mathis is a certified peer recovery specialist at Voices of Hope in Aberdeen



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