Mark Uncapher, is serving as President of the Montgomery County Republican Club. Mark is a long-time party activist who previously served as the Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee.
Marylanders Deserve Better than State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury
Time to End the School Test Results Cover-up
Last February Fox 45’s Project Baltimore revealed that 23 Baltimore City Schools had no students testing as proficient on the state math exam. Their story relied on data posted on the State Board of Education website. Then in March, the state uploaded “revised” state test results, and much of the incriminating data was replaced with asterisks. Gone was evidence of the Baltimore City Schools’ failures.[i]
Since then, the Education Department’s ever-changing explanations for the missing data have severely damaged the agency’s credibility. As is sometimes said, sometimes the cover-up is worse than the crime.
Initially, the Department cited “learning challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.” This, of course, offers no explanation for hiding results.
Next came the State Education Department’s new excuse, “enhanced deidentification” to protect student privacy. Previously the State redacted data if the sample size was fewer than ten students. Their new standard involved concealing all testing data where less than 5 percent of students scored proficient and fewer than 30 students took the test.
When that explanation was questioned, Superintendent Choudhury’s office issued a three-page letter concerning Project Baltimore’s reporting. At least six times, the letter said changing the data was federally “required.” But the U.S. Department of Education’s website offers guidelines, not mandates, for protecting student privacy. It also says, “These decisions are left up to the individual State.” [ii]
To which the obvious question asked of state education officials by Fox 45 was, “You’re saying MSDE has been improper for the past 13 years? This is how they have been reporting the data for 13 years, sir. They changed last month.”
Oops. With that, state education officials moved on to their next excuse.
The State Department of Education then blamed its website vendor for posting embargoed data. They said their vendor, the Canton Group, published embargoed data prematurely prior to its being redacted to protect student privacy. Consequently, MSDE claimed that Fox 45 “gained access to the embargoed data that was prematurely posted by the MSDE web vendor.”
Not so, says the vendor in their statement. The Canton Group issued a detailed and forceful rebuttal challenging the State Education Department’s claims. [iii]
Before State Superintendent Choudhury could come up with his next excuse, likely something like his homework-eating dog had posted data on its website, Fox45 News asked Governor Moore if his office knew the State Education Department planned to change how data is released to the public, making less information available.
“We did not,” Moore replied. “The fact there is not the level of coordination between the Department of Education and the Governor’s Office is something that needs to be fixed and addressed. It’s an independent body, an independent structure, and while we respect that, we also want to understand that we’ve got to do better when it comes to being able to present accountable and transparent results in our public education system.”[iv]
Governor Moore’s comments criticizing the Education Department’s lack of accountability and transparency is very encouraging. And while the Governor notes the Department’s independence, he indicates that “coordination” needs to be “fixed.”
The education plan called Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, or Kirwan, will increase state public school spending by at least $3.8 billion per year for the next 10 years. The Kirwan “Blueprint’s” massive spending faces public skepticism because of the lack of accountability measures to track promised improvements.
The string of half-truths, if not outright lies have taken their toll on Superintendent Choudhury’s credibility. His yawning credibility gap further compounds concerns about Blueprint spending accountability.
Given his demonstrated failures and the general loss of confidence in Superintendent Choudhury now stretching across party lines, the State Board of Education members should replace him with a new Superintendent. [v]
An online change.org petition, https://www.change.org/p/protect-local-school-boards-remove-md-state-superintendent-choudhury-from-office, is collecting signatures calling on the State Board of Education to remove him.
The petition says: “Teachers, parents, and local school boards across the state have lost confidence in Superintendent Choudhury’s ability to lead the Maryland State Department of Education. His self-obsession with top-down control has proven him to be incapable of his post and a danger to Maryland students and teachers.
It is for these reasons that we demand the immediate removal of State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury.”