BALTIMORE (WBFF) — The public may soon learn more about student test results that were heavily redacted after Fox45 News began reporting on low scores.
The Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, in his first interview with Project Baltimore, said the school board will discuss the matter next month.
As Project Baltimore approached Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury Tuesday at the Board of Education meeting in Baltimore, a police officer blocked our path, attempting to stop us from speaking with Choudhury.
But Project Baltimore was there to get answers, and for the first time, the state superintendent agreed to do an interview.
“Chris, Chris, I’ll talk to you for five minutes. I got to meet with the president,” State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury told Project Baltimore Reporter Chris Papst.
The state school board’s monthly meeting is where the public can hear what’s happening in their schools. But the parents, taxpayers, and lawmakers who want more information on why state test scores were heavily redacted will have to wait another month.
“We will put it on the agenda. It will be discussed. We will talk about some of those matters in June,” Maryland Board of Education President Clarence Crawford told Project Baltimore Tuesday.
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This all began back in January, when state test results, known as MCAP scores, were posted on the Maryland State Department of Education’s website. Shortly after Fox45 News began reporting the results, the data was taken down. When the results were reposted in March, many were replaced with asterisks, making it impossible for the public to see how some schools are performing. The change sparked an outcry.
“It's hiding the truth from parents,” Delegate Kathy Szeliga, who represents Baltimore County, told Project Baltimore in April.
“The state Education Department is instituting a cover-up of what's going on in public schools, it’s outrageous,” said Sean Kennedy from the Maryland Public Policy Institute in April.
MSDE said in a statement it was following federal law and using “enhanced deidentification” to protect student privacy because of “learning challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic”. But federal laws have not changed. MSDE made this decision on its own.
With many questions still unanswered, Project Baltimore tried to speak with State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury at last April’s board meeting, but he locked himself behind a door.
ALSO READ | Maryland Schools Superintendent dodges transparency questions, locks himself behind door
One month later, we tried again. And at this month’s board meeting, the State Superintendent and the Board President Clarence Crawford spoke with Project Baltimore.
“We’ve been trying to get interviews with you and talk to you for weeks now, over a month, about this topic,” said Papst.
Choudhury replied, “Chris, I’ve given you all kinds of responses, respectfully.”
But MSDE’s responses have led to more questions.
“Was MSDE in violation of federal law prior to March with the way the data was being reported?” Papst asked Tuesday.
“No, MSDE was not in violation of federal law,” Choudhury replied.
Papst followed up, “Then why was the data changed?”
“Cause we’re applying, we have a new test and we have shifting ‘n’ sizes,” Choudhury replied.
It quickly became clear Project Baltimore wouldn’t be getting any new information from MSDE.
“Chris, this has all been laid out for you,” Choudhury told Papst.
“And you’ve seen the IG report so, and you know, so where we stand,” added Crawford.
“The IG report simply said that you could do it, we’re asking why did you do it?” replied Papst.
The Maryland Inspector General of Education released a report earlier this month confirming what Project Baltimore already reported, that “States have the discretion to choose and implement methods” to protect student privacy. This means the state chose to make less information available to the public.
Tuesday’s exchange lasted a little over four minutes, with President Crawford often answering for the superintendent.
“Do you have anything new that you would like to ask us about?” Crawford asked.
“Baltimore City schools is currently, on their website, they are posting the MCAP data the way it was originally posted in January,” replied Papst. “Are they in violation of federal law?”
“Do you have anything else that you would like to ask us?” Crawford replied.
“That is a new question,” said Papst.