For the second consecutive year, Anne Arundel County Public Schools has been recognized with a national award for its efforts to increase equity in the quest to elevate all students and eliminate all gaps.
The school system is one of five across the nation with student populations of 20,000 or more to earn a first place Magna Award from the National School Boards Association and its flagship magazine, American School Board Journal. The awards recognize innovative programs that “are working to remove barriers to achievement for underserved and vulnerable students,” according to the NSBA.
There are more than 13,500 public school systems in the United States. Of those, AACPS is one of just two with enrollments of 20,000 or more students to earn back-to-back Magna Awards in the last decade and the only one to be recognized in each of the last two years.
“A year ago we were honored for our intentional focus on increasing our ninth-grade promotion rate, an initiative that has a direct result on our graduation rate,” Superintendent George Arlotto said. “I could not be more pleased that this year, the work of our Office of Equity and Accelerated Student Achievement has been highlighted on the national stage. The work that Dr. Maisha Gillins and her team do with schools is largely done behind the scenes, but it is critical to propelling our students every day. We are not only creating more equitable climates, we are continuing to accelerate student achievement. That is the ultimate goal of any school system.”
The award specifically highlights the Office of Equity and Accelerated Student Achievement’s creation of the Equity Lead Program, which designates a faculty member in every school who is committed to the work of equitable practices and eliminating achievement and opportunity gaps. Equity Leads analyze data by student groups to support school improvement efforts and equitable practices, provide leadership in establishing schoolwide professional development goals and initiatives, and are responsible for planning and organizing at least two parent involvement opportunities that educate and empower parents in how they can support equitable practices.
Due in large part to the work of Equity Leads, AACPS saw significant increases in the percentages of students in underrepresented groups who scored proficient on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers in English 10 in the 2016-2017 school year (the most recent data available prior to the award submission application). The percentage of African-American students who scored proficient on the 2017 assessment increased 9.8 percentage points from the year before. AACPS also saw a 4.7 percentage point increase for students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, a 4.6 percentage point increase for special education students, and a 3.0 percentage point increase for Hispanic students.
“We are extremely proud of the work that our office is able to do, but we are only able to do so with the support of our Board, our colleagues, and our communities,” Dr. Gillins said. “Equitable practices bring to life the foremost value in our Strategic Plan: All Means All.”
All 18 winners are profiled in the April issue of the American School Board Journal.