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Del. Maggie McIntosh. (file)

New Md. test scores may highlight need for better college prep

When new test scores assessing whether Maryland high school students are prepared for college are released later this month, officials say the news is likely to be bad.

It’s also likely to spark serious discussion among lawmakers in Annapolis about remedial education in Maryland and how to improve college readiness, state Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Democrat from Baltimore City, told University System of Maryland leaders.

The system’s Board of Regents held its annual retreat Friday in Baltimore, where the regents were joined by the leadership of the system’s member institutions.

“This will be huge topic of discussion [in Annapolis],” McIntosh said during a panel discussion on how the state’s fiscal situation might affect higher education. She was joined by state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, a Democrat from Howard County, and Craig Williams, chief of staff to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

The need for remedial education – where college students must take additional classes to prepare them for standard, college-level coursework – is tremendous in the Baltimore area, McIntosh said.  But it was important for the state to find a way for students who need remedial education to take place even before those students get to community college, she said.

McIntosh’s comments came in response to a question from Regent Norman R. Augustine, who asked how Maryland could solve the problem of sending unprepared students to college.

The release of PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, scores will likely draw a lot of attention to the issue in the state, McIntosh said.

The PARCC test, which assessed proficiency in English language arts and literacy and in mathematics, was administered to students for the first time in the 2014-2015 school year.  Students in grades 3 through 11 took the test, which replaced the Maryland School Assessment and High School Assessment, or MSA and HSA tests in those subjects.

“The new test results are going to show that we’re going to need a lot of help,” said University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski III.

All three members of the panel said that Maryland would enter the fiscal 2017 budget cycle on more stable footing that it had in previous years.

Kasemeyer, who chairs the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee, said it will be nice to begin the cycle without the same structural deficit the state has faced for the last 10 years or so.

McIntosh, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said she expected a return to “normal spending” and “normal intake of revenues” and that she believed the state will have revenues to cover current expenses.

Williams described Hogan’s outlook as “cautiously optimistic about where we are financially” and told the regents and university officials that the governor believed the state’s higher education system was a huge economic engine for the state.

Maryland ended fiscal 2015 with a $295.3 million budget surplus, driven by income tax collections that exceeded projections and reduced state spending.

But Kasemeyer cautioned that the agendas of the governor and the legislature were still “at loggerheads,” with the executive branch concerned about making the states regulatory climate hospitable and reducing taxes and lawmakers concerned about income inequality and the middle class.

Staff writer Bryan P. Sears contributed to this story.