Former University System of Maryland chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan will lead a new commission to make recommendations about funding formulas and innovative strategies used in public education in Maryland.
The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education will revisit the equity of the state’s K-12 education funding formula, examining the alignment between K-12 education requirements and higher education expectations, Kirwan said. It will also review successful innovations in education nationally and globally. Gov. Larry Hogan and leaders of the General Assembly announced Kirwan’s appointment to chair the commission Aug. 9.
“I feel very honored that the state would ask me to take on what I think is an extremely important responsibility,” Kirwan said. “I’ve worked on education issues in the state for most of my life, and so I feel it’s a way that I can give back for all the benefits that I’ve received from being a member of the University of Maryland faculty for all these years.”
The current funding model for K-12 education was developed by the “Thornton Commission,” which worked from 1999-2002, according to a state press release. The Thornton Commission evaluated education across diverse parts of the state and recommended formulas to provide quality education in all areas, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr.
“But that was quite some time ago,” Miller said. “Different areas have improved, other areas have regressed, and certain areas have more single parents.”
Areas with families speaking English as a second language and greater need are a constant priority, he said.
The new commission will look at whether the original formula is “still appropriate in today’s world,” Kirwan said.
By reassessing this formula, as well as recommending new teaching and learning strategies, the new commission can help to improve student performance in the state, Kirwan said. While education institutions can sometimes be resistant to new ways of teaching and learning, recommending proven strategies and technologies that have demonstrated success can be “very helpful” to the state, he added.
The commission will also work to ensure that high school exit requirements better align with college entrance expectations, Kirwan said.
“Too often I think students get lost in this transition, that they think they’ve done all they’re supposed to do according to the high school, but then they get to college and they find out they’re maybe not as well prepared as they had assumed they would be,” he said. “We need to ensure that the transition from the 12th grade to the freshman year in college is as seamless as the transition from freshman year in college to the sophomore year, or the 11th to 12th grade.”
Kirwan served as system chancellor from 2002-2015. He previously served as a mathematics professor, the president and provost of this university, as well as the president of Ohio State University.
This university’s math building was renamed after him in October 2015.
In a state press release, Hogan called the Kirwan Commission “a valuable opportunity to identify new [policies] and ground-breaking solutions that will better prepare students for the future.”
“[The commission] has the real potential to improve educational outcomes in Maryland schools,” Hogan said the release. “In order to live up to its potential, the Commission must resist the temptation to focus entirely on education funding, to the exclusion of innovative new ideas that will truly change our schools for the better.”
Miller said there “couldn’t be a more qualified person” to chair this commission than Kirwan, whom he called the “foremost educator in the state.”
“It’s absolutely wonderful in the twilight of his career that he’s willing to step back into the breach and take on this assignment,” Miller said. “He has an amazing personality, and people just enjoy working with him and he can bring the parties together to make positive things happen for the state of Maryland.”
The commission’s work will start in the fall, and it will put out a preliminary report in December, according to the release. It will also provide a final report and recommendations in December 2017, the release said.