According to the Maryland Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, 47% of the county’s children entered Kindergarten classrooms demonstrating the knowledge, skills, and behaviors needed to fully participate in the Kindergarten curriculum. This is just above the statewide average of 45%. Our kindergartners shouldn't be beginning school just above average, but should have the foundational skills needed for success. High quality universal pre-K for three and four-year-olds could help ensure that children are prepared for kindergarten
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research’s (NIEER) most recent data, last year only 41 percent of four-year-olds and 16 percent of three-year-olds were served in some type of publicly funded pre-K program. The federal government has been providing pre-K to low-income three-and four-year-olds through the means-tested Head Start program for over 50 years. However, Head Start reaches approximately one million children, but, due to limited funding, does not even serve half of those who are eligible. Many states, Maryland included, provide additional funding for pre-K, however the funding is limited and only provides pre-K at certain schools and only for low-income and some disabled students.
Wicomico County should plan and implement a universal pre-K program for all three and four-year olds.
Attracting and Retaining Teachers
There is a critical shortage of teachers in many subjects across the state. Additionally, there is a shortage of male and minority teachers and in certain non-classroom professional positions.
We must continue to develop incentives to attract new teachers to the area, which involves partnerships with city and county governments. We are lucky to have Salisbury University in our county, which produces many new teachers each year. However, we need to continue working to attempt to keep many of them in the county.
Additionally, we must continue to ensure our teachers and non-classroom professionals are compensated adequately, to retain their experience in the schools. We must work with the Wicomico County Education Association on developing contracts that provide benefits necessary for retention.
The safety of both students and employees is top of mind due to recent school shootings. We must take every step possible to ensure students are safe from the moment they step on the bus to the moment they return home. We must examine all options for school security, while ensuring schools do not become prison-like, and implement best practices where necessary.
Graduation - College & Career Readiness
The graduation rate in Wicomico County is around 84% for 2017 with state averages being slightly higher at 88%. We must continue to strive to improve the graduation rate to above state average.
Those who graduate must be college or career ready. The Parkside Career & Technology Education program is a key piece of the career ready model, for courses that require hand-on education.