Maryland’s Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education

For years, Maryland maintained a national reputation for having a high-performing education system, but leaders in the state became aware that reputation was not reflected in reality, with its students performing in the middle of the pack of U.S. states, and far behind the international competition. In 2016, the Maryland General Assembly established the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, popularly known as the “Kirwan Commission,” after its Chair, Brit Kirwan, to review and revise a funding formula that was put in place in 2002 and make policy recommendations that would enable Maryland’s students to perform at the level of students in the best-performing systems in the world. 

NCEE was selected as the lead policy consultant for this important work. We did a deep dive into  Maryland’s education system and compared what we found to high-performing education systems internationally and domestically. Our recommendations for how to improve the state’s system were incorporated into the Commission’s report. NCEE also prepared research and fiscal analyses to help the Commission sharpen its recommendations, design a new funding formula, and ensure that the new funding would be spent effectively, efficiently, and with equity. 

Based on the recommendations of the Commission, in 2019, Maryland’s legislature awarded an initial $850 million as a down payment to begin the long-term work of systemic education redesign. In 2021, the General Assembly passed “The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” a 10-year plan to implement the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations. Today, Maryland’s initiative represents perhaps the most wide-ranging and forward-looking effort to redesign a U.S. state system of education to compete with the world’s best. NCEE continues to advise on the implementation of the plan, including providing strategic advice, drafting policy, and providing communications support.

For more about the Commission’s work, read an overview of the recommendations, the Interim Report, or the final legislation. And see NCEE’s statement on the passage of the legislation here.


National Conference of State Legislatures

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) represents and supports the legislatures of U.S. states and territories. In 2014, its members expressed interest in understanding how U.S. states measured up to their competitors abroad, and what lessons could be learned from those that are outperforming us. NCSL partnered with NCEE to provide advice and insights on the design of high-performing education systems to state legislators around the country, which has continued across six years and two cohorts of legislators.

From 2014-2018, we organized the work of the first study group of state legislators who investigated top-performing education systems around the world in order to develop a new, state-driven education agenda. That initial work resulted in the landmark report, No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State. The report makes the urgent case for change for state policymakers to begin building a high-performing education system in their own state. No Time to Lose, currently in its fifth printing, has become the most widely-read report NCSL has ever released, and NCEE and NCSL continue to speak widely at state legislatures about the findings.

Because of the widespread interest in No Time to Lose among legislators, NCEE, NCSL, and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) convened a second cohort of the study group in 2020 to study the common components underpinning the design of high-performing education systems. A bipartisan group of 16 state legislators and eight legislative staff members responsible for education in their states are convening monthly to conduct their study. They plan to produce a second major report to state legislators in 2021.The impact of NCEE’s partnership with NCSL has gone beyond the pages of No Time to Lose. State policymakers are viewing their systems afresh, with a keener eye to gaps and inefficiencies, and are crafting and enacting policies to improve their systems to better serve educators and students.

Contact Center on Policy Solutions

To learn more about our policy development and consulting for states and regions, contact Nathan Driskell, Associate Director, Policy Analysis and Development, at


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