2021 Legislation Alert! Institute Submits Testimony to Advance Maryland’s Data Collection Efforts Around Pregnant & Parenting Teens
Research Assistant Professor Margo Candelaria, PhD, Co-Director of the Institute’s Parent, Infant, and Early Childhood Program, submitted testimony in support of Maryland House Bill 439 cross-filed with Senate Bill 470 to both the House Ways and Means Committee and to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. The bill, Institute for Innovation and Implementation - Pregnant, Expecting, and Parenting Students - Data Collection and Reports, would establish a partnership between the Institute and five high-priority districts in the State to undertake a pilot project to collect and disseminate data for pregnant and parenting youth and provide them with essential resources for achieving their educational outcomes while balancing their parent-related responsibilities. The lead bill sponsors are Delegate Michele Guyton and Senator Mary Washington.
According to aggregate data collected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation between 2011 and 2017, eleven counties in Maryland have teen birth rates higher than the national average with Baltimore City and Dorchester County having rates over twice as high. And while Maryland’s public high schools reported the lowest graduation rate in years, only 49 students were reported as having dropped out due to reasons related to pregnancy and parenting.
“There is a huge discrepancy between what is happening with pregnant and parenting youth and what is getting reported,” said Dr. Candelaria.
This bill emphasizes one of the most important aspects of ensuring the success of policies: monitoring, reporting, and evaluation. The partnership formed through HB 439 will allow Maryland’s public high schools, in the counties under study, to accurately track the true number of pregnant and parenting youth and the percentage of them who are leaving school, as well as identifying the supports needed to help them stay in school. The partnership with the Institute will ensure that our research team, skilled in data collection methodology, provide continual support and feedback to Maryland school districts so that they are equipped to support youth.
This bill gets districts to understand how to identify students who are pregnant and/or parenting, how to collect the data and how to report it with the end result of the State having strong and accurate data to guide its policy and funding. Through Dr. Candelaria’s experience as the lead evaluator on Baltimore City’s Pregnancy Assistance Fund Project, entitled Map to Success, she learned what helped students be successful in school and as parents. Students in Map to Success, engaged in community supports to allow them to remain in school such as accessing childcare, parenting programs, and additional services. The Pregnancy Assistance Fund is sponsored nationwide by the US Department of Health and Human Services; over 81 projects in 32 states have demonstrated that by identifying and supporting youth who are pregnant and parenting, they are more likely to graduate from high school, plan on attending college, and engage in parenting support programs.
The intention is to both close the gap in reporting and data dissemination, and to improve outcomes for youth. Youth who finish high school have significantly better life outcomes including college entry, housing, employment, and parenting outcomes. Accurately identifying and supporting these youth will have positive outcomes for across the State.
This bill is one of three pieces of legislation before the Maryland Legislature this season aimed at supporting pregnant and parenting students with both their education and parenting responsibilities. House Bill 401, cross-filed with Senate Bill 438, would require the Maryland State Department of Education to provide supports for pregnant and parenting students in order to improve their educational outcomes. Senate Bill 437 provides the inclusion of data on pregnant and parenting students in the Maryland Longitudinal Data System; this system generates information for the improvement of the State education system.
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