Maryland public schools begin opening next Monday, August 19, as more than one million students prepare to start the 2013-2014 school year.
By the time all schools have opened their doors on August 27, more than 860,000 K-12 students will fill classrooms and another 250,000 children will be involved in some form of pre-kindergarten, Head Start, or licensed childcare program.
"With better choices, we have built what Education Week magazine says is the #1 best public school system in America for the fifth year in a row," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "To create jobs, a modern economy requires modern investments. In Maryland, we've chosen to make targeted investments in education so our children will grow up with the opportunities and skills they need to succeed."
Maryland's highly regarded public school system is fully implementing new, more rigorous standards this fall. In addition, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) system is continuing work on its $250 million Race to the Top program, which is further strengthening Maryland classrooms by building a new technology infrastructure, improving teacher and principal preparation and evaluation, and providing targeted support to low-performing schools.
"Our schools will continue to move forward this fall with full implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which set the stage for better instruction and improved student learning," said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery. "Maryland schools are well-positioned for a productive and exciting year."
Among the headlines for the new school year:
- Full Implementation of the Common Core. More than 7,000 educators this summer took part in the Educator Effectiveness Academies, which for the third straight year focused on the Common Core State Standards that will help raise the bar for students throughout the State and much of the nation.
- Moving Forward on Race to the Top. Maryland's multi-faceted school reform package, fueled by the largest federal grant in State education history, is strengthening the State's schools.
- Preventing Serious Head Injuries in Interscholastic Athletics. MSDE recently released recommendations limiting some full-contact practices in certain sports as part of the State's continuing efforts to prevent concussions.
- Improving School Readiness. The growth of prekindergarten programs in Maryland has been a big success story for students. PreK programs provide young learners with a running start to their academic life.
- School Bus Safety Improves, Still Has a Way to Go. A survey conducted by Maryland school bus drivers found that more automobile drivers are observing the stop arm laws. But there remains much room for improvement.
- Public Charter Schools are Continuing to Grow in Maryland. Three new charter schools are scheduled to open this fall, bringing the total to 54.
- Avenues to Connect with Maryland Public Schools. MSDE has strengthened its Facebook and Twitter feeds to go along with the MarylandPublicSchools.org website, providing a number of ways educators, parents, and others interested in Maryland public schools to get the latest news and information.
Enrollment in Maryland public schools has been on a steady rise for the past four years. After reaching a high point of 869,113 students in 2004, enrollment fell to 843,861 by 2009. Since then it has rebounded, reaching 859,638 students last school year – the State's highest enrollment level since 2006.
Maryland's student population also has experienced major changes over the past decade. Maryland has been a majority-minority State for several years. White students represent nearly 42 percent of the student population, followed by African American students, who make up 35 percent of the student population. Both the White and African American student populations have been in decline in recentyears. Hispanic students represent nearly 13 percent of the student body, while Asian students account for nearly six percent. Percentages of Hispanic and Asian students are on the rise. Also increasing is the percentage of students identifying themselves as two or more races. This accounts for nearly four percent of Maryland students.
Also increasing in the State's schools is the percentage of students coming from circumstances of poverty. Last year, 44 percent of Maryland students were eligible for free- or reduced-price meals, the federal proxy for poverty. Ten years earlier that tally stood at 29.7 percent – nearly a 50 percent increase over the decade. At the elementary school level, 49.2 percent of students were eligible for free- or reduced-price meals during 2012-13 school year.
More information on Maryland school demographics can be found on the Maryland Report Card website, www.MdReportCard.org.
- Common Core State Standards
The Common Core State Standards are being fully implemented in Maryland public schools this fall, but for many students and educators this is not the first year. Schools have been working on implementation for the past three years.
The Standards are a State-led movement to raise the bar throughout the nation. More than 40 states are moving forward with the Common Core efforts in reading/English language arts and mathematics, with an eye on making certain high school graduates are prepared for college or career.Development of the Standards drew on the expertise of more than 10,000 educators and other experts, and are internationally benchmarked.
Nearly 7,000 educators from across Maryland took part this summer in the State's third and final round of Educator Effectiveness Academies, which have helped put a classroom focus the new Common Core State Standards. Teams from every Maryland school – including principals –were involved in this unique professional development effort.
The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) also has been involved in a massive public awareness campaign. More than 100,000 copies of the flyer "The Top 10 Things Parents Should Know About the Common Core" have been distributed, and scores of other materials have been sent to schools and other stakeholders. Every school in Maryland has been provided a flash drive with a broad selection of Common Core materials for educators, parents, and other interested individuals. Materials included on the flash drive can be found here: http://msde.state.md.us/cc
While the new standards will start to be rolled out this year, tests based on the Common Core are still in development. The new Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessments will be piloted in selected classrooms throughout Maryland this year, but will not be administered to every student until 2014-15.
- More Opportunities to Learn about the Common Core
MSDE is partnering with the Maryland PTA this fall for a series of regional public forums on the Common Core State Standards. State Superintendent Lillian Lowery, PTA President Ray Leone, and local teachers will be on hand to discuss the Standards, provide perspective, and answer questions.
All forums will run from 7-8:30 p.m. Forums will be held:
- September 10 – Eastern Shore Forum
Easton High School, 723 Mecklenberg Avenue, Easton.
- September 16 – Western Maryland Forum
South Hagerstown High School, 1101 S. Potomac Street, Hagerstown.
- September 19 – Central Maryland Forum
Ridge Ruxton School, 6919 N. Charles Street, Towson.
- October 1 – D.C. Metro/Southern Maryland Forum
Charles Herbert Flowers High School, 10001 Ardwick-Ardmore Road, Springdale.
- Racing to the Top
Maryland's public school system continues to lead the nation's rankings for the fifth straight year, but the State in 2010 received a $250 million Race to the Top grant from the federal government to take school improvement to an even higher level. The result included the development of a new evaluation system for teachers and principals, strengthened standards, a vastly improved data system, and strategic help for struggling schools.
The State has been developing a data warehouse which will provide improved student and school performance information to teachers and parents.An online Learning Management System (LMS) also is part of the new technology system, which house online courses, curriculum resources, and other tools to support educators as they move to the new Common Core State Standards. Teachers at the 2013 Educator Effectiveness Academies had the opportunity to utilize the LMS this summer and it will soon be made available to all educators.
Maryland's Breakthrough Center has been already working with some of Maryland's lowest performing schools, providing targeted technical assistance to school and system leaders as they work to improve student achievement and school climate.To help ensure that the State's lowest performing schools are staffed with great leaders, spring and summer sessions of the Aspiring Principals' Institute were held for aspiring leaders Maryland's turnaround schools and their feeder schools, and mentoring support will continue throughout the school year. The Breakthrough Center has also been providing professional development on the Common Core to teachers in turnaround schools to help them successfully implement the State's new standards in these struggling schools this fall.
For more on Race to the Top, go to http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/rttt.
Fall athletics practice is getting underway throughout Maryland, and there continues to be a strong emphasis improving the safety of student athletes. The Maryland State Board of Education last fall issued new rules governing athletic participation this fall, designed to curb concussions and other brain injuries, updating and making those rules permanent this past spring.
New recommendations from the MSDE, prompted by regulations adopted by the State Board, limit the number of contact practices in collision sports. MSDE also recommends improved instruction by coaches in contact sports and defines interscholastic sports by types: collision, contact, limited contact, and non-contact.
Football and boy's lacrosse have been defined as collision sports, and the recommendations target those sports in particular. Coaches in both sports should place special emphasis on proper techniques for such activities as tackling or body checking.
In football, no live hitting is allowed until the sixth day of practice. During the season, teams should limit live hitting drills and live game simulations to two practices per week. In lacrosse, after the first date of play, schools should be limited to a maximum of one full-contact practice per day. In addition, there would be no live checking the day before a game.
Complete information on MSDE's new recommendations can be found here:
- Improving Kindergarten Readiness
Maryland's publicly funded prekindergarten programs for four-year olds have been in existence since 1980. Today, more than 28,000, or 35 percent of all four-year olds, attend PreK in 70 percent of all elementary schools. These programs give children an important boost on learning.
Since 2007, all four-year olds from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, are eligible for enrollment in PreK. Most local school systems enroll additional four-year olds if spaces are available. In the latest report of Children Entering School Ready to Learn, 83 percent of kindergarten students who matriculated from PreK, were assessed by the kindergarten teachers as "fully ready," i.e., having the skills necessary to engage in the kindergarten curriculum successfully. This compares favorably with children who do not have PreK experiences.
More information on PreK programs can be found here: http://marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/divisions/child_care/early_learning/PreK-K
Maryland's unique Judy Centers offer both early childhood and family learning programs that have been particularly effective in boosting achievement in young children. More information about the Judy Centers is available here: http://marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/divisions/child_care/early_learning/Judy
- Drivers: Watch out for Children
Maryland drivers are doing better when it comes to stopping for the school bus stop arms. But there is much room for improvement.
Stop arms swing out from a bus and lights flash whenever it is making an on-roadway stop.As schools get set to open, MSDE is again reminding drivers to obey school bus stop arm laws.
A new MSDE-sponsored survey tallied a total of 3,392 violations of school bus stop arms on a single day last spring. While that rate is less than half that of the initial survey in 2011, when more than 7,000 violations were recorded, nearly seven in 10 bus drivers witnessed a violation.MSDE coordinated the survey in April along with school transportation directors in all 24 local school systems. It is considered a snapshot of illegal activity on the roads. More than 70 percent of the Maryland school bus drivers took part in the survey, compared to 63 percent completing the survey last year.
Violations have steadily declined over the three years the survey has been conducted. Bus drivers witnessed 7,011 violations in 2011, a number that fell to 4,657 last year. School systems and bus drivers have been raising awareness about stop arm violations for the past two years.
More information on the survey and its results can be found here:
Three new public charter schools will open in Maryland this school year, bringing the total number of charters in the state to 54 Maryland's charter schools will enroll nearly 20,000 students this fall.
This year's new schools are: Creative City Public Charter School in Baltimore City, Frederick Classical Charter School in Frederick County, and College Park Academy in Prince George's County For more about Maryland's charter schools, visit:
- Additional Vaccine Requirements
Maryland students and their families have new vaccine requirements this year, adopted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH).
DHMH is now requiring that all Maryland students have two doses of the measles/mumps/rubella (M/M/R) vaccine before starting school. This requirement applies to all Maryland students, regardless of the date of entry into the school system.
More information can be found on the DHMH Immunization page, located here: http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/IMMUN/SitePages/back-to-school-immunization-requirements.aspx
- Connecting with Maryland Public Education
MSDE continues to bolster its outreach with parents, stakeholders, and the public interested in our State's public schools.
MarylandPublicSchools.org, MSDE's webpage, offers a pathway to information on everything from curriculum to assessment scores. In addition, MSDE has a regularly updated Facebook page, providing users with information and photos about events and issues in the news.You can join MSDE at Facebook.com/MdPublicSchools. For the quickest access, follow MSDE on Twitter, @MdPublicSchools.
All Maryland schools are opening their doors in August, Prince George's County and Frederick County Public Schools open first, welcoming students next Monday, August 19.
The remaining systems:
- August 20 – Calvert County
- August 21 – St. Mary's and Washington Counties
- August 22 – Cecil County
- August 26 – Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Caroline, Carroll, Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne's, the SEED School, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties, and Baltimore City.
- August 27 – Talbot County.
Please note that some individual schools and grades have different start dates. Check with your local school system for more information.