Maryland State Department of Education

MSDE Bulletin

Keeping You Current on Education Reform in Maryland

February 3, 2000 Vol. 11, No. 2


State to Reconstitute 3 Baltimore City Schools

     The Maryland State Board of Education has voted to reconstitute the three lowest-performing elementary schools in the Baltimore City School System, each of which was not making substantial improvement toward meeting state standards.
     The board approved the action by a 10-2 vote on Feb. 1 in an abbreviated session of the weather-delayed monthly meeting originally scheduled for January.
      This will be the first time the state has moved to assume the management of a school since it began identifying reconstitution-eligible schools in 1994. It is believed to be the first takeover of this kind in the nation.

                                   "No child should have to attend a failing school by
                                     accident of where he or she lives."
                                                                - Nancy S. Grasmick
                                                                State Superintendent of Schools

     Gilmor, Montebello and Furman L. Templeton elementary schools were named for state intervention based on results of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) tests given in grades three and five and each school's attendance rate. Generally no more than 10 percent of the students in the named schools met the state's satisfactory standards in all MSPAP areas in any year MSPAP testing began in 1993. Most often, the percent of students at satisfactory ranged from 3.5 to 6.6 percent.
     "No child should have to attend a failing school by accident of where he or she lives," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. "School performance at all three schools has remained static or declined since the schools were classified as eligible for reconstitution. We believe state intervention is now necessary if we are to raise the performance of these schools to the standards we expect them to achieve."
     In September, the State Board asked for proposals from contractors, or third-party administrators, interested in assuming the overall management of a school. The board has asked the top qualified vendors-Edison Schools, Inc.; the Kennedy Krieger Institute/Erickson Foundation; and Mosaica Education, Inc.-to submit management proposals for any or all of the three schools to be reconstituted.
     Decisions on three-year renewable management contracts will be made by the end of March. Contractors will assume control of the schools July 1 in preparation for the school year that begins in September. Current school staff will continue to operate the schools through the end of the current school year.
     The board did not add any schools to the reconstitution-eligible list this year so it could focus on ensuring a successful first year in the newly reconstituted schools. In addition to the three named for reconstitution, 93 other schools remain on the list.
     Questions about school reconstitution? Call the State Department of Education at 410-767-0600.

Andrews named Board President After Sondheim Steps Down

     Edward Andrews was elected president of the Maryland State Board of Education at its Feb. 1 meeting, replacing Walter Sondheim, Jr. who decided to step down from the demanding position but will remain on the board.
     Sondheim, who turned 91 in July, is serving his second four-year term on the board. The board decided to wait until its regular February meeting to decide who will replace Andrews as vice-president.
     Sondheim was chairman of the Governor's Commission on School Performance in 1987. That commission, which informally became known as the "Sondheim Commission," laid the foundation for Maryland's nationally recognized school reform effort of the past 10 years.
     "Walter, you have brought us wisdom with wit and humor," said Andrews. "You have brought us intelligence with integrity. And you have brought us grace and stature tempered with humility and dignity for all. I am so very pleased that all this will continue as you remain on the board."
     Sondheim, whose term expires in 2003, responded in typical fashion: "You people are very nice and you make resigning worthwhile. . . . You spoil me. That is a terrible thing to do to somebody my age."

Technology Use Rising in Maryland
Students, Teachers Dramatically Increase Online Presence

     Maryland students and teachers have dramatically increased their use of technology, according to a report issued by the Maryland Business Roundtable's Committee on Technology in Education.
     The report reflects the progress of the Technology in Maryland Schools (TIMS) program, a key initiative of the Maryland Plan for Technology in Education orchestrated in 1995. TIMS enables students and teachers to have access to online resources by providing complete wiring distribution systems through funding by the Public School Construction Program. Hardware, software and staff training is provided though budgeted funds from the Maryland State Department of Education. Local school systems contribute to a portion of funding for the wiring distribution system as well as providing the Internet connection for each school.
     To date, 565 of Maryland's 1,355 public schools have benefited from the program
     Among the 90 earliest schools to get involved in the program and complete surveys, it was reported 69 percent of teachers gained information on instructional resources through technology in 1998 compared to 42 percent in 1996. Forty-nine percent of teachers said they had students retrieving information online in 1998 compared to only 12 percent two years earlier.

Marylanders Strongly Support MSPAP Testing

     Citizens overwhelmingly back the State Department of Education's Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP), according to a recent statewide survey conducted for the State Department of Education by the Survey Research Center at the University of Maryland-College Park.
     The survey of Marylanders 18 and older showed almost 71 percent believed MSPAP-tests in six subjects administered to students in grades 3, 5 and 8-was a good way to evaluate the progress of public schools. A total of 78.5 percent agreed with the toughening of graduation requirements through the planned High School Assessments.
     "The survey results indicate to us that we are right on track in our accountability program," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.    

Heath Honored by Chesapeake Bay Foundation

     Gary Heath, chief of the Maryland State Department of Education's arts and science branch, has been named Environmental Educator of the Year by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
     Heath was honored at a luncheon last month at the Engineers Club in Baltimore. He was recognized for his efforts in establishing the Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Educators and organizing the Governor's Green School Award.
     Heath helped create Maryland's Chesapeake Choices and Challenges curriculum. The foundation said: "When similar curricula modules were introduced in Pennsylvania and Virginia, Mr. Heath championed them to both commonwealths' top educators . . . By instilling his beliefs and promoting environmental education in public schools, he has helped Maryland become arguably the country's leader in environmental education."

Local School Systems Permitted to Seek Weather Waivers

     State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick has been granted authority to shorten the state-mandated 180-day calendar for local school systems who have missed an extraordinary number of school days as a result of severe weather.
     The Maryland State Board of Education, at its Feb. 1 meeting, gave Dr. Grasmick authority to waive a maximum of four days from the state requirements. Dr. Grasmick said she will review each system's request for waivers on a case-by-case basis. The waivers would affect schools that closed Sept. 16 and/or Sept. 17 due to Hurricane Floyd and Jan. 25 and/or Jan. 26 due to severe winter weather.
     "It was important to establish the authority now so we can work with local school systems to plan their schedules through the rest of the year," said Dr. Grasmick. "I know that many Maryland families are anxious to know about adjustments in their children's school calendar."
     The board's action will affect only the four lost days specified.
     The board last granted shortened school year waivers after severe winter conditions in 1996.

MSDE Bulletin
School & Community Outreach Office
Maryland State Department of Education
200 W. Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Web site:

Ronald Peiffer
Assistant State Superintendent

Neil H. Greenberger