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December 19, 2000 Vol. 11, No. 15

Commission Targets Equity Funding

The Commission on Education Finance, Equity and Excellence has gained a prominent position around the state over the past year as it has heard testimony about many current and proposed Maryland education programs. Soon, the 27-member commission headed by former Prince George's school board chairman Alvin Thornton (and sometimes referred to as the "Thornton Commission") will be making the first in a series of recommendations.

The commission, whose membership includes State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick, was charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the state's current education funding system. The 1999 law that created the commission asked that it make recommendations to ensure:

* Statewide adequacy and equity in education financing

* Excellence in school systems and student performance

* A smooth transition following the discontinuance of several targeted funding initiatives

A final report of the commission was due to the Governor and the General Assembly by October 15. However, with its work not fully completed, the commission received permission to make interim recommendations for the 2001 session and final recommendations by October 15, 2001. Augenblick and Myers, a Denver education consulting firm, was retained by the commission.

The commission recently drafted an interim report, which is posted on the Maryland General Assembly web page at MLIS.state.md.us. The draft report identifies nine policy options to be pursued during the 2001 legislative session, including many of the priorities requested for FY 2002 by the State Board of Education.

The commission additionally has recommended that the General Assembly extend several funding initiatives that are scheduled to sunset in Fiscal 2002. Those initiatives include the School Accountability Funding for Excellence (SAFE) program; the Baltimore City-State Partnership; and the Governor's Teacher Salary Challenge Program.

The Interim Report
The following are key items included among the commission's recommendations for funding:

* Special education programs ($42.3 million)

* Transportation of disabled riders ($22 million)

* Academic intervention and support services that are part of the initiative "Every Child Achieving" ($26 million)

* Teacher mentoring ($12.9 million)

* First year of plan to have full-day kindergarten in all 24 Maryland school systems ($15.8 million)

* Judith Hoyer Early Child Care and Education Enhancement that will establish more centers of unified services ($8 million)

* Reconstitution-eligible schools ($5 million)

* The State Board proposed positive student behavior initiative ($712,090)
* Instructional leadership ($750,000)

MSDE Gets Online With AOL

The Maryland State Department of Education and America Online, the world's leading interactive services company, earlier this month announced an initiative that would offer a variety of age-appropriate educational content, communications features and site-filtering safety tools to schools throughout the state.

The initiative provides K-12 classes in local school systems with AOL@SCHOOL, a unique learning tool. AOL@SCHOOL includes a new state focus feature that provides teachers and students with locally-oriented information selected by state education officials. It also will offer features such as e-mail and instant messaging, at the discretion of school officials.

"AOL@SCHOOL takes Maryland's schools to the next level by providing a valuable resource our schools are ready to utilize," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. "It provides Maryland's teachers, administrators and students with an essential set of tools that will greatly enhance their capacities for academic success."

Bel Air Even Better
The impressive performance of Allegany County's Bel Air Elementary School on the 2000 Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests was even better than originally reported in the recent edition of MSDE's "School Reform Where It Counts." Bel Air's composite score actually was 64.6 percent of students performing at satisfactory or better.

External Diploma Offers AlternativesExternal Diploma Offers Alternative

There are three ways to earn a Maryland High School diploma. In addition to the traditional method, most are aware of the General Educational Development (GED) exam. Less known is an innovative program that awards diplomas to adults who have acquired much of their high school level abilities through life and work experiences.

The Maryland Adult External Diploma Program has been in existence since 1978, but funding was eliminated in 1997. One year later, the General Assembly restored funding with a three-year sunset provision. At its December meeting, the State Board of Education endorsed the merits of the program and recommended continued funding.

Since its inception, more than 11,200 adults have earned high school credentials through the program that now operates in 15 of Maryland's 24 local jurisdictions. It is estimated that a diploma can mean as much as $7,000 more in annual earnings to a graduate as compared to a nongraduate. The average age of citizens earning a diploma through this program is about 35.

"These people have acquired skills through their life's work," said Ralph Galvin of the State Department of Education's Adult Education and Literacy Services Branch. "They can demonstrate their abilities."

Trained MSDE staff works with those in the program to document establishment of numerous required competencies including communication, computation, consumer awareness and occupational preparedness.

The State Board additionally is seeking a funding increase so the program can expand.

More Md. Teachers Nationally Certified

The number of Maryland teachers to earn National Board Certification, a designation imparted by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), has nearly tripled over 1999 as 42 teachers representing 15 school systems received certification during the 1999-2000 school year.

About 9,000 teachers nationwide hold this certification for teaching professionals who demonstrate superior teaching skills.

"The unprecedented number of Maryland teachers to achieve national certification this year, as well as the increase in the number of systems these outstanding teachers represent, reveals a true commitment to improving the quality of education in Maryland," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. "In only a few short years, 71 Maryland teachers have worked toward this rigorous certification process, and we are proud of each of them. They are role models for their students and their peers."

The National Board Certification process is an extensive yearlong series of performance-based assessments including teacher portfolios, student work samples, videotapes and thorough analyses of the candidates' classroom teaching and student learning.

Assembly in 1999, the state matches (up to $2,000) stipends awarded by participating local school systems for teachers who earn certification from the National Board. Currently, local system incentives vary from one-time awards to annual salary increases.

    In addition, teachers seeking NBPTS certification can participate in a pilot program to offset the costs of obtaining certification. Through the program, which runs through May 2004, the state covers two-thirds of the $2,300 NBPTS registration fee, and local systems cover the remaining third. Since 1999, financial support has been provided for 96 candidates. Currently, 136 candidates are receiving financial support through this program.

Grafwallner Honored by State Board

Rolf Grafwallner, branch chief of the Maryland State Department of Education's Early Learning Programs Section, was honored with an Outstanding Employee Award by the State Board of Education at its December meeting.

About 20 people from around the state who work with Grafwallner were in attendance for the presentation. He was cited for his efforts with ongoing programs statewide and for his devotion toward establishing new programs that will keep Maryland among the nation's leaders in early learning programs.

"We hold Rolf in the highest esteem, as do his colleagues," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. "He has definitely made a difference at the Maryland Department of Education, as well as for the children of Maryland."

Bargaining Advances For Retired Teachers

The State Board of Education, at its December meeting, voted its support of an addition to the Maryland COMAR regulations that would require local school systems to collectively bargain with retired teachers who return to work under the state's Rehiring of Retired Teachers law.

The Board tabled the issue several times during the past year as it debated specifics of several proposals. The Board's action grants permission to publish the proposal prior to a public hearing on the measure.

Maryland school systems have been permitted for the past two years to rehire retired teachers to fill teaching shortage needs under a two-year-old measure passed by the General Assembly. However, Senate Bill 15 did not address collective bargaining.

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

Ronald Peiffer
Assistant State Superintendent

Neil Greenberger