May 25, 2001 Vol. 12, No.6

Board Urged to Stay With Assessments Schedule

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and a statewide contingent of education stakeholders have overwhelmingly urged the State Board of Education to stay on schedule with the High School Assessments program.

Statewide field testing of the end-of-course exams in five subject areas was conducted May 21-25 (field testing was also conducted in January). Fair and valid questions established from this year’s testing will become the foundation of the state’s bank of test questions. In 2000, the State Board voted to have students who enter ninth grade in the fall of 2001 and 2002 take the exams, with results to be reported on their transcripts on a percentile basis. Plans call for students who enter ninth grade in fall 2003 to be required to pass the Assessments as a graduation requirement. It has yet to be determined if all, or just several, of the Assessments planned for the Phase I of the program will be part of the graduation requirement starting in 2003.

In the past, the Board has gone on record stating that linking the Assessments to the awarding of diplomas would be contingent on the Governor and General Assembly funding State Board initiatives for academic intervention to help students already behind their peers. A presentation at the Board’s May meeting indicated many of these requests will be funded through state or federal funds.

Dr. Grasmick told the Board that progress on the Assessments has been proceeding according to the long-term schedule and recommended no changes be made at this time. She said results over the next two years should be the key factor in determining if the future Assessments schedule needs adjusting.

"We will be in an even stronger position to make a decision once we have valid data," said Dr. Grasmick. "I believe it would be premature for this Board to take a position to link [to graduation] or not link until we have this real data. Once we have this data, we can see how many students are proficient and what are our needs."

Donald Langenberg, chancellor of the University of Maryland System and one of numerous stakeholders to address the Board, re-emphasized that stand.

"Maryland is a hero in this effort," he said. "What Maryland is doing, and has been doing for the past year, has brought it national recognition. It is very, very important to stay the course."

What Stakeholders Are Saying About High School Assessments

Stakeholders representing all aspects of education in Maryland addressed the State Board of Education on May 23 regarding the progress of the High School Assessments. The following were some of their thoughts:

Donald Langenberg, chancellor, University of Maryland System: "I do believe what Maryland is developing may well be a better indicator of a student’s ability to succeed in life than either high school grade-point averages or the SATs."

Carl Roberts, superintendent, Cecil County Schools: "The missing link in education has been assessment. This is the tool we can use to validate curriculum."

Sandra French, president, Maryland Association of Boards of Education: "I have heard a few comments today about the tests not being very hard. I hope that is not interpreted as the test being easy. I think that is the result of teachers teaching the curriculum."

June Streckfus, executive director, Maryland Business Roundtable for Education: "We really believe we need these tests to inform students and to inform parents what will need to be done to hit these high levels."

Deborah Drown, past president, Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals: "A momentum and an energy have been created. We know we are not teaching to the test. We are testing what we teach. Now we just have to get that message to parents."

First Results Encouraging for Edison

Three Reconstituted Schools Allowed to Add 6th Grades

The Maryland State Board of Education, after hearing extremely encouraging results on the first significant standardized tests at three state reconstituted Baltimore City elementary schools managed by Edison Schools, Inc., unanimously voted May 23 to allow the private management company to add sixth grade classes at each school.

In January 2000, the Board named Furman Templeton, Gilmor and Montebello as the first elementary schools to be state reconstituted due to continued low performance. It was believed to be the first time nationally a state school board had taken control of local schools. Last spring, Edison was selected to manage all three.

The Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills in reading and mathematics was administered in Grades 1-5 at each school in March. In their first year under Edison, the three schools combined to improve in median national percentiles in 12 of the 15 reading grade levels and 11 of the 15 mathematics levels.

Results of the first Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests administered under Edison management will be released in November.

7 Maryland Schools Awarded National Blue Ribbons

Seven Maryland public schools have been selected as 2001 National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. The seven elementary schools were among 264 public and private schools across the nation named Blue Ribbon Schools.

"These outstanding schools represent a commitment to high standards at every level–from academic achievement to family and community involvement," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. "Each is deserving of accolades, and will serve as a valuable national model for improvement and achievement."

The National Blue Ribbon Schools from Maryland are:

  • Benfield Elementary, Anne Arundel County
  • Bodkin Elementary, Anne Arundel County
  • Spring Garden Elementary, Carroll County
  • Charlestown Elementary, Cecil County
  • Darnestown Elementary, Montgomery County
  • Fort Foote Elementary, Prince George’s County
  • Ocean City Elementary, Worcester County

Blue Ribbon Schools are honored for student focus and support; school organization and culture; challenging standards and curriculum; active teaching and learning; professional community/professional growth and development; leadership and educational vitality; school, family and community partnerships; and indicators of success and student achievement.

Blue Ribbon Schools are frequent winners of other state and national grants and honors.

Schools will receive their awards at White House ceremonies in fall.

Bargaining Reaffirmed for Rehired Teachers

The State Board of Education has reaffirmed its intent for retired teachers and principals who are rehired under a special provision of the Maryland General Assembly to be subject to collective bargaining.

The 1999 legislation (Senate Bill 15) was passed to help school systems to address the increasing teacher shortage. The law permits retired teachers and principals to return to teaching in classrooms, act as teacher mentors or work in administrative capacities without being penalized by normal earnings limitations set by the Teachers’ Retirement System and the Teachers’ Pension System.

The legislation did not address a role collective bargaining would play in the rehiring process. Local systems that employed eligible personnel over the past two school years did so after negotiating individual contracts with each rehired employee.

The Board previously voted to make these employees subject to collective bargaining. However, at the Board’s May meeting, State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick reported that all 24 local superintendents supported the notion that bargaining would be a detriment to utilizing the program and they asked the Board to reconsider its previous position.

After considerable discussion, the Board voted 7-4 to reaffirm its position that the rehired employees should fall under the provisions of their respective local collective bargaining agreements.

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 Greenberger