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November 2008
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

A few words from State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

American Education Week
American Education Week runs Nov. 16-22, and it offers us a great opportunity to thank Maryland teachers and administrators for the dedicated work they do to improve learning for our children. We all want the best for Maryland young people, and that is exactly what educators are delivering.

Education Week ranks Maryland’s public school system among the top three in the nation. Maryland ranks second in the number of students who take the Advance Placement tests and score at college mastery levels. Maryland’s eighth grade students last year recording one of the nation’s biggest jumps in improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)..

This improvement is not limited to one or two school systems. Every one of Maryland’s 24 school systems has registered improvement in mathematics and reading scores in each of the past five years.

Success like this cannot be achieved without strong instruction and consistent leadership. It also requires the support of parents, community members, local and state legislators, and others. And, of course, it requires engaged and inspired learners.

The theme of this year’s American Education Week is “Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility.” Please join with me in celebrating the good work going in Maryland public education. It really is everyone’s responsibility.

Parent Involvement
The Comcast Parent Involvement Matters award program is entering its second year this month. I joined Comcast Regional Senior Vice President Fred Graffam, Howard County Superintendent Sydney Cousin, and our inaugural winner Larry Walker this week at Mt. Hebron High School in Howard County to launch this year’s program.

If you know a parent or guardian who deserves special attention for their tireless efforts to strengthen education in your community, please send in a nomination!

For more information, see:

Beyond the HSAs: College- and Work-Ready
Although the Maryland High School Assessments are an important step in the drive to strengthen achievement, MSDE is also working on building academic rigor beyond those exams.  The goal is to make certain Maryland graduates are college- and work-ready when they are awarded the diplomas.

There are a number of efforts underway, such as:

Increasing the Number of AP and IB courses.  For several years, Maryland has been among the nation’s leaders in increasing the number of rigorous Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs.  Maryland earlier this year ranked second in the nation in both the number of students taking AP exams and in the percentage of students scoring at college mastery levels.

The American Diploma Project.  Maryland is one of 34 states involved in the American Diploma Project (ADP), dedicated to making sure that high school graduates are prepared for college or work.  As part of its work, ADP is developing an algebra II end-of-course exam designed to bolster that course on a nationwide basis.

Career Education.  MSDE has helped to strengthen its Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs throughout Maryland.  More than half of the state’s CTE graduates not only are ready for the workforce, but meet the requirements for admission into the University of Maryland System.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  All 24 Maryland school systems now have a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program underway, an MSDE-led effort to prepare graduates for the global economy.



November 16-22 — American Education Week

December 16-17 — State Board Meeting

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The Maryland State Board of Education last month voted against a one-year delay in the implementation of the High School Assessment requirement. The Board’s action means that the Class of 2009 must complete the requirement before obtaining a high school diploma this coming Spring.

State Board member Dr. Karabelle Pizzigati (left), Board Vice President Blair Ewing, Board President James DeGraffenreidt, and Board member Dunbar Brooks

Testimony and discussion surrounding the HSA attracted a great deal of attention. State Board member Dr. Karabelle Pizzigati (left), Board Vice President Blair Ewing, Board President James DeGraffenreidt, and Board member Dunbar Brooks asked a number of questions of local superintendents and their experience with the HSA.

Board members voted after several hours of testimony and frank discussion on the HSA issue.

Baltimore City Schools CEO Andres Alonso said the HSA program represents a bar that would be difficult for some of his students to reach, but was the right program at the right time. “We know that the challenge is huge,” he said. “But it is a tool to improve our system and our students. It is not about test taking. It is about demonstrating knowledge.”

Twenty-two other local superintendents agreed with Dr. Alonso. Montgomery County Superintendent Jerry Weast was the lone local superintendent to oppose the HSA program. “We are all in agreement that we need a strong accountability system,” he said. “We just have a difference of opinion. I think we need a better measure of student success.”

In the end, a 7-4 majority of the State Board decided to continue the HSA program. MSDE officials released new data last month which found that more than nine in 10 members of the Class of 2009 who had taken all four assessments had already met the requirement by the end of grade 11. The data also revealed that tested students are more apt to stay in school and not drop out.

Of the 54,000 students promoted to their senior year last June and needing to meet the State’s HSA requirement, 50,000 have taken all four tests (92.5 percent), and 90.2 percent of them have met the requirement. Moreover, of those not yet meeting the target with one year of high school still to go, most were on track to meet the threshold through retaking one or more tests, or through the alternative Bridge Plan for Academic Validation.


Consistent improvement in high school achievement resulted in nine Maryland high schools exiting the federally mandated improvement process for 2008.

Three Prince George’s County high schools, three Montgomery County high schools, and one high school each in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Dorchester County made enough progress over the past two years to exit School Improvement. At the same time, three high schools were added to the School Improvement list.

More than 70 percent of Maryland high schools met improvement targets, known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), according to data released last week by MSDE. The number of high schools in Improvement has decreased dramatically since 2005, from 71 to 45.

This high school success is similar to the positive effect of other school improvement efforts in Maryland. Overall, more than 80 percent of elementary, middle, and high schools met the targets in 2008.

System- and state-level data also was released last week. The Baltimore City and Prince George’s County school systems are currently in Improvement, but both made significant progress. If the similar progress is tallied next year, the systems would leave the Improvement process.

Individual high school scores, system-level AYP, and state-level AYP data will be made available in the coming weeks on the MSDE report card web site (

Maryland School Assessment (MSA) results released at the end of the summer showed test scores rising across the board. Today’s release of high-school-level AYP data found improvement on a parallel track. Overall, nearly 1140 elementary, middle, and high schools met AYP in 2008, compared to 1050 in 2007.

High schools exiting Improvement are Milford Mill Academy, Baltimore County; Carver Vocational-Technical High School, Baltimore City; North Dorchester High School, Dorchester County; Gateway to College Program, Longview School, and Montgomery County Evening High School Center, Montgomery County; and Forestville High School, Friendly High School, and Parkdale High School in Price George’s County.


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