September 2008
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Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick

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

Schools are once again alive with activity, as nearly one million Maryland students, teachers, support staff, and administrators have started fall classes.

It is an exciting time, and Marylanders have reason to be optimistic about their public schools. Newly released data show that more elementary and middle schools are making their federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress standards. Scores on the Maryland School Assessment continue to rise, and progress is being made in every school system in the state.

Governor O’Malley and I have been touring schools, seeing with our own eyes the good things taking place in our classrooms. I joined the Governor at Leith Walk Elementary in Baltimore City this month as part of his “Steady Progress for Maryland Schools Tour,” and he is scheduled to visit many schools in different communities over the next few weeks. I’ve also visited schools in Baltimore County, Prince George’s County, and on Maryland’s eastern shore, getting a first hand look at how schools are improving student health, strengthening science and technology education, and bringing qualified service veterans into the classroom.

Please join with me in congratulating Maryland students and educators on the start of another wonderful year. With the help and support of our communities, we continue to expect great things. Our schools continue to deliver on that promise.



September 23 — Maryland State Board of Education

September 24 - 26 — Maryland Association of Boards of Education Annual Meeting

September 26 - 28 — Baltimore Book Festival

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Maryland students are outpacing their counterparts across the nation on the Advanced Placement (AP) and ACT national assessments, according to data released last month.

Governor Martin O’Malley, Mayor Sheila Dixon, Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners Chairman Brian Morris (obscured), and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick

Governor Martin O’Malley, Mayor Sheila Dixon, Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners Chairman Brian Morris (obscured), and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick cheer students at Leith Walk Elementary School in Baltimore City as part of the Governor’s “Steady Progress for Maryland’s Schools” Tour this month.

The number of Maryland students scoring at the college mastery level (scores 3-5) on the AP tests increased 4.6 percent in 2008, according to data released this month by the College Board. The number of students taking the exams jumped 9.6 percent over 2007.

Students from minority groups did especially well on the rigorous subject-matter assessments.

Scores on the increasingly popular ACT exam, released earlier in August, also showed marked improvement and a large increase in participation. The state’s 2008 graduates earned an average composite score of 22.0 on the college admission and placement exam, up from 21.6 last year and 21.4 in 2005. That’s well above the national average of 21.1, which fell over the past year. The exam is scored on a scale of 1-36.

Scores on the SAT reasoning test nationwide were altered after a redesign undertaken in 2006 by the College Board. Test developers added a writing assessment, increased the rigor of the mathematics portion, and changed what was once a verbal segment to a critical reading assessment. The test now takes nearly four hours to complete. Overall Maryland scores this year held steady, with writing rising one point to 497, reading dropping one point to 499, and mathematics staying the same at 502.

Public school students in Maryland improved their scores between 2007 and 2008, rising three points in writing, rising one point in math, and dropping one point in reading.

There are indications that some Maryland students are shifting to the ACT exam as a secondary exam and fewer are taking the SAT multiple times. This could be contributing to the overall lack of movement on the SAT scores. College Board analysts say that scores tend to improve on the SAT after taking it a second or third time. 

The number of graduating Maryland seniors taking the ACT has risen dramatically in just two years. There were 7,758 seniors taking the ACT in 2006. By 2008 that number had risen to 10,740. Meanwhile, the number of graduating seniors taking the SAT has leveled off. The College Board reported that 45,231 Maryland seniors took the exam in 2006. That number had increased slightly to 46,928 this past year. It remains the primary testing choice for most Maryland seniors.

Last month’s data release by the College Board includes a number of interesting points. For example:

  • Dramatic improvement on the Advanced Placement test is being registered by minority students, even as they take more tests.

    • The number of African American test takers jumped 29 percent last year, with the number of students scoring in the college mastery range increasing 13.5 percent.
    • The number of Mexican American test takers jumped 19.8 percent last year, according to the College Board, while the number of students scoring at the college mastery level increased 17.7 percent.
    • The number of Puerto Rican test takers increased 9 percent last year, with the number of students scoring at the college mastery level increasing 13.4 percent.
    • The number of other Hispanic students taking the exams jumped 22.6 percent, with the number of students scoring in the college mastery range increasing 18.6 percent.
  • Maryland students who had completed core academic curricula of four or more years of English, three or more years of mathematics, three or more years of natural science, and three or more years of social science; or who earned A grades in their high school classes, scored higher on the SAT. For example, Maryland seniors who reported A averages in their high school classes had mean scores of 558, 569, and 562 in critical reading, mathematics, and writing, respectively.


The Maryland State Board of Education last month set standards for two alternative exam programs.

Leslie Margolis

Leslie Margolis, Senior Attorney at the Maryland Disability Law Center, spoke out in favor of the standards recommended by MSDE staff for the alternative assessments.

Board members approved standards recommended for the Modified High School Assessments. These assessments are alternative tests administered under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and are eligible to be used by approximately two percent of students. These students have learning disabilities that meet federally prescribed criteria. Standards were set for the Mod-MSAs in algebra, English, and biology.

The Board also approved standards for the Alternative Maryland School Assessments. These assessments comply with NCLB and are used with students with significant cognitive disabilities. These students comprise approximately one percent of the current student population in Maryland.


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