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February 17, 2009
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

We are beginning to plow through the scores of pages in the President’s economic stimulus bill. It is a little too soon to comment on the specifics of the legislation, but we are hopeful it will help fuel our continued progress in public education.

There would appear to be additional funding for Head Start, special education, and Title I. What is uncertain at this point is how much of the new money will come with strings attached that could make it more difficult for school systems to take advantage of the needed resources.

As of this writing, the president was getting ready to sign the bill at a ceremony in Denver.

One thing is clear from the activity taking place in both Washington, DC, and Annapolis is the shared belief that education holds the key to our nation’s economic recovery. While traveling with Governor O’Malley to the recent Town Hall meetings, I hear that Maryland residents in general understand preK-12 education’s cornerstone role in any turnaround.

Maryland, along with the rest of the nation, has some serious economic hurdles in its path to prosperity. At the same time, it is clear that without strong public schools, our plans for the future could evaporate. Your continued support of our state’s number one-ranked education system will continue to pay big dividends.


February 24-25 — State Board Meeting

February 26 – Governor’s Town Hall Meeting on Education and the Economy, Easton High School, Easton

March 4 – Governor’s Town Hall Meeting on Education and the Economy – Baltimore City (location to be announced)

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Maryland education gained its second number one national ranking in as many months in early February as the College Board released its annual report on the rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) program.

State Superintendent Grasmick and Governor O’Malley discuss Maryland student success on the rigorous AP program.

State Superintendent Grasmick and Governor O’Malley discuss Maryland student success on the rigorous AP program.

The percentage of Maryland seniors who earned a score of 3 or higher on one or more AP exams reached 23.4 percent in 2008, the highest percentage in the nation.  Maryland slipped past New York for the first time since Eisenhower was president to take the top spot in the College Board’s “Annual AP Report to the Nation.”  A score of 3 or better is considered “college mastery level” on the AP exams, and many higher education institutions award college credit for high school students scoring in that range.

Maryland also ranked first in the nation in the percentage of graduating seniors who had taken an AP exam.  More than a third of all seniors last year—37.2 percent—had taken at least one AP test.

“We’re proud to announce today that Maryland has a new number one ranking, just weeks after another publication ranked Maryland’s public schools the best in the nation,” said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley .  “It’s an extraordinary distinction and one that doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the dedication and professionalism of Maryland’s educators who have made our system the best in the America.”

Governor O’Malley and State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick discussed the news before a packed press conference at the State House.  The announcement followed last month’s news that Maryland schools ranked first in the nation by Education Week’s “Quality Counts” report.  That report looked at a variety of policy and performance measures, including last year’s AP data.

College Board President Gaston Caperton hailed the State’s work on AP.  “Leading the nation in this regard represents a significant achievement for Maryland schools and their students,” he said.  “Under the leadership of Dr. Grasmick, the Advanced Placement program has grown throughout Maryland, and students are entering college better prepared to be successful.”

MSDE has worked in close partnership with the College Board to strengthen the AP program, particularly in parts of the State that have not historically been involved.  The results have paid off, as 13 of Maryland’s 24 systems have a 30 percent or greater participation rate among seniors.

“Maryland students can achieve great things no matter where their high school is located,” said State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.  “More of our schools are providing students with rigorous options, such as AP, to better prepare them for what lies ahead.”

“Advanced Placement Report to the Nation: 2009,” the College Board’s fifth annual analysis of the college-level assessment program, gives many high marks to efforts taking place in Maryland schools.  For example:

  • From 2003 to 2008, Maryland had the third largest growth in the nation in the percentage of seniors scoring 3 or higher, jumping from 17.7 percent to 23.4 percent. 
  • Maryland is one of 18 states recognized for having eliminated the equity and excellence gap in AP achievement for the Hispanic and Latino population.  While Hispanics were 6.1 percent of the Maryland population last year, 6.9 percent of the seniors who scored 3 or higher on the AP exam were Hispanic.
  • No state in the nation has been able to overcome the gap for African American students, but 9 percent of students receiving a grade of 3 or better in Maryland were African American.  That is the third-highest percentage among states in the nation.  Only 6.4 percent of the Maryland students scoring in the college-mastery range were African American in 2002.

The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program, which began in 1955, allows students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. Students of different interests and backgrounds can choose from among 35 courses and exams in 19 subject areas to demonstrate their knowledge of rigorous academic curriculum.


Governor Martin O’Malley, along with State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and other members of his cabinet, have embarked on an ambitious series of Town Hall meetings aimed at getting information regarding state services directly to Maryland residents. 

“The Governor’s Town Hall Meetings on Education and the Economy” have played to packed houses in both Hagerstown and Upper Marboro over the past two weeks. Two more meetings are currently scheduled, the next one at Easton High School in Talbot County on February 26.

The Governor also unveiled a new state website,, which links residents to information ranging from childcare to student financial aid.

The Town Hall meetings have brought packed houses to both Allegany (above) and Prince George’s Counties.

The Town Hall meetings have brought packed houses to both Allegany (above) and Prince George’s Counties.

The meetings also have given State residents a chance to ask the Governor about the state budget and the outlook for federal assistance.

Maryland’s budget was developed with the idea that “everything has been pinched,” the Governor said in Upper Marlboro this week.  Despite the difficult economic period, he added, the State has maintained its commitment to both education and safety net services.

Strong education programs in Maryland have helped the State weather the current economic downturn better than most other states, Governor O’Malley said.  In addition, he said, they will help Maryland emerge from the recession more quickly.

MSDE, along with other State agencies, is sending representatives to all of the meetings to help answer education questions.

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