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January 16, 2009
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

Welcome, Friends of Maryland Education!

The Maryland Education Bulletin will now be distributed bi-monthly. Each issue will highlight education issues and events, bring awareness to education programs and initiatives, and laud the accomplishments of those who contribute to the success of public education throughout the State.

The second publication will provide a recap of Maryland State Board of Education news, key stakeholder reporting, and a variety of education issues relative to state and federal legislation.

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Maryland State Department of Educationís Service-Learning Unit has produced a brochure that compiles a variety of Marylandís Service-Learning Projects. The brochure, Showcase of Maryland Service-Learning Projects, features selected works of students representing each local school system. The brochure also identifies which Voluntary State Curriculum Indicators were met, in relation to each project.

Although Maryland may have been the first state to pass a service-learning graduation requirement in 1997, the state is not alone in acknowledging the beneficial impact of service-learning on studentsí civic knowledge and engagement, academic success, character, and social development.

For additional information on the brochure or the Service-Learning Program, please contact Julie Ayers at 410.767.0357, or visit

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The 2008-2009 Directory of Maryland Public Education is now available online.  Simply visit and download your copy today!


January 27-28 — State Board Meeting

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The Maryland public school system has moved to the head of the class, according to an independent national report released last week.

Governor O’Malley and State Superintendent Grasmick spotlighted the success of Maryland schools during an event last week at Annapolis High School, where a report on the Bridge to Excellence Act was released.

Governor OíMalley and State Superintendent Grasmick spotlighted the success of Maryland schools during an event last week at Annapolis High School, where a report on the Bridge to Excellence Act was released.

Governor O’Malley and State Superintendent Grasmick spotlighted the success of Maryland schools during an event last week at Annapolis High School, where a report on the Bridge to Excellence Act was released.

Education Week, the nation’s leading education newspaper, looked at data in six critical categories over the past two years, and found that Maryland’s state education system is at the very top of national rankings.  Maryland placed at the top of the list in Education Week’s tally, just ahead of Massachusetts.  Other high-scoring systems include New York and Virginia.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley celebrated the ranking.

“This is tremendous news for the State of Maryland,” Governor O’Malley said.  “It is a tribute to the students, teachers, and parents who, in response to increased investments made by all Marylanders, continue to achieve at unprecedented levels.”

Marylandís ranking is based on student performance and State education policies that reflect more than a decade of work on a preK-12 curriculum; state accountability and standards; and work on school readiness, high school reform, and preparation for college and the workplace.

“School reform doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes a long-term commitment to high standards and collaboration, always keeping in mind the students and the families we serve,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “The ‘Quality Counts’ report reaffirms Maryland’s status as one of the nation’s most desirable places to live, work, and raise a family.”

Maryland has had a history of success in Education Week’s annual review of state education systems; it ranked third in the 2008 “Quality Counts” report.  But this is the first time Maryland has ranked first overall.

The publication’s detailed analysis of state education systems rated Maryland’s program of transitions and alignment—the policies and programs that take students from preschool through college- and work-readiness—as tops in the nation.  Maryland scored an A, 96.4 percent.

Maryland also ranked among the nation’s leaders in “Chance for Success,” which looks at how well graduates achieve beyond high school; and in school finance, a score helped greatly by the Bridge to Excellence Act funding.

The overall grade includes scores from the 2008 “Quality Counts” report in K-12 achievement, ranking high thanks to a strong showing on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), high school graduation rates, and Advanced Placement (AP) performance.  Also included are 2008 scores in standards, assessments and accountability; and in teacher quality and preparation.


Bridge to Excellence, Maryland’s visionary program to bring adequacy and equity to elementary and secondary classrooms, has successfully fueled increased student achievement and academic innovation throughout the state, according to a new independent analysis. 

Just as important, the report released last week said that the Bridge to Excellence (BTE) funding—worth at least $1.3 billion in additional dollars to local systems—has started to reduce the gaps in achievement among certain economic and racial subgroups of students.

BTE’s critical funding has helped student proficiency levels improve at all grades tested by the State and among all subgroups, according to MGT of America, the national consulting firm that has studied the law’s results over the past three years.  In its final report, released last week in Annapolis, MGT also found that all race/ethnic groups of elementary and middle school students improved their reading and mathematics proficiency levels on the assessments required by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick presented copies of the report to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Speaker of the House Michael Busch.

“Money matters, but it has to be coupled with strategic thinking and it has to be coupled with accountability,” Dr. Grasmick said.  “Just dumping dollars in without that accountability would not work.”

BTE’s enhanced funding, combined with the law’s requirement that school systems assess their programs and the State’s enhanced oversight role, has laid the framework for a culture that improves classroom work, according to MGT.  The report reviews both the results of the program and at the ideas used by local systems that produced the improving academic work.

“In the years following the implementation of BTE, local school systems demonstrated substantial improvements in the percentage of their student populations who were proficient in reading and mathematics,” the report says.

Jerry Ciesla, a Senior Partner at MGT and principal investigator on the Maryland project, said the Bridge to Excellence program was groundbreaking in many respects.

“Maryland is the envy of every state,” Dr. Ciesla said.  “The additional funding to local school systems truly made a difference.”

MGT found that the largest percentage of additional funds went to recruit and retain qualified educators, widely viewed as the most critical school-based factor to improving student achievement.  Other instructional items, such as supplies, textbooks, and other teaching materials, also received additional dollars from BTE.

As part of its research, MGT conducted the largest-ever survey of Maryland public school teachers and principals.  Survey responses in 2008 from 16,432 educators in 1,201 schools across the state confirmed earlier findings, which revealed a number of factors that contribute to improved educational achievement.  These include more strategic and team planning, better utilization of data, organizing schools into professional learning communities, and improved professional development for educators.

The Maryland General Assembly in 2002 approved the BTE Act, which continues to bring an additional $1.3 billion to public schools.  The Act, which set into law many of the recommendations of the Thornton Commission, also required a study of the program’s effectiveness, leading to the MGT research.

The complete report is available online at MGT Evaluation Final Report 2008.

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