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July 31, 2009
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

With the opening of school just one month away, representatives of Maryland school systems got together this week in Annapolis with state officials to plan for a possible H1N1 flu outbreak. It was an important meeting and showed the strong, open lines of communication that have developed between education and health officials.

The novel H1N1 virus is highly infectious, and is of particular concern to educators. The virus is very contagious among young children.

For that reason, MSDE this past spring signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). In the event of a public health emergency, the MOU states that the Secretary of DHMH may exercise his authority to close both public and nonpublic schools in consultation with my office and the Maryland Emergency Management Administration.

The virus was first reported in Mexico in March and it had made its way to Maryland by the end of April. There remain sporadic reports of new cases in the State, and the possibility of a major outbreak during the 2009-2010 school year is very real.

What is gratifying is the open lines of communication that have been developed between health and education officials throughout the State. Our summit this week involved teams of educational administrators and health professionals from each local system. Committees will continue to work over the next few months to develop plans to respond to any flu situation. The health and safety of our public school students and staff is always our number one concern.

* * *

For the 9th straight year, MSDE this week welcomed more than 135 new and experience school leaders to the Maryland Principals Academy.

The Principals Academy is an unique state effort to build leadership capacity designed to lead to improved student achievement. MSDE’s Academy program, the State’s signature leadership development program for principals, fosters collaboration and allows participants to grow and learn on the job. This week’s two-day residential program is followed by two follow-up sessions during the school year.

I’ve said many times that I’ve never seen a good school without a good principal. We believe that each year the Academy program is bringing more outstanding principals to Maryland schools.


August 10 – 14 – Maryland Association of Counties Meeting (Ocean City)

August 19 – First School System Opens for the Fall (Washington County)

August 25 – State Board Meeting

In the News

Strong Gains in Maryland Assessments
WJZ-TV, Baltimore

MSA Test Scores Show Improvement
WBAL-TV, Baltimore

Fall Swine Flu Preparations Underway
Annapolis Capital

Maryland School, Health Leaders Hold Summit
NewsChannel 8, Washington, DC

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Continued improvement in reading and mathematics scores was recorded on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) for 2009, building on the steady progress made over the past six years, according to data released last week before the State Board.

Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners President Neil Duke, left, shakes hands with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan as State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, Governor Martin O’Malley, and Baltimore City Schools CEO Andres Alonso look on.  Secretary Duncan was in Baltimore last week to celebrate the success of the city school system on the recent MSA test.

Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners President Neil Duke, left, shakes hands with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan as State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, Governor Martin O’Malley, and Baltimore City Schools CEO Andres Alonso look on. Secretary Duncan was in Baltimore last week to celebrate the success of the city school system on the recent MSA test.

The rise in test scores contributed to 19 schools leaving the federally mandated school improvement process.  Seven of those schools are located in Baltimore City, four in Montgomery County, three in Prince George’s County, two in Baltimore County, and one each in Allegany, Howard, and Kent counties.

The 2009 assessment score data in Maryland also show a continued closing of the achievement gaps that have plagued schools nationwide.  Scores are being expressed as the percentage of students in each system who scored at or above the proficiency levels set when the exams launched in 2003. 

Composite MSA reading proficiency at the elementary grades has risen more than 25 percentage points since 2003, and composite elementary mathematics proficiency has increased by 25 points as well.  Composite middle school reading proficiency has increased 22 percentage points since 2003, while composite middle school math proficiency has risen 32 points.

“I am so proud of our students, and want to extend a special thanks to families in every corner of our State who continue to play such an important role in student achievement,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.  “Maryland is home to the best public schools in America, not just because Education Week said so, but because over the last five years, we’ve seen strong improvement throughout schools across the state and across demographic lines.  Working together, we’ve made tremendous progress for our top-ranked public school system, even during historically difficult economic times.”

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said the steady progress made is the result of continuous effort put forth by educators throughout the State. 

“The rising targets set forth in federal law make it more difficult each year for our schools to meet the goals, and many of our schools are reaching the 90 percent proficiency levels that make it difficult for rapid gains,” she noted.  “But hard work in the classroom continues to prevail and our students are the beneficiaries of improved instruction.”

Not only have 19 schools exited the rigorous school improvement process, but that hard work has resulted in fewer Maryland schools being cited as “in improvement” overall, the federal designation for having missed Adequate Yearly Progress targets for two years running.  The number of Maryland schools in improvement fell from 170 in 2008 to 158 this year.

The percentage of students statewide scoring at the proficient or advanced levels for reading in Grade 3, for example, rose from 58.1 percent in 2003 to 84.9 percent this year.  The percentage of students scoring in the proficient range for Grade 5 mathematics rose from 55 percent five years ago in 2003 to 81.2 percent this year.

Many local school systems charted improvements, including Baltimore City, whose strengthening MSA scores led the system to leave the state’s “corrective action” designation.  A celebration of the system’s performance took place last year, attracting U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Governor Martin O’Malley, Mayor Sheila Dixon, Dr. Grasmick, and scores of other dignitaries to Abbottston Elementary.

“If it can happen in this school, why can’t it happen at every school in the city, at every school in the state, and at every school in the country?” Secretary Duncan asked.

Schools that left the school improvement process this year are: Braddock Middle in Allegany County, Arbutus Middle in Baltimore County, Woodlawn Middle in Baltimore County, Murray Hill Middle in Howard County, Chestertown Middle in Kent County, Briggs Chaney Middle in Montgomery County, Lakelands Park Middle in Montgomery County, Newport Mill Middle in Montgomery County, Silver Spring International Middle in Montgomery County, Columbia Park Elementary in Prince George’s County, Walker Mill Middle in Prince George’s County, William W. Hall Elementary in Prince George’s County, Alexander Hamilton Elementary in Baltimore City, Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary in Baltimore City, Fort Worthington Elementary in Baltimore City, Guilford Elementary/Middle in Baltimore City, Johnston Square Elementary in Baltimore City, Morrell Park Elementary/Middle in Baltimore City, and Sinclair Lane Elementary in Baltimore City.

Scheduled for release later this year are the 2009 MSA science scores at the elementary and middle school level, High School Assessment scores, graduation rates, and attendance figures.  High school and system-wide AYP information will be available at that time as well.

Statewide, system, and local school MSA data are available on the Maryland State Department of Education’s updated report card Web site,


The Maryland State Board of Education last week re-elected James H. DeGraffenreidt, Jr., as its president, while Dr. Charlene Dukes was elected vice president.

DeGraffenreidt has served as State Board president for the past year.  He is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of WGL Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Washington Gas.  DeGraffenreidt also serves as Chairman and CEO of Washington Gas, the natural gas utility serving more than 1 million customers in the Washington metropolitan area and surrounding region.  He serves on the boards of Harbor Bankshares Corporation, Federal City Council, Maryland Science Center, the Walters Art Museum, the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, and the DC College Success Foundation.  He received the degrees of Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration from Columbia University in 1978 and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Yale College in 1974.

Dr. Dukes is president of Prince George’s Community College and has 26 years of progressive leadership experiences and administrative responsibility in higher education.  From 2002 through 2006, she served on the Prince George’s County Board of Education and chaired various committees.  In addition, she holds membership in a variety of professional organizations, and has participated in the Executive Leadership Institute sponsored by the League for Innovation.  Dr. Dukes holds a bachelor of science degree in secondary education with an English concentration from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a Master’s and Doctorate in Administration and Policy Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

The Maryland State Board of Education is a 12-member body appointed by the Governor.  Members serve a maximum of two four-year terms.  A student member serves a one-year term.


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