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June 19, 2009
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

High school graduation brings new beginnings for thousands of Marylanders. For more than 140 new graduates, the Robert C. Byrd Honors Program will make that beginning just a little easier.

MSDE this week named 143 Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholars for 2009. Each honoree receives a four-year scholarship worth up to $1,500 per year, to be used for undergraduate study at any institution of higher education based on cost of attendance. The scholars were chosen from more than 600 nominees made by public and private high school principals, as well as from home school entities, from across the state.

The program is designed to promote student excellence and achievement. The program recognizes some of our top students, and we believe the funds will help them achieve great things down the road.

For more about the program, go here.

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For our students to be successful, they must stay in school. Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and I will join 600 educators and community leaders next week for “Brighter Futures: Maryland’s Dropout Prevention Leadership Summit.” The summit, being held at Randallstown High School, is an invitational event designed to help educators devise new state and local solutions to the dropout problem.

America’s Promise, a nonprofit organization launched by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife Alma, has been co-sponsoring dropout summits in states and cities throughout the nation.

While Maryland’s dropout rate is well below the national average, problems persist in many parts of the State. Teams from all 24 school systems will come together to discuss their common problems and build new solutions.

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News from the Board

(May 27, 2009)
News From The Board in May looks at the rapidly dwindling numbers of high school seniors still needing to meet High School Assessment requirements, five more plans for Alternative Governance in 3 school systems, a new Physical Education VSC, and student senators. It also includes the 2009-10 Maryland Teachers of the Year! .


June 21 – July 31 – Maryland Summer Centers, Various Locations

June 22 – Dropout Summit, Randallstown High School, Baltimore County

June 23 – State Board Meeting

In the News

Maryland Schools Top Magazine’s List Baltimore Sun

The Push for Preschool
Washington Post

Maryland Students Making Strides On Tests
Gazette Newspapers

Programs Encourage Male Presence in Schools
Baltimore Sun

Md Schools Rank High in New Report
ABC 2 News

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Maryland public schools rank first in the nation in the percentage of high schools offering—and students taking—college-level courses.

Newsweek magazine this week released its own analysis of its annual “America’s Top High Schools” issue.

Newsweek magazine this week released its own analysis of its annual “America’s Top High Schools” issue.  The article, “Mid-Atlantic Excellence,” found that Maryland has the highest percentage of high schools on the list (29.5 percent), more than five points better than the second place state, Virginia. (The article is available at

When the magazine’s editors looked at the percentage of students attending one of the top 1,500 schools, Maryland did even better.  The State has 31.6 percent of its students attending one of the top schools, with Virginia again second with 26.6 percent.

The Newsweek list, known as the Challenge Index, looks at student enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge courses and tests, which have been shown to be good preparation for higher education.  Colleges have lauded these programs, and many give college credit for success on the rigorous end-of-course exams attached to the courses.

“This is tremendous news for the State of Maryland.  Maryland is ranked No. 1 in the nation because our test scores are up in every county, in every grade, in every subject and across every single demographic line.  White students, black students, high income and low income students of all ages are all testing higher today than they did five years ago,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. 

“Now is more important than ever, even in these difficult times, to continue to protect our investments in public education to ensure that every child receives a world class education and a better future. The people of Maryland are our greatest asset and our continued economic strength depends upon our ability to invest in them, and prepare our children today for the jobs of tomorrow.”

The Maryland State Department of Education has worked closely with the College Board to bring more college-level AP courses to schools across the State.  Maryland has 83 schools among the top schools on the Challenge Index.

“Our goal is to have our high schools offer a challenging curriculum to all of our students,” said State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick.  “This new research gives us more evidence that we are making a difference for our students, but we won’t be satisfied until those opportunities are available to everyone.”

The new ranking follows two reports from earlier this year, ranking Maryland as first in the nation.  Education Week ranked Maryland public schools as the nation’s best, and the College Board found that Maryland schools ranked first in the percentage of students taking Advanced Placement courses and scoring at the college mastery level (scores 3-5).


Maryland’s Summer Center Program for Gifted and Talented Students kicks off next week for its 42nd year.  The question that remains: will this be the last one for the beloved program?

One of the summer centers programs takes place on the Sultana, which sails the Chesapeake Bay.

One of the summer centers programs takes place on the Sultana, which sails the Chesapeake Bay.

Sixteen centers will open this summer. They are run at locations across the state, featuring everything from residential arts programs to paleontology.  Nearly 750 students in grades 4 through 12 will take part, culled from 1,100 applicants.

Unfortunately, the $459,000 budget for the Summer Centers program was not included in the Fiscal 2010 budget approved this spring by the Maryland General Assembly.  Many gifted and talented education advocates are hoping that some supplemental funding can be found to maintain the program next year.

This year’s Summer Centers welcome the most diverse student body in the program’s history.  The percentage of African American students involved has more than doubled over the past four years, to nearly 24 percent of participants.  The percentage of Hispanic students also has doubled in four years, to 4 percent. 

The Centers offer one to three-week residential and non-residential programs with a focus on the arts, sciences, mathematics, technology, physics, creative writing, government, history, engineering, and world languages. The activities are designed to encourage critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving while challenging students academically.

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