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March 27, 2009
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

Maryland schools are the nation’s best in large part because of the hard work of teachers, parents, and administrators.  The State Board this month honored one of our State’s finest local superintendents, Dr. Michael J. Martirano, superintendent of the St. Mary’s County Public Schools.

Dr. Michael J. Martirano
Dr. Martirano

Dr. Martirano is Maryland’s Superintendent of the Year for 2009. Since being named superintendent of the St. Mary’s County Public Schools in July 2005, he’s reorganized the system with an emphasis on service to schools. He takes every opportunity to fully engage in school-based discussions on what works best for students and is guided by one focus: creating a total community committed to learning and safety.

Dr. Martirano really represents to me what strong leadership is all about. We are lucky to have leaders of his caliber serving students and communities throughout our State.

* * *

The Maryland State Rehabilitation Council (MSRC) and the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) next month will co-sponsor three public meetings that address employment and independent living services for individuals with disabilities. Discussions will include expected federal stimulus funds designated for employment for employment services.

Dates and locations:

Thursday, April 2, 2009 in Silver Spring

Monday, April 13, 2009 in Baltimore

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 in Cumberland

Scheduled topics of discussion include, DORS Funding Issues; Transitioning Services for High School Students with Disabilities; Employment Outcomes in Difficult Economic Times; and Services at DORS Workforce & Technology Center. Following each meeting, representatives from the MSRC, SILC, and Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services staff will be on-site to answer questions about services. For detailed directions, more information, or to arrange accommodations, visit DORS, or call 1-888-554-0334.

Did You Know?

An independent study by the U.S. Department of Education-funded Center on Innovation and Improvement recently recognized Maryland’s Supplemental Education Services (SES) Program as one with “best practices.” SES provide extended learning programs for students in selected Title I schools. Maryland’s work is highlighted in the new publication, “Improving SES Quality: State Approval, Monitoring, and Evaluation of SES Providers.”


April is Environmental Education Month in Maryland

April is the Month of the Young Child

April 27-28 — State Board Meeting

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Children entering kindergarten in Maryland continue to improve their preparation for the rigors of the classroom, according to a new report by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

Children Entering School Ready to Learn—School Readiness Information for School Year 2008-2009

Children Entering School Ready to Learn—School Readiness Information for School Year 2008-2009,” a report by MSDE’s Division of Early Childhood Development, revealed steady progress in all demographic subgroups.  Maryland students entering kindergarten fully prepared for learning increased by 5 percent from 2008 to 2009, up to 73 percent.  That is up 24 percentage points since the baseline year of 2001.

The annual MSDE study, released this week to the State Board, reflects assessment information on kindergartners’ readiness levels in social and personal areas, language and literacy, mathematical thinking, scientific thinking, social studies, the arts, physical development, and health.

Kindergarten readiness has improved significantly since all early care programs were brought under MSDE in 2005.  Since the Division of Early Childhood Development was established, the number of accredited childcare programs has grown significantly and MSDE has established several quality initiatives to improve the early learning opportunities for all children.

Also significant has been the reduction in the achievement gap between students of different ethnicities.  For example, African American children have made dramatic strides since the initial report, rising 32 percentage points overall and narrowing the gap with their peers from 19 points in 2001 to 9 points in 2009.

The MSDE study found improvement across demographic categories in the percentage of students ready for kindergarten work.  For example:

  • School readiness levels for English Language Learners have increased 25 points since 2001, including a 22 point increase in the Language and Literacy domain.
  • The improvement in school readiness for low-income children—students receiving free or reduced-price meals—has jumped 31 percentage points since 2001.
  • The percent of special education students deemed fully ready for kindergarten improved 17 points since 2001 to 47 percent. 

Dr. Rolf Grafwallner, Assistant State Superintendent for Early Childhood Development, noted that MSDE has the special education subgroup at the top of its priorities.  “This is an action agenda item for us,” he noted.

Success on the school readiness survey correlates with success on the MSA, Dr. Grafwallner said.  Only 4 percent of students who scored in the “developing readiness” range on the survey several years ago scored in the “advanced” range on the MSA exam when they reached third grade.  But of the students that had reached full readiness, approximately 50 percent scored in the advanced range.

The study results continue to highlight the importance of high-quality early learning opportunities.  Children who spent time in early-care settings started school better prepared for learning than those who remained at home or in the homes of relatives, the research found.  Children enrolled in public school pre-K programs (75 percent fully ready for kindergarten), child care centers (77 percent), and non-public nursery schools (86 percent) the year prior to kindergarten exhibited stronger school readiness levels than those who were at home or in informal care settings the year prior to kindergarten.

Maryland’s annual school readiness report is the result of legislative action to gauge the progress on school readiness skills of incoming kindergartners.  Each year, more than 2,000 kindergarten teachers use an age-appropriate portfolio-based assessment to evaluate their students’ performance on 30 indicators of learning in their classrooms during the first eight weeks of school.  The assessment information in the report reflects scores for each of the seven domains of learning, such as literacy, math, and social skills, as well as the composite score of all domains.

MSDE is a national leader in the evaluation of early childhood learning, establishing an annual evaluation of what entering kindergartners know and are able to do.  The complete School Readiness report will be available soon on the special MSDE website,


A new survey of Maryland high schools found that 92 percent of the students in this year’s senior class who need to pass the High School Assessments to receive a diploma had already done so by last week, and scores of other students had already completed Bridge Plan projects that were waiting for evaluation.

Assistant State Superintendent Leslie Wilson and Director of Instructional Assessment Scott Pfeifer discuss the HSA results with the State Board.

Assistant State Superintendent Leslie Wilson and Director of Instructional Assessment Scott Pfeifer discuss the HSA results with the State Board.

Maryland has an estimated 4,660 students still working to meet the HSA requirements, according to the survey.  Fourteen of Maryland’s 24 systems are working with 50 students or less who still need to complete the requirements.

There is an average of 23 students per high school who had not completed the HSA requirement at the time of the survey.  “We feel this is a very manageable number of students to work with,” said R. Scott Pfeifer, MSDE’s Director of Instructional Assessment. 

The Maryland State Board of Education has requested regular updates on the progress of students in completing the HSA requirement since this is the first year successful completion is necessary for a diploma.

There are two more administrations of the HSA this school year, as well as more than two months to complete Bridge Plan projects that can be used to meet the requirement.

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