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September 24, 2009
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan came to Maryland this month to announce 314 new National Blue Ribbon Schools, including six public schools in Maryland.
Dr. Grasmick greeting Education Secretary Arne Duncan as Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Montgomery Superintendent Jerry Weast look on.

Dr. Grasmick greeting Education Secretary Arne Duncan as Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Montgomery Superintendent Jerry Weast look on.

Secretary Duncan’s announcement at Highland Elementary School in Montgomery County—one of the new national Blue Ribbon Schools—came one week after an even brighter spotlight on schools. President Barack Obama one week earlier gave a back-to-school address carried live or on tape at many Maryland schools.

The President’s address focused on the personal responsibility students have to do their best in school.

“We can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world—and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities,” he told students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA, as well as the national audience. “Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.”

The Blue Ribbon announcement proved that many Maryland students are doing exactly that. All six state schools nominated received the national recognition.

“These Blue Ribbon Schools have shown that all children can learn with appropriate supports,” Secretary Duncan said. “They are producing outstanding results for their students. Some have shown dramatic improvements in places where students are overcoming the challenges of poverty, and others serve as examples of consistent excellence that can be a resource for other schools. They are places where improved teaching and learning benefits every student, and where students are challenged to meet high expectations with the active support of teachers, parents and the community.

In addition to Highland Elementary, Maryland’s new National Blue Ribbon Schools are:

• Southern High School, Anne Arundel County
• Western High School, Baltimore City
• Seventh District Elementary School, Baltimore County
• Hammond Middle School, Howard County
• Stephen Decatur Middle School, Worcester County

* * *

The Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore is one of our State’s great resources, and we now have a new educational resource designed around it.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), Maryland Port Administration (MPA), and Maryland Public Television (MPT) this month launched a new website designed to help high school students and their teachers look at the numerous technologies and career opportunities at the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore. This interactive online field trip,, was unveiled this month at the Maritime Industries Academy High School in Baltimore City.

We believe that teachers will be able to use this website as a resource to enhance their instruction. The online field trip gives students an opportunity to explore a world that they would not otherwise be able to access.


September 30 - October 2 – Maryland Association of Boards of Education Meeting, Ocean City

October 2 – Teacher of the Year Gala, Baltimore

October 5 - 12 – Service Learning Week

October 27 – State Board Meeting, Baltimore

In the News

Md. Says Graduation States Prove Exit Exams Work
Washington Post

Testing the HSAs
Baltimore Sun

Highland Receives Blue Ribbon Honors
Montgomery Gazette

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Nearly 60,000 students graduated in the Class of 2009, while the dropout rate for the senior class fell to 2.6 percent, according to data released this week to the Maryland State Board of Education.

Dropout Rate, Grades 9-12

The 2008-2009 senior class was the first one for whom passing the High School Assessments (HSAs) was a graduation requirement.  Only eleven students statewide failed to graduate solely because of the HSAs, the new data found. 

The State Board voted in 2004 to make passing the HSAs a requirement for the Maryland High School Diploma starting with the Class of 2009, a measure supported by a broad cross-section of business and higher education leaders.   The new data shows that the assessments—in algebra/data analysis, biology, English 2, and government—did not prove to be a barrier to graduation.

“We heard often over the past year that principals, teachers, and superintendents followed the progress of each individual student and worked hard to assure they were successful.  I want to applaud our educators statewide for making every student count and for making certain that so many students graduated on time,” State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said of the new results.  “The HSA requirement added a new dimension, and the data shows teachers and students were not intimidated.  But we should add that this is a new floor, not a ceiling.  We must continue to raise standards to make certain our students are college- and work-ready.”

More than two-thirds of Maryland’s graduates met the HSA threshold by passing each of the four exams outright—41,066.  Others took advantage of important alternative routes to complete the requirement.

An additional 9,617 students (16 percent) met the HSA requirement by achieving 1602 points total across the four assessments—commonly known as the “combined score option.”  Another 3,481 students (6 percent) used the Bridge Plan for Academic Validation to pass the HSAs.  The Bridge Plan was a rigorous project-based alternative that proved to be an effective teaching tool for participating students.

Seniors who entered high school prior to 2005—another 3,418 students (6 percent)—were not required to pass the four HSAs, but are counted in the graduating class.  Finally, less than one percent of the class (531 students) was given a waiver from the requirement because of specified extenuating circumstances. The State Board had set into place a limited waiver provision for some students—for reasons ranging from scheduling difficulties to inadequate intervention opportunities—which interfered with the student abilities to meet the requirement.

The dropout data included in the release was particularly gratifying, as some had wondered if the HSA requirement would cause a spike in the number of students leaving school.  MSDE staff said there is evidence to suggest that the opposite actually occurred.  Only 2.6 percent of the senior class dropped out of school, compared to 3.4 percent in 2008.

Governor Martin O’Malley put an additional spotlight on the new graduation data.  “Once again, the students and teachers of our One Maryland have proven their ability to shine in response to high expectations,” Governor O’Malley said.  “Thanks to the hard work of our State Board of Education and the people of MSDE, we now have a longitudinal data system that can track this type of information for each student throughout their time in Maryland public schools.  This information not only allows us to identify trends, but it allows the professionals within our schools to intervene where a problem is recognized and get each student on the right path to success and ultimate graduation.  Together, we’re strengthening the nation’s number one public school system and building it to compete with our counterparts around the world.”

State Board member Mary Kay Finan said that she was one of a number of Board members concerned that the higher standard might cause a significant number of students to miss graduation or drop out.  “It is reassuring to see the numbers come out the way they did,” she noted.

All 2009 school and system data are available on the updated website.


The Maryland State Board of Education this week congratulated three of the State’s top principals.

State Board Member Donna Hill Staton (left) State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, (second from right), and Board President James DeGraffenreidt (right) congratulate William Ryan (top), Shawn Joseph (middle), and Melissa Shindel (bottom).
State Board Member Donna Hill Staton (left) State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, (second from right), and Board President James DeGraffenreidt (right) congratulate William Ryan (top), Shawn Joseph (middle), and Melissa Shindel (bottom).
State Board Member Donna Hill Staton (left) State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, (second from right), and Board President James DeGraffenreidt (right) congratulate William Ryan (top), Shawn Joseph (middle), and Melissa Shindel (bottom).

State Board Member Donna Hill Staton (left) State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, (second from right), and Board President James DeGraffenreidt (right) congratulate William Ryan (top), Shawn Joseph (middle), and Melissa Shindel (bottom).

Each year the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) selects a High School Principal of the Year, Middle School Principal of the year, and Assistant Principal of the Year.

For 2009, MASSP selected William Ryan as its Principal of the Year.  Ryan is principal at River Hill High School in Howard County.  In his 18-year career as an administrator, Ryan has served as assistant principal of Charles Carroll Middle School, principal of Eisenhower Middle School and principal of High Point High School in Prince George’s County prior to moving to River Hill.  He is a graduate of Bloomsburg University and Bowie State University.

Dr. Shawn Joseph was named Middle School Principal of the Year.  Dr. Joseph is principal of Roberto Clemente Middle School in Montgomery County.  He has been an English teacher, reading specialist, team leader, student support specialist, assistant principal, and principal in Montgomery County.  He is a graduate of Lincoln University and Johns Hopkins University, and recently earned his doctorate at George Washington University.

Melissa Shindel, assistant principal at Patuxent Valley Middle School in Howard County, was named Assistant Principal of the Year.  In addition, the National Association of Secondary School Principals named her National Assistant Principal of the Year.  She holds both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maryland, and has held several teaching and administrative positions in two Maryland counties.


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