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April 22, 2010
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

Federal District Court Judge Marvin Garbis this week accepted a joint settlement agreement in the long-running court case that has focused on the delivery of special education services to students in Baltimore City.

At the end of the hearing, the Judge asked for a round of applause. It was warranted!

The Judge noted that the Baltimore City Public Schools made significant progress with its special education program, which has been most recently under the close scrutiny and daily management and oversight of a special team from Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) since 2005. His action sets forth a two-year transition process, during which MSDE will continue monitoring the implementation of special education, working to include the Baltimore City Public Schools in the same process being implemented with all Maryland local systems.

The court case, Vaughn G. v. the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, et al., has been an ongoing federal education case since 1984. MSDE voluntarily became a party to the case in 1994 when I agreed to assist the school system. The Department’s work with the school system grew dramatically in 2005 when the Judge put in place MSDE’s Intensive Management Capacity Improvement Team (IMCIT).

This has been a long journey, but well worth it. Working with Dr. Alonso and our colleagues in Baltimore City, we have implemented a plan that has resulted in improved services for the system’s most vulnerable students. Dr. Carol Ann Heath and her staff in MSDE’s Division of Special Education and Early Intervention Services deserve a great deal of credit for the improvement in services, spending many hours in the schools making certain services are provided.

The new agreement reflects the impact of the MSDE Plan, and the continual support of MSDE in the improvement of Baltimore City’s ability to provide services to special education students, and the academic achievement of those students.


April 23 – Teachers of Promise Institute, Baltimore

April 27 – State Board Meeting, Baltimore

Special Education Settlement - News Wrap

(March 8, 2010)
Dr. Nancy Grasmick announces the settlement of the Special Education lawsuit. Comments also included by Dr. Andres Alonso, Leslie Margolis, and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.

In the News

State’s Teachers Praise National Standards Baltimore Sun

Maryland Proposes Education Reforms for Race to the Top
Washington Post

Judge Ends 26-Year Special Education Suit in Baltimore
Education Week “On Special Education” Blog

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The Maryland State Department of Education is taking aim at the vexing problem of gaps in student achievement in its draft grant proposal for the federal government’s $4.3 billion education initiative known as Race to the Top (RTTT).

President Obama introduced the Race to the Top program last year. Maryland hopes to be awarded one of the highly competitive grants.

President Obama introduced the Race to the Top program last year. Maryland hopes to be awarded one of the highly competitive grants.

Released last week, the multi-faceted proposal draws on Maryland’s long track-record of success in public education while focusing on making the nation’s top-ranked system even better.   

The State seeks to increase student achievement across the board, improve instruction, and turn around chronically underperforming schools.  MSDE’s RTTT draft is being circulated to local school systems, education stakeholders, and teacher’s associations, and may be further revised before it is submitted to the U.S. Education Department on June 1.

At press time, 15 school systems had signed on—or said they planned to sign on—to the plan, with more expected in the next week.

“No state school system performs at a higher level than Maryland, on average—but looking solely at averages obscures our challenges,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “We will not be satisfied until each one of our students gets the education he or she deserves, and each one of our schools and school systems moves forward.”

Maryland’s proposal includes a variety of bold ideas to bolster student achievement, including:

  • Building a powerful statewide technology infrastructure linking detailed data about both students and teachers.  This will allow educators to understand student learning and to better target and customize educational improvements for the benefit of students throughout the State.
  • Redesigning Maryland’s system of preparing, retaining, and evaluating teachers and principals.  Better teacher and principal preparation programs, strengthened evaluation systems, improved use of data, and incentives for educators agreeing to work in Maryland’s persistently lowest achievement schools will fuel student and school improvement.
  • Strengthening the Maryland Curriculum and Accountability System.  Maryland will revise its curriculum, statewide student assessments, and accountability program based on the national Common Core Standards, focusing on assuring that all high school graduates are college and career ready.
  • Expanding Focus on Underachieving Schools.  Maryland has piloted the Breakthrough Center, a unique system of support for low-performing schools, with significant success.  RTTT will expand the Breakthrough Center model across the State and will build off $47 million in federal funds already allocated by the U.S. Department of Education to improve our lowest performing schools.

Development of the RTTT draft is the result of an unprecedented outreach program by State education officials.  Dr. Grasmick and her staff made presentations to more than 70 outside organizations, crisscrossing the State to receive input and answer questions.  The result is a document that is receiving pledges of support throughout Maryland.

“Our state is remarkably united in this massive effort,” Dr. Grasmick said.  “Everyone we speak with—teachers, administrators, parents, community leaders—agrees that all Maryland children deserve outstanding instruction and a pathway to success.  Our proposal uses a variety of methods to reach one common conclusion: that children graduate from our schools achieving at a higher level and prepared for college or careers.”

Maryland’s proposal is being submitted for the second round of RTTT.  Department officials last month announced its first two grantees—Delaware and Tennessee—culled from 41 applications.  Under the program guidelines, Maryland would be eligible for up to $250 million in RTTT funds, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program.  RTTT is funded at $4 billion.

Maryland’s draft Race to the Top application can by found on the MSDE’s RTTT webpage.


Maryland’s top-ranked education system received a major boost during the 2010 session of the Maryland General Assembly, as legislators approved a slate of school reforms and maintained funding despite a difficult fiscal climate.

One of the most important bills to emerge from the session was SB 899, a bill introduced by Governor Martin O’Malley and based on MSDE proposals to continue its reform program and enhance its competitiveness in the federal Race to the Top program competition.  The bill increases from two years to three years the length of time before a new Maryland public school teacher can gain tenure.  It also links student performance data to teacher and principal evaluation.

“Maryland has become the nation’s leader in public education by continuing to improve its schools, not by maintaining the status quo,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “The Maryland General Assembly this year proved once again that it is on the side of students and their families.”

Race to the Top, the Obama Administration’s $4.3 billion education reform initiative, seeks to have States strengthen teaching and learning throughout the nation’s public schools.  Maryland is eligible for $250 million in funding, but without the changes approved by the General Assembly, observers believed that Maryland’s application would be viewed less favorably.

The state budget continues to provide strong support for public elementary and secondary education.  The Governor and the General Assembly have increased education aid by $189 million—or 3.4 percent—to $5.7 billion in fiscal 2011.  This continues the legislature’s strong financial support of public education, which began with the passage of the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act in 2001.  That law added $1.3 billion to public school systems.

In addition to continued budgetary support, several important initiatives were approved in this year’s legislative session and await Governor O’Malley’s signature. 

Among the highlights of this year’s session:

  • Safer Schools—The General Assembly approved a number of school safety and anti-gang bills, including HB 1160, The Safe Schools Act of 2010.  The bill requires improved information sharing among court, law enforcement, and both public and private school officials, targeting students who are delinquent or habitually truant.
  • Improving Student Data—Maryland’s longitudinal data system would be established as a statewide data system containing student level data from all levels of education and into the workforce under SB 275, a Departmental bill.
  • Master Plans—Departmental bill SB 74 continues the requirement that local school systems submit comprehensive master plans over the next two years, detailing how they will improve student achievement and reduce gaps in achievement between student subgroups.  Originally part of the Bridge to Excellence Act, the Master Plan process has helped school systems focus on struggling schools.
  • Strengthening Financial Literacy—HB 789 requires each local superintendent to certify to the State Superintendent that the Personal Financial Literacy State Curriculum is being taught, but does not require that systems establish separate courses in financial literacy.  A number of local systems have integrated financial literacy into pre-existing courses in economics, social studies, and mathematics.


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