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February 9, 2010
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

Being named as the nation’s number one state public school system last year has been a source of pride for all of us. Retaining that designation this year – and lengthening our lead over the other states – is even more impressive.

In case you haven’t heard, Education Week’s annual “Quality Counts” study again has put Maryland public schools at the top of the list. There are 49 other states striving for that designation, and we’re proud to have been selected for a second straight year.

Every student, teacher, administrator, parent, and supporter of Maryland’s public schools should take a measure of pride in this accomplishment. We have seen achievement rise every year, across-the-board, in all 24 Maryland school systems. Our schools continue to receive strong support from State and local officials, despite the economic difficulties that plague us. This progress is remarkable. My thanks go out to everyone involved in helping our schools hit the mark once again.

For more on the new Education Week study, click here.

* * *

One of our State’s biggest achievements over the last decade has been our students’ progress on the rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) exams. We have seen more students take the tests, and more students score at the college mastery level, than ever before.

Maryland last year ranked number one in the nation, both in terms of the percentage of students taking the exams, and the percentage of students scoring at a high level. New data is scheduled to be released this month from the College Board.

Meanwhile, USA Today has recognized our State’s dramatic progress. It points out that our students and our schools are bucking against the trend in a very positive way.

For more information on how Maryland makes huge strides in Advanced Placement, click here.

* * *

What has happened in Haiti, in the aftermath of a hurricane, is a major tragedy. What is happening among Maryland schoolchildren as a result is wonderful.

Children from across the state have joined together for “Maryland Kids Care Campaign: Operation Haiti,” a voluntary fundraising program aimed at helping Red Cross efforts in the devastated nation. The program is similar to the successful Maryland student project five years ago to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, which raised more than $1.3 million.

The new campaign runs through this Friday, February 12. For more information, see: or call 410-767-0369.


February 10 - Maryland Library Day - General Assembly, Annapolis

February 23-24 – State Board Meeting, Baltimore

February 24 – Gifted and Talented Celebration, Annapolis

News From The Board

(January 26, 2010)
State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick and the Board discuss 'Race to the Top,' a new Financial Literacy curriculum, Baltimore City's annual report, and teacher certification. Also, see and hear the winning moment of Anne Arundel County's $25,000 Milken Award winner -- she watches the video with the Board.

In the News

Expanding Preschool Curriculum
WMAR Channel 2

Students Step Up to Help Haiti
Baltimore Sun

The Race for Education Dollars
Washington Post

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The Maryland State Department of Education has launched its next wave of education reform, and is seeking comment from interested citizens as it prepares its grant proposal for the federal government’s $4.3 billion education initiative known as Race to the Top.

State Board Vice President Charlene Dukes, President James DeGraffenreidt, Jr., and board members Dr. Mary Kay Finan and Kate Walsh review information on Race to the Top.

State Board Vice President Charlene Dukes, President James DeGraffenreidt, Jr., and board members Dr. Mary Kay Finan and Kate Walsh review information on Race to the Top.

The unprecedented federal program is aimed at boosting student achievement, reducing gaps in achievement between student subgroups, turning around struggling schools, and improving the teaching profession.

A link to information on Maryland’s Race to the Top initiative can by found on the MSDE webpage,  Comments are due March 15.  Maryland intends to apply in the program’s second round, with applications due June 1.

“As the nation’s number one public school system, we have an obligation to find ways to build upon our strengths, and continue to reform and improve our school system to not only be the nation’s best, but to be globally competitive as well,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.  “It has always been our belief that the best way to reform is through an open, transparent process where all parties are held accountable for the results.  All Marylanders have a stake in our public schools, and I look forward to engaging our citizens in this process as we continue to seek ways to reform.”

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said that Maryland’s long history of working with struggling schools gives the State an advantage in this new phase of school improvement. 

“The plan we are constructing is not designed to chase federal money,” Dr. Grasmick said.  “Rather, we consider this the next phase in our ongoing school reform program.  We intend to press on with our mission no matter the circumstances.”

Maryland’s Race to the Top effort is being assisted by an Executive Steering Committee, led by Board President James H. DeGraffenreidt, Jr., and Dr. Grasmick, and includes a cross-section of educators and other leaders.

Next for the State is a series of reforms designed to further bolster student achievement.  The reforms will:

  • Revise the PreK-12 Maryland State Curriculum, assessments, and accountability system based on the Common Core Standards to assure that all graduates are college- and career-ready.
  • Build a statewide technology infrastructure that links all data elements with analytic and instructional tools to monitor and promote student achievement.
  • Redesign the model for preparation, development, retention, and evaluation of teachers and principals.
  • Fully implement the innovative Breakthrough Center approach for transforming low-performing schools and districts.

State Board member Guffrie Smith said groups throughout Maryland are working on new reform ideas.  “We are working together,” he noted.  “This makes a lot of sense."

For more information, or to comment on Maryland’s plan, click here.


A new State curriculum designed to help students better understand personal finance was accepted last month by the Maryland State Board of Education.

The curriculum includes standards in personal finance at the elementary, middle, and high school grades.  It does not mandate a course; rather, it focuses on learning goals that can be incorporated into existing coursework.

“Each local education agency will be obligated to make sure that this is spread throughout the curriculum,” explained Board Vice President Charlene Dukes.  She noted that seven systems in the state already have some sort of a program that involves personal finance instruction.

The curriculum was developed in response to a recommendation from the Task Force to Study How to Improve Financial Literacy in the State, a group prompted by General Assembly interest in personal finance issues.  Noting the nation’s current economic crisis, which involves large amounts of credit card debt and a variety of loan default and bankruptcy issues, several legislators pushed for personal finance education at the elementary and secondary school levels.  Nearly 15 states have established personal finance standards for K-12 schools.

Board members this month are scheduled to vote on publishing regulations that would set in place the curriculum.  Once published, the public would be encouraged to comment on the proposal.

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