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July 30, 2010
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

Maryland received another piece of good news this week. We were named one of the finalists in the U.S. Department of Education’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top (RTTT) program.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that our State is one of 19 finalists in an unprecedented program designed to strengthen student achievement and turn around struggling schools. Maryland is eligible for up to $250 million. Secretary Duncan referred to the drive to improve public schools as a “quiet revolution.”

Governor O’Malley and I will lead a delegation to Washington, DC in two weeks to discuss our plan with federal officials.

We believe Maryland is perfectly positioned to use these funds to make our terrific schools even better. Our State is united in the desire to build on what we’ve already accomplished. Our State system has ranked first in the nation for two straight years, but if we aren’t moving forward—we are moving backward.

I am proud of the work of our schools systems and this Department have made in putting together our RTTT proposal. MSDE spent eight months crafting a detailed plan. Twenty two of Maryland’s 24 local systems signed onto the plan, along with the Baltimore Teacher’s Union and the Prince George’s Education Association.

Our State developed its RTTT proposal with unprecedented collaboration and transparency. A draft application was placed on the MSDE website in April, inviting commentary, and State officials held more than 80 meetings with local school systems, organizations, and teacher’s associations over the past six months. In addition, the State held 40 focus groups with teachers and principals.

Maryland’s primary RTTT 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. The State Board in June endorsed the Common Core Standards.

• Build a statewide technology infrastructure that links all data elements with analytical 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.

U.S. Department of Education officials have indicated that the RTTT awardees will be revealed in September. Keep your fingers crossed!

* * *

It is always enjoyable to take part in the Maryland Principals’ Academy summer experience, and this year’s event this week was no different. More than 100 new principals from around the state gathered in Annapolis to take part in this unique professional development opportunity.

Leadership always matters, and our Principals’ Academy has played an important role in the State, developing and nurturing talent. This marked the 10th year for the Academy. Over that time period, more than 1,100 principals have taken part.


August 18 – Washington County Schools Open (first Maryland system to open this fall)

August 24-25 – State Board Meeting, Baltimore

Maryland Named RTTT Finalist
The U.S. Department of Education names Maryland one of 19 finalists for Race to the Top grant funding. The news comes via a live internet feed to educators gathered in the Board Room.
The U.S. Department of Education names Maryland one of 19 finalists for Race to the Top grant funding.

In the News

Eighteen States, D.C. Named Race to Top Round Finalists
Education Week

Principals Build Leadership Over the Summer
WBAL Television

Headed for the Top?
Baltimore Sun

Most Schools Make Progress on State Tests Southern Maryland News
Baltimore Sun

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Steady improvement in mathematics scores was recorded on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA), while reading scores held steady for 2010, according to data released last week by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Elementary Math Proficiency

The percentage of elementary students scoring at the proficient levels in math increased from 84.9 percent in 2009 to 86.5 percent in 2010.  At the middle school level, the percentage of math students scoring at the proficient levels improved from 71.2 percent in 2009 to 72.6 percent.

The scores build on the progress made over the past seven years.  Composite elementary reading scores have increased 25 points since 2003, while mathematics scores are up 26.5 points.  Composite middle school reading scores are up 23 points since 2003, and mathematics has increased a remarkable 33 points.

“Maryland’s public education system ranks number one in the nation because of our commitment to continuous improvement, and these results show that our schools are still on the move,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.  “The work of our educators and students is to be commended.  They have come a long way in a very short time.”

The rise in test scores contributed to 10 schools leaving the federally mandated school improvement process.  Five of those schools are located in Baltimore City, with one each in Caroline, Harford, Kent, Montgomery and Wicomico Counties.

“Our progress in the classroom has continued, even though it gets more difficult each year as the percentage of students scoring at the proficient levels in elementary school has passed 83 percent in 21 of our counties,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “Our schools and school systems have taken very seriously the challenge to help every child achieve.”

The 2010 assessment score data in Maryland also show a continued closing of the achievement gaps that have plagued schools nationwide.  Scores are expressed as the percentage of students in each system that scored at or above the proficiency levels set when the exams launched in 2003. 

For example:

  • In elementary reading, the gap in achievement between students coming from circumstances of poverty (receiving free and/or reduced price meals) and those that do not has been reduced by 19.1 points over the past seven years.
  • In middle school reading, the gap in achievement between African American students and White students has decreased 17.2 points since 2003.  The gap between Hispanic students and White students fell 15.7 points over the same period.
  • The gap in elementary mathematics achievement fell 14.9 points between English Language Learners and native English speakers. 

Schools that left the school improvement process this year are:  Arundel Elementary/Middle, Dr. Carter Goodwin Woodson PreK through Grade 8, Edgewood Elementary, Hampstead Hill Academy, and Walter P. Carter Elementary, all Baltimore City; Colonel Richardson Middle School, Caroline County; Edgewood Middle, Harford County; Rock Hall Middle, Kent County; Parkland Middle, Montgomery County; and Salisbury Middle, Wicomico County.

Scheduled for release in the coming months are the 2010 MSA science scores at the elementary and middle school level, High School Assessment (HSA) scores, graduation rates, and attendance figures.  High school and system-wide AYP information will be available when the HSA scores are released.

Statewide, system, and local school MSA data is scheduled to be available at 4 p.m. today on the Maryland State Department of Education’s updated report card Web site,


A dozen Maryland teachers this month took part in Project Lead the Way Core Training for Biomedical Sciences at Stevenson University, taking aim at preparing the next generation of biomedical engineers.

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a national nonprofit program creating dynamic partnerships with schools to produce students in science, engineering, and biotechnology at the four- and two-year college level.  Maryland, along with six other states, initiated the development of the PLTW Biomedical Sciences program.

Thirteen  school systems in the State offer Biomedical Sciences: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Montgomery, Talbot, Washington, and Worcester Counties, and Baltimore City.


The Maryland State Board of Education last week unanimously re-elected James H. DeGraffenreidt, Jr., as its president, while Dr. Charlene Dukes was re-elected vice president, also unanimously.

DeGraffenreidt has served as State Board president for the past two years.  He is the former Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of WGL Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Washington Gas.  A long-time business leader, DeGraffenreidt  also served as Chairman and CEO of Washington Gas, the natural gas utility serving more than 1 million customers in the Washington metropolitan area and surrounding region.

Dr. Dukes has served as State Board vice president for the past year.  She is president of Prince George’s Community College and has had 26 years of progressive leadership experience and administrative responsibility in higher education.

The Maryland State Board of Education is a 12-member body appointed by the Governor.  Members serve a maximum of two four-year terms.  A student member serves a one-year term.

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