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June 29, 2010
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

It was great to have another ďNo. 1Ē bestowed on Maryland this month through Newsweek magazineís annual ranking of high schools (see story, right column). Coming on the heels of Education Week naming Maryland as the nationís top system, and College Board ranking our Advanced Placement accomplishments at the head of the class, we have had another successful school year.

Marylandís success can be attributed in large part to our wonderful students, teachers, and administrators, as well as the unparalleled support we receive from parents and community members. These are shared victories, and we wonít rest until every school in every neighborhood is successful.

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Our great schools have the benefit of outstanding principals. It was a pleasure this month to honor two of the best, who appeared before the State Board.
Anne Gold, MAESP’s Principal of the Year, flanked by Board President James DeGraffenreidt and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.

Anne Gold, MAESP’s Principal of the Year, flanked by Board President James DeGraffenreidt and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.

Anne Gold, principal at Vincent Farm Elementary in Baltimore County, is the 2010 Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals (MAESP) Principal of the Year. Anne has spent more than 15 years managing some of that systemís finest schools. A former music teacher in New York, she has continued to make the arts a high priority at her schools.

Patricia Shifflett, named the MAESP Assistant Principal of the Year, has spent the past decade as an assistant principal in Howard County elementary schools. Her hard work has helped both Deep Run and Rockburn thrive. As often happens with great Assistant Principals, sheís been tapped to move to a principalís office next school year. Sheíll take over at Jeffers Hill Elementary School in the fall.

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Maryland is adding personal financial literacy as a required instructional program for our public schools under a regulation adopted this month by the State Board. We only have to look at the nationís economy to understand why this is critically important.

Under the new regulation, school systems must provide an instructional program in personal financial literacy at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. These are not necessarily separate courses, but content that can be integrated into mathematics, social studies, or other classes.

The program is designed to help students make informed, responsible financial decisions; understand the relationship between careers, education, and income; plan and manage money; manage credit and debt; manage risks and preserve wealth; and create and build wealth.

The program grew out of the work of a State Task Force co-chaired by Del. Dana Stein and Sen. C. Anthony Muse. MSDE staff from our College and Career Readiness Division worked closely with members of the General Assembly to bring focus to the program. They deserve our thanks for their tireless efforts.

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Historic St. Mary’s City in Southern Maryland is doing a nice thing for teachers. It is thanking Maryland educators for their hard work throughout the year by offering free admission during the month of July. Faculty and staff who show a Maryland school identification card. on entry will enjoy a day exploring the site of Maryland’s first capital at no charge. We’re told that visitors should allow at least four hours to visit each of the living history sites: the Maryland Dove, Town Center, the Godiah Spray Tobacco Plantation, and the Woodland Indian Hamlet. For visitors who haven’t been to Historic St. Mary’s City in a few years will want to see the St. John’s Site Museum, which opened in 2008.

Summer hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information, visit or e-mail


July 20 Ė State Board Meeting, Baltimore

July 28-30 Ė Maryland Principalís Academy

Race to the Top
Maryland this month submitted its application for the federal Race to the Top program. A video detailing the program is available at the links below.
Quicktime version
Windows Media version

In the News

98 Maryland High Schools Ranked in U.S. Survey
Baltimore Sun

Defense Contractor Gives Teens $10K Scholarships
WBAL Television

Our Say: Student Achievement Should Play Role in Teacher Evaluation
Maryland Gazette/Annapolis Capital

That Cheats the Kids
New York Times

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The Maryland State Board of Education by unanimous vote last week adopted the Common Core State Standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12.

State Board members Dr. Ivan Walks; Dr. Charlene Dukes (vice president); and James DeGraffenreidt (president) review Maryland’s education reform plans.

State Board members Dr. Ivan Walks; Dr. Charlene Dukes (vice president); and James DeGraffenreidt (president) review Marylandís education reform plans.

Also last week, Maryland joined a multi-state consortium in an application for Race to the Top funds to help design and build new assessments.  Maryland is one of the governing states in the 26-state Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

  • Common Core Adoption

Adoption of the Common Core Standards was expected after State Board members last month endorsed the draft.  They withheld final approval until after the final standards document was released on June 2.

The Common Core Standards is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Maryland became involved in the project last June, when Governor Martin O’Malley and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick signed on to the initiative along with representatives from 48 other states and two territories.

Maryland will now begin a broad-based year-long process to revise its curriculum to align with the new document.  Hundreds of classroom educators, instructional leaders, administrators, and higher education representatives will help State officials review, refine, and align the current Maryland State Curriculum with the Common Core. 

The new State Curriculum is expected to be ready for State Board adoption in June 2011, an accelerated process made possible by the State’s previous work in this area.

Although the U.S. Department of Education is not directly involved in this initiative, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has embraced the Common Core movement, and the Race to the Top program looks favorably on states that have signed on.

For further information about the Common Core, see

  • PARCC Application

Florida, on behalf of Maryland and the 24 other states in the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) last week submitted the assessment grant application to the U.S. Department of Education as part of the “Race to the Top” competition.

Through the competition, the Department intends to allot $350 million to a group of states for the development of common assessments aligned to common standards for what students should learn at each grade level.  Together, the 26 PARCC states educate more than 60 percent of the K-12 students in the United States.

The goal of PARCC is to create an assessment system that will help states dramatically increase the number of students who graduate high school ready for college and careers and provide students, parents, teachers, and policymakers with the tools they need to help students – from grade three through high school – stay on track and graduate prepared.

The proposed assessment system will be computer based and students will take parts of the assessment at key times during the school year, closer to when they learn the material, rather than waiting for one big test at the end of the year. Teachers and principals will be able to see how students are progressing towards achieving the standards at key points in the school year, allowing them to adjust instructional practices or give extra support to students who need it.

Because the assessments will be developed by states in partnership with one another, they will provide a common metric for measuring the performance of their students; for the first time, meeting standards in one state will mean the same thing as in others.

In order to ensure the assessment system is anchored in what it takes to be successful in college and careers, higher education systems and institutions in all PARCC states will participate in the development of the new high school tests. The goal will be for those institutions, and the nearly 1,000 campuses they represent, to honor the results of the new assessments as an indicator of students’ readiness to take first-year credit-bearing courses.

To see the proposal and related materials, go to the Florida Department of Education web site at


Maryland public schools rank first in the nation in the percentage of high schools offering—and students taking—college-level courses.

Newsweek magazine last week released its annual “America’s Top High Schools” issue.  The magazine lists 98 Maryland high schools among its top 1,622 schools—the top 6 percent in the nation. 

Maryland has 185 public high schools, which means that more than half—53 percent—have gained a place on Newsweek’s list.  A handful of states—California (285 schools), New York (162 schools), Florida (135 schools), and Texas (127 schools)—have more schools on the list.  But all of those states have a far greater number of schools overall.

The Newsweek list is based upon the Challenge Index, developed by the Washington Post.  It looks at student enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge courses and tests, which have been shown to be good preparation for higher education.  Many colleges and universities give credit for success on the rigorous end-of-course exams attached to the courses. 

“We have worked tirelessly to bring rigorous coursework to schools throughout our State,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “We know our children can perform at the highest level, and we need to provide them with that challenge.”

Maryland has worked closely with the College Board in a unique partnership to bring AP courses to underserved schools throughout the State.

“This is more great news for the State of Maryland and its number one ranked school system,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.  “We have worked to protect our investments in education, because we understand its importance to every community and every family.  This is yet another indication that our investments will be paying dividends for years to come.”

The Maryland schools on the list are representative of the State’s diversity.  High schools from 15 different Maryland counties made the Newsweek list.  Fifteen of the schools spotlighted by the magazine have 35 percent or more of their students receiving free or reduced-price meals.

The new ranking follows two reports from earlier this year, ranking Maryland as first in the nation.  Education Week ranked Maryland public schools as the nation’s best for the second consecutive year, and the College Board found that Maryland schools ranked first in the percentage of students scoring at the college mastery level (scores 3-5) in Advanced Placement.

To see Newsweek’s list, click here.

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