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March 4, 2010
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

Maryland’s track record of success continued last month with the College Board’s Advanced Placement report to the nation, which found Maryland student success on the rigorous exams to rank first in the nation for the second straight year.

The percentage of Maryland seniors who earned a score of three or higher on one or more AP exams reached 24.8 percent in 2009. That ranked as the highest percentage in the nation and 1.4 percentage points better than 2008. Moreover student success grew even as participation increased. Maryland and Florida became the first states in history to reach 40 percent of its seniors taking at least one AP test.

MSDE has worked closely with the College Board to expand AP, and it has paid off for our students. Twenty-two of Maryland’s 24 school systems have a 20 percent or greater participation rate among seniors, and 14 have a 30 percent or greater rate. Maryland is one of just 16 states that has eliminated the equity and excellence gap among Hispanic students on the AP exams, and has seen a big increase in the percentage of African American students having success on the assessments.

We know our students can meet challenges if we provide them with the opportunities and give them the tools to succeed.

* * *

Now the nation knows what we have known for a long time: Washington County Superintendent Betty Morgan is the best there is.

Elizabeth “Betty” Morgan last month was named the National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators. Superintendent in Washington County since 2001, Betty also has served as chief academic officer for the Baltimore City Public Schools and has served four different Maryland systems as a teacher and administrator.

Washington County has a remarkable history of success, thanks in large part to Betty’s leadership. Her honor is well deserved.

* * *

One of my favorite celebrations is taking place throughout March. Governor O’Malley has declared this month “Read Across Maryland” month to coincide with the national “Read Across America” celebration.

This week I read to children at Storyville, a wonderful children’s library that is part of Baltimore County’s public library in Woodlawn. I encourage everyone to pick up a book and read to a child. Reading really is the gateway to learning.

For more information on reading activities, see


March 15 – Blue Ribbon Schools Dinner, Annapolis

March 23 – State Board Meeting, Baltimore

News From The Board

(February 23, 2010)
Tons of snow tops February's Board News. Also, the Race is On!, the National Superintendent of the Year (right here in Maryland), teacher certification, and Take 15 poster winners make an appearance at the Board.

In the News

Maryland Ranks First in AP Performance
Gazette Newspapers

O’Malley to Push Teacher Changes
Baltimore Sun

Washington County Schools Chief Named National Superintendent of the Year
Hagerstown Herald-Mail

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Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley last month proposed a slate of reforms designed to continue the state’s progress in education.

The Education Reform Act of 2010, Senate Bill 899, follows closely the ideas put forth by State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick last year.

The bill would:

  • Increase from two years to three years the probationary time for a new teacher before tenure can be granted,

  • Require that student growth data be a significant factor – among many factors – in the evaluations of teachers and principals, and

  • Allow for differentiated pay to attract highly effective teachers and principals to low-performing schools.
Board President James DeGraffenreidt, left, discusses Maryland’s reform proposals with Board members Dr. Mary K. Finan and Kate Walsh.

Board President James DeGraffenreidt, left, discusses Maryland’s reform proposals with Board members Dr. Mary K. Finan and Kate Walsh.

“In Maryland, we strongly believe that the education of our students must be a priority, and that’s something we’re proud of,” Governor O’Malley said.  “It is important now more than ever that we continue to protect our investments in education, so that every student has the opportunities that strong academic preparation can provide.  This legislation aims to sustain and build upon the real progress we’ve made for every student and every school in Maryland, making Maryland even more competitive both nationally and throughout the world.”

Governor O’Malley said the legislation will help strengthen Maryland’s position as it competes for federal funding through the Obama Administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative. 

The Maryland State Board of Education has been following the Race to the Top process closely with MSDE staff appearing before the Board each month to discuss progress.  The U.S. Department of Education is offering two rounds of grants.  Applications for the first round were due in January.  Maryland plans to apply in round two, with applications due June 1.

Board member Guffrie Smith said MSDE’s decision to wait until round two was the right one.  Submitting the grant application without the consensus that Maryland is gathering “could have created a lot of problems for us,” he said.  “It could have put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.”

Board member Kate Walsh pressed MSDE to be bolder in the application proposal, saying that she believed the U.S. Department of Education was looking for a high level of innovation.

“Maryland has long been a leader in education reform, and this legislation lays the groundwork for continued progress,” Dr. Grasmick said.  “This proposal would provide for more support to new teachers, and allow for improved assessment of our educational process.  The overall goal in this legislative package is to improve student learning, which is always the right thing to do.”

For more information on Maryland’s Race to the Top initiatives, click here.


The Maryland State Board of Education last week set forth a limited waiver process for Maryland school system calendars affected by the historic snow storms of this winter.

St. Mary’s County Superintendent Michael Martirano climbs one of the snow mountains built by snow plows on a school system parking lot.

St. Mary’s County Superintendent Michael Martirano climbs one of the snow mountains built by snow plows on a school system parking lot.

School systems may request a waiver of up to five days from the required 180-day instructional calendar due to the inclement weather that affected the State during storms in December and February.  The State Board has authorized the State Superintendent to approve individual requests from local system superintendents to make adjustments in the school calendar.

State law requires schools be open for a minimum of 180 instructional days.  The law also grants the State Board authority to make adjustments to the school year if normal school attendance is prevented by severe weather.  Under the waiver provision, systems must demonstrate that they have made sufficient effort in providing instruction through calendar planning and modifications.

“We believe that 180 instructional days is a bare minimum in a competitive world where some nations keep students in school for 220 days or more,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “At the same time, we recognize that severe weather conditions this year have been unprecedented, and the State Board believes that some flexibility must be granted.”

Due to federal deadlines and a tight scoring schedule, Maryland does not have the option to delay the Maryland School Assessments (MSAs).  Students will take the annual MSAs as scheduled, beginning the week of March 8, but State officials have said they will ask the U.S. Department of Education for special flexibility to maintain the same scoring targets that were in place for 2009.  This practice has been used by other states in severe circumstances.

Under federal law, schools and school systems must meet steadily increasing scoring targets to maintain what is known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).   Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools and systems strive to make AYP in order to reach the overall goal of having 100 percent of all students scoring at proficient levels in reading and mathematics by 2014.

Maryland’s proposal would maintain the overall 2014 target, but would not increase the interim target from 2009 to 2010.  Instead, Maryland schools and systems would be required to make greater improvement by 2011, a target which would not be altered.

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