MSDE Bulletin Banner
April 5, 2011
  | MSDE Home | Newsroom | | School Improvement |
State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

After nearly 20 years as Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, I have notified Governor O’Malley of my intention to retire on June 30.

It has been a distinct honor to serve in this capacity. Our children and our schools have made great strides. Our instructional teams have never been stronger. We have our challenges, to be sure. But the future for Maryland public education has never been brighter.

Thank you for your support throughout this journey. Throughout the years, my focus has always been on the needs of our children. I know I share that focus with each one of you.

* * *

Great teachers are a gift. A gift to students and their parents, administrators and the schools they serve. Maryland is fortunate to have so many terrific teachers. I’d like to mention two.

We’ve already heard quite a bit about Michelle Shearer, our 2011 Maryland Teacher of the Year. Michelle is a chemistry teacher at Urbana High School in Frederick County. One of the four finalists for the national Teacher of the Year honor, she met with the State Board last month to discuss this great honor.

“I’m very grateful to live in a State that values its teachers,” Michelle said. “It is about our students, and our students deserve the best we can give them.”

The national Teacher of the Year will be announced in May. Good luck, Michelle!

McKinley Broome, a fourth grade teacher at Woodholme Elementary in Baltimore County, is Maryland’s 2011 National Milken Educator. The surprise honor carries with it a $25,000 cash award. McKinley also met with the State Board last month.

McKinley, a teacher for the past six years, is a pure Maryland product. He went to public school in Calvert County, and proudly cited State Board member Guffrie Smith—his former principal—as a big influence.

With this year’s honorees, the Milken Foundation has contributed $1.375 million to Maryland’s Milken National Educators.

* * *

Few of us have been left unmoved by the tragedy that has taken place in Japan. MSDE is asking Maryland schools and school systems to help the people of Japan following the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that damaged much of the northern region two weeks ago.

The Maryland Kids Care Campaign: Operation Japan is asking Maryland’s 1,500 public schools to collect pennies—and more—to help aid victims. The fundraising effort will run through May 13.

MSDE is partnering with the American Red Cross Central Maryland Chapter in the relief effort. The American Red Cross is supporting the Japanese Red Cross, whose employees and volunteers are directly providing emergency relief, medical services, and emotional counseling to affected communities.

Our children are caring and compassionate, and they are interested in the world around them. The Japanese people have experienced an unprecedented natural disaster, and this campaign will provide students an opportunity to get involved—and learn—in a tangible and important way. The earthquake off the coast of Japan on March 11 caused unprecedented damage to the east coast of the nation’s northeastern region.

Maryland students have become involved in other recent disaster relief efforts. Six years ago, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Maryland schools raised more than $1.3 million. Last year, following the Haiti disaster, schools raised close to $500,000.

For more information on the campaign, visit, or call the Maryland State Department of Education at 410-767-0369.

* * *

Follow MSDE on Facebook!
Follow MSDE on Facebook!

Don’t forget to connect with MSDE on Facebook. Our department’s Facebook page provides regular updates on state initiatives, MSDE videos, and links to education news throughout the State.


April is Financial Literacy Month

April 8 – Teachers of Promise Institute,Baltimore

April 11 – End of General Assembly Session,Annapolis

April 26-27 – State Board Meeting, Baltimore

News from the Board - March
March 22, 2011
Maryland's success in Early Childhood Education tops Board News in March. Also, a Race to the Top status report, Board Briefs, a Milken winner, and Maryland's Michelle Shearer, a finalist for National Teacher of the Year!

TOY Summit - Teacher Evaluations
March 9, 2011
Teachers of the Year (past and present), principals, and Milken award winners gather in Annapolis to give input and talk about new evaluations centered on student growth.

Support for Struggling Schools
March 7, 2011
In the fifth segment of a special Race to the Top series, Ass't. State Sup't Ann Chafin talks briefly about the issues surrounding help for struggling schools.

In the News

Nancy Grasmick will be a Hard Act to Follow
Baltimore Sun

What Officials are Saying About Grasmick
Baltimore Sun

Comcast Awards $106,000 in Scholarships to Maryland High School Seniors
PR Newswire

Maryland Counties “Yearning” For Cameras on School Buses
Washington Examiner

Four of Five Maryland Children Ready for Kindergarten
Montgomery Gazette

Having trouble viewing this email?
Click here to view on the web.

Click here for a PDF version of the MSDE April 05, 2011 Education Bulletin.

If you would prefer not to receive future Newsletters from us, simply click here, and insert in the subject line, Unsubscribe.


Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick last week announced her intention to retire this summer, which will end her nearly 20-year tenure at the helm of the nation’s most honored public school system.

Dr. Grasmick speaking earlier this year in Annapolis.

State Superintendent Grasmick has led Maryland schools through a 20-year period of improvement and innovation.

Dr. Grasmick has served as State Superintendent in Maryland since September of 1991.  She currently ranks as the nation’s longest-serving appointed state schools’ chief.  She will retire on June 30.

Maryland this year has already received several national accolades.  Education Week in January named Maryland the number one school system in the nation for an unprecedented third straight year.  The College Board in February followed up by citing Maryland student success in the rigorous Advanced Placement exams as the nation’s best, also for the third consecutive year.

“Our students and our schools have made tremendous progress over the past two decades, and stand on the edge of even greater progress,” Dr. Grasmick said.  “It has been my great honor and privilege to work with our state’s outstanding educators to provide our children with the educational system they richly deserve.”

Response to Dr. Grasmick’s plans was swift, with everyone from Gov. Martin O’Malley to Education Secretary Arne Duncan offering best wishes.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings spoke for many in his statement.  “No other person has done more to further education in Maryland than Dr. Nancy Grasmick,” Rep. Cummings said.  “In an era where so much emphasis is put on test scores, Dr. Grasmick has had the wisdom and courage to make sure Maryland schools address the whole child.”

Under Dr. Grasmick’s leadership, Maryland schools have seen marked improvement.  For seven consecutive years, Maryland’s school systems have raised scores in both reading and math, and there has been strengthened achievement across racial subgroups.  Student achievement also has increased for students receiving special services, such as low-income and students with disabilities.  At the same time, MSDE data reveal a reduction in many achievement gaps between subgroups, especially at the elementary-school level. 

Maryland has seen dramatic improvement in other areas.  Its work in the Advanced Placement program has been cited, logging the nation’s greatest increases in the percentage of students scoring at college mastery levels in the exams.  Graduation rates in the state have risen steadily over the past 20 years, while dropout rates have fallen. 

The Maryland State Department of Education has been a thriving incubator for innovative practices under Dr. Grasmick.  Determined to strengthen school performance across the board, Dr. Grasmick led the state to initiate one of the nation’s first accountability systems, predating the federal No Child Left Behind Act by several years and receiving national recognition along the way. 

In other pioneering efforts, MSDE initiated what may be the nation’s first state division for leadership development, shining a spotlight on the principal as instructional leader for each school.  The Department four years ago launched the nation’s first statewide award to honor parents who contribute to school improvement.  The State more than a decade ago set in place the nation’s only service learning graduation requirement. 

Dr. Grasmick has put a special focus on early childhood development during her years as State Superintendent.  The Maryland Model for School Readiness, which charts the preparation of students as they enter kindergarten, has earned a reputation as a national model.  Over the past nine years, the percentage of children deemed to be fully prepared for kindergarten has risen from 49 percent to 81 percent.  Over those nine years, Maryland has moved all early care programs under MSDE, and the Department initiated an innovative curriculum for pre-school students linked to the State’s K-12 curriculum.

Last summer, Maryland was awarded one of the U.S. Department of Education’s 12 Race to the Top grants, a $250 million program designed to take the nation’s top school system to a new level of excellence.  The grant takes aim at continuing the improvement of the State’s lowest performing schools, redesigning teacher tenure, strengthening data collection, and constructing a new system of teacher and principal evaluation that puts student performance at its heart.

Dr. Grasmick’s career in education began as a teacher of deaf children at the William S. Baer School in Baltimore City. Over the next 30 years, she served as a classroom and resource teacher, principal, supervisor, assistant superintendent, and associate superintendent. Dr. Grasmick is the only person in Maryland history to hold two cabinet-level positions simultaneously; in 1991, she served as Special Secretary for Children, Youth, and Families and as State Superintendent of Schools.


Maryland children are entering kindergarten with far stronger set of academic, physical and social skills than children of a few short years ago, according to a new report by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

Children Entering School Ready to Learn—School Readiness Information for School Year 2010-2011,” a report by MSDE’s Division of Early Childhood Development and released to the State Board of Education last month, reveals steady progress across all demographic subgroups.  Maryland students entering kindergarten fully prepared for learning increased by 3 percentage points from 2010 to 2011, rising to 81 percent.  That is an increase of 32 percentage points since the baseline year of 2002.

“The importance of strong early childhood development has never been more apparent,” said Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools.  “By providing our youngest learners with a solid footing before they enter kindergarten, we can expect big leaps as they move through school.”

Added Rolf Grafwallner, MSDE’s Assistant State Superintendent for Early Childhood Development, “Early investments in education really do pay off.”

The annual MSDE study reflects assessment information on kindergartners’ readiness levels in social and personal areas, language and literacy, mathematical thinking, scientific thinking, social studies, the arts, physical development, and health.  Trained kindergarten teachers review work samples and observations in making their determination of readiness.

Kindergarten readiness has improved significantly since all early childhood programs were brought under the MSDE banner in 2005.  Since the Division of Early Childhood Development was established six year ago, the number of accredited childcare programs has grown significantly and MSDE has established several quality initiatives to improve the early learning opportunities for all children.

Also significant has been the reduction in the achievement gap between students of different ethnicities.  For example, African American children have made dramatic strides since the initial report, rising 39 percentage points overall and narrowing the gap with White and Asian peers.  Improvement by Hispanic children also has been dramatic, increasing 31 percentage points.

The MSDE assessment of incoming kindergarten students, known as the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR), found improvement across demographic categories in the percentage of students ready for kindergarten work.  For example:

  • School readiness levels for English Language Learners have increased 33 percentage points since 2002, rising to 68 percent deemed as “fully ready.”
  • The improvement in school readiness for low-income children—students receiving free or reduced price meals—has jumped 39 percentage points since 2002, to 73 percent.
  • The number of special education students considered fully ready for kindergarten improved 26 percentage points since 2002 to 56 percent.

Strong MMSR results also translate to better results in the Maryland School Assessment by the time students reach third grade.  Children who enter kindergarten fully school-ready are far more likely to be proficient in both reading and math by grade three.

The MMSR study results continue to emphasize the critical importance of high-quality early learning opportunities.  Children who emerged from structured early-care settings started school better prepared for learning than those who remained at home or in the homes of relatives, the research found.  Children enrolled in public school pre-K programs (81 percent fully ready for kindergarten), child care centers (87 percent), and non-public nursery schools (92 percent) the year prior to kindergarten exhibited stronger school readiness levels than those who were at home or in informal care settings the year prior to kindergarten.  There also were significant gains for children who were enrolled in Head Start Centers, whose readiness increased from 29 percent in 2001-2002 to 72 percent in 2010-2011.

The school readiness gains are sustained through third grade, according to an internal MSDE study.  Children who are assessed as “fully ready” in the language and literacy domain have 90 percent chance of scoring in the proficient or advanced ranges on the MSA grade 3 reading, while children who come to school with significant deficiencies have only a 54 percent chance.

Maryland’s annual school readiness report is the result of legislative action to gauge the progress on school readiness skills of incoming kindergartners.  Each year, more than 2,000 kindergarten teachers use an age-appropriate portfolio-based assessment to evaluate their students’ performance on 30 indicators of learning in their classrooms during the first eight weeks of school.  The assessment information in the report reflects scores for each of the seven domains of learning, such as literacy, math, and social skills, as well as the composite score of all domains. 

MSDE is a national leader in the evaluation of early childhood learning, establishing an annual evaluation of what entering kindergartners know and are able to do.  The complete School Readiness report is available on the special MSDE website,


The Maryland Education Bulletin is published by Maryland State Department of Education, 200 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201. 410-767-0600. 410-333-6442 TTY. 1-888-246-0016. Nancy S Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools.  Stephen Brooks, Deputy State Superintendent, Office of Finance. John E Smeallie, Deputy State Superintendent, Office of Administration. James H DeGraffenreidt, Junior, President, State Board of Education. Martin O’Malley, Governor. A publication of the Office of Academic Policy. Bill Reinhard and Gail Tucker, Editors. MSDE Videos: