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June 30, 2011
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

Our schools have had a remarkable run of success, and this week’s release of the 2011 Maryland School Assessment scores is no different (see story, opposite column). Many of our schools and school systems have moved right past the 90 percent proficient threshold.

Strong assessment results are important, because they are an indication of improving instruction in our schools. Our students cannot really grow and succeed without a firm understanding of reading and mathematics, and the MSAs are one indication of success.

Congratulations to our students, teachers, and administrators for your work this school year. The bar keeps rising, but I am confident our schools can continue to make great progress.

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U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes read a statement about State Superintendent Grasmick’s accomplishments into the Congressional Record.  He joined her at this month’s State Board meeting to present her with a framed copy of the statement.

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes read a statement about State Superintendent Grasmick’s accomplishments into the Congressional Record. He joined her at this month’s State Board meeting to present her with a framed copy of the statement.

Today marks my final day as Maryland State Superintendent of Schools. It has truly been an honor to serve in this position for the past 20 years. I’ve had the opportunity to work with wonderful, creative, and tireless educators in all 24 of our school systems. There are amazing things taking place in our classrooms each and every day, thanks to our students, teachers and principals. Each visit to a school provided me with ideas and helped refuel my engine.

It also has been a privilege to work with our local superintendents, who bring such energy to their jobs. Maryland wouldn’t have the nation’s number one-ranked school system without their contributions.

We have come a long way over the past two decades. I know you will give interim State Superintendent Bernard Sadusky the same support you have given me in the service of the children of our great State.

Thank you for your ideas, kind words, and passion. Our schools and our children are in wonderful, caring hands.

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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.


July 11-13 – Educator Effectiveness Academies in Salisbury, Gambrills, and Bel Air

July 18-20 – Educator Effectiveness Academies in Marriottsville and Upper Marlboro.

July 19-20 – State Board Meeting, Baltimore

July 25-27 – Educator Effectiveness Academy in Germantown.

Nancy Grasmick: 1st Lady of Education
June 29, 2011
Milestones of Maryland School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick's career highlight this video tribute -- played at her retirement celebration at Martin's West. Contributors include the late Governor William Donald Schaefer, Congressmen Steny Hoyer and Elijah Cummings, husband Lou Grasmick, and many more.

In the News

Maryland Students Show Improvement in Reading and Math Skills
Washington Post

In Maryland, Thousands of Teachers Getting Schooled on Common Standards
Education Week Online

Nancy Grasmick, Long-Time Maryland Superintendent, Retires

Maryland Says Goodbye to Nancy Grasmick
WJZ-Channel 13

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Continued elementary and middle school reading improvement was recorded on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) in 2011, with elementary school reading nearing 90 percent proficiency on a statewide basis, according to data released this week by the Maryland State Department of Education.  Middle school mathematics scores also recorded gains, the data reveal.

State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and Assistant State Superintendent Leslie Wilson released the MSA data to the media.

State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and Assistant State Superintendent Leslie Wilson released the MSA data to the media.

The percentage of elementary students scoring at the proficient levels in reading increased from 86.9 percent in 2010 to 88 percent in 2011.  At the middle school level, the percentage students scoring at the proficient levels in reading improved from 82.8 percent last year to 83.5 percent in 2011.  The percentage of elementary students scoring at the proficient range in mathematics was little changed, moving from 86.5 percent to 86.3 percent, while at the middle school level, the percentage of students scoring in the proficient ranges jumped from 72.6 percent to 73.7 percent.

The scores continue steady progress made over the past eight years.  Composite elementary reading scores have increased 26 points since 2003, while mathematics scores are up 26.3 points.  Composite middle school reading scores are up 23.6 points since 2003, and mathematics has increased a dramatic 34 points.

Many Maryland schools are reaching the 90 percent proficiency level in both reading and mathematics, making additional progress difficult.  Under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, all students must be scoring at proficient levels by 2014.

“Our schools continue to pay attention to strengthening instruction for all students, as this year’s results clearly indicate,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “Not only are we seeing more students reaching proficiency, but more of our students are hitting the ‘advanced’ scores.  This is a tribute to improved instruction throughout our schools.”

Strong instruction has led more students to score at the advanced levels on the assessments.  For example, in 2003, just 17.5 percent of elementary reading students scored at the advanced level.  By this year, that total has more than doubled to 35.2 percent.  Middle school reading now has 44 percent of its students scoring in the advanced range—more than half of the proficient students.

Maryland has made a number of educational improvements over the past decade designed to maintain progress.  The State has been a leader in early childhood development, assessing the preparation of kindergartners; built a Statewide curriculum, currently being updated through the Maryland Common Core State Standards effort in English language arts and mathematics; greatly increased the percentage of highly qualified teachers in the classroom; and bolstered local school systems with the Bridge to Excellence funding.

Today’s data release includes a large amount of positive information about Maryland’s number one-ranked public school system.  For example:

  • Twenty-two of Maryland’s 24 school systems have at least 80 percent of their elementary students scoring in the proficient levels in both reading and mathematics.  In the middle school level, 19 systems have at least 80 percent of their students scoring in the proficient levels in reading, while 10 systems have 80 percent of their students hitting the proficiency target in mathematics.
  • Investment in early childhood education has paid important dividends for Maryland students, as the third grade scores have made dramatic improvement over time.  Just 58.1 percent of Maryland third graders scored at the proficient levels in reading in 2003 and 65.1 percent in mathematics.  Today, the percentages are 85.1 percent in reading and 86.3 percent in math.
  • Achievement gaps for students receiving special services have registered declines in some important areas.  For example, there has been a 32.8 percentage point reduction in the gap between English Language Learners and the general student population in elementary reading.  In addition, there has been a 13 percentage point reduction in the gap between special education students and the general student population in middle school reading. 

The MSA exams, required by NCLB, are given to third- through eighth grade students in reading and mathematics.  More than 360,000 students took the exams this year. 

NCLB charts the progress of the overall student population in the grades tested, as well as that of students receiving any of three categories of special services: Free and/or Reduced-Price Meals, Special Education, and English Language Learners (ELL).  It also follows the success of students in seven racial subgroups (up from five last year): American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, African American, White, Hispanic, and – the two new subgroups – Hawaiian students and students indicating two or more races. 

The Maryland Report Card website looks different this year for two reasons.  For one, the federal government required the addition of two new race codes, meaning that racial subgroup trend data will not be available this year.  Second, the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act restricts the amount of data that the site can make available.  Some subgroup information will be suppressed on the website, particularly at the school level, to make certain student privacy is protected.

Four schools did exceptionally well this spring, registering significant gains for the past two years that allowed them to leave the school improvement designation. Schools that left the school improvement process this year are: Liberty Elementary and Thurmont Middle in Frederick County; Panorama Elementary in Prince George’s County; and Somerset 6/7 Intermediate School in Somerset County.

Scheduled for release in the coming months are the 2011 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 12 p.m. today on the Maryland State Department of Education’s updated report card Web site,


The Maryland Council for Educator Effectiveness last week gave approval to initial recommendations for a Statewide Educator Evaluation System.

The recommendations define various aspects of teacher and principal evaluation, set in place general standards, provide flexibility to local school systems with State approval, and establish a framework for evaluation. 

The recommendations have been submitted to Governor Martin O’Malley, the Maryland General Assembly, and the State Board of Education.  One week earlier, the U.S. Department of Education approved a one-year extension for Maryland’s statewide system of evaluation.  The system will be piloted for both teachers and principals in seven school systems this fall, piloted Statewide in the fall of 2012, and fully operational in the fall of 2013.

Maryland in 2010 received one of the federal government’s highly competitive Race to the Top Grants, bringing the State $250 million to continue progress in its successful school reform program.  In its grant application, Maryland pledged to design its educator evaluation system to include student growth as 50 percent of the final evaluation.

“This is not the end of anything.  We are looking at this as a beginning,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “This is really a starting point for us.  By piloting this system over two years, we can assure that it will be properly implemented for teachers and principals.”

The Education Reform Act of 2010, passed by the Maryland General Assembly in April 2010 and signed into law last June, called for the new vision for educator evaluations.  The Maryland Council for Educator Effectiveness was established by Governor O’Malley through Executive Order to put those changes into place.  The Council – made up of educators, policy experts, and elected officials – was originally set to complete its initial work by the end of 2010, but requested an extension through the end of June 2011.

The Council was established to make recommendations for the development of the Statewide system of evaluation for educators required under the new law.  The Council developed  recommendations designed to ensure that educators are evaluated using multiple, fair, and transparent methods; that they are given meaningful opportunities to improve; and provided with the means to share best practices.

The Council’s initial recommendations include the following:

  • Evaluation Framework – Separate evaluation systems have been developed for teachers and principals.  Both include professional development at their core, and are divided between qualitative and quantitative (student growth) measures.
  • Definitions for Evaluation – A list of various terms used in the evaluation processes, including mentoring, observation, and student growth measures.
  • General Standards for Teacher/Principal Evaluation – A four-step process, including established areas of professional practice (such as class preparation, instruction, classroom environment, and professional responsibilities), and both State and local growth measures (such as State Assessments and multiple measures of student academic achievement).  Under the plan, teachers and principals would be evaluated as highly effective, effective, or ineffective.  All teachers and principals would be provided with professional development in an effort to strengthen their performance.

The Council will reconvene in December to review the progress of the pilot systems.  The complete initial report can be found by clicking on this link. Initial Recommendations Statewide Educator Evaluation System


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: