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May 6, 2011
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

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

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the Teacher of the Year ceremony in Washington, DC this week. It was a lovely day to celebrate the achievements of Michelle Shearer, our wonderful National Teacher of the Year from Urbana High School. But it also was a great day to celebrate Maryland public school teaching in general.

Maryland schools are number one in the nation, and Maryland teachers lead the way. In my 20 years as State Superintendent, I’ve been into literally thousands of classrooms. When I encounter an outstanding teacher, bringing to life the subject matter at hand, it still takes my breath away.

Teachers make all professions possible. As we conclude another Teacher Appreciation Week and celebrate our Teacher of the Year, always remember that there is never a bad time to thank a teacher!

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State Superintendent Grasmick (left) joined Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, and Board President James DeGraffenreidt in celebrating the accomplishments of Michelle Shearer (center).

State Superintendent Grasmick (left) joined Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, and Board President James DeGraffenreidt in celebrating the accomplishments of Michelle Shearer (center)

The unprecedented
success of Maryland schools also can be traced to the support they receive from leaders throughout our State. Several were in evidence this week at the White House.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Sen. Ben Cardin, and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett all joined us in the Rose Garden to pay tribute to our Teacher of the Year.

Education is a bipartisan issue in Maryland, and not every State has that benefit. Our schools received great support in Annapolis, and have always had the steadfast support of our delegation in Congress. They understand that Maryland cannot prosper without a strong public school system, and our elected officials work every day to keep our schools the best in the nation.

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We also are celebrating National Public Charter School Week this week, and our State has much to be proud of in this area as well.

Maryland currently has 44 public charter schools enrolling more than 12,000 students in six Maryland systems. The charter school movement has blossomed in our State since the General Assembly passed the charter school law in 2003.

There are more schools on the way. Seven new schools plan to open in the fall—four in Baltimore City and three in Prince George’s County.

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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.


May 20 – Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Awards – North County High School, Anne Arundel County

May 23-27 – Maryland Bullying Awareness Week

May 24-25 – State Board Meeting, Baltimore

Marylander Named National Teacher at the White House
May 3, 2011
Maryland's Michelle Shearer is honored at the White House by President Barack Obama as National Teacher of the Year. See the ceremony and America's Teachers of the Year, and hear from the President and Frederick County's Michelle Shearer, from the Rose Garden.

News from the Board - April
April 26, 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!

Teachers of Promise
April 21, 2011
Teachers of Promise matches Teachers of the Year, Milken, and other award winning teachers with first-year teachers in a mentor relationship. The program now is in its fifth year, and was celebrated recently at Martin's West.

Japan Appeal
April 11, 2011
State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick talks about the Maryland Kids Care Campaign: Operation Japan, Pennies and More. Actual footage of the monstrous tsunami rolling ashore underscores the disaster, and the effort to help by Maryland schoolchildren.

In the News

Michelle Shearer Honored by President Obama as 61st National Teacher of the Year
The Huffington Post

Obama Honors National Teacher of the Year from Maryland
WJZ-Channel 13

National Teacher of the Year Sees “Abilities Not Disabilities”
Education Week

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Michelle Shearer, an AP chemistry teacher at Urbana High School in Frederick County, this week was named the National Teacher of the Year.  It marked the second time in five years that the National Teacher of the Year was selected from a Maryland school.

President Barack Obama, center, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan honored Maryland Teacher of the Year Michelle Shearer at the White House.

President Barack Obama, center, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan honored Maryland Teacher of the Year Michelle Shearer at the White House.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week by honoring Shearer and other State Teachers of the Year in a White House ceremony. 

"The most effective teachers are the ones who are constantly striving to get better and help their students get better," said President Obama.  "The teachers who give up their afternoons and their free periods to give that student a little bit of extra one-on-one help, and spend evenings and weekends developing lesson plans and activities that don’t just teach the material, but make it come alive.  And the teachers who see the potential in students even when the students themselves don’t see that potential.

"And the teacher standing next to me, Michelle Shearer, I think is an example of that kind of teacher."

Ms. Shearer challenged politicians and leaders to continue to be problem solvers when it comes to the nation’s education system.  She said her students have taught her to see “abilities, not disabilities,” and she plans to use her year as the nation’s top teacher to advocate for more underrepresented students in the science and math fields.

"Michelle is a model educator, working tirelessly each and every school day to bring science to life for her students," said Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools. “Science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the STEM disciplines—require effective instruction for students to excel.  Michelle’s work in this area has been exemplary.  Throughout her career, working with both gifted and disabled students, she has set high standards and expected outstanding results.  The results have come, and her students are richer because of that success."

Michelle Shearer receives her crystal apple from the President, symbolizing her selection as National Teacher of the Year.

Michelle Shearer receives her crystal apple from the President, symbolizing her selection as National Teacher of the Year.

The sunlit White House Rose Garden was filled with national and state dignitaries.  A large delegation from Frederick County, including Superintendent Linda Burgee, made the trip to Washington, DC.

Maryland’s public schools have become the nation’s most honored public school system.  Education Week in January cited Maryland as the nation’s top system for the third straight year.  The College Board in February named Maryland the top system in the nation for Advanced Placement success, also for the third consecutive year.

Advanced Placement success played into Ms. Shearer’s honor.  She is the 2009 Maryland recipient of the Siemens Award for Advanced Placement Teaching, and believes that “chemistry is everywhere, and thus chemistry is for everyone.”  Fluent in American Sign Language, she also has taught at the Maryland School for the Deaf, serving as Content Area Leader and coach of the 2005 National Champion Academic team.

Ms. Shearer has taught in Maryland’s public school since she began her career in education 14 years ago.  From 1997-2002, she taught all levels of chemistry and started the Advanced Placement Chemistry.  Enrollment in the rigorous AP chemistry program has jumped eight-fold.  She is passionate about promoting STEM programs for all K-12 students, sparking interest in fields such as biotechnology which have helped grow the State’s economy.

Ms. Shearer earned her B.A. in chemistry from Princeton University and her M.S. in Deaf Education from McDaniel College.  She grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and is the daughter of retired chemist Dr. Phillip Meredith and retired elementary school music teacher Beverly Meredith.  She lives with her husband George, an AP physics teacher at Urbana, and their daughter, Carly, in Wolfsville, MD.

The National Teacher of the Year Program, sponsored by the ING Foundation and Target, is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with the University of Phoenix and People to People Ambassador Programs.

The Maryland Teacher of the Year Program is sponsored by Comcast, the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, McDonald’s Family of Greater Baltimore, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems. Platinum sponsors are Bank of America, Lockheed Martin, Verizon-Maryland, and Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.


The Maryland State Board of Education last week accepted the recommendations of a State task force charged with exploring ways to incorporate Universal Design for Learning into Maryland’s educational systems. The report has already received enthusiastic support from parents, educators, and organizations familiar with Universal Design for Learning.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL principles also support test design and instructional material selection that will support all learners. UDL is based on neuroscience that reveals individuals learn in different ways. For example, some learners require visual representations of concepts, others prefer text, others learn best by engaging in practical activities, and some require a combination of these and other techniques. 

According to the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, the UDL framework “provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.”

"The Task Force report makes a compelling argument for the transformative power of UDL," said State Board member Donna Hill Staton, a member of the Task Force. "In embracing UDL, we dare imagine classrooms where diverse instructional strategies optimize learning, all students feel empowered and engaged, and “Aha!" moments abound." 

Maryland students, from prekindergarten through college, are diverse. At any grade, classrooms are full of students with different interests, skills, background, and needs. Teachers are challenged to meet a wide variety of needs while maintaining high standards for all students. UDL is a research-based approach to meeting those needs. A hallmark of the UDL approach is that flexibility is built into the curriculum—at the development stage—for all students as opposed to teachers having to continually design multiple lesson plans that adjust instruction for only a few individual students.

The three main tenets of UDL are:

  • Multiple means of representation, to give diverse learners options for acquiring information and knowledge
  • Multiple means of action and expression, to provide learners options for demonstrating what they know
  • Multiple means of engagement, to tap into learners' interests, offer appropriate challenges, and increase motivation (Center for Applied Special Technology,

As part of Maryland’s third wave of educational reform and requirements in the federal Race to the Top grant, the adoption of the Common Core State Standards has resulted in revisions to Maryland’s curriculum and assessments. UDL principles and guidelines are already being incorporated into the revision and development process from the outset; therefore, the time to promote and build awareness, support, and processes for UDL statewide is now. Many of the principles of UDL can be readily adopted for little or no cost. Although technology’s inherent flexibility is invaluable to increasing students’ access to curriculum and assessments, there are many ways to implement UDL principles without technology that will have a powerful impact on student achievement.

The Task Force recommendations will advance the use of UDL statewide. Recommendations include ensuring UDL is built into the Maryland State Curriculum, encouraging local school boards to develop policies that support UDL, and encouraging institutions of higher education to build UDL into courses.

The full report and recommendations of the Statewide Task Force to Explore the Incorporation of Universal Design for Learning UDL Principles into Maryland's Education Systems is available now on the Web. Click here.

The Universal Design for Learning Task Force was established through House Bill 59 and Senate Bill 467. The Task Force was charged with examining the efficacy and feasibility of implementing UDL in Maryland’s educational systems, and promulgating proposed regulations.


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: