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August 2008
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Nancy S. Grasmick

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

July marked the end of a wonderful era in Maryland public education. Dr. A. Skipp Sanders, long-time Deputy State Superintendent, retired at the end of the month.
maggie tighe
Dr. A. Skipp Sanders

Skipp has been a teacher, mentor, and friend of educators and students everywhere. His contributions to education in this State cannot be overestimated. He’s strengthened school leadership training efforts, improved teacher certification, and focused a great deal of his energy toward improving education for disadvantaged youth.

Those of us who have worked closely with Skipp will miss him dearly. But we’re pleased that his work in education will continue. Skipp has agreed to join the Baltimore Archdiocese as Associate Superintendent of the system, serving as a liaison between the archdiocese and 25 schools in the eastern, western, and urban vicariates.

Our congratulations and best wishes go with Skipp as he enters this new chapter.

The safety of our schools is of paramount importance to all of us involved in Maryland public education. For that reason, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings and I last month announced the formation of the new School Safety Action Advisory Committee (SSAAC), created following our recent school safety summit.

The SSAAC’s goal is to provide critical input in developing key solutions to ensuring safe school environments for all students, teachers, and administrators.

School violence disrupts education and schools must be made safer. Rep. Cummings and I are joined on the committee by a diverse group of family advocates, community and faith-based leaders, educators and administrators, and counselors.

The group will meet regularly and plans to present short-term solutions by the beginning of the new school year. Longer term solutions will follow within six months. In addition, a student summit is planned for October 27, to allow students to be heard and be included in the development of strategies.


August 19 — Summer Reading celebrated at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

August 20 — Maryland Schools Begin Opening!

August 26-27 — Maryland State Board of Education


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Maryland School Assessment Results Continue to Improve

Image of Hardiman and Scarbourough

Significant improvement in reading and mathematics scores was recorded on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) for 2008, building on the consistent progress made over the past five years, according to data released last month.

Assessment scores also show marked improvement in the performance of students across racial categories and for students receiving special services. Scores are being expressed as the percentage of students in each system who scored at or above the proficiency levels set when the exams launched in 2003.

Composite MSA reading proficiency at the elementary grades has risen more than 24 percentage points since 2003, while composite elementary mathematics proficiency has increased by nearly 24 points as well. Composite middle school reading proficiency has increased 18.6 percentage points since 2003, while composite middle school math proficiency has risen nearly 29 points.

“Our parents, teachers, administrators, and especially our children in Maryland deserve to be commended for their tremendous achievement and another year of progress,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “These results demonstrate our shared commitment to our children and public education and indicate that Maryland’s greatest competitive advantage – the knowledge, innovation, and talent of our citizens – is secure for generations to come.”

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick also praised the continued dedication to educational excellence. “Hard work in the classroom and strong grade-by-grade standards are really paying off for Maryland students, thanks to their efforts as well as those of principals and teachers,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. “Our vibrant Voluntary State Curriculum has given birth to creative and consistent instructional programs. These scores tell us that schools are improving in every corner of the state.”

In addition to developing the highly regarded Voluntary State Curriculum, MSDE has bolstered school improvement through the Principals Academy leadership initiative, strong professional development, and a variety of teacher support programs for local school systems.

The percentage of students statewide scoring at the proficient or advanced levels for reading in Grade 3, for example, rose from 58.1 percent in 2003 to 83 percent this year. The percentage of students scoring in the proficient range for Grade 5 mathematics rose from 55 percent five years ago in 2003 to 80.5 percent this year.

Results from recent assessment administrations also prove that progress made in the early grades is being sustained as students progress through school. Reading and mathematics scores for third-grade students have increased every year since the assessments were introduced. Middle school reading and mathematics scores have mirrored those improvements. Data show each class cohort scoring better than those in the previous years.

The results also point to the importance of Maryland’s strong, centralized system of early childhood development, which has given many students a leg up on their studies. An increasing number of children are entering schools ready to learn, which has contributed to the consistently positive results in the early grades.

The MSA exams are given to third- through eighth-grade students in reading and mathematics. The data are used to meet federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements. Under NCLB goals, all students must score at proficient levels by 2014.  


James H. DeGraffenreidt, Jr., Elected State Board President

matt gandal

James H. DeGraffenreidt, Jr. (center), newly elected State Board President

The Maryland State Board of Education last month elected James H. DeGraffenreidt, Jr., as its next president, while Blair Ewing was elected vice president.

DeGraffenreidt replaces Dunbar Brooks, who had served as State Board president for the past year. Brooks remains a member of the State Board.

DeGraffenreidt is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of WGL Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Washington Gas. He also serves as Chairman and CEO of Washington Gas, the natural gas utility serving more than 1 million customers in the Washington metropolitan area and surrounding region. He serves on the boards of Harbor Bankshares Corporation, Federal City Council, Maryland Science Center, the Walters Art Museum, the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, and the DC College Success Foundation. He received the degrees of Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration from Columbia University in 1978 and a Bachelor of Arts from Yale College in 1974. He is married with four children.


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