School year brings changes from Md. Department of Education

August 25, 2003

BALTIMORE - More than 860,000 students will fill Maryland public school classrooms this month. School begins in Washington County today.

The new school year brings with it new information for parents on how their children and their children's schools are performing. Individual student report cards, additional educational data collection and other changes are taking place as the Maryland State Department of Education continues to put its focus on achievement for all students and the state complies with the Bridge to Excellence and No Child Left Behind mandates.

"Parents are the most important partners we have in the education of Maryland's children," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. "Our goal is to provide parents with more information about how their children are doing in class and the effectiveness of the schools."

Report cards featuring individual student results from the administration of the Maryland School Assessment in March will be distributed to parents beginning in September.


The MSA replaced the MSPAP assessment and gathers student data important to parents and teachers and schoolwide information to be used by state and local officials to chart academic progress.

Parents of students who took the test will receive individual report cards on the results by Oct. 15. These will be delivered by local school systems through the mail or in classrooms. The report cards will provide scores, information about the Maryland School Assessment, and other information.

System and school results from the MSAs is available on the MSDE Web site at

Voluntary curriculum

Maryland's new Voluntary State Curriculum will be unveiled on another MSDE Web site - - on Sept. 1. A chief recommendation of the Visionary Panel for Better Schools, the curriculum will offer additional guidance for teachers and parents as they work with students to master the state's standards.

Strengthening school leadership

Maryland recently held its third annual Principals Academy, a three-day conference bringing together new or inexperienced school leaders with experienced principals.

Teacher quality

Maryland school systems are at work to comply with new federal teacher quality regulations. The state Board of Education has moved to make compliance somewhat less burdensome for school systems while assuring parents and students a high-quality teaching force.

The state board later this fall will consider a slate of alternative certification paths that have been compiled by MSDE, designed to make certain that outstanding, veteran educators do not lose their certification as a result of No Child Left Behind requirements.

New teachers

Maryland classrooms will welcome nearly 6,200 new teachers this fall. But some positions still are unfilled. Many of these were in fields facing chronic shortages, such as special education, high school science, speech and mathematics.

There is little to indicate that teacher shortages will vanish anytime soon. The state Board of Education, based on MSDE's annual teacher staffing report, has declared selected teacher shortages in every system in the state.

Bridge to Excellence

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and members of the Maryland General Assembly continue to support Maryland's Bridge to Excellence in the Public Schools Act.

The measure, which put into law many of the recommendations of the Thornton Commission, provides needed state funds to every school system in Maryland. The law called for an additional $1.3 billion to education over five years.

The funding, considered essential by many educators if Maryland is expected to help eliminate gaps in achievement, puts the focus on providing adequate resources for the state's most struggling school systems.

Adequate yearly progress

The assessment data being released is helpful to parents, but it also responds to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states, schools and systems to show that academic progress is being made each year. The cornerstone of Maryland's accountability system is Adequate Yearly Progress, which replaces the School Performance Index as the method by which the state tracks improvement being made by its schools and systems.

New grades to be tested

The Maryland School Assessment was launched in March in grades three, five, eight and 10. This school year, the MSA also will include grades four, six and seven. Testing will take place in March 2004.

While the 2004 MSA results for the newly added grades (four, six and seven) will be reported next year, the tests for these grades will not become part of the accountability decisions for schools until 2005.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act required testing in the additional grades. By adding more grades to the assessment program, parents and teachers will better be able to track student and school progress.

Parents and students now have the option to transfer their children if they attend a "persistently dangerous" school or if they have been victims of crimes of violence while in or on the grounds of their school.

The transfer option, required by No Child Left Behind and instituted by the state board in June, defines a persistently dangerous school as a school in which each year for three consecutive years the total number of student suspensions for more than 10 days or expulsions for violent offenses equals 21/2 percent or more of the total number of students enrolled in a school. Although several schools are under the close watch of state and local officials, no school met that threshold for the upcoming school year.

The state board also approved new public school safety standards aimed at protecting students from harassment.

Source: Maryland State Department of Education

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