Education Week shows goals are set, future is clear

November 17, 2003|by NANCY S. GRASMICK

Each school day carries with it a combination of excitement and uncertainty. But for Maryland students and teachers, the path to learning is more clearly defined than ever.

As we celebrate American Education Week this week, it marks a good time to review the impressive progress of Maryland's public schools.

Maryland last year introduced the Maryland School Assessment in reading and math for third-, fifth-, eighth- and 10th-graders. The test puts Maryland into compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

It also does much more.

The new assessments provide students, teachers and parents with detailed reports on individual student achievement. This not only will help us understand where our schools are headed, but also will provide us with some diagnostic tools for our students. Those individual reports were sent out last month.


Individual scores for students are a requirement of the federal law, but also were recommended by Maryland's Visionary Panel for Better Schools.

This comes at a time when Maryland education has received a lot of gratifying news.

  • Our students' writing scores are showing dramatic improvement, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP's latest report finds Maryland's eighth-graders are improving at a rate far better than the national average.

    Much of the success is due to the significant improved performance of black students and students living in poverty.

  • Our students' SAT scores continue to show improvement. Our SAT verbal scores now rank us at the top of our region, and our math scores tied for the top spot.

  • Maryland ranks sixth in the nation in student achievement on Advanced Placement tests. Moreover, average scores of black students in Maryland have risen dramatically, even as more students are taking the tests.

  • Maryland received its third straight "A" in standards and accountability from Education Week, the nation's leading education newspaper.

  • Maryland's senior class of 2003 was offered nearly half a billion dollars in scholarships and grants for higher education.

  • Finally, Maryland last month received grants totaling more than $74 million to help launch important new projects, ranging from a program to improve reading to a plan that will expand services for disabled students.

Maryland's accountability system is based on our state's system of standards. To further move our state's education system forward, we recently released Maryland's voluntary state curriculum.

The work of hundreds of educators, the voluntary curriculum provides greater detail to standards in social studies, science, math, English/language arts and reading. The voluntary curriculum adds clarity for teachers and parents about what is expected of our children. Check it out on our Web site,

All children can learn, but it is unfair to expect learning to take place without the proper tools. In Maryland, these tools will help assure continued progress for our students.

Nancy S. Grasmick is Maryland's state superintendent of schools.

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