The Maryland State Department of Education is seeking comment from interested citizens as it prepares its grant proposal for the federal government’s $4.3 billion education initiative known as Race to the Top.
The unprecedented federal program is aimed at boosting student achievement, reducing gaps in achievement between student subgroups, turning around struggling schools, and improving the teaching profession.
A link to information on Maryland’s Race to the Top initiative can by found on the MSDE webpage, MarylandPublicSchools.org. Comments are due March 15. Maryland intends to apply in the program’s second round, with applications due June 1.
“As the nation’s number one public school system, we have an obligation to find ways to build upon our strengths, and continue to reform and improve our school system to not only be nation’s best, but to be globally competitive as well,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “It has always been our belief that the best way to reform is through an open, transparent process where all parties are held accountable for the results. All Marylanders have a stake in our public schools, and I look forward to engaging our citizens in this process as we continue to seek ways to reform.”
State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said that Maryland’s long history of working with struggling schools gives the State an advantage in this new phase of school improvement.
“The plan we are constructing is not designed to chase federal money,” Dr. Grasmick said. “Rather, we consider this the next phase in our ongoing school reform program. We intend to press on with our mission no matter the circumstances.”
To help frame Maryland’s proposal, MSDE has brought together a top-level committee of educators and leaders. In addition to Dr. Grasmick, Steering Committee members are: James H. DeGraffenreidt, Jr., president, Maryland State Board of Education; John Ratliff, director of policy, Office of the Governor; Edward Shirley, president, Public School Superintendents of Maryland; Cathy Allen, president, Maryland Association of Boards of Education; Sam Macer, president, Maryland PTA; William E. Kirwan, chancellor, University System of Maryland; June E. Streckfus, Executive Director, Maryland Business Roundtable for Education; Clara B. Floyd, president, Maryland State Education Association.
Also on the committee are Marietta English, president, Baltimore Teachers’ Union; Loretta Johnson, executive vice president, American Federation of Teachers; Judith Walker, president, Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals; Christine Handy-Collins, president, Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals; Tina M. Bjarekull, president, Maryland Independent College and University Association; and H. Clay Whitlow, executive director, Maryland Association of Community Colleges.
Maryland’s public schools, recently ranked for the second straight year as the nation’s best by Education Week, have benefited from earlier reform efforts. The Sondheim Commission report in 1989 launched the State’s move into school accountability before the rest of the nation. A new State Curriculum, new collaboration and funding brought about by the Bridge to Excellence Act, and new student-level accountability programs followed about a decade later.
Next for the State is a series of reforms designed to further bolster student achievement. The reforms will:
- Revise the PreK-12 Maryland State Curriculum, assessments, and accountability system based on the Common Core Standards to assure that all graduates are college- and career-ready.
- Build a statewide technology infrastructure that links all data elements with analytic and instructional tools to monitor and promote student achievement.
- Redesign the model for preparation, development, retention, and evaluation of teachers and principals.
- Fully implement the innovative Breakthrough Center approach for transforming low-performing schools and districts.