Maryland today was awarded one of the federal government’s coveted Race to the Top (RTTT) education grants. The State’s grant is worth $250 million over four years.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement. The unprecedented $4.3 billion federal program is aimed at boosting student achievement, reducing gaps in achievement among student subgroups, turning around struggling schools, and improving the teaching profession.
A delegation led by Governor Martin O’Malley and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick outlined the State’s plans for RTTT before a U.S. Department of Education panel just two weeks ago, leading to today’s announcement.
“I want to congratulate the students, teachers, and administrators of Maryland’s public schools for demonstrating that among the 50 states, Maryland does indeed stand at the top. We are honored to have been selected as a winner of this prestigious competition,” said Governor O’Malley. “Maryland remains the nation’s number one public school system and it’s our goal to continue implementing strategic reforms, allowing our students to not only compete with their peers across the nation, but to be globally competitive as well. We are grateful for the opportunity to advance these reforms with the assistance of federal investments from President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education.”
State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick emphasized that Maryland’s RTTT program builds on the State’s many accomplishments, while targeting areas that have proved difficult for every state: improving achievement for all students and reducing long-term gaps in performance among student subgroups.
“Maryland’s education reforms have moved our students forward, and our school system is the envy of the nation,” Dr. Grasmick said. “We must continue that momentum and give all students the education they deserve. With the help of these important funds, Maryland intends to bolster our data systems, improve instruction, and attract and maintain a stronger educational workforce.”
Maryland was one of nine states and the District of Columbia receiving a grant in the second round of RTTT. Delaware and Tennessee were the only grantees selected in the first round of the initiative earlier this year. Maryland did not apply in the first round.
Maryland spent the past nine months crafting a detailed grant proposal designed to continue the momentum of the nation’s number one ranked education system, using a collaborative and transparent process. Twenty-two of Maryland’s 24 school systems joined in the application process, along with the Baltimore Teachers Union, the Prince George’s Education Association, and scores of other state education and business groups.
Governor O’Malley in June signed an Executive Order creating the Maryland Council for Educator Effectiveness. The Council—made up of teachers, principals, education experts, and elected officials—will spend the next six months developing a model evaluation system for educators required by the Education Reform Act of 2010. The Council will begin meeting this week.
Maryland’s primary RTTT 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. The State Board in June endorsed the Common Core Standards.
- 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.
Maryland developed its RTTT proposal with unprecedented engagement and openness. A draft application was placed on the Maryland State Department of Education website in April inviting commentary, and state officials held more than 80 meetings with local systems, organizations, and teacher’s associations over the past six months. In addition, the State held 40 focus groups with teachers and principals.
To ensure transparency of Maryland’s proposal, MSDE called on a top-level committee of educators and leaders. In addition to Dr. Grasmick, Steering Committee members were: James H. DeGraffenreidt, Jr., president, Maryland State Board of Education, and steering committee co-chair; 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 were 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 Maryland’s move into school accountability, one of the first states in the nation to do so. 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.