From the Office of Gov. Martin O’Malley:
Maryland today was named a finalist for the federal government’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top (RTTT) education initiative.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The unprecedented federal program is aimed at boosting student achievement, reducing gaps in achievement among student subgroups, turning around struggling schools, and improving the teaching profession. Maryland is eligible for up to $250 million in the grant program’s second round.
A delegation led by Governor Martin O’Malley and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick will head to Washington, DC next month to be interviewed by U.S. Department of Education officials as part of the grant selection process.
“We are honored to have been selected as a finalist and want to acknowledge all of our partners whose work made this recognition possible,” Governor O’Malley said. “To Maryland, this process has always been about more than simply a race for education dollars. We are developing long-term, strategic policies that ensure every child in Maryland receives the world-class education they deserve. Maryland remains the nation’s number one public school system, and it’s our goal to allow every Maryland student the opportunity to complete globally. We are grateful for the opportunity to advance as a finalist State and look forward to the work ahead of us in the coming weeks.”
State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said Maryland’s plan builds on the state’s strengths as the nation’s leading public school system, while targeting areas that have vexed all states: strengthening achievement for all students and reducing gaps in performance among student subgroups.
“Maryland is perfectly positioned to move our schools and our students to the next level in achievement,” Dr. Grasmick said. “Our reforms have already had a positive effect on student growth over the past several years. In this third wave of reform, we intend to maintain our momentum through strengthened data systems, improved instruction, and attracting and maintaining a stronger educational workforce.”
Federal officials are expected to award the next round of RTTT grants in September. Delaware and Tennessee were the only grantees selected in the first round of the RTTT initiative earlier this year. Maryland did not apply in the first round of the competition.
Maryland spent the past eight 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 Governor expects to name the members of the Council in the next few days.
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 MSDE 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 help frame 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 was 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.