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May 1, 2009
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State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

A few words from State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick

As we celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week – May 3 - 9 – we are reminded that it is the undeniable commitment and determination exhibited by Maryland teachers each and every day in their classrooms and beyond that has placed Maryland at the top nationally in education.

Chinese author Kuan Chung said it best, “When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest. When you teach the people, you will reap a hundred harvests.”

Our children are so fortunate to have teachers who are teaching how to reap hundreds of harvests. It is a teacher’s commitment to educating that affects the lives of children in so many critical ways. They have a gift to motivate students to do better than they ever thought they could academically and to inspire students to become passionate about learning – to become reflective learners – and dreamers.

What an awe-inspiring challenge to be charged with ensuring that our students are prepared for their future – for the 21st century. Our teachers are showing us that they are rising to the challenge – and succeeding! The many national honors and high rankings Maryland schools have received amplify that point.

It is overwhelming to grasp the monumental impact our 67,000 plus talented and dedicated teachers, and teacher assistants, are having on the more than 870,000 students in every corner of the State.

To all Maryland’s teachers, I offer a sincere “thank you” for giving our students the oak seedling, along with the desire and motivation, to learn how to nurture and watch it grow into a mighty oak.

During National Teacher Appreciation Week, I ask that you join me in honoring our teachers—the very people who encourage students to embrace a lifetime of learning.

* * *

Maryland public education continues to be held in high esteem, and not just in this country. The World Bank Institute, a project of the World Bank, last week brought approximately 75 education leaders from across the globe to visit schools in our state.

MSDE, with its long-standing partnership with the World Bank, facilitated the visits. Educators visited four Howard County schools: Clarksville Middle, Clarksville Elementary, Pointers Run Elementary, and River Hill High School.


Calendar

May 3-9 is National Teacher Appreciation Week

May 4-8 is Child Nutrition Employee Appreciation Week

May 4-10 is Public Service Recognition Week

May 8 – Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Awards Ceremony, James Rouse Theater, Wilde Lake High School, Columbia

May 27-28 – State Board Meeting, Baltimore


In the News

Adults Get Lesson on Cyberbullying
WTOP Radio, Washington, DC

Future Teachers, Veteran Teachers Work to Reshape Education
WBAL Television, Baltimore

Maryland Has Guide to Adaptive Physical Education
ABC2 News, Baltimore

Ideas for Closing the Teacher Gap
Baltimore Sun, Baltimore

Teens Get Lesson on Playing Safe, Clean, and Sober
WJZ-TV, Baltimore


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EDUCATION REMAINS PRIORITY DURING 2009 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Maryland’s top-ranked education system received continued support during the recently completed 2009 session of the Maryland General Assembly, as legislators gave high priority to investing in public schools despite the difficult economy.

Maryland lawmakers this session continued their bipartisan support of the State’s public school system, despite one of the most difficult economies in decades.

Maryland lawmakers this session continued their bipartisan support of the State’s public school system, despite one of the most difficult economies in decades.

With the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act fully phased in, lawmakers maintained their focus on education.  The fiscal 2010 budget includes $5.5 billion in Education Aid, a 2.5 percent increase over 2009.  In addition, the economic stimulus package is providing nearly $200 million in new federal funding for Maryland schools.

The Maryland General Assembly also retained its support of the State-Aided Institutions Program, a highly regarded program that provides modest funding for museums, cultural programs, and other education-related nonprofits.  The long-standing program had been threatened with significant cuts.

 “This has been a particularly difficult session for Maryland’s legislative leaders, but their resolve to work with us to improve education remained undiminished,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.  “We owe a debt of gratitude to members of the House and Senate, who clearly understand the importance of education to our state’s future.”

In addition to continued budgetary support, several important initiatives were approved in this year’s legislative session.  Among the highlights of this year’s session:

  • Strengthening Education Data—Three bills were approved this session that will allow for improved data collection, a high priority for MSDE.  HB 588 authorizes MSDE to develop a standardized course numbering system to improve collection of student data across the State.   HB 587 authorizes MSDE to assign a unique identification number to each teacher employed in the public schools.  Finally, HB 379 and SB 990 will launch a uniform data collection method to track class size.
  • Preschool for All—Continues MSDE’s work on a business plan designed to lead to universal preschool in Maryland.  Under HB 184 and SB 234, MSDE is to work with local systems and other stakeholders to develop the plan by Dec. 1.
  • Helping the Families of Service Members—MSDE joined LT. Gov. Anthony Brown to support HB 306, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.  The bill, which was approved unanimously in both Houses, allows for a smoother transition from state to state for children whose parents serve in the Armed Forces.
  • High School Graduation—The General Assembly continues to have confidence in the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent to set broad educational policy, as bills to alter the High School Assessment requirement faltered during the session.


CYBERBULLYING RECOGNITION, PREVENTION EXPLORED AT TIMELY MARYLAND CONFERENCE

Bullying is a difficult enough problem to combat in the hallways and schoolyards.  But the advent of inexpensive cell phones and computers has led to a new, dangerous form of harassment: cyberbullying.  Rather than passing notes in class or whispering among classmates, students have the ability to inflict harm on classmates more quickly and broadly.

Dr. Sameer Hinduja, a professor at Florida Atlantic University and an expert in cyberbullying, said that persistent cyberbullying decreases self-esteem and increases thoughts of suicide.

Dr. Sameer Hinduja, a professor at Florida Atlantic University and an expert in cyberbullying, said that persistent cyberbullying decreases self-esteem and increases thoughts of suicide.

“Within a few keystrokes, a web page can be sent to hundreds, thousands, even millions of people,” said Sameer Hinduja, a professor at Florida Atlantic University and an expert in cyberbullying.  The key to combating the problem, he said, is open communication and awareness of the problem.

MSDE this week cosponsored the Mid-Atlantic’s first conference on cyberbullying, along with the Frederick County Public Schools.  The event in Frederick was coordinated by the Anti-Defamation League, which has been among the national leaders in combating the problem.

Nearly 100 educators from 15 Maryland systems attended the day-long conference, held with the support of Microsoft. 

Cyberbullying has its roots outside the classroom.  More than 70 percent of middle and high school students have easy access to computers and cell phones at home, Dr. Hinduja said, adding that easy access cuts across socioeconomic boundaries.

Parents and teachers should spend time discussing Internet safety with children, he said, letting them know that improper behavior should not be tolerated.  Moreover, he said, students should understand the privacy concerns inherent in the Internet and make certain that personal information is not shared online.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler said he has a simple way to view cyberbullying.  If student behavior “is not appropriate off-line, it isn’t appropriate online,” he explained.

Students taking part in bullying should know that law enforcement has been able to prosecute cases.  Corp. John Linton, part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in the Maryland State Police, said his agency’s forensics division have been successful in tracking down perpetrators through computer logs. 

Dr. Hinduja said he was pleased with the direction Maryland is taking on cyberbullying.  The Maryland State Board of Education in February approved a new policy on bullying. That can be found by clicking here.

 

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