Friday, June 11-Higher Education Expectations Necessary, School Leader Says

BERLIN – Curriculums and
standards must change to make America’s education system competitive with the
best educations systems in the world, said Maryland state school Superintendent
Nancy Grasmick during a lunch this week with Worcester County educators and

American schools must
take into account “the death of distance,” and shape standards and curricula
accordingly, Grasmick said.

“The competition for our
students will not be our county, will not be our state, will not be our
country, but will be international,” said Grasmick.

Maryland is experiencing
what Grasmick describes as a third wave of school reform, with the first two
beginning in 1989 with the introduction of accountability and continuing in
2002, with an emphasis on funding with the Thornton Commission.

“My belief is, if we’re
not moving forward we’re declining. Therefore, status quo is not acceptable for
our students,” said Grasmick.

The public school
curriculum should be consistent nationwide, Grasmick said, a goal which should
be reached through the federal government’s Race to the Top initiative.

The Maryland Department
of Education just submitted a 2,000-page proposal seeking a $250 million grant
from the federal government’s Race to the Top (RTTT) initiative.

“I have my fingers
crossed,” Grasmick said.

Finalists for the RTTT
funds will be announced in August, with recipients announced in September.

The nation needs common
core standards, Grasmick said, which position students to compete in the global

“In these standards,
there will be international expectations,” she said.

American schools need to
improve their rankings among international school systems to better compete

“Frankly, the U.S. has
not ranked very high compared to countries like Finland, many of the Asian
countries. We rank much lower,” said Grasmick. “There’s going to be a new
rigor, particularly as it relates to math and science.”

Students will learn
higher level math earlier, Grasmick said, with a goal of Algebra I by eighth
grade and four years of high school math. Science standards will also be more
rigorous and require more at lower levels.

“The expectation is
going to be greater,” said Grasmick.

Grasmick pointed to the
thousands of jobs expected to be brought to Maryland through BRAC (Base
Realignment and Closure).

“They are very high
level jobs with high expectations,” said Grasmick.

Schools would benchmark
performance against the top school systems in the world, she said.

County Commissioner
Louise Gulyas questioned Grasmick on how the new standards would affect those
students who are not capable of top academic performance.

“Everyone can’t be a
mathematician … I don’t want any child to be lost,” said Gulyas.

The question of
vocational education is one that she is asked more than any other, Grasmick

Students studying to be
an auto mechanic need to probably read 10,000 pages of technical information
during their studies, and the school system needs to provide those students the
tools to pursue those studies, said Grasmick.

“There’s not a field you
can think of that is your father’s or grandfather’s education … we’ve got to
give the kids the state-of-the-art education to be the top electrician in the
world,” said Grasmick.

Unskilled jobs are just
disappearing, she said, adding, low-performing schools would not be tolerated
under the new approach.

“I don’t believe any
child should have to attend a failing school system or a failing school by
accident of where that child lives,” Grasmick said.

Teachers will be
evaluated on the performance of students more than their credentials, the state
superintendent said, as will principals. Schools will also work in tandem with
higher education.

The public school system
will need to prepare students to enter college and do well right away, Grasmick
said. The school systems will also rely on colleges to turn out great teacher
candidates, said Grasmick, as part of that partnership, while the school
systems need to hire great teachers.

If received, funding
from the RTTT grant will be will be distributed to each of Maryland’s 24 local
school systems proportionate to their needs.

“We’re going to try to
create a better balance with our 50 percent for systems which are ready to move
forward as I know this system is,” Grasmick said.