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Press Release: Schools Set To Open For The 2014-2015 Academic Year

Calvert Is First System To Welcome Back Students

For Immediate Release                                                        Contact: Bill Reinhard, 410-767-0486
Baltimore, MD (August 14, 2014)

Maryland public school systems begin re-opening next Tuesday, August 19, as more than one million students prepare to start the 2014-2015 school year.

By the time all schools open their doors on September 2, more than 860,000 K-12 students will fill classrooms and another 250,000 children will be involved in some form of pre-kindergarten, Head Start, or licensed childcare program.

“In Maryland, we've made the better choice to invest in our schools and in our children. Together, working with students, parents, teachers and school officials all over our great State, we've built one of the highest ranking public school systems in the nation,” said Gov. Martin O'Malley. “As students return to campus this fall, Maryland schools stand ready to provide them with the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in our 21st century global economy."

Schools begin the second full year of implementation of the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards and the first full administration of the new PARCC state assessments, which are online tests aligned to the State standards.

“Maryland is committed to preparing world-class students with more rigorous standards, meaningful assessment and continuous support for educators,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery.  “Our students are preparing to meet the needs of local employers and to compete in the global marketplace.  They deserve an education that prepares them for college and career-training opportunities without the need for remediation.”

Among the headlines for the new school year:

  • Continued Integration of College and Career-Ready Standards.  More than 4,000 educators this summer took part in the voluntary College and Career Readiness Conferences, a follow-up to the successful Educator Effectiveness Academies, which took place the previous three summers.
  • Better Assessments Aligned to Higher Standards.  New PARCC state assessments aligned to the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards have replaced the MSAs.
  • Strengthening Educator Evaluations.  All school systems are using new evaluations, and State leaders have pledged to work collaboratively to keep improving those systems.
  • Developing New Principals.  A new program was launched in Maryland to help prepare a new generation of school leaders.
  • Expanding Academic Requirements, Programs.  The Class of 2015 is the first to benefit from Maryland’s environmental literacy requirement.  This school year also will see major expansion in some Career and Technology Education programs, including Computer Science.
  • Boosting Early Learning.  A new grant will open up more quality PreK programs to economically disadvantaged students.  In addition, a new PreK assessment will help teachers and parents better understand the learning needs of Maryland’s youngest learners.
  • Helping Students with Disabilities.  School systems are required to provide more information to parents of students with disabilities.
  • Maryland Welcomes New Charter Schools.  Two new charter schools are scheduled to open this fall, bringing the total to 50.
  • Keeping Students Healthy.  Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is requiring new immunizations for children entering kindergarten and seventh grade.

Enrollment in Maryland public schools has been on a steady rise for the past five years.  After reaching a high point of 869,113 students in 2004, enrollment fell to 843,861 by 2009.  Since then it has rebounded, reaching 866,169 students last school year – the State’s highest enrollment level since its record setting year of 2004.

Maryland’s student population also has experienced major changes over the past decade.  Maryland has educated a majority-minority student population for several years.  White students represent nearly 41 percent of the student population, followed by African American students, who make up 35 percent of the student population.  Both the White and African American student populations have been in decline as a percentage of the student body in recent years. 

Hispanic students represent 14 percent of the student body, while Asian students account for approximately six percent.  Percentages of Hispanic and Asian students have been steadily rising.  Also increasing is the percentage of students identifying themselves as two or more races.

This accounts for nearly about 4 percent of Maryland students.

Also increasing in the State’s schools is the percentage of students coming from circumstances of poverty.  Last year, for example, 50.4 percent of Maryland elementary students were eligible for free- or reduced-price meals, the federal proxy for poverty.  Ten years earlier that tally stood at 37.1 percent – a dramatic increase over the decade.

More information on Maryland school demographics can be found on the Maryland Report Card website,

  • College and Career Ready Standards

Maryland’s College and Career Ready Standards were fully implemented at all public schools for the past year, but for many students and educators the Standards are already old hat.  Schools worked on implementation for three years before fully implementing them in the fall of 2013.

The Standards are based on the Common Core, a state-led movement to raise the academic bar throughout the nation.  More than 40 states continue to move forward with improved standards in reading/English language arts and mathematics, intent on preparing students to graduate from high school without the need for remediation in college and career-training programs.  Currently more than half of Maryland high school graduates who enroll in Maryland colleges and universities must take at least one remedial course.  Remedial courses add time and cost, and make completion of postsecondary education less likely.  The development process for Maryland’s internationally benchmarked standards, developed from the Common Core State Standards, drew on the expertise of more than 10,000 educators and other experts.

Nearly 4,000 educators from across Maryland took part in voluntary College and Career Ready Conferences this past summer.  The eight new professional development conferences featured more than 100 different sessions on the new learning standards that are raising the bar for students throughout the State and much of the nation.  The conferences followed three straight summers of professional development by more than 7,000 teachers and principals during the Educator Effectiveness Academies. 

In addition, more than 100 Maryland educators took part in the FAME (Formative Assessment for Maryland Educators) Summer Institute this past July.  The Summer Institute provided an opportunity for school leadership to receive intensive instruction in formative assessment, a tool used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to boost learning.

New tools for teachers and parents can be found at MSDE’s BlackBoard site:

More information on Maryland’s College and Career-Ready Standards can be found at:

  • Building Better Assessments

Maryland schools will hold the first administration of new assessments aligned to higher standards in the spring of 2015.  The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessments will cover English language arts/literacy and mathematics in grades 3-8 and at the high school level.

The computer-based assessments represent a total reset for Maryland’s accountability system.  They are replacing the Maryland School Assessments (MSA), in place for the past decade and given for the final time last spring.  The new advanced assessments will provide an entirely different user experience as well as a different scoring system.  For the first time, Maryland will be able to examine deeper learning, critical thinking, problem-solving, and communications skills needed for college and career.

Maryland tested the assessments this past spring in virtually all schools. The field test was one of the nation’s most extensive, with 65,000 students taking either the math or English portions.  Both the English and the mathematics portions are designed to be taken online, although a paper and pencil version will be available for at least the first three years.  PARCC has developed “device neutral” assessments, allowing students to take the tests on a range of devices including desktops, laptops, netbooks, and tablets.

Results from the new PARCC assessments will not be used for school or educator accountability until the 2016-17 school year.  For more on the PARCC assessments, see

  • Improving Educator Evaluations

Maryland’s major education organizations this summer joined with the Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education in a pledge to further strengthen educator evaluations.

A landmark new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed June 27 pledged to coordinate resources and strategies in the development of rigorous and measurable Student Learning Objectives (SLOs).  The SLOs, developed jointly by teachers and principals, are a key factor in Maryland’s new teacher-principal evaluation system.

The Maryland State Board of Education, Maryland State Department of Education, Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM), Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE), Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP), Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals (MAESP) and the Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU) signed the MOU.

Student Learning Objectives are measurable goals that educators and their supervisors develop and agree upon at the start of each school year.  These objectives are reviewed at year’s end, as part of the evaluation process. 

Under the MOU, the partners agreed to:

  • Focus on continuing professional development for teachers and principals in developing rigorous SLOs;
  • Identify and develop a diverse group of leaders to develop professional development on the SLO process;
  • Establish a network for collaboration on SLO development;
  • Initiate a study of the SLO process, to be completed by August 2016.

Maryland school systems in 2013-14 implemented new Teacher-Principal Evaluation Systems.  Those systems include both professional practices measures and student growth measures.  Maryland piloted evaluation systems in seven districts during the 2011-12 school year, and evaluation systems were field tested in 22 districts during the 2012-13 school year. 

To read the MOU on evaluations, go to: 

  • Developing New Principals

A new generation of Maryland school leaders converged on Solomons Island this summer for the first Governor’s Promising Principals Academy and School Leadership Pipeline Initiative.

The Academy was a unique effort by the Maryland State Department of Education to prepare a new cadre of principals.  Research has repeatedly shown that an effective principal is the key to a successful school. 

Two participants from each of Maryland’s 24 local school systems have been taking part in the Academy.  Participants were nominated by their local superintendent based on their interest, current position, and leadership potential.  The summer conference—aligned to principal training and evaluation standards—was the first time the entire cohort of promising principals gathered as a whole.

Participants had been immersed in intensive professional development on subjects ranging from synergistics to ethics.  Their preparation will continue this school year.

For more on the Promising Principals Academy, see:

  • Requiring Environmental Literacy

Maryland in 2010 became the first state in the nation to institute environmental literacy standards.  This year’s seniors – the graduating class of 2015 – will be the first class to complete their high school years under those requirements.

Maryland’s environmental literacy requirement is not a stand-alone course, but rather a set of standards embedded in science and other courses throughout a student’s path of study. Beginning with the 2011-12 academic year, all students were required to complete a locally designed high school program of environmental literacy set forth in State regulation. 

Maryland has a long history of environmental education and awareness in its schools.  For example, Maryland has had honorees selected in each of the three years that the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Schools program has been in existence.  Earlier this month, federal officials announced that three Maryland schools will be part of its “Green Strides” tour this fall.  See:

For more on Maryland’s environmental education program, see:

  • Expanding Career and Technology Education

Maryland schools are expanding Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs of study for the 2014-15 school year. 

For example, the Information Technology (IT) Software Pathway program, Computer Science, is being added to 12 high schools this fall—its second year of existence—bringing the total number of schools implementing the program to 18 across 11 school systems.  Upon completion of the program sequence, students may earn college credit through the AP computer science exam.  In addition, a new program in Environmental and Natural Resources developed in partnership with Towson University is being piloted this fall at schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore, Prince George’s, and Washington counties.

More established CTE programs also are growing.  The Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education, launched in 2009, has grown to 29 schools in 14 counties plus Baltimore City.  The Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences program started with 181 students in 2008.  There were 1,928 students in the program in 2013.

For more on Maryland’s CTE programs, go to:

  • Giving Early Learners a Great Start

Maryland’s publicly funded prekindergarten programs for four-year olds have been in existence since 1980.  Today, more than 28,000—or 35 percent of all four-year olds—attend PreK in 70 percent of all elementary schools.  These programs give children an important boost on learning.

This summer Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown announced an additional $4.3 million in Prekindergarten Expansion Grants to 24 PreK providers throughout the State, which will add another 1,500 seats for economically disadvantaged children.

More on the PreK expansion can be found here:

Maryland has been among the nation’s leaders in assessing a student’s readiness for kindergarten.  Beginning this school year, Maryland will be using a new tool to learn more about each child’s early learning experiences that will provide information to parents and teachers.  The new Kindergarten Readiness Assessment will be used by kindergarten teachers to measure student skills and knowledge.

For more on the new assessment, see

  • New Maryland Special Education Legislation

Local school systems are now required to provide the parents of students with disabilities a verbal and written explanation of their rights and responsibilities in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process with their copy of the “Parental Rights: Maryland Procedural Safeguards Notice” document.  Parents may also request this information at any IEP team meeting.

In addition, local school systems are required to provide parents, at various IEP meetings, with information about access to habilitative services, including a copy of the Maryland Insurance Administration’s “Parents Guide to Habilitative Services.” The Parents’ Guide to Habilitative Services is available in English and Spanish and may be accessed at:; or from the Maryland State Department of Education web site at

In addition, MSDE’s Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services hosts a large number of helpful publications on its website.  Find them at:

  • New Charter Schools

Two new public charter schools will open in Maryland this school year, bringing the total number of charters in the state to 50, Maryland’s charter schools will enroll nearly 20,000 students this fall.  This year’s new schools:

  • Monarch Global Academy Laurel will open serving grades K through 5.  It is the third Monarch charter school, joining Monarch Academy Glen Burnie also in Anne Arundel County and Monarch Academy Baltimore (City).
  • Chesapeake Math and IT South Public Charter will open in Prince George’s County with grades 6 and 7.

In addition, the existing Chesapeake Math and IT Academy in Prince George’s County will expand. The school opened in 2011 with 6th and 7th grades with a plan to grow to 12th grade.  This fall’s expansion will add grades K through 5 to its program.  

The establishment of Chesapeake Math and IT South and the expansion of Chesapeake Math and IT and have been made possible with funding from Maryland’s Race to the Top grant and in partnership with Prince Georges County Public Schools.

For more about Maryland’s charter schools, visit:

  • Additional Vaccine Requirements

Maryland students and their families have new vaccine requirements this year, which were adopted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH).

DHMH is now requiring that all Maryland kindergarten students have two doses of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccinations before entering school.  In addition, all seventh graders must receive a pertussis booster (Tdap) and a dose of the meningitis vaccine.  Health officials emphasize that such vaccinations are the best defense parents have against the illnesses.

More information is available here:

  • Connecting with Maryland Public Education

MSDE continues to bolster its outreach with parents, stakeholders, and the public interested in our State’s public schools., MSDE’s webpage, offers a pathway to information on everything from curriculum to assessment scores.  In addition, MSDE has a regularly updated Facebook page, providing users with information and photos about events and issues in the news. You can join MSDE at  For the quickest access, follow MSDE on Twitter, @MdPublicSchools.

  • School Start Dates

Calvert County is the first system to open this year, welcoming students next Tuesday, August 19, although the statewide SEED school opens its doors on August 18.  The remaining systems:

    • August 20 – St. Mary’s and Washington counties
    • August 21 – Cecil County
    • August 25 – Allegany, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, and Wicomico counties, and Baltimore City
    • August 26 – Caroline, Dorchester, Prince George’s, and Talbot counties
    • August 27 – Baltimore County
    • September 2 – Worcester County

Please note that some individual schools and grades have different start dates.  Check with your local school system for more information. 

MSDE’s round-up of school openings and closings can be found here.