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Grasmick Updates Lawmakers On Race To The Top

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Half of the $250 million the state received in special federal funds will be left to the Maryland
State Department of Education’s discretion to help local school systems reach reform goals outlined in the program, the state’s top education official told lawmakers Thursday.

While $125 million from the “Race to the Top” fund has been allocated for 22 Maryland school systems over four years, the other half remains with the department. It will help systems that may need extra money to achieve goals in 54 different initiatives, State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick told members of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

“It’s not to enhance the department,” Grasmick told Sen. Roy Dyson, D-St. Mary’s, who asked why the department still has half the money. “It is to ensure that we have a sense of equity in all of these 54 projects.”

Maryland was one of 11 states and the District of Columbia that earned a share of $3.4 billion in federal money last year. The state is using it to develop new state standards and assessments for students, building a statewide student data system, turning around low-performing schools, increasing resources for science, math and technology studies and developing school leaders.

Grasmick said the state will be holding “educator academies” this summer for every principal of each public school in the state with a selected group of teachers from each school to discuss reforms.

Grasmick, who has been Maryland’s schools superintendent for 20 years, said she believes the federal program is going to have a visibility she can’t recall any other grant program ever having.

“People are very, very interested or angry — angry that they didn’t get it — or interested in what are the lessons learned from this that can be applied nationally, so they’re expecting us to do this with a lot of fidelity,” Grasmick said.

Maryland’s application did not have universal support from the state’s education leaders. Montgomery County, the state’s largest school district, did not sign on. Frederick County also did not sign on, and the state’s largest teachers’ union did not endorse the state’s application, in part out of concerns about how teachers will be evaluated.

The two counties that didn’t sign on will be forced to implement the reforms but won’t get dedicated funding to do so.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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