The good news in Maryland education

As Alice Cooper sang, “School’s out for summer.” I thought this might be the perfect time to look back over the past year, counter the seemingly endless cycle of negative news, and bring you some good news for a change.

  • Maryland public high schools once again rank No. 1 one in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. Maryland has a higher percentage of top-ranked high schools than any other state in the nation.
  • Maryland’s public high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, and the drop out percentage at an all-time low. The four-year cohort graduation rate reached 87.61 percent — nearly 6 points better than the rate registered in 2010.
  • Maryland’s class of 2016 received more than $1.3 billion in college scholarship offers, the second straight year at that level.
  • Maryland Teacher of the Year, Athanasia Kyriakakos, an art teacher at Baltimore City’s Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School, became one of four finalists for the nation’s top teaching honor: National Teacher of the Year.
  • Maryland student success on the Advanced Placement (AP) test remained strong in 2016 as participation rose to a new record. The percentage of Maryland seniors who scored proficient on one or more AP exams exceeded 30 percent for the third consecutive year. That placed second to Massachusetts, which edged out Maryland by less than one percentage point.
  • For the third year in a row, Gov. Larry Hogan requested record funding for education, and the Maryland General Assembly delivered. State aid for primary and secondary education increased to $6.4 billion, 1 percent more than fiscal 2017 aid.
  • The legislature provided additional funding so that more youngsters could attend quality pre-kindergarten programs, recognizing the importance of early childhood education.
  • The fiscal 2018 capital budget includes $280 million to support public school construction.
  • Maryland continues to support innovations in education, particularly piloting schools that integrate high school, college and the workplace. The governor and the legislature approved planning grants for six more Pathways in Technology Early College (P-TECH) High Schools. Funding was also provided for the LYNX (Linking Youth to New eXperiences) High School in Frederick County, where students write individual plans for success that take into account their unique talents and interests. The LYNX School is poised to become the model for the next generation American high school.
  • State support for higher education for fiscal 2018 rose to over $2 billion, an increase of 2.5 percent over 2017.
  • Three University System of Maryland (USM) institutions — University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland, Baltimore; and University of Maryland, Baltimore County — were included on U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Global Universities list, based on global and regional research reputation, academic research publications and international collaboration.
  • Maryland set a goal of having 55 percent of its adult population attain an AA degree or a Baccalaureate degree. Through 2016, USM increased its stateside enrollment to 164,499 students from 143,475 in 2009. The goal is to increase the student population to 195,000, without reducing quality.
  • The University of Maryland, College Park opened the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center, a state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind, active and collaborative learning environment that is completely transforming teaching and learning on campus. Its futuristic design takes teaching and learning to a new level of creativity and innovation.
  • Once again, Johns Hopkins University has outspent all other U.S. universities in research and development, funding projects to cure disease, promote human health, advance technology and expand knowledge of the universe and ourselves.
  • Towson University and Morgan State University celebrated their 150th anniversaries; UMBC its 50th.
  • And finally, no list of accomplishments would be complete without a mention of Maryland’s team sport, lacrosse. “Fear the Turtle” — both the Terps Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse teams won the NCAA Division I National Championship. And the Seagulls of Salisbury University won the Men’s NCAA Division III National title. Maryland is a lacrosse powerhouse.

Kudos to the governor, legislators, university leaders, superintendents, teachers and principals who work so hard on behalf of our students and the students themselves. Indeed, Maryland does have much to be proud of.

Nancy S. Grasmick is a presidential scholar at Towson University, a faculty member of the Kennedy Krieger Institute and a former Maryland superintendent of schools. Her email is ngrasmick@towson.edu.

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