When Education Week released its latest assessment of state education systems last week, the news for Maryland was once again great. Maryland remained the only state in the nation to receive at least a "B" across all six categories. Maryland was one of only five states to narrow the achievement gap for low income students by more than five percentage points. Maryland was first in Advanced Placement success. These accomplishments resulted in the No. 1 composite state ranking in the nation for the sixth consecutive year. This year we improved our K-12 student achievement ranking and increased our composite score lead over the second highest state, yet the Baltimore Sun chose to mischaracterize the achievements as some sort of defeat simply because Education Week decided not to present a ranking of the nation's school systems ("We're No. ?," Jan. 9).

Gov. Martin O'Malley continues to make record investments in our schools, and the difficult budget choices have clearly led to better results for Maryland students. These better results should be celebrated by all those who have Maryland's best interest at heart because a great education system is the pathway to job growth and a strong economy. As the former president and current member of the Maryland State School Board, I am proud of what our students and educators continue to accomplish. We still have work to do, and we have consistently acknowledged that although we are at the top of the nation's school systems, our graduates will not simply compete against their fellow graduates in New York but also those in New Zealand. That is why we seek a world class education for our students that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers.

My work as the chairman and CEO of a large corporation taught me the importance of continuous improvement and the danger of complacency based on past accomplishments. Maryland's great success in closing the achievement gap for low income students tells us that we are on the right path but that there remains much work to be done to provide all Maryland students the education they deserve. Enrolling more students in pre-K, supporting our students and educators in the transition to new, high quality standards and continuing record investments in our schools all add up to a state proud of its place at the top of the nation's rankings but focused on the work ahead to prepare all Maryland students to succeed in the 21st century economy.

James H. DeGraffenreidt

The writer is a member of the Maryland State Board of Education.

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