Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress give us facts but don't tell us what factors led to improvement in the state. Those determinations are left to everyone from education policy experts or classroom teachers.

Maryland scores were close to or at the national average back in 2003 and 2005, but scores begin to rise in nearly every test administration. So what was happening in 2004 through 2006 that led to the better scores on what is regarded as a uniformly rigorous national test? Andres Alonso, Baltimore's CEO, had an interesting observation yesterday. Those years were about the time Thornton funding had really kicked in. So he is making an educated guess that more money really does improve schools.

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He also points out that governors and legislators in Maryland, Republicans and Democrats, have generally  protected education funding. School systems may quibble with politicians in Annapolis over what they aren't getting, but in large measure, he said, Maryland has stayed the course in making education one of its highest priorities.

"I think that was happening in unison with a lot of other things, including a greater focus on stnadards," Alonso said.

Others say the consistent leadership of Nancy S. Grasmick, who led a move toward more accountability, contributed to the rise. In addition, an associate superintendent in Cecil County, said she believes the communication between school systems has been important. The state has vetted national research on which language arts programs are best.  For small school systems and teachers in classroom this saves them time and effort.  "We only implement programs that are research based and endorsed by the state," said Carolyn Teigland.

Others say the consistent leadership of Nancy S. Grasmick, who led a move toward more accountability, contributed to the rise. In addition, an associate superintendent in Cecil County, said she believes the communication between school systems has been important. The state has vetted national research on which language arts programs are best.  For small school systems and teachers in classroom this saves them time and effort.  "We on

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