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New education reform advocacy group in Maryland

More than five years ago, a group called ConnCAN formed in Connecticut to advocate for those who wanted to bring a more reform agenda to the state. Now with the backing of a national organization, the group is spreading to new states, including Maryland. MarylandCAN's new executive director, Curtis Valentine, began work in August and has been talking to educators and advocacy groups around the state since then.

Half of the funding for MarylandCAN comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. The remainder will need to be raised within the state through individual and foundation donations, according to Valentine. The agenda for MarylandCAN is still in the development stages, but Valentine said it should be clearer by the beginning of January.  Valentine said he is going around the state meeting with lots of people in the education community, including superintendents, parents, teachers and legislators, and asking: "Where can we really move the needle?"

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Whatever the agenda becomes, he said, it will fall into one of three categories: greater choice of schools for students, greater flexibility for teachers and principals to educate students in the way they want, and greater accountability.

While there's clearly an education reform agenda here, Valentine said he hopes to bring in parents and others who want to advocate but have no prior knowledge of the reform movement, but know that their child's school isn't working and want to do something about it.

The board is being expanded, but currently includes Omari Todd, at Teach for America; Jason Botel at KIPP; Peter Kannam, former executive director of the Baltimore operation of New Leaders for New Schools;  Howard Stone, former vice chair of the Prince George's County Public Schools as well as a teacher of the year from Howard County.

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