County education officials are taking some pride in the news that Maryland's schools rank first in the nation in a recent report released by Education Week, a national publication based in Bethesda.
The report, "Quality Counts," is an analysis of 14 categories, including high school graduation rates, student achievement, academic standards and accountability. Maryland, which ranked third last year, barely beat Massachusetts for the top spot. Both states were given a B grade overall. The national average was a C. Maryland scored high on preparing students for college and for its standards for early childhood education.
Howard is regularly ranked among the top school systems in the state for assessment tests, Advanced Placement participation rates and SAT scores.
"Our achievement helped contribute to the overall state level," Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said. "We didn't do it alone."
Cousin said financial support is a major reason Maryland schools are successful.
"There is a correlation between funding for education and student achievement," he said. "I know it's made a difference in Howard County. We've used money wisely for interventions."
Education Week has noted in previous reports that Maryland has ascended by providing more than $1.3 billion annually in funding during the past several years as well as requiring high-stakes testing at the high school level.
"The important thing is that the state elected officials are willing to invest in the most important commodity - our children," Cousin said.
Educators take to court
Cousin was beaming this week, and it had nothing to do with personal accolades for the superintendent, student achievements or school funding.
The basketball team of his alma mater, Morgan State University, beat the University of Maryland in a nailbiter, 66-65, on Wednesday in College Park.
"It was a surprise in many ways," Cousin said. "Maryland just took them for granted."
The win took on added importance because Cousin attended the game with school board vice-chairman Ellen Flynn Giles, her husband, Ron, and Ray Brown, chief financial officer for the school system.
Cousin and Brown were invited to the game by Giles, whose family members have attended Maryland for generations.
"I didn't rub it in too much," Cousin quipped. "I was her guest, after all."