MSDE Education Bulletin, May 2, 2016

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     May 2, 2016                | MSDE Home | Newsroom | | School Improvement |


The Maryland State Board of Education has proposed a phased-in approach to setting the assessment scores needed for a high school diploma.

Under new regulations approved last week for publishing, students taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams in English 10 and Algebra I for the first time next year will need a score of 725 in each of those subjects -- or a combined score in those two subjects of 1450.

The scores necessary to meet the graduation requirement in those two subjects would rise slightly each year through the 2019-2020 school year:

The State Board approved the PARCC High School plan without opposition.

  • 733 in 2017-18 (combined score of 1466)
  • 741 in 2018-19 (combined score of 1482)
  • 750 in 2019-20 (combined score of 1500)

For any student who must take a re-test of the assessments in English 10 and/or Algebra I, the passing score on the re-test for that student shall be the passing score in the year that the student first took the assessment.

Students who are unable to meet the graduation requirement through examination will continue to have the opportunity to meet it through the Bridge Plan for Academic Validation, Maryland’s long-standing project-based assessment. In addition, if a student has not achieved a passing score on the English 10 and Algebra I tests, students may meet the requirement by achieving certain scores on the appropriate SAT, ACT and IB tests, or on the PARCC Algebra II or English 11 assessments.

The State Board’s new plan will be published as proposed regulations in the Maryland Register in the coming weeks, and will go through a 30-day comment period.  The regulations will come back to the State Board for final action this summer.

While this is the second year the PARCC exams in mathematics and English are being administered, students taking Algebra I and English 10 this school year need only to take the exams as part of their graduation requirement. Passing the courses, as well as the High School Assessments in biology and government, also are graduation requirements for those students.

Maryland instituted the High School Assessment requirement beginning with the class of 2009, following several years of study.  Scores on the assessments rose dramatically after the State Board made passing the assessments a requirement for graduation.


Maryland’s new Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) finds that nearly half of Maryland’s incoming students in the fall of 2015 were fully ready for learning. The data, released last week, confirm last year’s results, when the entering kindergarteners were assessed using the new assessment for the first time.

2015-2016 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Report

The report, Readiness Matters!, found that 45 percent of incoming students were fully prepared to begin kindergarten.  Another 37 percent were “approaching” readiness, while 18 percent were “emerging.”  The results also uncovered gaps in readiness between certain student groups. The report also includes insights into readiness and children’s experience with various forms of pre-K experience.  The results nearly mirrors the outcomes from last year when 47 percent were fully ready.

The results also spotlight gaps in readiness.  More than half of White and Asian-American children are entering kindergarten ready to learn -- 56 and 52 percent, respectively.

But only 41 percent of African-American students are fully prepared for kindergarten and just 27 percent of Hispanic students are kindergarten-ready.  The data revealed that students from low-income households, those for whom English is a second language, and students with disabilities have special challenges.

The KRA measures the skills and behaviors that children should have learned prior to entering kindergarten. It combines age-appropriate, standardized performance tasks that measure students’ specific skills, along with focused observations of children’s work and social interactions, to best understand what each entering kindergartner knows and is able to do in four key areas: social foundations; physical well-being and motor development; language and literacy; and mathematics. 

This assessment replaced the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR) assessment, in use from 2001 to 2013. The new assessment is needed to put young students on a path toward meeting Maryland’s more rigorous Pre-K through 12th grade College and Career Ready Standards. The KRA sets a new baseline for tracking student progress in future years, aligned to the higher standards; the results are not directly comparable to the MMSR, which found in 2013 that 83 percent of kindergartners entering school in 2013 were “fully ready” for the curriculum.

The KRA also reveals gaps among low-, middle- and upper-income households.  Just 33 percent of children who are eligible for free or reduced meals--the federal proxy for low-income--enter kindergarten fully prepared, while 55 percent of children from middle- and upper income families are ready for kindergarten.

The data also provide information on kindergarten readiness based on pre-K experience, including:

  • Nonpublic nursery schools and childcare centers both top 50 percent in readiness.
  • Nearly 44 percent of public pre-K programs demonstrated readiness. 
  • 37 percent of children from family child care demonstrated readiness.
  • 33 percent of children from Head Start demonstrated readiness.
  • 29 percent of children who stay at home or are in informal care were found to be fully ready.

Teachers can use student KRA data to adjust instruction and improve learning.  Early childhood programs and school leaders can use the information to address achievement gaps and respond to the learning needs of students.  The data also can be used to inform professional development, curricular changes, and future investments in learning.  At the same time, families can use the data to help support student learning at home.

MSDE had worked with local educators to develop the KRA, and has since engaged educators, including kindergarten teachers, to strengthen the assessment instrument and the administration process.  For example, this year’s version of the KRA was 20 percent shorter compared to last year, with some of the more time-intensive items removed. An enhanced reporting feature was put in place for teachers to access on-time reports of their students’ skill levels.

MSDE also has worked on systems to improve access to technology and Wi-Fi for teachers working with the KRA. Additional professional development was provided for teachers.  Based on a teacher survey, conducted after the conclusion of the assessment, 63 percent rated the overall experience using the KRA as either good or excellent, 80 percent thought that the skills and behaviors were appropriate for kindergarten, and 90 percent thought the test materials were easy to use. They also reported on the time it took to complete the assessment, which – on average – took less time (40 minutes per student) than last year (50 minutes per student).

2015-2016 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Report is available at this link.

A few words from Interim State Superintendent of Schools Jack R. Smith

nterim State Superintendent of Schools Jack R. Smith

Interim State Superintendent of Schools
Jack R. Smith

Congratulations to Maryland’s latest National Green Ribbon honorees: Sligo Middle School (Montgomery County Public Schools) and Broadneck High School (Anne Arundel County Public Schools) each received a Green Ribbon, and the Anne Arundel County Public School System received the district award.

Maryland’s applications for the award were evaluated by a committee comprised of staff from State and national government agencies, State and regional environmental organizations, and private businesses.  All of our nominees received the Green Ribbon.

Maryland schools have been at the leading edge in their commitment to environmental education and to practices that will sustain our world for future generations.  These schools represent the important work taking place throughout our State.

The federal Green Ribbon program recognizes schools that save energy, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protect health, foster wellness, and offer environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement. The recognition award is part of a larger U.S. Department of Education effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about practices proven to result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness, as well as a government-wide aim to increase energy independence and economic security.

* * *

It was exciting to join UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski and more than 200 educators and industry leaders at last month’s Maryland Computing Education Summit.  It was the largest gathering of its kind in the State and proves the interest in expanding technology education throughout our schools.

NASA,, CS Matters in Maryland, the University of Maryland-College Park, Project Lead the Way, and educators from each one of Maryland’s 24 school systems were represented at UMBC.  The foundation has been set for further expansion of computer science -- not just at the high school level, but throughout Maryland schools.

Video Highlights

Yumi Hogan: 'The Importance Of Art'

Yumi Hogan: 'The Importance Of Art'

Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan talks about the importance of art in schools.

Teachers of Promise, 2016

Teachers of Promise, 2016

Teachers of Promise (graduates of Maryland's public and private universities) gather to be paired with experienced mentors. They get advice and glean tips at the Teachers of Promise Institute, April 15, 2016 at Martin's West.

2016 Financial Education & Capability Awards

2016 Financial Education & Capability Awards

Maryland recognizes teachers and educators for their work in Financial Education. MSDE TV takes you inside the classroom of two of the winners, and to Annapolis for the ceremonies on March 28, 2016.


May 24 - Maryland State Board of Education Meeting, Baltimore

June 16-17 - MSDE Maryland Education Data Summit, Ellicott City

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