MSDE Education Bulletin, December 13, 2016

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Maryland Education Bulletin Header

     December 13 2016                | MSDE Home | Newsroom | | School Improvement |


Six Maryland public schools last week were selected as 2016-17 Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools.

Educators filled the State Board of Education meeting room this week as the latest Blue Ribbon Schools were announced.
Educators filled the State Board of Education meeting room this week as the latest Blue Ribbon Schools were announced.

The schools are:

  • Shipley’s Choice Elementary School, Anne Arundel County
  • Sunderland Elementary School, Calvert County
  • Centerville Elementary School, Frederick County
  • Manor Woods Elementary School, Howard County
  • Ronald McNair Elementary School, Montgomery County
  • Farmland Elementary School, Montgomery County

“The Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools represent the thoughtful work taking place at public schools throughout our State, as they prepare students for the next grade or the next step in life,” said Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools. “When schools succeed at this level it is a tribute to all: students, teachers, administrators, and community members. They all deserve our congratulations and admiration.”  

The schools are recognized on the basis of rigorous State and national requirements for high achievement and significant improvement. The students in each of these schools are high achievers in reading and mathematics, and several of these schools also have a significant number of economically disadvantaged students and students for whom English is a second language.

The schools will be invited by the U.S. Department of Education to apply to be National Blue Ribbon Schools.  With underwriting and gift sponsor support, each school will receive a Maryland Blue Ribbon Flag, a monetary prize, $1000 of office supplies, interactive technology equipment, and a school Congratulations Party.  A dinner in Annapolis will be held in honor of the winning schools on March 13, 2017.  On that date, each Blue Ribbon School will be honored by the Maryland House of Delegates and the Senate.

Maryland underwriting sponsors are BGE, Comcast, and NTA Life. Gift sponsors are: Dimension U, Lifetouch Studios, Mrs. Fields/Joe Corbis Pizza; Rudolph’s Office Supply; and SMART Technologies, Inc.


Grade school education isn’t rocket science—except when it is. That’s just one of the out-of-the-box lessons fifth-graders learn in Thomas Dennison’s classroom. But Dennison had his own instructional surprise this month during a school assembly at Havre de Grace Elementary in Harford County,

Thomas Dennison and his students react to the Milken news.
Thomas Dennison and his students react to the Milken news

Dennison was presented with the prestigious Milken Educator Award.  He was recognized for his commitment to students, colleagues, and the community as the newest recipient of the $25,000 cash award, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching.”

Milken Family Foundation Co-Founder Mike Milken presented Dennison with the Award, joined by Maryland State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon and Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara P. Canavan.

“The earlier an investment is made into a child’s education, the greater an impact it will have,” said Milken. “Teachers who help elementary school students – particularly those battling learning disabilities, poverty and other challenges – can change the course of individual lives and communities. That’s why we’re so pleased to recognize Thomas Dennison for his extraordinary efforts to engage all students and help them find meaning and pride in their work.”

“Thomas Dennison is a classroom scientist, taking the time and doing the research necessary to understand how best to connect with his students and ensure their academic success,” said Salmon. “His work is a joyful and creative mission, and the beneficiaries are the students and the community at Havre de Grace Elementary.”

“Mr. Dennison’s commitment and dedication to the students at Havre de Grace Elementary is apparent from the moment you walk into his classroom,” said Canavan. “Students are engaged and there is an actual ‘buzz’ in the room; the excitement is contagious and you know that you are experiencing the commitment and dedication of a truly special teacher. I am thrilled that Mr. Dennison is receiving this well-deserved recognition.”

In Thomas Dennison’s class at Havre de Grace Elementary School, students learn to tap into their most powerful resource: their imagination. They may learn Revolutionary War history by reenacting the battles of Lexington and Concord with water balloons in the schoolyard. That is when they’re not exploring rocketry on the playground or collaborating with other classes in massive math-oriented scavenger hunts.

Celebrating the student body while simultaneously spurring class involvement, Dennison once staged a celebrity-themed event on the first day of school, in which he hired a news crew and interviewed each student who strolled the red carpet he had unrolled outside the school’s front doors. Inside Dennison’s class, however, learning and decorum are the true superstars, where the teacher sets high expectations for both. Students greet visitors at the door with a handshake, small groups debate and analyze the day’s reading while others solve problems on chalkboard-covered tabletops as Dennison floats among groups as a facilitator, empowering students to develop their interpersonal skills through active involvement.

Dennison believes in transformation and welcomes all students into his class. Using an energetic, positive atmosphere to inspire learning, he uses music during transitions or to boost student excitement. Throughout the day, kids high-five, clap, and bang drums when classmates offer correct answers, showing their appreciation for each other and recognizing their peers’ successes.

The approach garners impressive results. Last year, Dennison’s class scored in the proficient or advanced range on Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) assessments—and Havre de Grace Elementary ranks in the top 1% for reading and top 10% for math among Maryland’s Title I schools. Dennison also encourages qualitative measures of success in his students: persistence, curiosity, compassion, creativity, motivation, leadership and courage.

Unflaggingly positive, Dennison praises students and reminds them that they are unique, special and a gift to the world.

The 2016-17 season marks the 30th year of the Milken Educator Awards. Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Dennison’s honor includes membership in the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

A Few Words from State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen B. Salmon

State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen B. Salmon


State Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Karen B. Salmon

Maryland last week posted on for public review its draft plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), MSDE also has launched a survey about the plan, and will soon announce a series of listening events across the State.  Our goal is to gather as much input as possible on this plan that will affect every school in the State.

The draft is the next step in our process to develop Maryland’s new accountability program.  MSDE has been working with a variety of stakeholders over the past year on the plan, and will continue to reach out through next summer when our plan is finalized. 

Maryland schools aren’t waiting around for the plan be made final. Our educators and leaders are hard at work, improving instruction with the goal of strengthening academic achievement for all students.  We need our graduates to leave high school prepared for employment or additional education.  Our new ESSA plan is simply the roadmap for where we are headed next.

* * *

Welcome to Dr. Rose Maria Li appointed last month to the Maryland State Board of Education. Governor Hogan appointed Dr. Li to fill the unexpired term of Dr. S. James Gates, who resigned in October. Her term ends June 30, 2017. 

Dr. Li is president and CEO of Rose Li and Associates (RLA), and has more than 20 years of experience as a health professional with primary experience in demography, economics, and population epidemiology. Prior to founding RLA, Dr. Li held leadership positions at the National Institutes of Health, including work at the National Institute of Aging and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Also, congratulations to Dr. Chester Finn, elected Vice President of the Maryland State Board of Education last week. 

A distinguished scholar, educator and public servant, Dr. Finn has devoted his career to improving education in the United States. He is the Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He is also a Senior Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.

Video Highlights

Maryland Milken Educator Award Winner

Maryland Milken Educator Award Winner

5th grade teacher Thomas Dennison of Havre de Grace Elementary in Harford County wins a $25,000 Milken Educator Award. See the award as it happened December 1, 2016.

2016 Fall Student Artwork Exhibition

2016 Fall Student Artwork Exhibition

 Maryland First Lady Yumi Hogan celebrates the work of student artists at the House of Delegates building in Annapolis. See some of the work, hear the Madrigal Singers, and the First Lady talk about the importance of the arts.


December 15 - MSDE ESSA External Committee Meeting, Baltimore.

January 24 - Maryland State Board of Education Meeting, Baltimore

In the News

A+ Achievement for Six Maryland Schools

Maryland Getting $15 Million in PreK Funding
Cumberland Times-News

Education Secretary Visits Baltimore

Harford County Teacher Surprised with $25K Award

Promising Principals Academy Prepares New Leaders