"Maryland Scholars" to be Offered Statewide

Program Encouraging Rigorous Coursework Has Contributed to Remarkable Results Among Low-Income, Minority Students

BALTIMORE, MD (9/8/05) --- A program with a proven track record for increasing the number of high school students who take - and complete -rigorous coursework will be offered to school districts throughout Maryland, the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MBRT) announced today at its 2005 Annual Meeting.

Maryland Scholars, a component of the award-winning Achievement Counts campaign, promotes a rigorous course of study and was piloted by MBRT in Frederick and Harford counties in 2004. In partnership with local district efforts, the program has achieved remarkable results, particularly among low-income and minority students, according to MBRT Executive Director June Streckfus.

"The Maryland Scholars course of study - which includes four credits of English, three credits each of Math, Lab Sciences, and Social Studies, and two credits of the same Foreign Language - demonstrates that encouraging students to take ownership of their learning can help them to close the preparation gap between high school and the workplace or college," says Streckfus.

In Frederick County, for example, the introduction of Maryland Scholars has resulted in 55 percent more students living in poverty to complete Algebra I by ninth grade. Frederick County also saw 57 percent more African-American students completing Chemistry, while 80 percent more Hispanic students completed a fourth science credit.

Harford County, the other pilot site, produced similarly strong results. Forty-eight percent more Harford County students living in poverty completed Algebra I by ninth grade. Low-income students completing Chemistry and a fourth science credit increased 88 percent and 230 percent, respectively.

According to MBRT, increasing the number of students taking rigorous courses positively impacts postsecondary success, regardless of whether students go on to college or directly into the workplace.

Research repeatedly has shown that many high school graduates in Maryland and nationally are not prepared for college or entry-level jobs. In Maryland, MBRT's own workforce survey has shown that employers have been dissatisfied with recent graduates' writing, math, and problem-solving skills, as well as their work ethic. Colleges, meanwhile, report that more than half of new students are not adequately prepared to do college-level work and must take remedial coursework.

"Changing the equation by creating an atmosphere of access to rigorous coursework and providing students with credible reasons why they should work hard in high school, as well as a vision of what is possible for them if they do, have contributed to the success of Maryland Scholars," Streckfus explains.

The record of success produced by Maryland Scholars in Frederick and Harford counties was strong enough to convince MBRT's Board of Directors to vote to make the program available in all Maryland school districts, beginning this fall.

"We want all kids - not just a select few - to take and complete the kind of rigorous courses that will help them build a solid academic foundation that ultimately will translate into success throughout their lives," says MBRT Chairman Raymond A. "Chip" Mason. "Maryland Scholars does exactly that by helping students understand the critical connection between the work they do in school and their ability to qualify for college, scholarships, and good jobs."

MBRT has worked closely with both the Maryland State Department of Education and the local school districts to put Maryland Scholars in place for the 2005-06 school year. Through MBRT's speakers bureau, 2,000 volunteers from over 300 businesses statewide will be visiting high school classrooms this fall to urge students to work hard and to take rigorous coursework. In addition, a number of school districts statewide have added their own incentives to encourage students to take the Scholars course of study.

As a component of the Achievement Counts program, MD Scholars is supported by a teen career website ( http://www.bewhatiwanttobe.com/ ), and a webpage providing parent information to help children succeed in school ( http://www.mbrt.org/parents ).

"MBRT has been a credible, front-line witness to the perils of mediocre standards and a powerful, undiminished voice for school reform, said Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools. "The Maryland State Department of Education has had a great partner in MBRT."

MBRT anticipates having speakers in 200 high schools and 20 middle schools throughout the state this fall.

MBRT's Annual Meeting, which took place at The Center Club in Baltimore, also featured remarks by U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Raymond Simon, Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, and Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nancy Grasmick.

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