Maryland Schools Will Participate in American Diploma Project, Maryland Scholars

BALTIMORE, MD (9/9/05) --- Maryland schools will participate in two new programs designed to make certain high school graduates are prepared to enter college or the workplace, it was announced today during the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MBRT).

Maryland Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nancy Grasmick announced that Maryland will participate in the American Diploma Project, a national initiative led by Achieve, Inc., that is designed to guarantee that every student graduates from school college- or career-ready.

"This is designed to help us shrink the troublingly high college-remediation rate and send students into the workplace prepared to succeed," Dr. Grasmick told a standing-room-only crowd of area business and education leaders assembled at the MBRT Annual Meeting.

Dr. Grasmick continued, "We'll build on our years of work to bridge the expectation gap between high school and life thereafter by making sure students are taking the right courses - courses that put them on the right trajectory for college and careers."

To help in that effort, MBRT announced that Maryland Scholars, 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 all school districts throughout Maryland.

Maryland Scholars, a component of MBRT's award-winning Achievement Counts campaign, was piloted Frederick and Harford counties in 2004 and achieved remarkable results, particularly among low-income and minority students.

Maryland Scholars course of study includes four credits of English, three credits each of Math (through Algebra II), Lab Sciences, and Social Studies, and two credits of the same Foreign Language.

"Maryland Scholars 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," said MBRT Executive Director June Streckfus. Streckfus noted that in Frederick County, for example, the introduction of Maryland Scholars 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.

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.

"We must create legacy wealth, something of value for future generations," Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele told the audience, "and that means giving our kids the kind of education that can help them get a good job and have a good life."

Steele, whose own Commission on Education in Maryland will present its findings next week, added, "You, as business owners, have the opportunity to shape the workforce that you want and need to stay competitive. The pieces are lined up. Let's do it. The marketplace is unforgiving for those who wait."

Steele went on to praise the partnership that has been forged in Maryland between public schools and the business community as a model for the nation to follow.

That point was also echoed by Dr. Grasmick and U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Raymond Simon. Dr. Grasmick noted, "MBRT has been a credible, front-line witness to the perils of mediocre standards and a powerful, undiminished voice for school reform. The Maryland State Department of Education has had a great partner in MBRT."

Deputy Secretary Simon emphasized the need for sustainability in all efforts to improve education. Noting the changes that have taken place in implementing President Bush's landmark No Child Left Behind Act, Simon noted, "We can never lose sight of our mission ... we must set the standards and then make sure every child gets there."

MBRT is working 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.

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

The American Diploma Project, meanwhile, will be put in place "system by system on a voluntary basis, until the entire state is participating," explained Dr. Grasmick.

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