Cumberland Times-News

April 18, 2013

Md. superintendent pays a visit

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— MCHENRY — Maryland Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery spoke about the state’s public education system, the new Common Core standards and answered questions during the Business Before Hours breakfast held at Dutch’s at Silver Tree at Deep Creek Lake.  

“I absolutely love my job and the reason why is because I get to go out and talk about the thing that I love to do the most with the people who support it the most,” said Lowery on Wednesday.  

Education Week, the premier schools publication in the country, has deemed Maryland as the No. 1 state for education in the country for five years in a row, according to Lowery.

“That’s not only looking at academics, that’s looking at the kinds of support there,” said Lowery. “You are a huge piece, the chamber and the people of the community, of that No. 1.”

The College Board, which creates and produces the Advanced Placement test, has deemed the state No. 1 for the test.

In the last 10 years, the number of students taking the Advanced Placement test in the state has increased from 18,000 to about 28,000, according to Lowery.

The number of students who were deemed “successful,” scoring a 3 or better on the test, doubled.  

Maryland led the country in coalescent early childhood in ages 0 to 5, in a way that was a concentrated, cohesive effort, said Lowery. The early childhood results feed into the K-12 system, which is also No. 1.

“We know that the achievement gap comes into our schools,” said Lowery. “So, what happens to children 0 to 5 is probably more important than anything else in their life.”

From 2010 to 2013, the state has almost doubled the number of students who are coming in ready for kindergarten.

The state has a readiness assessment, which looks at how students integrate socially with their peers and looks at their behaviors.

Johns Hopkins University is working on revising the assessment to make it stronger, according to Lowery.

The assessment is associated with Common Core standards, according to Lowery. The standard assesses if students who graduate from high school are college- or career-ready.  

Even with all the accomplishments the state has made, Lowery said that she has still set more goals.

“My goal is to have Maryland be the national model for closing the achievement gap,” said Lowery.

The county is home to Crellin Elementary, which is the No. 1 school in the state, according to Nicole Christian, president and CEO of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce.

“We all know how important our schools are; they are important for our children and the students of our community,” said Christian. “They are important for our work force community and economic development. We have been very privileged to have a great school system here in Garrett County.”

Lowery was asked if she would work with businesses to keep the 180 school calendar days but also help tourism raise additional revenues that could be used for education.

Tourism in the county has shrunk due to the school calendar, attendees said.

Lowery indicated that a task force was formed to address the school calendar days and that a conversation was being held with the superintendents to discuss it.

“I’m always open and willing to have a conversation. I just want to make sure we have the right people (representatives from the school district and the business community) at the table when we have the conversation so that we really understand what the needs are and how we can work with each other,” said Lowery.

Lowery was also asked if she would support revising the wealth formula to make it more equitable for the county. Garrett County, which is ranked fifth on the wealthy formula, is wealthier than Howard County and almost as wealthy as Montgomery County.

“That is conversation we are having; we did kind of start looking at the index this year,” said Lowery.

Lowery said that she will speak with her chief operating officer, Steve Brooks, about the wealth formula. Lowery said that if she comes back to the county she would bring Brooks to explain the wealth formula and address any concerns.

Lowery has been in education for 35 years and her favorite job as educator was as a high school principal, according to Cynthia Downton, president of the Garrett County Board of Education.

“I asked her (Lowery) what she wanted you to know and she wanted you to know that the work we do with every child is the right work,” said Downton. “Educating children is her job, it’s her hobby and I think if you get the opportunity to speak with her you will also see that it’s her passion.”

Lowery also traveled to Grantsville Elementary, where she read to students, following her talk.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.