Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

By Richard Silberman, Writer/Researcher, IBM Communications

GrasmickEditWhen it comes to fixing America’s schools, Nancy Grasmick, Ph.D. — who served 20 years as Maryland State Superintendent of Schools and guided the public education system to great success and recognition — can sum up her advice in a single word: Technology.

“I feel that we’re in a very fortunate time in education with the use of technology and that it will be the catalyst for great positive change in our nation’s schools,” said Dr. Grasmick, who retired in June as the nation’s longest serving appointed superintendent. “I believe technology offers us answers to many of our current problems and provides us with the critical path to educational excellence in the future.”

If there’s anyone whose opinion on this matter carries weight, it’s Dr. Grasmick, who has methodically used technology since the mid-1990s to help raise student performance, narrow the achievement gap between various racial and socioeconomic groups, and improve practically every element of the state’s education system.

Under Dr. Grasmick’s leadership, Maryland public schools have been ranked the nation’s best by Education Week magazine for the past three years. While many factors contributed to this achievement, Dr. Grasmick said that technology was integral to Maryland’s success.

“In Maryland, technology is absolutely embedded in everything we’re doing,” Dr. Grasmick said. “We’ve made it the centerpiece of our long-term strategy to transform education, and the payoff has been remarkable.”

Equal opportunity for students across the state

A foundation of Dr. Grasmick’s strategy is a statewide longitudinal data system that will enable teachers and administrators to efficiently manage and analyze individual student records across multiple years and schools, and make data-driven decisions to improve student achievement.

“It is absolutely critical to be able to look at students as individuals and not as groups,” Dr. Grasmick said. “Technology allows us to focus on individual student learning patterns and make much more immediate and informed placement and intervention decisions.”

During Dr. Grasmick’s tenure, Maryland also deployed online professional development modules for teachers and a comprehensive statewide curriculum, which is also accessible online. “Now we have a sense of equity that every student, in every district, is being exposed to the same high-quality curriculum,” Dr. Grasmick said.

In another successful initiative to bring equal opportunity to all students, Maryland implemented virtual online Advanced Placement (AP) courses, available to students anywhere in the state. Today, Maryland is ranked first in the nation in student AP performance.

For a third straight year, Maryland ranked first nationwide in the percentage of public school students scoring 3 or higher on at least one Advanced Placement exam. A score of 3 or higher on the 5-point scale is considered mastery of college-level work.

For a third straight year, Maryland ranked first nationwide in the percentage of public school students scoring 3 or higher on at least one Advanced Placement exam. A score of 3 or higher on the 5-point scale is considered mastery of college-level work.

Winning the Race to the Top

In 2010, the federal government awarded Maryland a $250 million Race to the Top grant, which rewards education innovation and reform. “Technology contributed to high scores in many areas of the assessment,” Dr. Grasmick said. “It’s one of the critical reasons we received this grant.”

In a key section of the grant application, pertaining to pre-K to 12th grade alignment, Maryland received a perfect score. “Technology has enabled us to create a truly seamless progression from pre-K to 12, particularly as it relates to our use of our curriculum,” Dr. Grasmick said.

Dr. Grasmick has long been a proponent of early childhood education and under her leadership, Maryland has put a focus on this area that goes well beyond what other states have done. All early childhood programs, including childcare licensing and subsidy programs, have been brought under the umbrella of the education department. In addition, Maryland’s curriculum standards for early childhood development are articulated with its K-12 standards.

Dr. Grasmick led the drive for a technology solution to help assess incoming kindergarteners — and it shows the impact of these initiatives. “When we started this program in 2001-02, only 49 percent of the children entering kindergarten were truly ready to assume formal schooling, based on our criteria,” Dr. Grasmick said. “That number is now up to 82 percent.”

From technology skeptic to passionate believer

Dr. Grasmick speaks around the world about using technology to deliver quality education. In 2009, she spoke about producing consistently high-performing students [PDF] at a major IBM Smarter Cities conference in New York City.

Ironically, for such an enthusiastic technology advocate, Dr. Grasmick used to be intimidated by technology and only gradually came around to seeing its importance and value.

“Today I often tell audiences that I don’t think schools will be defined in the future by bricks and mortar — and at times I am more than surprised when I find myself saying that,” Dr. Grasmick said. “I am a great example of a person who was not a believer in technology, who has become a very passionate believer.”

As for Dr. Grasmick’s next chapter, she hasn’t made any final decisions yet, but intends to continue her lifelong career in education. ”And you can be sure wherever I go next that technology is going to be critical to the work that I do,” Dr. Grasmick said.

The Maryland State Department of Education, under the leadership of Nancy Grasmick, Ph.D., has invested over $67 million in innovative technology solutions over the past 15 years in a successful effort to improve student achievement and transform nearly every element of the education system. The department has worked closely with IBM to develop and deploy a wide range of solutions including: a “principal’s desktop” that allows educators to monitor student progress; a STEM Innovation Network to support teachers and students in the key areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); a solution to monitor child care centers and providers throughout Maryland; and a longitudinal data system to track student performance at a micro-level.

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n look to long term solutions that would reduce spending (a statewide curriculum online, virtual online advanced placement courses, an online community for district educators to share curriculum assignments, notes, and such, as well as many other systems that could be utilized online and standardized across the state) they look at short-term budget cuts that reduce the quality of our education for our children. Rather than award a $250 million grant to one individual state, I


Posted by: マークバイマークジェイコブス
 
December 15, 2011
2:09 am

As a STEM volunteer, former teacher, and parent of a kindergartener in Maryland, I am a proponent of the use of technology in education. At the same time, however, we must use our critical thinking skills to assess cause and effect here. The large referenced increase in the percentage of children ready to “assume formal schooling” in Kindergarten is likely not the result of the assessment now being based on a “technology solution” (whatever that means, as my child’s recent assessment involved just the teacher asking him questions), but likely is the result of 1) the criteria being changed or 2) the children being better prepared by attending 2-3 years of private or low-income state sponsored preschool. Given Maryland’s strong economy (we actually have a budget surplus this year!), many parents here can afford several years of preschool, and subsequently our kids are very well prepared for kindergarten! While technology is a fabulous tool, we need to teach our kids to THINK deeper, not just faster. If we don’t, the Race to the Top will become a Race to Nowhere.


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September 19, 2011
11:24 pm

Technology is fine, but why wasn’t that money spent on getting Mississippi up to speed? I understand awarding those who are successful, but Mississippi is still sitting on the bottom and no one is helping them.


Posted by: Eric Amweg
 
September 19, 2011
1:58 pm

This is tremendous validation of how technology can be used as a key underpinning to the overall strategy of success for students and tying multiple, real data to teacher effectiveness to take some of the emotion out of subjective decisions based on less than fact. It also helps to bring new insight to trends, and be able to predict what students will need in the future. Bravo.


Posted by: John Gable
 
September 17, 2011
5:24 am

Sorry … though we all should commend Dr Nancy Grasmic on her accomplishments, the author failed to enlighten us on any examples; while instead phasing the wonders of technology. Excuse me, but what were the innovations and solutions (i.e. the what and how)that were credited to “technology.” Or did I just miss something.


Posted by: sam peters
 
September 16, 2011
1:09 pm

I read this article and while my husband and I do not live in Maryland, this article peaked my interest. One the things that I think that our country fails at as a whole is our public education. With our current economy, state and local governments are always looking to cut spending in education, which as a parent, is very frustrating. Rather than look to long term solutions that would reduce spending (a statewide curriculum online, virtual online advanced placement courses, an online community for district educators to share curriculum assignments, notes, and such, as well as many other systems that could be utilized online and standardized across the state) they look at short-term budget cuts that reduce the quality of our education for our children. Rather than award a $250 million grant to one individual state, I would have rather heard how that money was either going to more states to help with the education budget short-falls, with even part of it going toward the development of a process or roadmap for other states to duplicate what the State of Maryland did over the past years that made their Education system work and bring higher standards and better, quality education to the students.


Posted by: K. Nuttle
 
September 16, 2011
6:04 am

Being in Technical field and having passion for Education, I am thrilled to know how Technology is appropriately utilized to Produce consistently high performing Students. I am impressed with Dr. Grasmick’s work.


Posted by: Prasad Kaggallu
 
September 15, 2011
3:13 pm

As an elected member of a school committee in Ipswich, Massachusetts, I was impressed with Dr. Grasmick’s achievements. Two of them struck me as enormously important — the development of a statewide curriculum — one that is accessible online — and the other was Maryland’s offering virtual online Advanced Placement(AP)courses. And, of course, the technology supporting these two initiatives is critical. The AP initiative was one that I could see would reduce education costs, something that our committee struggles with.

We’re living in an age of austerity and too many school districts just don’t use technology in ways that can not only reduce costs but improve the quality of education being offered students. Sounds Maryland’s ahead of over states in doing just that.


Posted by: Sean Gresh
 
September 15, 2011
2:34 pm

As a STEM volunteer, former teacher, and parent of a kindergartener in Maryland, I am a proponent of the use of technology in education. At the same time, however, we must use our critical thinking skills to assess cause and effect here. The large referenced increase in the percentage of children ready to “assume formal schooling” in Kindergarten is likely not the result of the assessment now being based on a “technology solution” (whatever that means, as my child’s recent assessment involved just the teacher asking him questions), but likely is the result of 1) the criteria being changed or 2) the children being better prepared by attending 2-3 years of private or low-income state sponsored preschool. Given Maryland’s strong economy (we actually have a budget surplus this year!), many parents here can afford several years of preschool, and subsequently our kids are very well prepared for kindergarten! While technology is a fabulous tool, we need to teach our kids to THINK deeper, not just faster. If we don’t, the Race to the Top will become a Race to Nowhere.


Posted by: Cynthia Asoka
 
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