County School Board Members Give Grasmick's 'Bridge' Plan Warm Reception

By RICK DOCKSAI, Capital News Service

OCEAN CITY - County school board members gave a warm reception Wednesday to State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick's proposal for an alternative path to high school graduation.

Grasmick, speaking to the annual conference of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, touched on several issues, including her proposed Bridge Plan for Academic Validation.

"She was great. She gave us a better understanding of the issues facing schools in Maryland," said Ben Moskowitz, student representative on the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Grasmick's PowerPoint presentation on the "bridge" plan to board members in a workshop at the Clarion Hotel in Ocean City got applause from the crowd.

Grasmick's proposal offers Maryland high school students who repeatedly fail one of their four high school assessment tests the option of completing a supervised academic project in lieu of the exams.

Currently, a student must pass all four, or at least earn a satisfactory combined score, in order to get a diploma. Students begin taking the tests in their freshman year of high school and have as many as eight tries to successfully complete the tests before graduation.

A state Department of Education analysis of test results by last year's sophomores—the Class of 2000—estimated that 1,600 to 3,000 statewide could be in danger of failing to pass the required assessment tests before graduation.

Grasmick presented her proposal Aug. 28 and the state Board of Education is expected to take up the proposal at its meeting at the end of this month.

In interviews after her presentation, attendees give high marks to Grasmick and her plan.

"Maryland schools are moving in the right direction," said Thomas Carr, a Garrett County Board of Education member.

A Grasmick spokeswoman hailed positive reactions to Grasmick's presentations as a testament to her continuing popularity on local levels.

"This presentation today showed that there is a great deal of support for the superintendent," said Renee McGuirk, executive director of governmental relations for the superintendent's office.

In addition to promoting the bridge plan, Grasmick congratulated Maryland schools for beating the national averages on state assessment and National Assessment of Educational Progress scores.

She also discussed the potential impact to schools of BRAC, the Defense Department's base realignment that will add as many as 60,000 new jobs—and possibly many new families—to five military bases in Maryland.

The workshop was one of six scheduled Wednesday and Thursday as part of the association's 2007 conference.

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