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Higher Education in Maryland

Op-Ed by Secretary James E. Lyons, Sr.



State working to prepare students in math


In response to "A failing grade for Md. Math" (July 12), readers should be informed of what the education community in Maryland is doing to address the issue of mathematics education and, more broadly, to prepare students for college and the workplace.

Maryland has been working closely with Achieve, a nonprofit organization in Washington that is helping to lead the development of rigorous common national standards. Working with Achieve and other states, Maryland K-12 and higher education partners have participated in developing new Algebra II and English language-arts standards. As the Abell Foundation report referenced by reporter Liz Bowie notes, Maryland's Algebra II Voluntary State Curriculum was recently approved; so was the secondary English curriculum. As these new, more rigorous curricula are implemented statewide (and, potentially, as students are measured by assessments used in multiple states), we anticipate that students will be better prepared for college-level courses and that the need for remediation should decline.

Students can immediately improve their chances for success in college mathematics by taking rigorous mathematics in their senior year of high school. Both two- and four-year faculty have described to me the detrimental effect that skipping a year of mathematics can have on students' college performance. Students who were successful in high school college-preparatory mathematics arrive in college having forgotten necessary skills.

To address our education needs more broadly, in 2007 Gov. Martin O'Malley created the P-20 Leadership Council. The council, comprising education, business and child development leaders throughout the state, is tasked with coordinating efforts in education, workforce creation and business to ensure Maryland offers excellence in teaching and learning.

A P-20 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Task Force will offer its recommendations later this month. In May, Mr. O'Malley endorsed convening a College Success Task Force, which I co-chair with Maryland State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and whose membership includes educators, legislators and business leaders.

The College Success Task Force is examining Maryland prekindergarten-12 and higher education policies and practices pertaining to college readiness and college success. We are paying special attention to the areas of mathematics, reading and writing, with the goal of making recommendations for new practices to raise standards and ensure that completion requirements at the 12th grade are aligned with entrance expectations for postsecondary education.

Remediation in colleges is not a problem that is unique to Maryland, nor is its solution solely within higher education or in our public schools. Educators and families need to counsel our young people that mathematics, and indeed education, are more important than ever. We live in a more technologically dependent culture, and mathematics is needed in more careers than ever before, including those that do not require a bachelor's degree. This is a shift we are all responsible for communicating. James E. Lyons Sr., Annapolis

The writer is Maryland's secretary of higher education.


Originally printed in the Baltimore Sun, July 17, 2009


The Maryland Higher Education Commission is a 12-member coordinating board responsible for establishing statewide policies for Maryland public and independent colleges and universities and private career schools. It serves as an advocate for more than 337,000 college students in Maryland, for the State and its needs, and for business and industry in Maryland.






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