First Lady of Education | A woman of courage who dared to make a difference | A tireless advocate for education
These are just a few of the phrases Maryland’s media and civic leaders have used to describe Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland’s first female state superintendent and the U.S.’s longest serving appointed schools chief. Dr. Grasmick is known for her strong focus on student achievement, teacher quality, parent involvement, public school funding, and early childhood education.
Under Dr. Grasmick’s leadership, Maryland received one of the federal government’s coveted Race to the Top (RTTT) education grants (2010); worth up to $250 million to continue building upon a solid record of school reform. The unprecedented federal program is aimed at boosting student achievement, reducing gaps in achievement among student subgroups, turning around struggling schools, and improving the teaching profession. In addition, Maryland is nationally recognized for its many achievements. For the second straight year, Education Week’s 2010 Quality Counts report ranked Maryland’s public school system first in the nation showing that Maryland consistently placed at the top of its class in the report’s six determining categories, scoring no lower than a B in any given area, receiving the nation’s only B+ average. Maryland’s 2010 ranking is based on State education policies and student performance that reflect nearly two decades of work on a PreK-12 curriculum; state accountability and standards; teacher effectiveness; and work on school readiness, high school reform, and preparation for college and the workplace. Maryland also received a number one ranking in the 2009 Quality Counts report as the country’s most consistently high–performing state. The ranking is based on more than 150 indicators, including scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP); high school graduation rates; Advanced Placement performance (an indicator on which Maryland once again this year ranks #1 nationwide); and the alignment of PreK–12 education with early learning, college, and workplace expectations.
Many of the pioneering policies enacted over Dr. Grasmick’s 19–year tenure—instituting an explicit PreK–12 curriculum; developing statewide assessments and holding schools and school systems accountable for their results; disaggregating performance data by race, poverty, disability, and English fluency—have become commonplace in American classrooms.
Dr. Grasmick’s career in education began as a teacher of deaf children at the William S. Baer School in Baltimore City. She subsequently served as a classroom and resource teacher, principal, supervisor, assistant superintendent, and associate superintendent in the Baltimore County Public Schools. In 1989, Governor William Donald Schaefer appointed her Special Secretary for Children, Youth, and Families and, in 1991, the Maryland State Board of Education appointed her State Superintendent of Schools.
Dr. Grasmick received her doctorate from the Johns Hopkins University, her master’s degree from Gallaudet University, and her bachelor’s degree from Towson University. Her numerous board and commission appointments include the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education, the U.S. Army War College Board of Visitors, the Towson University Board of Visitors, and the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education. In 2005, she was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences committee responsible for Rising Above the Gathering Storm, the landmark report on U.S. economic competitiveness.
Dr. Grasmick has received many awards for her visionary leadership, including the national Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education. In 2010, the College Board awarded her the national William U. Harris Award of Excellence and the National Art Education Association honored her with the Distinguished Service, Outside the Profession Award. In addition, Pride of Baltimore, Inc. named her a 2010 PRIDE Person of the Year because of her unwavering commitment to educating the future leaders of Maryland, our youth. In 2010, Maryland Life magazine named her one of Maryland’s Legendary Ladies for her leadership and role in changing the face of Maryland. She was named a 2009 Influential Marylander by The Daily Record, and received a Daily Record 2009 Innovator of the Year Award.
She also was presented the 2009 Presidential Citation Award from the National Association of School Resource Officers. The Education Committee of the Maryland Chapter of the NAACP honored her with a 2009 Award of Appreciation and The German Society of Maryland honored her with its 2009 Distinguished Award for her leadership and contributions to the quality of education in Maryland. In 2008, Dr. Grasmick was given the Civitas International Leader Award for her commitment to expanding civic literacy throughout the world, and the National PTA Life Achievement Award for her exemplary advocacy on behalf of children. In 2007, Loyola College in Maryland awarded Dr. Grasmick its President’s Medal in honor of her professional accomplishments and service to the community.
Dr. Grasmick is the 2006 recipient of the prestigious Education Commission of the States’ James Bryant Conant Award for her outstanding contributions to American education. In 2005, Maryland’s education headquarters was renamed the Nancy S. Grasmick State Education Building.
In 2004, Dr. Grasmick was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame. She also received the Johns Hopkins Woodrow Wilson Award for Government Service. In 2003, the Education Commission of the States gave Maryland its State Innovation Award for excellence in education policy development. That same year, Dr. Grasmick was inducted into The Daily Record’s Circle of Excellence, an honor bestowed only on those named to the newspaper’s Top 100 Women list more than three times.
In 2001, Dr. Grasmick was presented the Ronald McDonald Foundation’s Spirit of Children Award for her advocacy and support of young children.
Dr. Grasmick is a frequent guest columnist in such journals as Education Week, Educational Leadership, and School Administrator. Her innovative ideas and proven successes have been featured in such media outlets as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the BBC.