In many ways, Maryland has good reason to be proud of its public schools. On the 2011 Nation’s Report Card, our fourth-graders ranked fifth in math and third in reading. Last year, our state won $250 million in the federal Race to the Top grant competition and $50 million in this year's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge for innovative plans to make our education systems even better. When it comes to our public schools, it’s clear that we’re doing some things right.
But these successes don’t tell the whole story of Maryland’s public education system: scratch the surface and you’ll discover some of the largest achievement gaps in the country. Maryland ranks 38th out of 46 states for its achievement gap between Hispanic and white students in eighth-grade math, with our Hispanic eighth-graders more than three grade levels behind their white classmates in math. And nearly 80 percent of Maryland’s African-American eighth-grade students enter high school unable to read at grade level.
Before Maryland can rightfully claim its place as a national leader on education, we have to give all of our kids—not just a select few—a fair shot at the American Dream.
MarylandCAN was founded in Maryland to do what ConnCAN has done in Connecticut: speak up for the kids who aren’t benefiting from the historic success of our education system. For the past seven years, ConnCAN has harnessed the tools of modern issue campaigns to build a statewide reform movement capable of securing and sustaining fundamental education reforms. Reflecting on our results, Jon Schnur, founder and executive director of New Leaders for New Schools, stated, “every state in the country should have a ConnCAN.”
Heeding Schnur’s call, in 2009 ConnCAN Chief Operating Officer Marc Porter Magee began the process of launching a new nonprofit, 50CAN: The 50 State Campaign for Achievement Now, which recruits and supports local leaders who build citizen movements in their states to ensure that every child has access to a great public school. 50CAN has four state campaigns operating in Maryland, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island.
MarylandCAN launched in January 2012 with Founding Executive Director Curtis Valentine at its helm. The three-person team is based in Lanham and supported by a growing national 50CAN staff headquartered in New York City.