USM Conference to Address Closing the Achievement Gap, November 14

ADELPHI, Md. (November 12, 2007) - National statistics show that first generation, minority, and low-income students are finding it harder to afford and to complete a college degree, limiting their chances for success in the expanding global knowledge economy. To help address this challenge, the University System of Maryland (USM) will host the symposium, "The Compelling Reasons for Closing the Achievement Gap: State and Institutional Considerations," on Wednesday, November 14, 2007, at the University of Baltimore Student Center. The event will bring together invited K-16 education and policy leaders to share perspectives and to discuss strategies that can help reverse this trend and give all Marylanders the opportunity, skills, and knowledge to succeed.

The symposium will begin at 9:15 a.m. with a keynote address by U.S. Under Secretary of Education Sara Martinez Tucker. At 10:30 a.m., USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan will moderate a panel discussion featuring State Senator and President Pro Tem of the Maryland Senate Nathanial J. McFadden, District 45, Baltimore City; Orlan Johnson, USM Regent and Partner at Saul Ewing LLP; Charles Pridgen, Salisbury University student; Mickey L. Burnim, president of Bowie State University; Andres A. Alonso, Baltimore City Schools chief executive officer; and Charlene Nunley, former president of Montgomery College. James E. Lyons, Maryland Secretary of Higher Education, will address the symposium's participants at 1 p.m. followed by afternoon breakout sessions and a panel moderated by Clifford Adelman, senior associate with the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

The symposium will systematically examine the status of the achievement gap for students across the system's institutions. Information and perspectives derived from the symposium will be used to develop action plans and guide policy as USM works to close the gap.

"I can think of no challenge more pressing for our universities than closing the achievement gap," said Chancellor Kirwan. "Within two years, Maryland's high school graduates will be majority-minority. The state also needs to produce more students prepared for jobs in STEM fields--science, technology, engineering, and mathematics--the growth areas of the state's knowledge economy. We cannot meet Maryland's needs without closing the gap and getting more students on the path to success through higher education."

Closing the achievement gap is one of the three signature USM initiatives that Chancellor Kirwan has unveiled this fall to address the major challenges to Maryland's economic and educational leadership. In addition to closing the achievement gap, the chancellor has established a "green" initiative for system-wide sustainability, putting USM in the forefront of educational and institutional responses to global climate change. The chancellor's third initiative focuses on competitiveness and using the resources of USM to put Maryland and its students on a footing for success in the new global knowledge economy.

"The State of Maryland for years has been extremely fortunate to have one of the country's best educated populations, and as a result, a workforce that is the envy of our nation," said USM Regent Orlan Johnson. "Closing the achievement gap, in short order, will provide us the unique opportunity to continue to fuel the economic engine of our state with an increased number of highly educated and technologically savvy individuals that will be required to replace many of the retiring baby boomers."

As part of this effort, USM has joined the national Access to Success initiative, a project of the National Association of System Heads (NASH). The 19 university systems participating in the project have adopted a goal of cutting by at least half the gaps in college-going and college success that separate low-income and minority students from other young Americans by the year 2015.

Contact: John Buettner
Phone: 301.445.2719