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County schools hire Quinn as new Chief Academic Officer

(Sept. 27, 2013) In a continuing effort to adapt to new state standards and the increasing demand of technology, the Worcester County Board of Education has approved the hiring of Dr. John Quinn as the new Chief Academic Officer for the county’s school system.

“With experiences and successes, which complement our strategic direction, John Quinn brings invaluable expertise which will help us reach our new trajectory as a world-class system,” Worcester Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson said in a press release.

Quinn will serve as a replacement for Dr. John Gaddis, who left to become the Superintendant of the Somerset County school system after serving for many years as Worcester’s Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.

Despite the change in nomenclature, Quinn’s role will be fundamentally similar, although with “a greater emphasis on results and closing achievement gaps,” said Barbara Witherow, Coordinator of Public Relations for Worcester County schools.

In his new position, Quinn will oversee the standards of instruction and curriculum content for the county school system, a purview that will be undergoing immense changes in the coming months and years as Maryland, and most states throughout the nation, move to adopt the Common Core standards system and associated methods of testing and assessment.

Coming to Worcester from the Howard County school system, Quinn began his career as a science teacher and went on to hold a number of administrative positions, including Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Principal, Coordinator of Secondary Science, and Executive Director of STEM.

An acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, STEM teaching is one of the major focal points of education reform nationwide.

“John’s extensive work involving the implementation of the Common Core and curricula development, the formation of STEM coalitions, initiatives, and pathways, and the conversion to digital environments that promote opportunities for blended, virtual, and online learning, will serve our students and staff extremely well,” Wilson said.

“As a nation, we have a shortage of workers with the skill sets required for STEM careers,” Quinn said in a statement. “It is incumbent of us, therefore, to inspire and prepare our students – at an early age, from kindergarten to graduation – for multiple STEM pathways.  I am passionate about STEM, both from an instructional and community standpoint.”

The current 2013-2014 school year will be the first for full implementation of Maryland’s Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO) system for school assessments, a program that was developed to replace the No Child Left Behind standards from which the state opted out.

Among other things, the AMO system tasks each school with halving, by 2017, the number of students in any given subcategory who do not demonstrate adequate proficiency on the Maryland State Assessment (MSA). These subcategories include income level, race, and other divisions.

“Although Worcester is consistently high-performing, we are like schools across the state and nation,” Witherow said. “There are still gaps between the lowest-performing subsets and highest-performing subsets.”

However, the MSA testing system itself is set to be phased out next school year. This year, Witherow noted, 25 students in each county school will be taking a trial version of the new assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC).

The PARCC assessment, which is primarily an online test, is the main measurement tool for the Common Core curriculum, and is slated to be implemented for 2014-2015. The county recently approved the purchase of 240 new computers for area schools, Witherow said, which will be used for a number of purposes but will also be integral to the mass administration of the PARCC tests.

“Most students already use a host of digital tools to instantly access information, so asking students to use these devices as research tools at home or in their classrooms isn’t a significant culture change,” Quinn said.

But he also stressed the coming importance of the “flipped classroom” teaching model to achieve results with STEM curricula. In such a teaching method, students view lectures and instruction at home, on the computer, and use in-class time for doing applied assignments. This is a reversal of the typical classroom lecture and problems done as homework.

“What is a significant shift is that the ‘flipped classroom’ enables teachers to facilitate a richer, deeper caliber of learning,” Quinn said. “At the same time, the use of technology helps students – who might otherwise struggle with a traditional classroom setting – to make strong connections with the material they are learning.”

Quinn earned a Doctorate in Education Policy and Leadership from the University of Maryland, College Park. He earned a Masters in Science from Johns Hopkins in the area of Technology for Educators and earned his secondary science teaching certificate from Penn State. Quinn’s undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Resource Management from Penn State.

Quinn currently resides in Delaware with his wife Lorraine, a retired educator from Howard County.  He has two children. His first day in Worcester will be Oct. 7.


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