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Maryland Chief Lillian Lowery Leaving to Head Ohio Non-Profit

Lillian M. Lowery, who has served as Maryland's state education commissioner since 2012, is leaving to head up an Ohio-based education non-profit with a focus on early-childhood education.

Lowery oversaw Maryland's federal Race to the Top grant and its transition to new, Common Core State Standards-aligned assessments through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, better known as PARCC. And she helped the state navigate a shift to a new teacher-evaluation system. She came to the Old Line State from nearby Delaware, where she also served as state chief and worked on Race to the Top.

Lowery's move comes just as the state board of education, which hires and fires the state superintendent, has gained five new members, The (Baltimore) Sun reports. They were appointed recently by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who took office earlier this year.

It's not clear, however, if there would have been a policy clash between those new folks and Lowery. At least one of the new board members, Chester Finn, who founded the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank, is disappointed to see her go.

"Lillian is terrific," Finn wrote in an email to Education Week. And he's "pretty sure" his fellow board members shared his enthusiasm and were looking forward to working with Lowery. "I pretty much took for granted that her contract would be renewed," he wrote. 

Finn admitted his loyalties are divided here—Fordham has strong connections to Ohio, and he's excited that FutureReady Columbus, the non-profit that she will head, will benefit from Lowery's leadership. 

"She has found Maryland frustrating in various ways and is looking forward to her first major experience working on ed reform from outside the beast, rather than in its belly," Finn wrote. 

The state board has tapped Jack Smith, currently the deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, to serve out the remainder of Lowery's term, which ends on June 30, 2016. Smith is the former superintendent of Maryland's Calvert County school district, and has been at the Maryland State Department of Education since 2013.

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