The challenge to Baltimore City's leadership is to provide Baltimore City children with the same or better quality public education as their more affluent peers in the surrounding suburbs. The Abell Foundation supports efforts to provide quality instruction and leadership, develop effective curricula (early childhood through 12), create successful transitions to/through college and work, increase community involvement, and promote literacy enrichment. After-school and summer activities and intramural sports with academic components have received ongoing support to help fill gaps in out-of-school programming. In recognition of the pivotal role of quality teaching and leadership, the Foundation also supports teacher and principal recruitment and retention efforts as well leadership development strategies.
Areas of interest include:
- public school reform/development of "new" schools
and charter schools
- early childhood education/Head Start
- Pre-K through 12 curriculum development and instructional enhancement
- teacher quality: strategies to recruit, develop and retain the best teachers
- career and technology education programming/work-based
- advanced academic/gifted and talented programming
- college readiness/access to higher education institutions
- alternative schools/programs, particularly serving
high school-aged students
- college retention and completion initiatives
- literacy enrichment
- technology-aided instruction
- educational boarding and services for students experiencing unstable housing
- after-school, weekend, and summer programs
Learn more about the educational initiatives funded
by The Abell Foundation by visiting Publications/Research.
More information is also available in our Highlights below.
ACLU Foundation of Maryland
Since 1994, the ACLU has been a champion of students’ rights to an adequate education in Baltimore City. Its Education Reform project has been instrumental in advocating for increased statewide funding for City Schools through the Bridge for Excellence legislation and for continued maintenance of that effort. More recently, the Abell Foundation funded the ACLU’s study of City school facilities. That report, Buildings for Academic Excellence, and accompanying efforts have prompted the City of Baltimore and the school system to develop a comprehensive plan to modernize Baltimore City public school facilities.
Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC)
Together with the Open Society Institute, The Abell Foundation helped to launch BERC in 2008. BERC is a partnership of the Baltimore City Public Schools, Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, and other civic and community partners. BERC’s mission is to conduct and disseminate long- and short-term strategic data analysis and research that informs decisions about policy and practice to improve the educational and life outcomes of children in Baltimore. Its first two analytic projects, Maintaining High Achievement in Baltimore and Keeping on Track in the Ninth Grade and Beyond have been produced as well as two demonstration projects. BERC also produces “quick response” analyses such as reports on school attendance and college enrollment and completion patterns among City Schools students.
Kids Chess League
Partnering with the Baltimore Kids Chess League and Baltimore City Schools in 2004, The Abell Foundation re-established a comprehensive Pre-K-Grade 12 extracurricular chess program in Baltimore City Schools. Enthusiastically embraced by schools from the start, the Chess League identifies a coach for each school, provides educational materials and training, sponsors bi-monthly chess tournaments and prepares children to quality for competitive regional and national chess tournaments. After-school chess is now offered in over 60 City schools serving over 1,000 elementary, middle and high school students in a season that culminates with a Citywide Chess Tournament each spring. Baltimore City chess teams have been besting other Maryland teams at the state level. In 2012, Baltimore City schools captured both the Primary Championship and the Middle School Championship at the Maryland Chess Tournament, but are now becoming competitive at the national level. The Chess League sent players to all three 2012 USCF national scholastic championships, with two schools winning team trophies and a Baltimore School middle school player became the first City player to win the MD Junior Championship and qualify to be the Maryland representative at the National Junior Open in Texas.
CollegeBound Foundation College
Data from the National Student Clearinghouse indicates that less than 10% of Baltimore City Public School graduates have completed a two- or four-year college degree within six years of high school graduation. Partnering with the CollegeBound Foundation, The Abell Foundation is sponsoring a six-year college retention pilot that combines a “last dollar” scholarship of up to $3,500 annually with college retention support advisors and other services for low-income Baltimore students who attend designated Maryland public and private four-year universities. A preliminary eavluation has found that the Last Dollar Grant/Retention Program has boosted college enrollment and college persistent rates for participants as compared with comparison students from the same high schools. In its first four cohorts, nearly 90% of participants re-enrolled in the same college for the second year as compared with an African-American freshman-to-sophomore retention rate of 70% in Maryland.
DonorsChoose.org is a nonprofit website where public school teachers can submit proposals for supplies and materials to support projects that they feel show promise of increasing student achievement. Individuals interested in providing the support are invited to search the web, identify proposals and elect to fund them. With Abell Foundation support beginning in Fall of 2007, DonorChoose.org has raised over $1.5 million from individual donors to fund projects of nearly 3,000 teachers in Baltimore City public schools.
Incentive Mentoring Project
The brainchild of Hopkins’ graduate student Sarah Hemminger, Incentive Mentoring Project (IMP) takes the unique approach of serving the lowest-performing 9th-grade students with a “family” of 6-10 voluntary mentors for a seven-year period spanning high school and college graduation. Each IMP mentee receives academic tutoring, SAT training, college advising, community service engagement, life skill training and summer employment. The first cohort of IMP participants are all graduates of Paul Laurence Dunbar high school, and 13 of 15 students are currently on track to graduate from college in the next year. IMP expanded to its second school, the Academy for College and Career Exploration, in Fall 2010, and today serves nearly 100 students in seven cohorts with the support of 500 volunteers.
Inaugurated by The Abell Foundation in 1995, The Ingenuity Project is an ambitious effort to provide an accelerated and enriched math, science and research curriculum to eligible Baltimore City middle-and high-school students. The goal of the Ingenuity Project is to nurture and develop city public school students early enough and intensely enough that they become tomorrow’s leading scientists and mathematicians. Through 2012, Ingenuity has proudly sponsored five Intel finalists, including three students who placed in the top ten nationwide. Three Baltimore City middle schools host The Ingenuity Project with the high school program located at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. In addition to a rigorous course load in science and math, Ingenuity at Poly students participate in cutting-edge research internships at Baltimore’s top universities, hospitals and research institutions. The majority of these students advance to highly selective colleges and universities when they major in math and science. Today there are nearly 525 Baltimore City public students in grades 6-12 benefiting from advanced instruction in math, science, and research--thanks to Ingenuity.
When the KIPP Foundation opened its initial Baltimore school in 2001, the Abell Foundation provided the first planning grant. The Foundation served on the founding board of KIPP Baltimore and has provided strategic grants to KIPP to pilot new approaches, such as intervention programs. Today, KIPP Ujima Village is one of the top-performing middle schools in the State of Maryland, while its second school, KIPP Harmony, is successfully preparing elementary school students at high performance levels. The two schools relocated to one campus in Fall 2012 as KIPP Baltimore determines its future growth in Baltimore.
The National Academic League (NAL) is a competitive scholastic extracurricular program designed to increase middle school achievement. Over 600 sixth-through eighth grade students in 28 Baltimore City public school teams compete bi-weekly in an October through March season, answering a battery of questions in a variety of subjects. The afterschool games also require team members to research and present findings on designated topics. The two Baltimore City champions advance to a final NAL competition at the national level. Since the Abell Foundation launched the NAL in 1993, nearly 9,000 middle school students have participated.
Leaders for New Schools
In partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Abell Foundation was instrumental in attracting the national principal development program, New Leaders for New Schools, to Baltimore City. The goal of New Leaders is to attract, prepare and mentor the next generation of urban school leaders using an intensive and innovative one-year residency model. With an aggressive recruitment and selection process, a Summer Foundations Institute, and five-day seminars throughout the year, New Leaders fellows are trained by a mentor principal within a school as well as by consulting principals. In its first five years in Baltimore, the program has trained 59 leaders; nearly 50 New Leaders graduates are now serving in principal positions while nearly 10 others are Baltimore City School district administrators. There are 9 New Leaders Residents who are in training to run schools in the next year.
New Schools/Charter Schools
Initiative - Supporting Public Schools of Choice
As early as 1996, the Abell Foundation was supporting the creation of new schools with greater autonomy through the Baltimore City Public School System’s “New Schools Initiative.” Maryland’s 2002 Charter School law has enabled the opening of 33 charter schools and 20 other new and independently operated public schools in Baltimore City as of Fall 2012. In addition to helping schools with facilities and programming needs, The Abell Foundation has been instrumental in the launch of an advocacy and technical support organization for City charter and new schools: Supporting Public Schools of Choice. This organization convenes charter and other contract school operators to address obstacles to effective education as well as provides continuing education in topics of interest to schools: special education instruction, student recruitment and marketing, governance board development, etc. Supporting Public Schools of Choice also works on the State level to advocate for the most effective charter school legislation.
New Teacher Project
The Abell Foundation has partnered locally with the national New Teacher Project on several educational initiatives designed to increase the quality and impact of City teachers. Like Teach for America, the Baltimore Teaching Residency is an alternative teacher certification program that recruits and prepares high quality individuals to teach in hard-to-staff city schools. Since 2001, over 1,700 new teachers have been placed in Baltimore City classrooms through this pipeline. With support from the Abell Foundation, The New Teacher Project has also implemented the Baltimore Model School Initiative that recruits and effectively places teachers in the lowest performing schools and developed a program to fast-track qualified candidates with non-traditional math backgrounds into middle and high school math teacher positions.
Piney Woods School/Abell Scholars
The Abell Foundation provides full needs-based scholarships to young men in grades 9-12 from Baltimore City to attend The Piney Woods School, a historically black college preparatory boarding school outside Jackson Mississippi. The Abell Scholars receive the support of a mentor/counselor during the school year. Since 2003, 14 young men from Baltimore City have successfully graduated from Piney Woods and enrolled in college or the military – many of these students were not expected to make it through high school.
Public Justice Center
Over three years, the Public Justice Center has collaborated with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, Baltimore City Schools and the Abell Foundation to increase educational outcomes for homeless students and for those awaiting foster care placement in Baltimore City. In order to better meet the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act for homeless students, the Public Justice Center convened a working group of educators, homeless service providers and advocates to create a series of recommendation to Baltimore City Schools. The Public Justice Center also assisted with planning, training school personnel and monitoring the implementation of new protocols. As a result, the school system has created a homeless student policy, hired dedicated staff, reviewed transportation, and designed a training program to help schools support students in transitional housing. In the last year, City Schools was able to double the number of homeless students who were identified and served.
The Abell Foundation funded the initial feasibility study to explore the replication of Washington D.C.'s college preparatory public residential school --The SEED School -- to serve disadvantaged Maryland students. As a result of the SEED Foundation's work, the Maryland legislature approved an appropriation for operational funding for public boarding schools. The SEED School of Maryland located in Southwest Baltimore City, opened its doors to its first class of 80 incoming 6th graders in Fall 2008 and will expand through 12th grade.
Based on the work of Dr. Richard Allington and Dr. James Kim with voluntary summer reading programs, the Abell Foundation partnered with Baltimore City Schools to launch SummerREADS beginning in 2011. This summer reading program serves all 2nd and 3rd grade students in designated schools with low reading performance and limited access to public libraries. At SummerREADS book fairs, and with the assistance of teachers, student choose 12 books to take home based on their interests and reading levels. As children read to their families over the summer, they complete book logs which are collected at the start of school. Students who participated in SummerREADs experienced less than half the loss in reading fluency over the summer versus comparable students. In addition, 12 new books find their way into 2000 low-income homes each summer.
for America, Baltimore
The Abell Foundation has been an advocate for the highly selective national Teach for America (TFA) program since its inception in Baltimore in 1992. TFA is an alternative teacher certification program that attracts a competitive corps of recent college graduates for a two-year commitment teaching in high-needs urban schools. In the last two years, Baltimore City has doubled the number of entering TFA teachers to 165 new teachers annually and a corps of 340 teachers; 67% of these teachers remain in the classroom beyond two years. Three-quarters of TFA alumni remain active in the Baltimore educational community after completing their commitments. As of 2012, there are 18 TFA alumni are serving as principals or district leaders in the Baltimore City Public School System and Baltimore’s first TFA alumni has been elected as Maryland state senator.
Urban Teacher Center
The Urban Teacher Center (UTC) launched its unique preparation of skilled teachers committed to measurable results in August 2010 with Baltimore City Public Schools. UTC recruits outstanding candidates, equipping them with state of the art training, and linking their certification to student academic performance. In concert with Lesley University, Urban Teachers spend the first year as a resident; although participants become the teacher of record in year 2, they do not receive full certification until they demonstrate the ability to advance student academic performance. UTC’s founding participants were prepared in general and special education for the literacy and math content areas in grades prekindergarten – nine, leading to dual general and special education licensure for all participants who successfully pass through UTC’s rigorous performance standards. In 2012, UTC began placing teachers in high school math, English and science with dual certification in special education. Benchmark evaluations, including state and other student performance data, will certify teachers.
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