We know that children who are successful readers by the end of third grade are much more likely to succeed in school than those who are not: they are less likely to repeat a grade, more likely to graduate from high school, and more likely to attend college.
The most recent analyses of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) find that only 33 percent of America’s fourth graders are proficient readers, and that significant differences in reading proficiency exist among students at different socioeconomic and racial groups. Nationwide, 19 percent of low-income and 16 percent of African-American fourth graders achieved a proficient score on the NAEP reading exam released in November 2011. In Baltimore, the numbers were even worse: only 11 percent of fourth graders were found to be proficient or advanced readers by the NAEP standards. Among poor children, only 8 percent scored proficient or above.
Baltimore currently ranks 15th out of 21 cities participating in the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment in 2011. Only 2 percent of Baltimore City Public Schools students scored at the advanced level, 9 percent at the proficient level, 29 percent at the basic level and 60 percent below basic.
How We Got Started
Here in Baltimore, many initiatives are already targeting the goals of the national Campaign. In June 2011, the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers began to convene a group of key community stakeholders – many of whom were already working on these critical issue areas-to begin to map out how Baltimore would help achieve the vision of the overall campaign. The results of these stakeholders meetings, among others, were:
- The hiring of a Baltimore City Program Director at the Fund for Educational Excellence
- A proposed campaign structure and action plan
- The creation of work groups that targeted four key areas that impact grade-level reading: Summer Learning, Attendance, School Readiness, and Quality Teaching/Parent Engagement.
- The receipt of an All America’s Cities Award. Baltimore was one of 14 cities out of 124 applicants to receive this award, which will enable Baltimore to have access to a Promising Practices Clearinghouse, an online help desk, peer-learning opportunities, and meetings with national experts and policymakers
Hiring of a Program Director
In January 2013, the Baltimore Campaign hired a Program Director. The immediate tasks of the program director have been to:
- Solidify the strategic focus areas/framework for the Baltimore Campaign
- Finalize the Campaign’s operating structure and identify members of the Campaign’s Steering Committee, project management team, and work groups
- Create a roadmap to achieve the vision
Structure of the Campaign
Below are the roles of the members of the Campaign. The Campaign’s Steering Committee, Project Management Team, and Work Groups have been identified.
Baltimore Campaign for Grade Level Reading Framework
In June 2013, the GLR Steering Committee approved Baltimore’s Campaign framework. Based on stakeholder feedback, the framework will work to connect and build on existing infrastructure and strategies that impact grade level reading scores in Baltimore and will include the strategies of the national campaign. The core strategies for Baltimore’s Campaign include:
- School Readiness: Led by the Family Literacy Coalition under B’More For Healthy Babies, the Campaign school readiness work group includes providers from 0-5yrs age including pre-k, kindergarten and Head Start and focuses on a seamless 0-5yrs literacy strategy.
- School: Led by Baltimore City Schools, the second focus area for the Campaign is school-based strategies including but not limited to attendance, professional development, curriculum, and performance monitoring. This work group includes various departments of City schools as well as community partners.
- Extended Learning Opportunities: The final focus area of the Campaign are strategies that extend learning outside of the traditional school day including Saturday school, summer school and after-school activities. Led by the Family League of Baltimore, this work group will include out-of-school time providers and City schools.
The Campaign has also identified four cross-cutting functional areas to develop capacity in:
- Research and Evaluation: Ensuring the Campaign has the tools to measure and track progress.
- Communication and Engagement: Creating and delivering a consistent, relevant message to key stakeholders of the Campaign across work groups.
- Fundraising: Supporting both programmatic and operation costs of the Campaign.
- Organizational Capacity: Equipping all leaders of the Campaign with the support and tools needed to lead a citywide coalition.
It is important to note that the framework will always be considered a draft and will continue to evolve as strategies are identified and the Campaign progresses.
Cross-cutting focus areas
What’s Next For Baltimore
Baltimore is in the process of a strategic planning process, which will identify priority projects for each strategic focus area as well as build capacity for the cross-cutting focus areas. Our hope is to finalize the overall strategic plan in the winter of 2014.
 Early Warning: Why Third Grade Reading Matters. The Annie E. Casey Foundation (2010). http://www.aecf.org/~/media/Pubs/Initiatives/KIDS%20COUNT/123/2010KCSpecReport/AEC_report_color_highres.pdf