It is an exciting time for public education in Baltimore.


In late December, the United States Department of Education announced the grantees for its highly competitive Investing in Innovation (i3) grants, awarded to support the validation and expansion of innovative programs that benefit high-need public school students. Out of nearly 600 applications, only 23 grants were awarded, two of which will be implemented in Baltimore City Public Schools.

These i3 grants will be used to expand the impact of two highly effective programs underway in city schools: the Middle School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Summer Learning Program and the ExCELL-E teacher training program.

The Middle School STEM Summer Learning Program combines high quality math instruction and a hands-on, project-based robotics program to drastically reduce the summer learning loss that plagues students in virtually every urban district in the county.

The ExCELL-E program, implemented through Temple University in partnership with Johns Hopkins University and the Baltimore City schools, provides a variety of training supports to preschool, kindergarten and first grade teachers helping native English and English as a Second Language students in high-poverty areas develop their language and literacy skills.

In order to receive nearly $5.5 million in i3 funds, the Baltimore grantees needed to demonstrate more than academic success — they needed the community to show its support for the programs by providing 15 percent private matching funds.

With less than 30 days to secure this match, our funding community in Baltimore rallied to the challenge. The Maryland Philanthropy Network quickly convened a briefing with leadership from the city schools and Johns Hopkins, after which 12 Maryland Philanthropy Network members committed nearly $900,000 to ensure the city schools could successfully secure the federal money.

"It is inspiring to see what happens for city schools students when promising work meets the good will of our funding community,” said Roger Schulman, president and CEO of the Fund for Education Excellence.

The fund worked closely with Baltimore City Public Schools to secure the private match dollars for the STEM initiative and will serve as the grant manager for these funds.

All of us involved in the i3 grant process want to express our gratitude to the Baltimore funding community for its steadfast support of these important efforts. These i3 grants are one more illustration of the level of innovation and quality underway in our city's public schools and the critical role that local grantmakers play in supporting and encouraging promising new efforts with the potential to increase student achievement.


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