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Baltimore Coalition for Grade-Level Reading

Making Collaboration Work

With support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Community Wealth Partners and the Baltimore Coalition for Grade-Level Reading joined forces to accelerate efforts already underway among a diverse set of city stakeholders—from the mayor’s office to Baltimore City Public Schools to nonprofits and the philanthropic community—to ensure that Baltimore city children are reading at grade-level by the end of third grade.

An alarming number of  children—about 67 percent nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families—are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. And in Baltimore, the situation is even more dire.  Eighty-nine percent of Baltimore’s children are not reading on grade level by fourth grade. Yet, reading proficiency by the end of third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success.

Together, we immediately identified the need to focus on the fundamentals for effective collaboration—a need not uncommon to collaborative efforts in their early stages. We interviewed dozens of key stakeholders, facilitated multi-stakeholder decision-making meetings, helped reframe what the coalition could achieve and how they could work together, and guided the coalition toward deliberate and powerful action.

The coalition now is recognized as a national leader in grade-level reading, with the following examples of progress:

  • Applied for the National Civic League’s All-America City Award and was subsequently one of 14 cities out of 120+ applicants to win the award.
  • Established a culture and structure for working together, including partnership principles, accountability and governance structures, roles & responsibilities, decision-making processes, and communication plans.
  • Developed a bold vision and goals for its work.
  • Secured public support from the mayor.
  • Decided upon an organizational host for the work and hired a project manager.

The coalition then turned its focus to articulating how it will achieve its work and what metrics it will use to define success.