teacher and students in literacy lesson, kids seated on floor

Baltimore City Public Schools

Literacy is Liberty.

Leaders and educators in City Schools want their nearly 76,000 students to develop the knowledge and skills they need to pursue the future that calls them.

Recognizing that nearly two-thirds of students currently struggle with reading, they are making significant investments in bolstering teachers’ use of the science of reading through systemic professional development and a new fellowship with Leading Educators’ help. 

About the Partnership

City Schools is partnering with Leading Educators to cultivate teacher expertise in the science of reading (SoR) so that all students have access to effective foundational skills instruction. 

Baltimore’s students are filled with talent, dreams, and enormous potential. However, 60% of City Schools students still struggle with reading, highlighting the urgent need for intervention.

Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, writes

We must ensure curriculum, professional development, and coaching are aligned to the science of reading. When we visit schools, we must look for that science in teaching practice… Our instructional leadership responsibility can’t be delegated to staff or deferred to preserve the status quo. It is at the heart of our mission to educate children.”

Few teachers are initially trained in scientifically-based reading instruction during their teacher preparation programs, so they unknowingly enter the classroom well-intentioned but inadequately prepared to teach kids to read.

The Approach

The City Schools Science of Reading Fellowship offers two differentiated pathways of development to bolster foundational literacy knowledge and practices.

  • Pathway 1: Teachers receive ongoing cohort-based professional development and coaching.
  • Pathway 2: Facilitators of adult learning get development on how to build the knowledge and skills of their peers.

Baltimore City Schools theory of action on what needs to happen for students to master reading skills early.


Additionally, Leading Educators is designing systemic professional development for all K-5 teachers in the district, grounded in the five pillars of reading, with a specific emphasis on vocabulary and comprehension.

Maryland Leads Summary & Goals

What Is The Science Of Reading?

The science of reading is a vast, interdisciplinary body of research about how proficient reading and writing develop, why some students have difficulty, and how teachers can most effectively assess and teach. 

When reading, writing, speaking, and listening are part of learning in all subject areas, students gain complex knowledge, deep conceptual understanding, and the ability to write well and express themselves powerfully.


Helping Teachers Improve

In the first year, positive feedback grew as Fellows led Systemic PD Day tables, prompting a pilot for ‘extension sessions’ at school sites. Led by LE, the initiative garnered overwhelmingly positive responses from 10 Fellows, illuminating the need for a dedicated district-to-school PL and coaching system in City Schools.

Read a Recent Feature
a baltimore fellow leading learning for peers in a classroom
What We're Doing

Through a multi-pronged strategy, we’re helping City Schools ensure educators have many opportunities to practice what they teach and make their best even better.


Leading Educators collaborates closely with district leaders to provide strategic advice, align professional development with district goals, and support the fellowship’s design and implementation.

Ongoing Professional Learning Design

Leading Educators designs and delivers ongoing professional development, ensuring that teachers receive high-quality, research-based training focused on the science of reading.


Leading Educators supports the development of district-level coaches and facilitates ongoing coaching to enhance classroom practices, ultimately improving student literacy outcomes.

Partnership By The Numbers

Through a multi-pronged approach, we’re helping City Schools ensure teachers have the support to practice what they teach and make their best even better.

White icon of a school

26 Schools

cultivating teacher expertise in the Science of Reading

Overhead view of teachers sitting around a round table

8,906 Students

gaining access to effective foundational skills

Stop watch line drawing and trash can

30 hours of systemic PD

focused on the five pillars of literacy

Icon of an apple representing teachers

43 K-5 teachers

received monthly SoR-focused professional development

Meet the Team

Our team of experienced former school leaders, coaches, designers, and strategists is helping leaders build capacity for long-term improvement.
Headshot of Dr. Mitchell Brookins

Dr. Mitchell Brookins

Managing Director of the Science of Reading
Mitchell Brookins is an experienced educator, school leader, and national expert on PreK-2 foundational skills who leads implementation of science of reading partnerships.
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Olivia Bertucci

Instructional Leadership Coach, ELA
Olivia is a content specialist and coach fueled by the belief that literacy is a basic human right. She supports instructional leaders in Baltimore by leading ELA professional learning experiences and...
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Jennifer Sierra

Director of Content & Coaching, Science of Reading in Baltimore
Jen is a career educator who who leads design and coaching on the Science of Reading for the Baltimore partnership.
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Dr. Heather Zuerblis

Director of Content and Coaching, ELA
Heather is a literacy leader who believes that all children can learn to read if they have access to evidence-based literacy approaches.
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Brielle Brewick

Associate Director of Networks
Brielle is a passionate and innovative education leader committed to high standards, equity, and access for all students.
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Headshot of Dr. Mitchell Brookins

Dr. Mitchell Brookins

Olivia Bertucci

Jennifer Sierra

Dr. Heather Zuerblis

Brielle Brewick

Learn About Our Math Work with City Schools

In addition to the science of reading, we are also partnering with Baltimore City Public Schools to support teacher professional learning toward rigorous and joyful math instruction.

Learn About Math Work
a middle school girl explains a math problem to her teacher
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