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The Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP) was founded in January 1996 by Dr. Muriel Berkeley and Abell Foundation President Robert C. Embry, Jr. The original mission of BCP was:

  • to make available to all interested Baltimore City public schools detailed lessons in a unified curriculum that incorporates high standards and is effective and efficient,
  • to provide school personnel with the training necessary to implement the curriculum correctly, and
  • to assist the schools in rearranging their management as needed to provide the greatest possible support to classroom teachers.

It was thought that a highly structured, interrelated curriculum could help teachers present skills and materials consistently and thoroughly. No longer required to write lessons, teachers would have more time and energy to perfect their presentation skills, monitor students' progress, and keep parents informed of their children's progress and advised of their own role in the children's academic development.

The Abell Foundation’s initial grant of $400,000 enabled Dr. Berkeley to set up an office in February 1996 and to secure the services of several educators. For the first five months, the Project members did little more than research – reading books and articles, visiting schools whose activities showed promise, attending conferences, talking with teachers and principals. The first Baltimore public elementary schools to join the project were Roland Park Elementary, Hampstead Hill Elementary, City Springs Elementary, Arundel Elementary, and Robert W. Coleman Elementary.

BCP has offered technical assistance to 18 Baltimore City Public School System schools that implement Direct Instruction/Core Knowledge reforms.


Dr. Berkeley chose E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge Curriculum to be an essential part of the new Project. E.D. Hirsch is the founder and chairman of the nonprofit Core Knowledge Foundation and professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia. He “founded the Core Knowledge Foundation in 1986 to promote excellence and fairness in early education.”

Project lessons would be figured and classes organized in accord with the Core Knowledge Foundation’s recommended sequence of information to be learned. Project members were greatly impressed with Core Knowledge’s curricula lists and underlying philosophy.


BCP also chose to implement Direct Instruction (DI) in its schools. This has proven to be an effective complement to the Core Knowledge curriculum. Direct Instruction is used to help students gain the basic reading, writing and mathematics skills they will need before proceeding to the more advanced curriculum.

From Direct Instruction, BCP receives a method of teaching elementary school reading, writing, and mathematics. All Direct Instruction programs have strong instructional design and have been field tested and revised over the past thirty years.

DI programs are complete. They take nothing for granted. Teachers make no assumptions about what children have learned or will learn outside of school. All necessary skills are taught in the classroom. Teachers use scripted lesson plans that have been experimented with for a generation and honed to a fine point. The underlying premise of the DI curriculum is that all children can learn if they are taught well.

Direct Instruction consists of carefully scripted lessons, backed by texts and workbooks that establish an interactive, energetic engagement between a teacher and a group of students who are at approximately the same level of learning – an engagement that is carefully organized, directed, and paced. Student responses are both individual and choral and are directed in such a way that no one is left unengaged.

Ideas and practices are introduced in an order carefully developed to avoid confusion and to facilitate generalization, and children get the immediate reward of recognizing that something new and clarifying has been learned. Attention spans are stretched, and tendencies to misbehave are mostly lost in the positive, focused activity and energy present in the room.

DI is widely regarded as a “researched-based” model of instruction. Over a period of thirty years, each DI lesson sequence has been extensively field-tested to determine the most effective and efficient way to lead students to mastery. The effectiveness of DI is evident in the results of numerous research initiatives. The following studies demonstrate the substantial scientific research basis for DI.

  • American Federation of Teachers (1998). Building on the Best, Learning from What Works: Six Promising Schoolwide Reform Programs.
  • Benner, Gregory J., Alexandra Trout, Philip D. Nordness, J. Ron Nelson, Michael H. Epstein, Maria-Louisa Knobel, Alice Epstein, Ken Maguire, and Rodney Birdsell. (2002). The Effects of the Language for Learning Program on the Receptive Language Skills of Kindergarten Children. Journal of Direct Instruction, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 67–74.
  • Borman, G.D., Hewes, G.M., Overman, L.T. & Brown, S. (2002). Comprehensive School Reform and Student Achievement: A Meta-Analysis. CRESPAR Report #59. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk.
  • Butler, A. (2005). Closing the Reading Gap. h Magazine. The Heinz Endowments.
  • Carlson, C. D., & Francis, D. J. (2002). Increasing the reading achievement of at-risk children through Direct Instruction: Evaluation of the Rodeo Institute for Teacher Excellence (RITE). Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk, 7(2), 141-166.
  • The Catalog of School Reform Models: Direct Instruction Model (K-8). NW Regional Educational Laboratory.
  • CSRQ Center Report on Elementary School Comprehensive School Reform Models. (2005). The Comprehensive School Reform Quality Center. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. <http://www.csrq.org>
  • Grossen, B. (2004). Success of a Direct Instruction Model at a Secondary Level School with High-Risk Students. USA Reading & Writing Quarterly. Oregon: University of Oregon.
  • Herman, R., Aladjam, D., McMahon, P., Masem, E., Mulligan, I., Smith, O., O'Malley, A., Quinones, S., Reeve, A., and Woodruff, D. (1999). An Educator's Guide to Schoolwide Reform. The American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Education Association, and Educational Research Service.
  • Schacter, J. (1999). Reading Programs that Work: A Review of Programs for Pre-kindergarten to 4th grade. Santa Monica, CA: Milken Family Foundation.
  • Schug, M. C., Tarver, S. G., & Western, R. D. (2001). Direct Instruction and the teaching of early reading: Wisconsin’s teacher-led insurgency. Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Report, 14(2), 1. <http://www.wpri.org>
  • Scientific Community Recognizes Direct Instruction: Press release. National Institute for Direct Instruction.
  • Smith, S. (2004). SRA Corrective Reading. Florida Center for Reading Research. http://www.fcrr.org/FCRRReports/PDF/corrective_reading_final.pdf
  • Stebbins, L.B., St. Pierre, R.G., Proper, E.C., Anderson, R.B. & Cerva, T.R. (1977). Education as Experimentation: A planned variation model (Vol. IV-A). Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates.
  • Tarver, S. (1999). Alert No. 2: Direct Instruction. Current Practice Alerts. <http://www.dldcec.org/ld_resources/print/alerts_print.html>
  • Traub, J. (1999). Better by Design? A Consumer's Guide to Schoolwide Reform. The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.


BCP has operated Baltimore City schools since 1996, when it assumed operation of City Springs Elementary School under Baltimore City’s New Schools Initiative. In 2002, BCP assumed operation of Collington Square School and Hampstead Hills Academy.


In 2005 BCP converted all three of its schools into charter schools. These schools continue to serve their existing student bodies and communities.

As a charter school operator BCP has gained both increased freedom to implement innovative school programming and a stable funding stream.

In 2007 Dr. Rayner Browne Elementary and General Wolfe Elementary became BCP charter schools


In order to address the array of challenges faced by students from low-income families, BCP has begun to provide after-school services at some of its schools including the BCP After School Program at City Springs School and the BCP Community School at Collington Square. BCP also provides a customized advisory curriculum for middle grades students.

BCP continues to seek out and implement the most effective research-based instructional methods for all of its charter schools and to share these methods with schools throughout the Baltimore City Public School System.


The Baltimore Curriculum Project, Inc. | 2707 E. Fayette Street | Baltimore, MD 21224
Phone: 410-675-7000 | Fax: 410-675-7030 | bcpinfo@baltimorecp.org