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Baltimore City Public Schools

District Partner 2004-2017

ERS has partnered with Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) on a number of projects since 2004 assessing district data and practice to support strategic decision making in the areas of financial planning, teacher professional development (PD), school funding redesign, transition to Fair Student Funding and in redesigning central office support of schools. Most recently, our budget analysis helped BCPS get $180M back into the budget from state and city sources. In our current work, we are partnering with the BCPS team to evaluate and revise the Fair Student Funding formula and to facilitate conversations around its implementation. See how BCPS is addressing what we call the "triple squeeze"a set of challenges they inherited and that require sustained, strategic action and political will to address.

"As a new superintendent, I’ve been inundated with so much information. The ERS 20/20 report is by far the most strategic, easiest to understand and most useful."
- Dr. Sonja Brookins Santalises, Chief Executive Officer, BCPS

District Facts

Staff: 18,572

Teachers: 9,076

Students: 112,139

Schools: 173

FY2018 Budget: $1.84 Billion

Work Focus


  • Fair Student Funding revision that draws on lessons learned from BCPS’s extensive experience with fair student funding and builds towards an even more fair, transparent, and sustainable system. 
  • Financial and School Funding Analysis to support the Cabinet in building understanding of and confidence in financial picture and the key choices they must make to balance the budget while maximizing student learning. 
  • School Resource Use Analysis to learn from school staffing plans and master schedules how schools are deploying staff and using time.
  • Compensation modeling to build on the district’s existing analysis of AU accumulation to model compensation spending over the next five years under different policy and human capital scenarios.
  • 5-year financial model and progress monitoring metrics to culminate all work including financial projection and resource plan that funds critical strategic opportunities, and prioritizes necessary reductions, within the context of projected revenue.
  • City-wide engagement to facilitate the engagement of key City-wide stakeholders in the results of the ERS analysis, with the aim of building a shared understanding of the opportunities and challenges.

2015- 2016:

  • School System 20/20 Diagnostic: System-wide resource use assessment to inform other workstreams.
  • School Design Prototypes: ERS is designing school prototypes that schools in the district can use as a toolkit to create strategic school designs that improve student outcomes. 
  • School planning process support: Support the school planning/budget/strategic resource planning process to more explicitly tie current budget process with a strategic school design process. 


  • School Turnaround and Resource Use: Inform BCPS’ efforts to rethink their approach to school turnaround and overall strategic resource opportunities given context of short-term stimulus funding and overall economic challenges.


  • Fair Student Funding: Continue modeling of BCPS “Fair Student Funding” initiative to help the district analyze and refine the system in year two of implementation; to help refine options under consideration for district central accountability system; and to support development, rollout, and strategic resource use training for innovative school support networks


  • Resource Mapping: Create a resource map and a decision-making support model to inform funding system redesign and implementation (Fair Student Funding) including corresponding shift of resources from central office to school. This work included training budget support teams in strategic use of resources before they went out to support school team budgeting.


  • Spending Analysis: Assess the strategy behind professional development and instructional support spending and help the district focus investment in areas most likely to improve teaching and learning.

Findings and Outcomes

  • Professional Development: As a result of our work, BCPS redesigned its PD system, focusing efforts at the school level and adding significant amounts of time to the daily schedule for teachers to learn collaboratively from each other in their efforts to raise student achievement in every classroom.

  • Funding: The Year 1 per-pupil analysis and central spending analysis led to a complete overhaul of the funding system; he new system gives guidance, support and more power to resource allocation at the school level; creates greater transparency in use of resources; and has resulted in more equitable use of resources across schools.

  • Funding: Our work has helped BCPS and the state determine funding levels for charter schools that reflect the student population and capture appropriate central costs.

  • Fair Student Funding: Our support of “Fair Student Funding” help the district implement changes that:
    • Cut central office spending
    • Kept more dollars at schools
    • Converted staff allocations to flexible dollars
    • Showed principals all dollars they have in school budget
    • Made the funding system transparent
    • Awarded resources more fairly based on academic need of students

  • Resource Use: Improved resource use in schools by replacing legacy “supervision” models with:
    • Standard-based accountability 
    • Enhanced support to principals

  • Special Education: Our support helped the district create option to devolve significant portion of special education resources to schools in year two of “Fair Student Funding.”

  • School Support: We developed framework and helped the school support network implementation team to define roles and responsibilities for school support between distributed networks and central.

  • Resource Use: We developed and led two-day strategic resource use training curriculum for newly created network support teams.

  • Turnaround: We provided an analytic framework for the "Expanding Great Options" (EGO) team to use in defining their school turnaround strategy.
    • Our analysis of school capacity utilization and performance emphasized that much of the issue existed at the high school level, and that there was some excess seat capacity in the system; this helped the EGO team to broaden their thinking, reconsider their initial hypothesis, and gather additional information for analysis; in the end, the EGO team recommended a turnaround strategy that addressed the needs of both middle and high schools and included several school closures.

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