Disclaimer: Communication APPtitude and Lessoncast are TU Incubator members, where I am Director. Outside of my duties to Towson University, I am an investor in Allovue and grantor to Digital Harbor Foundation & Urban Teachers.

Baltimore’s Top 10 Emerging K-12 Enterprises

Bringing solutions to K-12 education’s greatest needs

The Birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner, Baltimore is a city that loves most things that afford a hat tip to the past but focus on the present and future, most things crustacean derived out of the Chesapeake Bay, most things that induce curiosity, and all things that catalyze and sustain learning innovation and opportunity. Baltimore is increasingly adapting to and becoming a 21st Century culture blended by an open-minded, innovative, and entrepreneurial citizenry. Baltimore is the charming, quirky, curious, gritty city I opined on in a previous post here.

As The Baltimore Sun imparted here, Charm City has become a veritable education innovation hub, a bit of an ‘overnight success’ two hundred years in the making. As we are now ‘to and through’ the 2016–2017 back-to-school gate well ahead of Labor Day, I thought it appropriate to share my top ten list of Baltimore-based organizations positively impacting K-12 education.

Key to education innovation in Baltimore and in most thriving education hubs is the core belief that solutions come from all walks of life. They are often born by educators who leave (or stay) in the classroom, or administrators or staff that see a problem that must be solved. As evidenced from the Top 10, they are driven by all manner of enterprise structures: for-profit, nonprofit, public benefit corp, B-corp, and state or local agency. They are services, technology enabled services, and hardware (or place), all wielding a local solution that may or may not have scale merit. There is no one formula for how to induce innovation in a given metro region but, contrary to what Yoda imparts, one must try. And try again. And again. Yes, it’s that important.

The following alphabetized list of ten education enterprises represents the current best of Baltimore, as applied to making education, moreover learning something that is simply better and more accessible.

Founded in 2014 by a stalwart former teacher (edupreneur), Allovue has blown up all notions that education finance cannot be helped, that education finance does not play a role in learning innovation and sustainability. Turns out, it does and must. It just takes guts, determination, and a team focused on technological, data- and analytics-driven solutions. Fuel what’s proven to work with some capital and a diverse, expert team, and the sky’s the limit for #edfintech innovation.

Founded in 2011 in New York and moved to Baltimore in 2013, Citelighter is the enterprise SaaS platform with a virtual highlighter that enables users to find and capture unique facts online and automatically generate citations. You think writing and proper curation and citation are NOT important? Think again.

Founded in 2013 as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, Code in the Schools is making very real waves in Baltimore’s STEM education focus. The mission is to expand access to computer science education to under-served and under-represented Baltimore City youth. YES! And worth spreading to other places, too.

Founded in 2012 by two speech language pathologists, Communication APPtitude creates and distributes evidence-based speech language apps that are focused on vocabulary mastery and remediation. The Company is making waves in the mid-Atlantic, and beyond.

Founded in 2011 as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization by a technology entrepreneur and catalyzed in 2012 by two then teacherpreneurs, the Digital Harbor Foundation (or ‘DHF’) is a veritable test-bed for all that is innovative in Baltimore’s maker movement.

Founded in 2011 by a former teacher turned former administrator turned edupreneur, Lessoncast Learning LLC avails an enterprise teacher-learning platform for schools and districts to personalize professional development, access expert-created content, analyze evidence of classroom impact, and award micro-credentials according to local standards.

“It is part of the work of education to have substantive relationships with your students.” — Freeman Hrabowski, President, UMBC

Founded in 2004 and incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization in 2006 by a Johns Hopkins graduate student and spouse, Thread is Baltimore’s best example of successfully tackling the intractable problems induced by dropping out of high school. Cultivating meaningful relationships is at the core of what Thread does.

Founded in 2011 by a former teacher and further catalyzed by another former teacher in 2013, Unbound Concepts is a technology company dedicated to improving the way that readers search, discover, and reflect on books. UC’s Artifact app changes the way that readers discover books.

Founded in 2009 by former teachers and administrators, Urban Teachers is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization tackling the pre-service teacher education quandary in urban settings. The organization’s success in Baltimore and Washington, DC is nationally renowned and in the process of unfolding to other cities. With support from a Who’s Who list of education grantmakers, Urban Teachers is on the move.

Founded in 2013 as Cwist, Workbench began in Annapolis and moved to Baltimore’s City Garage with investment from Sagamore Ventures and a focused approach on project based learning, as is applied to STEM education. As part of a stronger maker movement in Baltimore and well beyond, the Workbench platform gives educators the tools to connect with other educators, create classes, assign hands-on lessons and monitor student progress in real time.

The above enterprises represent an emerging innovation ecosystem in Baltimore wholly focused on education impact, equity, efficiency, efficacy, and excellence. Get to know these names, moreover do anything you can to get respective solutions in the hands of influencers and decision-makers so that more end users can access the abundant value therein.

Addendum — Ones to Watch: The following five enterprises are in design or early pilot stage and are ones to watch as the Baltimore education innovation scene evolves in 2017: Class Tracks, OgStar Reading, SmartyReader, Spiral Math, and The Whole Teacher.

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