Working To Enhance The Quality Of Life
In Baltimore And In Maryland.

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Abell Brief: Spring 2021

Abell Brief: Spring 2021

Working To Enhance The Quality Of
Life In Baltimore And In Maryland.



Spring 2021

Profound inequities have long existed in Baltimore City and across our country. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how our systems have failed and continue to fail communities of color and low-income communities. The Abell Foundation’s recent reports and sponsored-research attempt to provide context for the current crises and proposed paths forward. 

In Memoriam

Recently, the education community suffered a devastating loss with the unexpected death of Robert Slavin, who co-authored our report, “Literacy Tutoring for Baltimore.” Dr. Slavin was a tireless advocate for improving educational outcomes for low-income children as director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University and co-founder of the Success for All Foundation, among other endeavors. He was most recently involved in an initiative to expand highly effective tutoring in Baltimore and nationwide. We will all miss Dr. Slavin, but we can take heart knowing that his partner and wife, Nancy Madden, will ensure his legacy and his work live on.


Literacy Tutoring for Baltimore's Children

Many students were not able to meaningfully engage because of school building closures and challenges with accessing remote learning. “Literacy Tutoring for Baltimore: What we know, where we are, and how to move forward,” co-authored by Stephanie Safran and the late Dr. Robert Slavin, synthesizes the national research on elementary literacy tutoring and surveys what programs are currently available and scalable in Baltimore. It recommends next steps for scaling up tutoring services to the nearly 18,000 kindergarten through fifth grade students in Baltimore City who need support to meet grade-level standards.

Maryland's Digital Divide

In “Disconnected in Maryland: Statewide Data Show the Racial and Economic Underpinnings of the Digital Divide,” technology expert John Horrigan, Ph.D., takes stock of digital inclusion in Maryland by examining access to wireline high-speed internet subscriptions at home and whether a household has a working desktop, laptop, or tablet computer. The data shows that the weight of these digital gaps fall heavily in urban and metro areas and among African American households. There are 206,000 African American households without wireline broadband service connection in Maryland, or nearly 40% of all disconnected households. The report offers several key recommendations Maryland should consider to help close these digital gaps. The Community Development Network of Maryland (CDN) commissioned this research report, funded by a grant from the Abell Foundation.  

An Equity-Driven Approach to Pediatric Asthma

In “The Unequal Burden of Pediatric Asthma: A Call for an Equity-Driven, Multimodal, Public Health Approach to Asthma in Baltimore,” author Sarah LaFave, a doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, looks at the scope of pediatric asthma in Baltimore and promising approaches for mitigating uncontrolled symptoms and reducing exposure to allergens and triggers. The report also offers recommendations for policy and systems-level strategies to enable a citywide, equity-driven, multimodal approach to asthma management in Baltimore.  


Over the past six months, we’ve collaborated with Wide Angle Youth Media's social enterprise program, Wide Angle Productions. In this workforce program, apprentices (18-24 years old) create media content in partnership with their production staff to develop videos and animations around our Abell Reports. View their work on asthma here and tutoring here


How to Increase Justice During the Pandemic

In June 2020, the Maryland Attorney General, Brian E. Frosh collaborated with the Maryland Access to Justice Commission to establish the Attorney General’s COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force to assess the civil legal process and recommend solutions that would bolster racial equity. In “Confronting the COVID-19 Access to Justice Crisis,” written with support from the Abell Foundation, the Task Force examines COVID-19’s impact and makes 59 concrete recommendations on how to deploy resources to ensure the state’s most vulnerable residents remain housed, fed, safe, secure, employed, healthy, and connected to civil justice. 

Prohibiting Medical Debt Lawsuits

Nationally and statewide, about one-in-five Americans with a credit record hold some medical debt. This is largely because people cannot plan their medical futures and, therefore, their medical expenditures. Over the past 10 years, Maryland hospitals filed more than 140,000 lawsuits to recover medical debt from former patients. Over 25% of these lawsuits resulted in wage or property garnishments against patients, and more than 3,000 cases resulted in bankruptcy. With support from the Abell Foundation, the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition commissioned a study to address that uncertainty. In “Limits on Medical-Debt Lawsuits in Maryland: Estimates of the Effect on Hospital Revenue,” two health economists project the impacts of prohibiting Maryland hospitals from filing medical debt lawsuits below a variety of thresholds.