The School District of Philadelphia, the Lenfest Foundation, and the William Penn Foundation have announced a three-year, $30 million initiative to improve literacy education and outcomes for forty-eight thousand children in kindergarten through third grade (K-3).
With $4.5 million and $6 million committed by the Lenfest and Penn foundations, respectively, the initiative will focus on three key elements: teacher training, on-site job support from trained instructional coaches, and in-class libraries that provide students with better resources. Over three years, at least two-thirds of K-3 teachers from each district school — a total of two thousand educators — will attend a week-long, intensive summer training focused on implementing evidence-based literacy instruction in the classroom. Following the summer institutes, a trained literacy coach will be placed in each school to support teachers and reinforce the use of the strategies developed during training.
In addition, the district aims to raise $3.4 million in matching funds to provide in-class libraries in every K-3 classroom, with books selected to serve a range of reading levels and interests. Students will be able to use the books during classroom instruction as well as during out-of-school time. The three-part initiative also will work to advance the READ! By 4th campaign, a city-wide effort launched in 2014 by Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the Urban Affairs Coalition to ensure that all students receive the help they need to read at grade level by the time they reach the fourth grade. Currently just over half of students in the district can read at grade level by the end of third grade.
"We are excited to support this project because it provides the opportunity for teachers to enhance their literacy skills throughout the year," said Lenfest Foundation executive director Stacy E. Holland. "This project is critical to the long-term academic success of our children, and we are proud to serve as a part of a collaborative effort that has committed time, energy, and resources to support the advancement of a citywide literacy agenda."