The William Penn Foundation and Drexel University have announced the launch of an initiative to help community childcare centers and other local agencies improve early childhood education in West Philadelphia.
In coordination with LISC Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, Children's Literacy Initiative, People's Emergency Center, School District of Philadelphia, and local early childhood education providers, the West Philadelphia Early Childhood Education Initiative will work to increase the supply of high-quality child care options in the Mantua, West Powelton, and Belmont neighborhoods. Funding from the William Penn Foundation will support quality-improvement efforts in twenty-three childcare centers, with the goal of doubling the number of children attending high-quality childcare programs from three hundred to six hundred by August 2017, boosting performance on pre-literacy tests by at least 15 percentage points, and increasing reading proficiency rates at local elementary schools by nearly 40 percentage points. In addition, the partners will work to raise awareness about the importance of early learning and developmental milestones. The initiative will leverage a multiyear investment in pre-K and early literacy programs totaling almost $4 million, including funding from the Lenfest Foundation and in-kind support from various partners.
Research conducted by Drexel and its partners found that parents in the area face many barriers to high-quality child care, including affordability, availability, location, and hours of operation. To address those and other issues, the initiative will engage families and community members in identifying, locating, and choosing high-quality child care options for their children.
"Research shows that by improving access to high-quality early childhood education, we have an opportunity to help transform the trajectory of young people's lives," said Elliot Weinbaum, senior program officer at the William Penn Foundation. "Children from low-income families who do not have access to high-quality preschool start kindergarten with language and pre-reading skills twelve to fourteen months behind their more advantaged peers. High-quality care can erase those gaps. Our hope is that by working together, we can create a significant improvement in the quality of early childhood education available in this community, and help start these children on a path that leads to educational, personal, and professional success."