The School District of Philadelphia, the Lenfest Foundation and the William Penn Foundation have announced a collective investment to improve literacy education and outcomes for 48,000 children in kindergarten through third grade. The three-year effort will focus on teacher training, on-site job support from trained instructional coaches, and in-class libraries to provide better resources for students.
The Lenfest Foundation has committed $4.5 million and the William Penn Foundation has committed $6 million to support this work, which kicked off last week with intensive training sessions for 700 School District teachers and principals.
“On behalf of The School District of Philadelphia, we are elated that two foundations of this size and stature believe in such extremely important work and have chosen to invest in us,” said Dr. William R. Hite, superintendent. “I am pleased that the investment prioritized professional development for educators. Enhanced teacher training will assist in enabling us to reach the goal of grade-level literacy for all students by fourth grade.”
In Philadelphia, just over half of students can read at grade level by the end of the third grade. With the support of the Lenfest and William Penn Foundations, the School District and the public, this three-part effort will advance a city-wide initiative called the READ by 4th! Campaign, an effort to ensure all students receive the support needed to read on grade level by the time they reach the fourth grade.
The funding will address these challenges by providing improved training and resources in the following areas:
Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction
Over a period of three years, 2,000 K-3 teachers will attend a week-long intensive summer training focused on enhancing teachers’ ability to implement evidence-based literacy instruction in the classroom. These summer institutes will allow teachers from schools from across the city to work with regional and national experts to build their current expertise and deepen their literacy teaching skills and training. At least two-thirds of K-3 teachers from each school are participating to ensure that a critical mass of K-3 teachers in each school are trained in research-proven instructional methods so the approach becomes institutionalized in schools over time.
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On-Site Teacher Coaches
Following completion of the summer training, a trained literacy coach will be placed in the District’s 150 elementary schools to support teachers and reinforce the use of the strategies developed during the summer intensives. The coaching strategy allows for teachers to receive real-time feedback about the literacy strategies they have learned during the professional development sessions.
In-Class Leveled Libraries
The third aspect of the initiative will ensure every K-3 classroom has a set of books selected intentionally for the needs of students in each school and classroom. Many children throughout the city do not have access to level appropriate books that they are not practicing reading. The books will serve the range of reading levels and interests represented in each classroom, and students and teachers will use the books during classroom instruction. In addition, students will be able to borrow the books to take home to continue reading during out-of school time.
The District will be seeking $3.4 million in matching funds over the next three years through a public campaign in order to secure in-classroom libraries in every elementary school. People interested in supporting the effort can contact The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia at 215-979-1199.
“We are excited to support this project because it provides the opportunity for teachers to enhance their literacy skills throughout the year. 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,” said Stacy E. Holland, Executive Director of The Lenfest Foundation.
“This investment in our city’s children will improve access to high-quality reading instruction and will make significant strides in improving outcomes by giving all children in the District a strong start in life,” said William Penn Foundation Program Director Elliot Weinbaum. “The School District continues to make significant advances and we must continue the momentum. By partnering with the Lenfest Foundation and the School District, we can continue on a path of improving educational opportunities for students and dramatically increase the number of Philadelphia children who experience academic success, especially in our most underserved communities.”-30-
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