Model Schools and Centers
Schools and centers that prepare children to reach their fullest potential require a supportive state-policy context, a well-coordinated network of external support organizations, a strong pipeline of new teachers and leaders, and systems to support ongoing professional learning. In pre-K through high school throughout Philadelphia, there are existing and burgeoning examples of excellent education. High-quality schools and early-childhood education programs provide students with classroom experiences that build knowledge and skills, encourage inquiry and creativity, and prepare students for personal, academic and professional success. Building on these assets, there is an opportunity for these exemplary schools and centers to serve more students, become demonstration sites for others seeking to improve instruction and provide a network of support to ensure the highest quality. To help provide "proof-points" of excellence, the Foundation supports the creation, expansion and replication of schools and centers that exemplify best practices and can share them with others.
West Philadelphia Early Childhood Education Initiative
As in many neighborhoods across the city, families in Powelton, Mantua, and Belmont do not have very many high-quality childcare options. Of the 1,161 children up to age five in these West Philadelphia neighborhoods, 75% are in childcare settings of low or unknown quality. Research shows that families in many low-quality settings encounter high staff-turnover, low staff-education levels and a dearth of educational resources that support learning. These factors create environments that fail to prepare children for later success.
The Foundation awarded a grant to Drexel University to work with parents, childcare providers, community advocates and other local agencies to tackle some of these issues. The work engages parents from the onset in their children’s learning experience, and offers training for teachers and center directors, exposing staff to model childcare centers and practices, and networking providers together to support one another and expand high-quality opportunities across these neighborhoods.
We expect the impact of this effort to be significant, with the number of neighborhood children attending high-quality childcare doubling by August 2017. This would ultimately lead to a nearly 40% increase in reading proficiency at local elementary schools by 2020.
Partners in School Innovation
Philadelphia has a large cadre of highly committed teachers and staff who want to see our children succeed. However, large-scale academic success has been elusive, in large part, due to limited collaboration, insufficient use of best instructional practices and the absence of ongoing professional development.
To address these needs and yield great outcomes for children, the School District of Philadelphia has begun a three-year collaboration with Partners in School Innovation, an organization dedicated to school transformation, with a track record of success in urban districts around the country. The Foundation awarded a grant for work in three elementary schools: Tanner G. Duckrey, Edward Gideon and Mary McLeod Bethune.
Through work with existing School District staff, curriculum, partners and programs, Partners in School Innovation will support the schools and the District in:
increasing student academic achievement
creating more vibrant places to teach, learn and grow
advancing educational equity by focusing resources and attention on some of our most-underserved students and schools.
In each year of this partnership, the schools expect to see a gain of 10 percentage points in proficiency levels on state exams as well as other improvements to instruction, the school climate and student learning.