Early Childhood Education Quality Improvement in Philadelphia Gets $1.5 Million Investment

Great Learning

Early Childhood Education Quality Improvement in Philadelphia Gets $1.5 Million Investment

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2022
Source: William Penn Foundation

PHILADELPHIA, January 27, 2022 – William Penn Foundation awarded a $1.5 million grant to First Up to build on the success of the Early Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP), a coaching initiative that supports Philadelphia early learning programs to provide high-quality teaching and care for young children. 

EQUIP has demonstrated success since its launch in 2019: 75% of participating early learning programs have already achieved a high-quality rating as measured by Pennsylvania’s Keystone STARS system, with more expected to do so in the coming months. High-quality early learning opportunities are strongly associated with positive developmental outcomes, including enhanced communication skills, better academic abilities early in life, social-emotional skills, and improved cognitive functioning. This new funding will make it possible for 45 more early learning programs to receive support through EQUIP and learn how to strengthen their programming. An initiative of First Up, EQUIP partners with PHMC and other quality improvement partners to offer the program.

“For all of us, learning ways to do our jobs more effectively requires time, resources, and guidance – early childhood educators deserve the same. There are not enough opportunities for the many talented, hard-working teachers and program directors focused on serving families and supporting staff,” said Elliot Weinbaum, Program Director at the William Penn Foundation. “Our investments in EQUIP, and several related initiatives, are designed to ensure that early childhood education providers have what they, and all professionals, need to advance the quality of early learning for the children and families they serve.”

Since 2007, William Penn Foundation has invested in local strategies to increase high-quality early childhood education (ECE) in Philadelphia. As of 2020, there are almost 50% more high-quality ECE “seats” in Philadelphia than there were in 2014 (an increase from 23,000 to 34,000), according to analysis conducted by Reinvestment Fund. Yet 65% of Philadelphia’s children still lack access to programs of high-quality, indicating more resources are needed.

“Philadelphia’s early learning community is building structures to help early learning programs to access resources, technical assistance, and information about improving and sustaining high-quality programs for children year after year,” Weinbaum said. “As part of this, we are providing funding and supporting advocacy for increased funding for quality improvement efforts that can dramatically impact the availability of high-quality early learning opportunities for young children across our city.”

“We are grateful that the William Penn Foundation recognizes the vital importance of investing in early childhood education and beyond that, promoting every child’s right of access to a high-quality early learning experience,” said Carol Austin, Executive Director of First Up. “We give children the strongest start in life by strengthening their early education environments – EQUIP helps to support this.”

About Pennsylvania’s Quality Rating and Improvement System:

In 2003, Pennsylvania implemented Keystone STARS, one of the first state-level Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) in the country, as a tool to improve access to high-quality early learning programs for young children. A 2015 report on the STARS rating system found that STAR 3 and 4 programs yield better outcomes for children (compared to STAR 1 and 2). In addition to offering more effective early learning experiences, programs demonstrating high-quality (STAR 3 or 4) are eligible for increased public funding opportunities that, in turn, help them to afford skilled staff, facilities, and equipment that meet children’s needs, and other necessities.

EQUIP builds on previous quality improvement programs in the region and assists STAR 2 providers in attaining (and sustaining) STAR 3 through a diverse toolkit of assessments and coaching supports. EQUIP is an 18–24-month comprehensive quality improvement model that incorporates coaching, workshops, peer learning, and business consultation. As part of EQUIP, early learning programs receive grants to purchase materials necessary to improve program quality, such as math, science and literacy-based educational toys.

William Penn Foundation first supported the launch of EQUIP in 2019 with a $1.9 million grant.

To learn more about the Foundation’s support of early learning in Philadelphia, visit: https://williampennfoundation.org/what-we-fund-great-learning


About William Penn Foundation           

The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, provide inclusive and equitable public spaces and arts and culture experiences, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. Learn more at www.williampennfoundation.org