Early Literacy Program Helps to Close the Achievement Gap for Philadelphia’s Children

Publication Date: 12/19/2012

CLI 2.jpgBy Anna Guarneri, Program Associate

At the core of the school reform issues swirling around our city is a shared desire for our region’s young people to graduate from high school and enter the world with the skills they need to succeed in college and the workplace. By the time students get to that point, we often forget how important early literacy has been to their success or struggle.

Research shows that early mastery of literacy skills is linked to later academic success and persistence in school, and yet, only a fraction of Philadelphia’s young children have developed basic reading and writing skills by the end of third grade. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2011 Reading Assessment, only 13 percent of Philadelphia’s fourth graders are proficient in reading and 57 percent are reading at a below-basic level. Raising these literacy rates is absolutely critical to improving the odds for future school success among low-income children.

As we look far and wide for educational models that can help our city succeed, we also know that we are fortunate to have solutions right here at home. Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI), created in Philadelphia and now nationally recognized as a leader in early literacy, has been working for 24 years to right the imbalance in early literacy achievement. CLI works with Pre-K to third grade educators to transform instruction so that children can become powerful readers, writers, and thinkers. Their approach promotes and sustains quality teaching, which research consistently shows is the number one in-school factor in increasing student achievement. This focus on professional pracCLI 3.jpgtice at all levels of experience helps develop teacher talent and quality instruction in the classroom, generating lasting change in schools serving low-income children. By honing in on the critical early years of schooling, CLI and their partner teachers and principals build an essential foundation for children’s future learning.

A strong base of evidence supports CLI’s model. Multiple randomized control studies have verified the effectiveness of CLI's approach in increasing the number of children achieving literacy benchmarks on time and in improving teacher satisfaction and retention. Two years ago, as a result of CLI’s documented success, the organization received a highly competitive $22 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund, further validating their accomplishments and opening up opportunities to scale their work nationally.

While CLI is expanding their work across the country, they are also focused on growing here at home, and we are eager to collaborate with them to deepen their impact. CLI’s work is emblematic of our strategic vision for the next decade, as we plan to work with a variety of partners to increase academic success for low-income children. As CLI launches their 10-year campaign to improve the literacy skills of over 200,000 students in the region, the Foundation’s support will help to expand their reach in 30 of Philadelphia’s public, charter, and parochial schools. We are excited to have CLI as a partner, and encourage others to join us in supporting their campaign.

This video gives a principal's perspective on the CLI model and the importance of early reading:

Take a video tour of a CLI model classroom with teacher Ms. Hudson and her student Emmanuel: