As part of its push to get all kids reading on grade-level by fourth grade, the Philadelphia School District yesterday announced plans to spend $30 million on literacy, including $10.5 million in donations from the William Penn and Lenfest foundations.

The money, which includes about $12.7 million from the district, will go towards teacher training, literacy coaches and in-classroom libraries for all 150 district elementary schools over the next three years, impacting about 48,000 students, officials said.

The initiative also seeks investment from the public, with a goal of $3.4 million, which will be matched by the foundations for the classroom libraries.

"This is about helping kids in Philadelphia toward better educational outcomes, which is what our educational program is all about," said Elliot Weinbaum, program director for the William Penn Foundation, which is contributing $6 million. He said the initiative also aligns with the foundation's focus on evidence-based approaches.

"To us, this initiative manifests those values that the foundation holds - of reaching particularly students from low-income families in Philadelphia, and investing in methods that have a strong evidence base."

In Philadelphia, just over half of kids can read at grade level by the end of third grade. Experts say that gap can widen over time and lead to other problems, such as juvenile delinquency, lower wages and poverty.

The teacher training kicked off Monday with about 700 K-2 teachers and principals in a weeklong institute focused on helping teachers implement literacy-based instruction in the classroom. Over the next three years, about 2,000 teachers are expected to receive the training.

The district also expects to dispatch literacy coaches to 50 schools a year to provide feedback and support for teachers.

The third component is the classroom libraries. Officials said teachers will use the libraries as an in-class tool, as well as for students to take books home to nurture their interest in reading.

Superintendent William Hite, who has incorporated a focus on early literacy in Action Plan 3.0, expressed his thanks for the philanthropic support.

"I am pleased that the investment prioritized professional development for educators," Hite said in a statement. "Enhanced teacher training will assist in enabling us to reach the goal of grade-level literacy for all students by fourth grade."

Those interested in supporting the effort can contact The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia at 215-979-1199 or visit

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