Literacy and Learning Centers
About the Program:
Funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) redesigned 31 pre-Kindergarten to second grade classrooms into interactive, center-based learning environments with renovations to include literacy and learning centers. These centers have workstations for art, dramatic play, block building, writing, math activities, and sand/water/tactile learning. The centers also include comfortable reading corners, listening centers to engage with audio materials, and kidney-shaped tables that allow the teacher easy access to students when conducting small group instruction. Physical renovations and classroom set ups were completed in the summer of 2017.
Teachers received training on the new equipment and access to sample units and lesson plans for using centers in the 2017-2018 school year. Three schools received renovations in all of their PK-2 grade classrooms: Alain Locke School, Joseph Pennell Elementary, and Allen M. Stearne School. Haverford Center received new materials and furniture but not renovations.
About the Evaluation:
The Office of Research and Evaluation (ORE) evaluation focuses on assessing changes in classroom experiences for students in the schools where the initiative is being carried out, and also in four non-initiative schools for comparison purposes. Both sets of schools will receive classroom visits at three time points: spring 2017 (before renovations occur), fall 2017 (immediately after renovations), and spring 2018. The main focus of these visits will be on examining the interactions between students and teachers in the classrooms with the centers, compared to those without.
The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) will be used to conduct the visits. The CLASS is an instrument developed at the University of Virginia to assess classroom quality in PK-12 classrooms. It has been validated in over 2,000 classrooms. The CLASS focuses on emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support.
ORE will also evaluate the professional development provided to teachers through observation and surveys given to teachers after each session. To gauge teachers’ perceptions of program impact and changes in instructional practices, ORE will conduct focus groups and surveys of teachers towards the end of the 2017-18 school year. ORE will also consider student academic achievement, using AIMSWeb scores and attendance for K-2 students.