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Supporting Early Readers: A Scan of K-3 Literacy Practices in Philadelphia Charter Schools

PERC research is produced through collaboration between researchers from Research for Action and the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Research and Evaluation. For more information, please visit phledresearch.org.

In Philadelphia, civic and education leaders have identified early literacy programming as critical for overall education improvement. Students who do not reach grade-level proficiency in reading in the earliest grades typically struggle to catch up, and many never do.

The sheer size of the city’s charter school sector, which currently enrolls about one-third of all public school students, positions it as a key agent for improving early literacy in Philadelphia. The flexibility inherent in the charter sector offers opportunities for these schools to develop and test the effectiveness of new approaches to old problems. At the same time, the large number of individual schools and networks makes it difficult to obtain a clear picture of the sector’s approaches to early literacy development.

The purpose of this study is to fill this knowledge gap about how Philadelphia’s charter
schools approach literacy programming in kindergarten through third grade. The study is informed by a large body of research on literacy development in the early elementary years and takes a pragmatic, improvement-oriented approach to the question of how Philadelphia can best support all of its public school students to become capable readers and writers.