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Philadelphia school board approves anti-racism literacy initiative

Philadelphia school district to partner with nonprofit to train teachers at three elementary schools to avoid racism in their teaching, with $84,000 in funding

initiative that the school board approved on Thursday.

Money from the Children’s Leadership Initiative will fund an early learning specialist who will train teachers on techniques such as teaching anti-racist early literacy, understanding structural biases and designing lesson plans that promote diversity, equity and inclusion, the district said.

The contract provides for “integrated coaching” at Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Tanner G. Duckery and William Cramp schools, and will run until June 30 next year. School board members approved the contract without comment.

The initiative aligns with state standards released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education this week which are designed for teachers to tackle institutional racism and their own prejudices, and to counter racist practices in schools, radio station WHYY reported.

The Children’s Leadership Initiative is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that works with schools across the country to improve literacy rates for young learners in economically disadvantaged schools.

“Teachers will receive side-by-side coaching integrated into the job to ensure quality and successful implementation, and children can see this reflected in the instruction,” a district spokeswoman said in an email to Chalkbeat.

The coach will work directly with K-2 teachers, as well as administrators, making weekly visits to each school, she said.

The program also uses “Teacher Professional Learning Communities,” which are group sessions focused on literacy goals and differentiating instruction to meet the diverse needs of children. It also includes ‘School Leadership Team Meetings’ which aim to familiarize principals and headteachers with the initiative and ensure they can assess progress.

The program will allow teachers to customize lesson plans based on classroom demographics and give school leaders the skills to ensure classroom materials are “culturally appropriate,” the district said.

Although initially limited to three schools, the program could be expanded to more as the district evaluates its success, the spokeswoman said.

The Hamilton Community Foundation and Neubauer Family Foundation funded the project, according to the district’s description of the initiative.

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