Reduced Class Size

It is crucial for young children to obtain literacy skills in the early grades. Without a strong foundation in reading, writing, and speaking, children are ill equipped to succeed in school and in future careers. Unfortunately, many Philadelphia students come to school lacking fundamental literacy skills. In classrooms that often contain 30 students, it is extremely difficult for one teacher to meet an individual student's literacy needs. As a result, many students are left behind and destined for academic failure.

To respond to this challenge, the School District of Philadelphia, with funds from the U.S. Department of Education hired more than 250 college graduates beginning in 1999, including mid-career job changers, to serve as Literacy Intern Teachers in K–2 classrooms across the city.

We collaborated with the School District to develop the program, which offered Literacy Intern Teachers and their Partner Teachers intensive professional development that began with a nine-day summer institute and continued throughout the school year to teach primary students to read and write through the implementation of a comprehensive literacy program.

By focusing the two teachers on enhancing early literacy skills during a 150 minutes literacy-learning block each morning and throughout the school day, the initiative helped to ensure that thousands of students will enter future grades with the literacy skills needed to succeed in school and life. The program also provided Literacy Intern Teachers with six graduate education credits toward permanent teacher certification and adjunct faculty support during their first year.

Program Highlights

  • Between 1999–2000 and 2001–02, the Reduced Class Size/Balanced Literacy program grew from 250 classrooms to 1000 classrooms
  • Approximately 52,500 Philadelphia K–2 students have benefited
  • Approximately 85% of Literacy Intern Teachers have chosen to remain teaching in the District. Approximately 100 of them are now teaching in classrooms of their own
  • More children in reduced Class Size/Balanced Literacy Classrooms are reading and writing at grade level benchmarks than in classrooms operating without this program