William Penn Foundation Announces $1.8 Million Grant in Support of PHLpreK

PHILADELPHIA – PHLpreK, the City of Philadelphia’s initiative making quality pre-K free and accessible for thousands of three- and four-year olds, will get support from a comprehensive evaluation to be conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), made possible by a $1.8 million grant to NIEER from the William Penn Foundation.

NIEER is a highly regarded early childhood education research center based at Rutgers University. NIEER will conduct a three-year evaluation that will provide the City with feedback on PHLpreK’s program design and implementation, as well as an analysis of outcome data to evaluate the program’s impact on children’s learning and development. The multi-site study will include classroom observations, interviews with pre-K providers, and assessments of children’s skill development to assess PHLpreK program quality. Regular feedback to program leadership will provide guidance for program improvements to ensure tangible benefits for local families and to provide a model for other programs throughout the nation.

The evaluation is designed to be part of a continuous improvement process that will inform classroom practices, systems to support pre-K providers, and kindergarten-readiness. The evaluation will also include a review of the economic impacts of PHLpreK and the cost-effectiveness of the program in comparison with other interventions for young children.

“The William Penn Foundation has been an incredible leader in advancing early childhood education throughout our region,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I am extremely grateful for their continued investment in this field, support of PHLpreK, and unwavering commitment to improving educational opportunities for all Philadelphians. This funding to NIEER will enable the City to strengthen PHLpreK and ensure that public dollars are invested in areas that will maximize program impact for our children, families, schools, pre-K providers, and the local economy.”

“Supporting and investing in high-quality learning opportunities for Philadelphia’s children – especially its youngest learners in low-income families – have always been central to the work of the William Penn Foundation.  The evidence demonstrates that providing access to high quality early childhood education is one of the most productive investments we can make.  Funding early childhood education is a powerful intervention that can quite literally change the future, creating significant returns in terms of increased education levels achieved by students throughout their lifetimes, a more skilled labor force, higher productivity and earnings, and better health outcomes, while crime and poverty levels, welfare use, and education and healthcare costs all go down,” said Elliot Weinbaum, Program Director, William Penn Foundation.

“We thank the William Penn Foundation for this exciting opportunity to partner with the City of Philadelphia on its pioneering quality pre-K program,” said NIEER Director Steven Barnett, Ph.D.  “The research-based measures we use will assess children’s language, literacy, math, executive function, and social and emotional development, and compare results with other effective programs producing long-term benefits to children and the broader society. We are eager to engage families and the preschool community, along with city policymakers, to ensure our work is relevant and practical. We recognize that our work is not just about scores and percentages; but rather helping Philadelphia make a real difference in the lives of children, a difference that research shows can help them succeed in school and beyond.”

About PHLpreK

PHLpreK is the City of Philadelphia’s quality pre-K program which aims to create 6,500 locally-funded, quality pre-K seats over the next four years. The program partners with neighborhood-based pre-K providers committed to maintaining or improving the quality of their programs so families have improved access to quality pre-K in their neighborhoods. PHLpreK covers the cost of quality pre-K throughout the school day and school year, and there are no income or employment requirements for families. To learn more including how to enroll, visit PHLpreK.org.

About the William Penn Foundation

The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. In partnership with others, the Foundation works to advance opportunity, ensure sustainability, and enable effective solutions. Since inception, the Foundation has made nearly 10,000 grants totaling over $1.6 billion. The Foundation’s assets totaled approximately $2.3 billion as of December 31, 2015.


The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education conducts and communicates research to support high-quality, effective early childhood education for all young children. The Institute offers independent, research-based advice and technical assistance to policymakers, journalists, researchers, and educators. To learn more, visit www.nieer.org.