CLI Wins EIR Grant

Children’s Literacy Initiative Receives $4M Five-Year Grant from U.S. Dept. of Ed. to Improve Preschool Instruction & Achievement

Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works to improve early literacy instruction, was recently awarded the U.S. Department of Education’s Early-Phase Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant. The highly competitive grant, totaling nearly $4 million, will allow CLI to combine its teacher coaching success and curriculum development expertise to create the necessary, transformative approach to pre-kindergarten (pre-K) education that is required to ensure all children, regardless of socio-economic status, become lifelong learners.

“As an organization, we strive to close the achievement gap between under-resourced students and their more affluent peers,” said Frank Grossman, CLI’s Chief Academic Officer. “The EIR grant will allow CLI to create a comprehensive curriculum that will ensure preschoolers are kindergarten-ready and love to learn, while also providing sustainable, long-lasting instructional changes for pre-K educators across the country.”

CLI has been supporting pre-K instruction for over 15 years and has a growing body of evidence of measurable impact with its curriculum, Blueprint ( This grant expands CLI’s existing partnerships with Elizabeth Public Schools and Newark Public Schools, bringing integrated curriculum development and professional development resources that will benefit teachers’ continued growth and ensure children are ready for kindergarten.

Research for Action (RFA), a Philadelphia-based non-profit education research organization, partnered with CLI on the application and will conduct an ongoing formative evaluation, providing the data needed to build capacity and create a comprehensive, field-tested, high-quality curriculum in both English and Spanish. RFA will also evaluate the extent to which children in CLI-served classrooms demonstrate better results than children in similar classrooms not served by CLI.

“Through our role as external evaluators, RFA has developed a strong partnership with CLI, and we are delighted to expand our work through this EIR award,” said Kate Shaw, Executive Director of RFA. “RFA is well-positioned to deliver a study that meets the highest standards of evidence.”

In this randomized control trial, pre-K classrooms in Elizabeth and Newark will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. By comparing outcomes from the group that will receive the Blueprint program with those that do not, RFA will be able to isolate and determine the effects and impact of the intervention.

“This study will meet the U.S. Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse standards without reservation,” said Shaw. “The lessons learned from this evaluation will help to strengthen what we know about early literacy and help to lay the groundwork for improved outcomes for young children—a shared mission of both CLI and RFA.”

“We know pre-K makes a huge difference for kids and pays dividends over time,” said CLI CEO Joel Zarrow. “The EIR investment is a catalyst for expanding our work to improve preschool instruction nationwide. It makes much more sense to invest in giving teachers and children what they need at the outset, rather than trying to make up ground later on. Our curriculum is designed to do just that – help teachers spark a child’s love of learning. We know pre-K matters, but it is really quality pre-K that makes the difference.”

Established in 1988, Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI) is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, headquartered in Philadelphia, that is focused on improving literacy instruction in public, charter, and parochial schools to ensure that students can read on grade level. CLI’s program provides personalized coaching for teachers and principals, research-based literacy training, and the books and materials classrooms need so that students can become powerful readers, writers, and thinkers. Third-party research has shown that the CLI professional development model can improve both educators’ early literacy instruction and also student reading achievement. Connect with CLI on Twitter @CLIupdates, on Facebook at and via

Research for Action is a non-profit education research organization which seeks to use research as the basis for the improvement of educational opportunities and outcomes for traditionally underserved students. RFA’s work is designed to strengthen public schools and postsecondary institutions; provide research-based recommendations to policymakers, practitioners and the public at the local, state and national levels; and enrich the civic and community dialogue about public education.

For more information

  • Joel Zarrow, Executive Director, Children’s Literacy Initiative, 215-561-4676 ext. 122
  • Kate Shaw, Executive Director, Research for Action, 267-295-7763