Silicon Valley boasts one of the largest economies in the world, yet an astonishingly high number of our students are low income, struggling academically, and lack access to high quality school options or effective student supports out of school time. Many of these students are English language learners, attending schools that are not equipped to respond effectively to this challenge.
To stay economically competitive and ensure a vibrant region for all of our residents, we need a talented workforce that can meet the demands of our innovation-focused economy and engage in our community. We must work together to capture the full potential of these students, ensuring every student in Silicon Valley has access to high quality educational opportunities.
Our Philanthropic Response
The Sobrato Family wants to do our part to close the opportunity gap, and help the most disadvantaged students in Silicon Valley graduate from high school ready to succeed in college. Based on direction from our board, input from a cohort of Silicon Valley education leaders, and research into the needs of Silicon Valley schools, our team moved quickly to launch new Education Fund with a pilot year of grantmaking. For this initial round, we invited a select group of nonprofits to present specific funding opportunities.
Longer term, we are focused on supporting programs and interventions that build:
- Knowledgeable and engaged parents and families who are active in supporting their students’ language, literacy, academic development and success in school.
- Skilled teachers with the competencies, dispositions and strategies needed to successfully engage, motivate and teach rigorous academic content to all students.
- School leaders committed to equity and implementing an effective, aligned system that ensures all students graduate from high school prepared for college and success in the 21st century.
- Community programs that offer learning and developmental supports for young people through provision of time, resources, relationships and interventions needed for their success in school and life.
Our progress indicators include:
- Significant student growth on standardized academic, language and literacy measures that is greater than demographically-similar comparison groups.
- Student growth that significantly closes the achievement gap between our target schools and district, state and national averages.
- Student attainment of milestones along the path toward high school completion and satisfaction of requirements for college entry.
- Changes in practices among families, teachers, community program staff, school leaders and school systems that are aligned with evidence-based approaches for supporting the academic, language and literacy achievement of underserved children.
In its pilot round, the Sobrato Family Foundation funded the work of nine education organizations that focus on the highest-need populations in Silicon Valley, emphasizing support for English language learners. Grant awards to date top $3.4 million—initial funds were released in Fall 2012, followed by a second installment in Fall 2013. Education Fund grantee programs provide several elements critical to raising the academic achievement of low-income students, such as quality in-school support and out-of-school-time learning opportunities, parent and community engagement, teacher professional development, cultivation of the belief in all children’s ability to learn, and the financial skills and resources required to send a student to college.
Grantees commit to serving the Valley’s highest-need students in schools located in the geographic focus area of the Sobrato Family Foundation: East San Jose, East Palo Alto, East Menlo Park, and areas of Mountain View, Redwood City, Campbell, Sunnyvale, Hayward, Fremont and Gilroy. They must work in alignment with schools and districts, have a clear business model and plan for scaling, ensure strong leadership, and participate in knowledge sharing with other grantees and the larger community.
The majority of Education Fund grants are intended to be multi-year, with future grant installments contingent upon matching funds and measured impact—using a common set of indicators co-developed by the grantees and the Foundation.