What's Behind SVCF's Support of the Common Core?

Many philanthropists and foundations across the country see the Common Core State Standards as a ripe opportunity to ensure that all children receive a first-class education that will prepare them for college. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation shares this view, but also saw that few school districts in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties possessed sufficient capacity to fully implement the new standards by 2014-2015, when students will be assessed under them.

Like other foundations, SVCF sees the Common Core as an opportunity to better prepare all students with competetive skills for the 21st century work force. Given that SVCF’s home region is also the headquarters of some of the world’s most innovative technology firms, including Google, Oracle, and Intel, it’s safe to say this funder knows a little something about the value and importance of an educated work force. But for SVCF, the Common Core also presented an opportunity to foster greater collaboration among the many school districts in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

To aid in the implementation process and leverage that collaboration, SVCF announced a three-year initiative to help school districts implement the Common Core in a manner that the funder hopes will save time and money. SVCF hopes that by working together, the region’s school systems will achieve economies of scale and learn from each other the best practices for putting the new standards into effect.

SVCF announced the first round of grantees under its Common Core initiative in late 2013, awarding grants of $400,000 each to four recipients. The four grants emphasize professional development, aligning instruction to ensure college readiness, and assessing performance through the use of learning analytics. Recipients of the grants include the San Mateo County Office of Education, Sequoia Union High School District and its feeder elementary districts, Jefferson Union High School District and its feeder elementaries, and the East Side Union High School District and its feeder elementaries.

A fifth grant for $1.1 million will fund a demonstration project to support Common Core-aligned math instruction in the South San Francisco, Cabrillo, and La Honda-Pescadero Unified School Districts. The grant emphasizes professional development for teacher, instructional practices, assessments, and data analysis.