Just a guess, but there are probably more math geeks in Silicon Valley than anywhere on earth. Which is one reason why math education has always been a priority for the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. In fact, more than 6,000 Silicon Valley students have benefited from math programs sponsored by the foundation, and the SVCF's work has helped more than 500 teachers gain valuable math training.(See Silicon Valley Community Foundation: Bay Area Grants).
But the foundation's commitment to improving education doesn't stop there.
In October 2012, the SVCF announced a new strategic partnership that aims to reform public education and improve outcomes for low-income students and children of color. The partnership with Innovate Public Schools — a new entity headed by Matt Hammer, a long-time community leader — will complement the SVCF's education initiatives and research programs, seeking to encourage and help establish news schools in the region.
More specifically, Innovate Public Schools will aim to answer an important question: "How one of the smartest regions in the world can significantly improve the poor educational outcomes that we are seeing across all socioeconomic levels,” Foundation President and CEO Emmett Carson said at the time of the announcement. (Read SVCF president, Emmett Carsons IP profile).
The poor educational outcomes of students in Silicon Valley are alarming for the valley’s communities. In fact, just a quarter of Latino students in Santa Clara County – which includes San Jose, Palo Alto and Mountain View – had the needed credits to attend a state university in 2010, according to the foundation. One area students fall behind in is math, a problem for Silicon Valley students, as California state colleges and universities require three years of advanced math classes. Unfortunately, according to the January 2013 SVCF report titled Held Back, minority students in Silicon Valley are often placed into lower-level math courses.
With the SVCF providing research support, Innovate Public Schools will tackle this issue and many more.
Formed with $200,000 from the foundation and $750,000 from the Walton Family Foundation, Innovate Public Schools is based in helping communities come together to improve education in their neighborhoods. The initiative seeks to engage parents, establish partnerships with business leaders, educators and nonprofits, and develop ways to measure results. In addition, Innovate Public Schools will assist school districts in building innovative curriculum and improving results.
And the foundation is getting some help from one very well-connected donor.
In December 2012, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg donated nearly $500 million in Facebook stock to the foundation for education and health programs. It isn't the first time Zuckerberg has donated to education. His Startup:Education project, which was started with a personal $100 million donation, benefited public schools in Newark, New Jersey, and it is also a supporting organization of the SVCF.
About his latest donation, Zuckerberg said in a Facebook message, "Together we will look for areas in education and health to focus on next. I'm hopeful we’ll be able to have a positive impact in our next set of projects."