Gina Dalma, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

TITLE: Director of Grantmaking, Education

FUNDING AREAS: Education

CONTACT: gddalma@siliconvalleycf.org, 650-450-5400

IP TAKE: As the Silicon Valley Community Foundation's education senior program officer, Dalma understands the region's unique education issues, and the foundation continues to invest in solutions throughout Silicon Valley.

PROFILE: Gina Dalma has long been active in Silicon Valley education grantmaking. Before joining Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) as program officer in 2008, she was director of innovation at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. In that role, she worked to engage parents and teachers and establish leadership groups throughout the community. She also led that foundation's advocacy efforts.

Silicon Valley is home to one of the smartest populations in the world, with some of the brightest flocking here to be at the center of innovation. Unfortunately, the region's schools are struggling, and many, particularly those that serve primarily low-income and minority students, are falling behind.

According to a 2010 report, just one quarter of Latino students in the valley graduate high school with the math credits needed to attend a state college or university, a dire statistic that supports one of the main focuses for SVCF: Math education, while seeking improvement overall for educational outcomes of low-income and minority students in several Bay Area counties.

SVCF provides funding for three types of programs: "in-school" and "out-of-school" projects from nonprofits and public school districts, and California Common Core preparation. In-school projects are those designed to address classroom learning—improving instruction, preparing teachers, and providing better curriculum for students. Out-of-school projects are those that offer students learning opportunities before school, after school, and during the summer.

But it's SVCF's third prong of giving that has been receiving much attention lately from the foundation, as well as from many leaders in education: preparing educators for the Common Core State Standards. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, students throughout California will be assessed using these standards, and SVCF has invested heavily in ensuring teachers are prepared. In 2013, SVCF gave out nearly $2.8 million in this area, as compared to $918,000 for in-school grants and $748,000 for out-of-school grants. And even their giving in these two arenas, and their math education focus, link back up to the Common Core.  For instance, SVCF recently gave $100,000 to Ace Charter School in Santa Clara to provide professional development for math teachers so that students achieve mastery of Common Core standards. Until Common Core standards become the new normal for the state of California, expect this heavy emphasis to remain.  As Dalma herself noted on in a foundation Facebook post:

Thoughtful and effective implementation of these standards is an opportunity that we cannot let pass. Without adequate investment in real professional development for our teachers and school leaders, instructional material that reflects the intent and content of the standards (foregoing the traditional textbooks with a brand new sticker that states alignment to the common core standards), and investment in technology, we will fail.

For in-school grantmaking, SVCF focuses on "grants [that] support teacher professional development," which is clear when you look at Dalma's past grantmaking. She's also been an outspoken advocate for teacher development. "Supporting teachers will require new and intensive approaches to professional learning and new uses of technologies, programs, and productivity tools," she's written.

With the foundation's out-of-school grantmaking, projects that "target the improvement of student access to high-quality, extended learning programs after school and during the summer" are given priority.

Dalma's own education is quite international.  She holds a Bachelor of Science of economics from ITAM in Mexico City, a Masters in Science of economics from the University of London and a Master of Arts in international policy studies from Stanford University—in the geographic heart of the area she now serves. She also keeps herself in the thick of it by serving as a National Steering Committee Member for the Common Core Funders, as a STEM Taskforce Advisory Committee Member for California Department of Education, and as an Advisory Board Member for Silicon Valley Education Foundation's STEM Leadership.

For more information about SVCF's education grants, you can read about its strategies online and take a look at past grantees.