Heavyweight Funders Team Up for Local Schools, Common Core

As 2015 came to a close, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation announced that it would be kicking off a strategic review process in 2016 to reevaluate the most pressing needs in the community. SVCF launched its discretionary grantmaking program seven years ago, so it’s likely time to make a few strategic changes.  The press release details about the reevaluation were sparse, but we did learn that the review process will take about two years and no changes to the grantmaking program will take place in 2016.

“SVCF will engage the community in the review of its strategies. Any changes to the grantmaking strategies will require the approval of SVCF’s board of directors,” said Erica Wood, chief community impact officer for SVCF.

So in the spirit of sticking with the tried-and-true local issues in the interim, SVCF teamed up with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support an analysis program for student progress under the Common Core standards. Kellogg gave SVCF a $550,000 grant to launch the effort, which will be used to support part of SVCF’s Common Core initiative, the Center for Learning Analytics (CLA). The whole point is to help school districts assess data to adapt instruction for K-12 students. But the most emphasis in this work will be on grades K-3.

SVCF launched the Silicon Valley Common Core Initiative in 2013 as a three-year effort to support 54 school districts in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. The Kellogg money is going towards a final push to see what can be done in this arena before the initiative gets a second look and possibly revamped to address current needs. San Mateo County is a big target right now, and the Kellogg money will support work in eight school districts here during the 2016-2017 school year.

Both Kellogg and SVCF have been heavily involved in the early education scene for a long time now, so it’s not a big surprise to see the bulk of these efforts channeled towards kids in grades K-3. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s education efforts have largely been focused on policy advocacy and collaborative efforts that bring together the public and private sectors. Kellogg’s priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans, so it’s interesting to see the foundation support highly local efforts in California.

Meanwhile, SVCF’s overall education funding has focused on math education quite a bit lately. For 2016, there are two RFPs coming up – one in-school strategy and one out-of-school strategy. The in-school one targets how students learn and how teachers teach math. The out-of-school one is all about getting students access to extended learning after-school and summer programs. But this one is also deeply connected to math education and Common Core state standards. For the youngest students, early literacy has also been a big SVCF priority.

However, all of this plays a role in the Common Core standards that are dominating the public education system right now and a big topic among K-12 funders. What’s in store for SVCF’s reimagined early education efforts is yet to be seen, but we expect to see an even greater math focus on the other side of its 2016-2018 grantmaking evaluation. A significant part of this may be out-of-school math, that is taking math outside the traditional classroom and making it a greater part of overall student life in California.