Silicon Valley Community Foundation in Mountain View will receive $7.5 million from the federal Social Innovation Fund to improve reading skills in San Mateo County, where 42 percent of third-graders cannot read proficiently, according to a foundation press release.
The Corporation for National and Community Service announced the award on Wednesday, Sept. 17, making the Community Foundation one of seven recipients nationwide this year of the highly sought-after grant competition.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service and supports community solutions through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. President Barack Obama launched the program in 2009. Member partners, which include states, have committed to invest more than $700 million in effective community solutions.
The grant to Silicon Valley Community Foundation will fund the The Big Lift, a countywide effort to improve literacy, over the next three years. The program seeks to address the 42 percent of third graders who are not reading at grade level in San Mateo County. That figure rises to 60 percent of Latino, African-American and Pacific Islander third-graders, according to the Community Foundation.
Education experts agree that third-grade reading proficiency is one of the best predictors of academic achievement in subsequent years. If a child is behind in reading by the end of third grade, it is likely that he or she will never catch up, they noted.
The Big Lift initiative integrates high-quality learning experiences from preschool to third grade, focuses on reducing chronic absence and summer learning loss, and engages parents and the broader community to support learning in school and at home.
The Big Lift program was spearheaded in 2012 by the Peninsula Partnership Leadership Council, which is led by the Community Foundation, the San Mateo County Office of Education, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and a network of funders and service providers devoted to learning and social impact.
"This grant signifies an unprecedented opportunity to create a robust learning system that starts early, enhances school transitions, engages families, and ultimately boosts student literacy and achievement," said Anne E. Campbell, San Mateo County superintendent of schools.
The Community Foundation may qualify for an additional $9 million in funding for a fourth and fifth year, pending Congressional appropriations and evidence of the program's success, according to the foundation's leadership.
The federal grant requires significant local matching funds, most of which will be provided by the County of San Mateo. Measure A sales tax funds, approved by county voters in 2012, will contribute $10 million to match the grant, the Community Foundation said.
"Addressing the needs of our children and families can't be done alone. The County is proud to see that local Measure A sales tax dollars for children and families are now leveraged by the federal government, and invested in our high-need communities," San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom said.
This fall, the Community Foundation plans to issue a request for proposals from school districts and nonprofit organizations that seek to receive funds to implement The Big Lift. Grant recipients will be announced in the first quarter of 2015.
Details of the request for proposals will be posted at www.siliconvalleycf.org/thebiglift.