History of SJ Learns
In 2015, Mayor Sam Liccardo launched the SJ Learns initiative. The initiative was shaped by the SJ Learns Working Group and Advisory Committee, which included educational experts and stakeholders from nonprofits, foundations, local education agencies, and the City of San José.
The SJ Learns initiative was launched in response to low academic performance among students in low-income communities in San José. Approximately half of third-graders are not proficient in English Language Arts (ELA), Reading, and Mathematics, and nearly 5,000 at-risk K-3 students lack access to free, quality, school-based after school programs. These students are more likely to be English language learners, children of low-income families, and/or boys of color.
High-quality extended learning programs provide crucial academic support for struggling students in the classroom. They are especially important for students from low-income families who cannot afford fee-based alternatives.
SJ Learns provides school districts with resources to improve learning outcomes and expanded access to high-quality out-of-school programs for at-risk youth. The initiative leverages out-of-school time budgets and selected program providers. A community of practice model facilitates dialogue and learning among participating districts, schools, program providers, and the broader learning community. The community informs best practices and shapes policy, including aligning curriculum with in-school learning and California Expanded Learning Quality Standards. It also develops strategies to scale successful programs and build sustainable funding streams.
To fund the initial SJ Learns grant cycle, the Mayor’s Office partnered with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the largest community foundation in the world. SVCF brought philanthropic and regional education expertise to the table, supported the grantmaking process, provided strong oversight of programs and evaluation, and facilitated the development of a grantee learning community.
The SJ Learns grant program has been annualized, recognizing the importance of the City’s role in educational programming and funding. The San José Public Library’s Education Team leads all related administrative, programmatic, and evaluation activities for the RFP. The Library Foundation administers the grants.