Launched in 2015 by Mayor Sam Liccardo, the San José Learns initiative (“SJ Learns”) was shaped by the SJ Learns Working Group and Advisory Committee, composed of educational experts and stakeholders representing nonprofits, foundations, local education agencies, and the City of San José.
SJ Learns was a response to low academic performance among students in low-income communities in San José, where 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 students who are struggling in the classroom and are especially important for students from low-income families who cannot afford fee-based alternatives.
SJ Learns provides school districts with resources that leverage their out-of-school time budgets and their selected program providers to ensure improved learning outcomes and expanded access to high-quality out of school programs for at-risk youth. A community of practice model facilitates dialogue and learning among participating districts, schools, program providers, and the broader learning community to inform best practices and shape policy, including aligning curriculum with in-school learning and California Expanded Learning Quality Standards, and 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. As the largest community foundation in the world, SVCF brought both 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.
Recognizing the importance of the City’s role in educational programming and funding, the SJ Learns grant program has been annualized. Grants are administered by the Library Foundation, with the San José Public Library’s Education Team providing leadership for the RFP and all related administrative, programmatic, and evaluation activities.