The San José Learns Initiative (“SJ Learns”) aims to bolster academic achievement by expanding promising and innovative out of school programs for San José students in transitional kindergarten through third grade. The two-year initiative, launched in 2015 by Mayor Sam Liccardo, was shaped by the SJ Learns Working Group and Advisory Committee – bodies composed of educational experts and stakeholders representing nonprofits, foundations, school districts, county offices of education, and the City of San José.
The initiative 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. 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. Nearly 5,000 at-risk K – 3rd graders have no access to free, quality, and school-based afterschool programs. These students are more likely to be English language learners; children of low-income families and/or boys of color (see MBK: San José Action Plan at https://www.siliconvalleycf.org/sites/default/files/publications/mbk-sj-report-and-action-plan.pdf).
SJ Learns provides school districts with resources that leverage their own out of school time budget as well as that of the program provider it selects to ensure learning outcomes and increase the number of at-risk children who attend high-quality out of school programs. Additionally, this funding aims to facilitate dialogue and learning among participating districts, school sites, program providers, and the broader learning community to inform best practice and shape policy, including aligning curriculum with in school learning, aligning with the California Expanded Learning Quality Standards , strategies to scale successful programs, and build sustainable funding streams.
For the initial SJ Learns grant cycle, the Mayor’s Office partnered with Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) as the San José Learns Initiative Project Manager. As the largest community foundation in the world, SVCF brought both philanthropic and regional education expertise to the initiative stay classy. As a valuable collaborator, SVCF supported an effective SJ Learns Request for Proposals (RFP) and grantmaking process, provided strong oversight of the 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 opportunity has now been annualized, allowing Districts to apply for a two-year grant should they so choose. The grants are administered by the San José Public Library Foundation, with the San José Public Library’s Education Team providing leadership for the RFP and all related administrative, programmatic, and evaluation activities.