The challenges facing the American educational system can often seem intractable: illiteracy, flagging interest in science and math, problems at home that make school learning impossible. But rather than becoming discouraged, these innovative Bay Area nonprofits have tacked education head-on. Whether by establishing lifelong learning habits, empowering teachers or improving schools, they fight to give every student the education and opportunity that he or she deserves. In addition, each of these nonprofits demonstrates a commitment to results, consistently measuring and analyzing its own performance to ensure objectives are met. We congratulate these nonprofits serving in our Bay Area hometown, and on behalf of the nerds of the future, we thank you.
Raising a Reader: For lifelong learning and data-driven excellence
Silicon Valley’s Raising a Reader brings young children and parents together to strengthen family bonds and create a love of reading that prepares preschoolers for kindergarten and beyond. Instead of simply handing out books, RaR encourages parents to read to their children weekly or daily, increasing parental involvement as well as fostering literacy. By creating a positive association with reading in children’s minds, they give preschoolers the tools to read as well as a lifelong love of learning.
Among RaR’s standout qualities is its emphasis on outcomes. They devote an entire page on their site to evaluations and data spanning ten years, and can point to clear evidence that their program is working:
- Parents were a full 471% more likely to read to their children five or more times a week.
- RaR’s five-year-olds in Head Start scored 69% higher in pre-reading skills than their other Head Start counterparts – let alone the non-HS population.
- Children scored over 25% higher on overall literacy scores than participants in other childhood development programs.
Partners in School Innovation: Achievement gap? What achievement gap?
Partners in School Innovation, or PartnersSI, helps turn around the lowest-performing schools to establish a solid curriculum, improve teacher quality and monitor student achievement and outcomes. With a rigorous, data-driven model, PartnersSI provides leadership and vision as well as actionable steps for children, teachers and school administrators. In keeping with their belief in having a clear mission, by 2021, PartnersSI hopes to expand on its Bay Area success by:
- Transforming at least three urban school districts outside of San Francisco,
- Training 10,000 “educator change agents,” and
- Informing public policy at the federal, state and local level.
PartnersSI walks the walk by carefully monitoring its own success and outcomes. Among many impressive results, its schools achieved a 10 percentage point gain – more than three times the state average – in students testing proficient or advanced on the California Standards Test – English Language Arts Exam. We applaud PartnersSI’s data-driven model for transforming schools.
Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education: For teaching the teachers
Industry Initiatives for Math and Science Education brings together the companies that make Silicon Valley successful today, and the educators who build the foundation for tomorrow’s innovation. IISME’s summer fellowship program provides teachers with paid internships in laboratories and government agencies, allowing them to bring learning and experiences back to the classroom. Teachers of grades K-16 spend the summer at top-notch Silicon Valley companies and universities, from Adobe to Roche to Stanford to Lockheed Martin. They spend a full 10% of their time developing ways to bring their learnings back to the classroom, and 98% of 2010 teachers say that they “became empowered in new ways.” IISME brings the best of Silicon Valley together, present and future.
Aim High: For bringing year-round, lifelong learning to underprivileged students
Serving numerous Bay Area communities, Aim High offers low-income students academic and personal support through the summer months by providing challenging and engaging learning activities, leadership development, and of course, fun. Students join after fifth or sixth grade, and can participate for up to four summers at no cost to their families. The five-week summer program is supplemented by weekend and afterschool activities. Aim High doesn’t just provide classroom learning – they offer sports, art classes, high school and college advising, and perhaps most importantly, engaged and accessible teachers committed to their students’ success. Aim High demonstrates clear results: over the course of just five weeks, 8th and 9th graders increased their math assessment scores by over 20%. Aim High knows that enrichment doesn’t just end with the school day, but persists throughout a child’s life.
Citizen Schools: For redefining the phrase “after-school special”
Citizen Schools, founded in Boston with programs around the Bay Area, provides academic support and enriching afterschool and expanded learning time activities for middle school children to prepare them for high school, college and beyond. Citizen Schools brings in volunteers from all different fields to teach about their subjects, from finance to social studies. Students also participate in apprenticeships that build 21st-century skills and receive college counseling. By creating a “culture of achievement” where middle schoolers are both supported and encouraged to excel, Citizen Schools fosters leadership, engagement and a love of learning. And it shows. Citizen Schools alumni attend over seven weeks more high school and have a 20% higher graduation rate than similar cohorts. Citizen Schools shows that dedication and time can foster growth even in the most challenging climates.
Summer Search: For starting a cycle of success
Summer Search helps low-income high school students to break the cycle of poverty by preparing them for college and a life of altruism and leadership. Through numerous programs, including mentoring, college advising and post-graduation resources, Summer Search gives at-risk youth the tools to succeed. They partner with NOLS, Outward Bound and others to provide leadership and character development as well as academic assistance, in recognition of the fact that behavioral and personal qualities are just as important to success as mental ones. They have the results to back up their work: a full 99% of alumni graduate high school, and 93% go on to college. But Summer Search isn’t just about churning out high school graduates – they foster a strong sense of commitment and service in their alumni. Though participants often come from troubled backgrounds (90% are the first in their families to go to college, while many have parents who are unemployed, depressed or otherwise going through difficult times), Summer Search provides these resilient youth with the coping mechanisms, academic foundation and behavioral fortitude they need to succeed.
S.F. Education Fund: For supporting the city’s schools and communities
The San Francisco Education Fund has a lot on its plate: providing resources and training to teachers, facilitating volunteering, building communities, and informing policy decisions. They provide support for San Francisco’s public schools in numerous ways:
- Matching volunteers to teachers’ needs,
- Giving students a voice to change their schools,
- Bringing together parents, businesses and more to form a school community,
- Providing teachers with the training and resources to become better educators, and
- Taking an active role in public policy through community input.
Perhaps the most impressive program is the Peer Resources initiative, which encourages students to become leaders and take a hand in their personal, as well as academic, development. The program has shown to increase students’ engagement, feeling of connectedness to the school, leadership and sense of self-efficacy. Congratulations to the SF Education Fund for promoting learning for all of the city’s students!