Making an Impact in Education

I recently attended a breakfast meeting hosted by Deloitte designed to build awareness for City Year and the powerful work that nonprofit is doing in Silicon Valley’s education system. The Applied Materials Foundation has been a longtime partner of City Year, so this meeting held special significance to me. Additionally, Dr. Tom Green, the Director of School Transformation for one of our school district partners, the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District, was featured as the keynote speaker. Tom captured the essence of the challenges facing public schools and the social contract that now mandates the moral imperative with which schools operate. It was fascinating learning for me and made me proud that the Applied Materials Foundation has chosen to concentrate its philanthropy into closing the achievement gap in the most underserved areas of our community, such as Alum Rock.

Since August is “back to school” month and also the timeframe when the California Department of Education releases school performance results from the previous school year, I thought it was important to share with you the text of Tom’s comments to the audience assembled by Deloitte to benefit City Year which captures the tremendous progress being made in closing the achievement gap in targeted areas. Below is the reader’s digest version of Tom’s remarks. For the full version, which I highly recommend, click on the PDF below.

“The Alum Rock School District in San Jose, California, serves poor English learners of Latino and Vietnamese background. Most of our students come to us rich in cultural and linguistic heritage, but lacking early literacy and pre-school experience. Their families highly value the educational opportunity available to their children, but often lack the academic English or access resources to support them. In spite of the great need and continuous reduction in levels of public funding, our district is committed to 100% of our students meeting grade level proficiency.

Our challenge is to obtain the resources necessary to enable us to fulfill our mandate of meeting the educational needs of every child. Therefore, we seek partnerships with external organizations, such as the Applied Materials Foundation. With the support of the Foundation, Alum Rock has dedicated itself to improving its practice. We have implemented standards-aligned, research-based instructional materials. We have employed reliable, valid assessment tools to provide accurate measures of our effectiveness and monitor the progress of our students. We are providing high level, ongoing, sequential professional development to support our staff, in collaboration with the Foundation funded Partners in School Innovation.

As a result, we have increased our proficiency rate from 5% of our students meeting or exceeding grade level standards to 50% of our students meeting or exceeding those standards in 2011. We have increased the number of schools meeting the state target of 800 API points for highly competent schools from one school in 2008 to 10 schools in 2011. The improvements we have made to date are the result of the hard work of dedicated professional educators working together with the Alum Rock community and our essential, strategic partnerships with private funders and effective non-profit organizations.”

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