South San Francisco, CA October 1, 2015 From Google Impact Challenge – The Big Lift
Helping all San Mateo County kids learn to read and succeed
In San Mateo County, only 35% of Latino, African-American and Pacific Islander children can read proficiently by third grade, a critical milestone for academic success. The Big Lift unites over 200 organizations to ensure every San Mateo County child learns to read. With our grant, The Big Lift will offer summer programs to provide enriching experiences and prevent learning loss so that underserved kids have the support they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Reading Proficiency Among 3rd Graders in San Mateo County, 2013–2014
Up to 3rd grade, kids learn to read. After, they must read to learn.
This is a critical turning point where we lose children we need for our knowledge economy. This is not a minor issue. 43% of our county’s children are not reading proficiently by 3rd grade.
The Big Lift combines high-quality and connected learning experiences from preschool to third grade.
Our plan combines two years of high-quality preschool and programs to reduce chronic absence, to end summer learning loss, and to engage families and the broader community to support learning in school and at home.
And it comes down to this: we need to provide two years of quality preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in San Mateo County, so every child starts kindergarten ready for school. We also need to do more to help sustain children’s progress as they transition into elementary school and up until third grade. That means providing summer learning programs, so kids don’t lose so much ground when they’re out of school, and solutions that effectively address family engagement and chronic absence.
Our goal is to achieve a big lift in San Mateo County’s educational outcomes by going from 57% of our children reading proficiently in 3rd grade to 80%. Long-term, of course, we want all kids to clear that bar. We know it’s ambitious and will take years to accomplish. We also know this county has what it takes to make it happen.
We’re now in the Proof-of-Concept phase and, after a competitive process, have begun implementing the plan in four launch communities: Cabrillo Unified School District, La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District, Jefferson Elementary School District and South San Francisco Unified School District. We’ll closely track and report results, further develop and refine our plan as we go, and continue to generate awareness and build support for the effort.
By achieving strong results and securing additional funding, we hope to expand access to high-quality and connected learning experiences from preschool to third grade to even more children in our county, eventually accommodating all of them.
In San Mateo County, we want all our children to get the right start.
Today, kids from prosperous families get quality preschool and enrichment of many kinds in the first five years of life, when 95% of brain development occurs.
The other kids usually don’t. Their families can’t afford preschool or enrichment activities. These kids arrive at kindergarten already behind, and by third grade, can’t read at grade level.
Up to third grade, kids learn to read. After, they must read to learn. This is a critical inflection point where we lose children we need for our knowledge economy.
This is not a minor issue. 43% of our county’s children are not reading proficiently by third grade.
The Big Lift is a bold social venture that aims to transform early learning. It combines high-quality and connected learning experiences from preschool to third grade, with a focus on reducing chronic absence and summer learning loss, and engaging families and the broader community to support learning in school and at home.
We have built up to over 200 organizations working together and have raised $28 million in two years.
We have already started to invest in four San Mateo communities with below average reading scores and high capacity to address the challenge.
But that is only the beginning. It will take an estimated $50 million a year to make this work long-term for all the kids who need support. We know this county has what it takes to get the job done.
Are you in?
Public spending is lowest in years when most brain development occurs.
If we were designing our public school system today, it would start at age 3. In preschool, children learn the early academic content and develop the social and emotional skills that education experts view as essential to kindergarten readiness and success in school.
An opportunity gap starts early.
If you can afford to send your child to a quality preschool and provide other enriching experiences, you do . If you can’t afford to, like half of our county’s families, your child’s chances of success are greatly diminished before school begins — a major opportunity gap.
A shocking number of our county’s 3rd graders can’t read proficiently.
San Mateo is one of the most forward-looking and prosperous counties in the nation, among the top 1%. With such a positive profile, it can be easy to overlook how many kids in our county are struggling very early on in school.
It is not just a hunch that the right start
Rigorous economic research by Nobel laureate Professor James Heckman of University of Chicago shows that investment in early education returns more than eight dollars for every dollar spent, with the highest rates of return for 0-3 and preschool programs.