Press Release - October 15, 2012

Community Foundation Launches New Education Reform Effort

MOUNTAIN VIEW - Silicon Valley Community Foundation today announced the formation of a new organization focused on education reform that will support the creation of new charter schools and innovative district schools, parent choice, and strong systems of accountability.

Innovate Public Schools will be headed by community leader Matt Hammer, who has served for more than a decade as executive director of People Acting in Community Together (PACT) and has long been a champion of efforts to create great public schools for low-income children. 

Innovate Public Schools is being launched with $750,000 in funding from The Walton Family Foundation and $200,000 from the community foundation. Beginning operation early next year, the new organization will help create a climate that focuses on parents and students, measures performance, and recognizes and promotes successful innovation in education throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

“Silicon Valley needs an organization that is focused on educational reform and promoting proven ideas,” said Emmett D. Carson, Ph.D. and CEO of SVCF. “We should be leading the way, not lagging behind other communities. Innovate Public Schools is being formed to help create the kind of educational eco-system that can be a model for others and prepare all students for the future.”

Only one quarter of Latino students in Santa Clara County had the credits needed to enter a state university in 2010, Carson said, and the current system is simply leaving too many students behind.

Carson said Hammer is the ideal candidate to serve as executive director of Innovate Public Schools, which will be co-located at the community foundation’s Mountain View headquarters. PACT’s major initiatives focus on solving persistent social problems in the Valley, including a decade long campaign of organizing parents to create great public schools for low-income children in San Jose. 

“This organization grows out of the urgent need that parents feel when their children are stuck in failing schools,” said Hammer. “Silicon Valley has remained outside the national reform movement for too long. Innovate Public Schools will help foster smart, creative thinking about public education.”

“We have a small but growing number of great schools serving low-income students,” said Hammer. “Now is the time to learn from those models and grow what works.”

Specifically, Innovate Public Schools will encourage and support the development of new public schools – both charter schools and innovative schools launched by districts – drawing on existing successful models to spur innovation. In addition to engaging parents, measuring progress and working with business, nonprofits and educators, Hammer said, the new organization will also support parents, teachers and districts that want to create their own new high performing schools.

“More districts these days want to be able to compete with charter schools, and we will help them do that,” he said. “There is no reason we shouldn’t have a great school in every neighborhood.  There are so many amazing teachers and principals in the Valley, and we want to help them create the best public schools in the state serving low-income children.”

Innovate Public Schools is an outgrowth of the community foundation’s long-standing interest in education and in ensuring that all students have the opportunity to succeed.  The genesis of the organization was the result of an idea that Hammer shared with the community foundation.

Carson stressed that the new organization will complement – not replace -- SVCF’s existing  education initiatives and programs. SVCF will continue to focus a portion of its discretionary grantmaking on closing the achievement gap. SVCF’s early literacy programs and early childhood education programs will continue. And Carson said he will continue to advocate for a serious examination of the current 54 school districts across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. 

Since 2009, the community foundation has helped more than 6,000 students get after school or summer math instruction and funded programs that have helped more than 550 middle school mathematics teachers become better instructors.

With its individual and corporate donors, the community foundation is now one of the largest education funders and remains the largest funder of Bay Area causes.

“Innovate Public Schools will draw on the knowledge and expertise that we’ve developed,” said Carson. “At the same time, it will bring its own fresh thinking and approach to the question of how one of the smartest regions in the world can significantly improve the poor educational outcomes that we are seeing across all socio-economic levels.”

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About Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Silicon Valley Community Foundation makes all forms of philanthropy more powerful. We serve as a catalyst and leader for innovative solutions to our region’s most challenging problems. The community foundation has more than $2 billion in assets under management and more than 1,500 philanthropic funds. As Silicon Valley’s center of philanthropy, we provide individuals, families and corporations with simple and effective ways to give locally and around the world.  Find out more at www.siliconvalleycf.org.