Silicon Valley Education Foundation Launches $3 Million Initiative to Boost Student Achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Press Release

August 19, 2008

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Summer Algebra Program a Success

San Jose, CA-- The Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) today officially launched its $3 million campaign to boost student achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, known as the Silicon Valley STEM Initiative. The launch was announced at tech firm Flextronics in Milpitas, one of the Initiative's key supporters. SVEF has already received a $1.7 million grant from the Knight Foundation toward the $3 million goal, and is working with Silicon Valley companies, educators, and civic leaders to improve STEM learning in Valley classrooms.

The STEM Initiative's first year is off to a successful start with the launch of the Foundation’s Stepping Up to Algebra program this summer. SVEF partnered with Valley firms, such as Flextronics, IBM, and SAP, to implement this year's accelerated math program designed to advance students ahead one full grade-level in math. Nearly 450 6th and 7th grade students completed the inaugural program, which will give them a leg up when they enter Algebra I during the school year, before entering high school.

The launch of the Silicon Valley STEM Initiative was announced at a ceremony at Flextronics celebrating the success of students and teachers completing Stepping Up to Algebra's first year.

SVEF recognizes that Silicon Valley companies desperately need a workforce skilled in these subject areas, and that local students struggle to master these vital skills. Recently, the State Board of Education instituted a requirement that all 8th grade students take Algebra I, a mandate our schools do not have resources to achieve, according to Muhammed Chaudhry, President and CEO of SVEF.

To address this knowledge gap, SVEF has formed the Silicon Valley STEM Leadership Board comprised of Silicon Valley executives, state and local legislators, educators and community leaders, who are advising the foundation on how to shape the STEM Initiative. "The goal of the Silicon Valley STEM Initiative is to bring innovative approaches to STEM teaching and learning by bringing together the education, business, government and non-profit communities," said Chaudhry.

"Flextronics, like most valley firms, is always looking for talent with engineering and math skills. We must cultivate our local talent to keep Silicon Valley at the forefront of innovation for the global economy," said Paul Humphries, Executive Vice President of Operations at Flextronics and co-chair of the STEM Leadership Board. "The Silicon Valley Education Foundation's STEM Initiative is a transformative effort that changes the lives of local students," said David Mills, Program Director for the James S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Companies represented on the SVEF STEM Leadership Board include Flextronics, Google, National Semiconductor, Cisco, IBM, KeyPoint Credit Union, SanDisk, and Agilent. Educational and civic leaders represented on the board include Stanford University, San Jose State University, San Jose City College and State Senators Abel Maldonado and Elaine Alquist.

SVEF recently released its comprehensive Silicon Valley STEM Education study conducted by research firm WestEd, noting that only 26% of 9th grade students in Silicon Valley score above the "basic" level in Algebra I. The report identifies the challenges in local STEM education and potential opportunities for enrichment in those subject areas. This is the first-ever study of its kind for local schools. The Stepping Up to Algebra program is the first of a series of educational programs created by the Foundation to improve student achievement in STEM. The program, funded by SVEF, serves students who perform at or above grade level in math, and is free to students.

"Before going through this summer program, the thought of taking Algebra scared me," said Marlene Rodriguez, who will enter 8th grade in the fall. "Now I know if I work hard, and use what I learned in this program, I can do it."

Teacher Chris Barbara, called the students inspiring. "They gave up their summer and worked hard to prepare themselves for Algebra I next year. The Stepping Up to Algebra program is giving them a path for success in their academic career," said Barbara. The Foundation plans to expand enrichment classes for students next year in other STEM subjects.

SVEF's Stepping Up to Algebra is a model program showcasing how Silicon Valley businesses can partner with local schools to meet a mutual objective: prepare more students to excel in mathematics. "We are pleased with the success of our first year, and look forward to securing additional support from the Silicon Valley business community to expand the program next year," Chaudry said.

About SVEF

SVEF advocates for the needs of all 34 school districts in Silicon Valley. SVEF seeks to improve public education through establishing effective partnerships with both the private sector and the education community. We focus on the needs of our constituents: students, families, teachers, community, and education leaders. We listen to their needs and seek to understand their challenges by providing innovative solutions.