The James B. McClatchy Foundation has announced grants totaling $3.7 million to four school districts in California's Central Valley.
Now in its second year, the foundation's Growing Strong Learners Pre-Kindergarten Initiative focuses on four priority areas the foundation believes are essential to kindergarten readiness for English learners: family engagement, leadership development, capacity building for educators, and the use of data. To that end, grants ranging from $750,000 to $1.2 million were awarded to the Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District in Tulare County, which will use the funds to provide bilingual outreach aides for parents and to develop a research-based home visiting program; the Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District, which will create a professional learning community (PLC) for preschool educators and other childcare providers; the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District in Sacramento County, which will mobilize a pre-K team to develop dual-language immersion (DLI) programs and train teachers in best practices and evidence-based curricula; and the Robla Elementary School District in Sacramento County, which will hire a school readiness coordinator to oversee data collection, analysis, and dissemination.
According to JBMF, the initiative helped generate a 22 percent increase in enrollment across all districts in the region in its first year.
"With the incredible challenges facing families, students, and schools in these very difficult times, we are grateful to JBMF for supporting and addressing the digital divide by funding a one-to-one device for all English learners in Cutler-Orosi preschools, transitional kindergarten classrooms, and kindergarten classrooms," said Cutler-Orosi Joint USD superintendent Yolanda Valdez. "We feel very fortunate to be awarded this grant and appreciate the support, resources, and attention the foundation has afforded us."
"We discovered that by stepping in early at the pre-K stage, the positive effects can be profound, including improvements in a child's social and cognitive skills and readiness for school, as well as providing support for parents who need to balance parenting with earning a family income," said JBMF chief executive Priscilla Enriquez. "With Growing Strong Learners, we're proud to support districts up and down the Central Valley, while reducing the need for later stage intervention in K-12 or beyond in higher education."
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