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"I’m willing to be right in there with them because they are me and I am them."

Yolanda Valdez, Superintendent at Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District

English Learners

The James B. McClatchy Foundation has been awarding grants to K-12 school districts in the Central Valley since 2009 with the primary purpose of advancing the academic achievement of the Valley’s English Learners.  In 2018, we launched our Growing Strong Learners initiative, which focuses on Pre-K and Dual Language Learners in the Central Valley.

It is our intention to set a different course for our Dual Language Learners: an asset-based approach to teaching and learning that prioritizes home language and culture, as well as English acquisition.  In this vein, The James B. McClatchy Foundation supports school systems and programs as they leverage the strengths of these diverse learners and their families.

English Learners

Why It is Important

English Learners are an important part of California’s education system— almost 60% of children age 0- 5 are classified as Dual Language Learners in California, meaning they speak a language other than English in the home. Unfortunately, due to lack of quality early childhood educational programming, the loss of their home language, and incomplete English development, these students are often behind on measures of school readiness.

As a result, English Learners are starting Kindergarten significantly behind their non-EL peers, and this achievement gap tends to widen over time. A key purpose of The James B. McClatchy Foundation’s  English Learner program area is to ensure Pre-school aged children in the Central Valley have access to quality educational opportunities and programs in order to help close the school-readiness gap. As such, our goal is for English Learners students to be Kindergarten- ready and on par with their non-EL peers when they leave Pre-K.

English Learners

What We Do

Beginning in 2017, the James B. McClatchy Foundation (then the Central Valley Foundation) formed the English Learner Advisory Group in order to identify potential high impact grantmaking opportunities for English Learners in the Central Valley. One such opportunity was improving the quality of and increasing access to prekindergarten programs. As a result, the “Growing Strong Learners” English Learner Pre-K grant program was born.

The program commenced in the Fall of 2018 with four Central Valley school districts: Cutler- Orosi, Firebaugh-Las Deltas, Galt, and Robla. Districts spent that year creating a 5-year implementation plan to increase quality and access to their programming. In the Spring of 2019, year 1 of the implementation plans were awarded. In May of 2020, years 2 and 3 were approved, funding these four districts through the spring of 2022.

The outcomes the districts hope to achieve include significant shifts in school culture, and can be summarized as follows:

1. English Learner children will enter kindergarten on par with their non-EL peers and be prepared for success in school and in life.

2. English Learner parents, families, and caregivers will be engaged and empowered to be effective advocates for their children from Pre-K through high school graduation.

3. English Learners and their families will be viewed as assets to their schools and community. Preservation of home language and culture, as well as English acquisition, will be priorities for districts.

4. Early childhood education will be recognized as essential to student growth and academic success. In addition, early childhood educators will be valued for their knowledge and expertise, and for the critical roles they play in students’ lives.

Our 4 Key Priority Areas

  1. Developing Leadership: Administrators, teachers, and parents must develop as leaders in serving Pre-K English Learners and understand that improving outcomes for English Learners is a shared responsibility.
  2. Building Educator Capacity: Teachers must have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to utilize instruction that best meets the needs of Pre-K English Learners.
  3. Using Data: Districts must use evidence and data to make decisions about instruction and programs that will promote better outcomes for Pre-K English Learners.
  4. Family Engagement: Districts must encourage Pre-K English Learner family participation and engagement through outreach, education, and training.