The forthcoming 2015 Community Involvement Survey illustrates that many companies are addressing relevant social issues, with a prominent focus on K-12 education. The survey shows that nearly 55 percent of companies include education among their top issues for attention and investment. With nearly 20 percent of students failing to graduate on time, or at all, corporations are making investments to try and increase student achievement and graduation rates for a more educated workforce.[i]
In order to be effective at moving the needle on one social issue, Applied Materials made the decision to focus the majority of its strategic grantmaking in education programs in their local communities. In 2001, Applied Materials launched its Education Initiative, a long-term investment strategy focused on improving the academic performance of students in the under-performing San Jose, California and Central Texas neighborhoods where Applied Materials operates. The goal of the Education Initiative is to increase the number of students who graduate from high school and are prepared for college. By targeting the entire educational pathway, from pre-school through college acceptance, Applied Materials is supporting the work of education organizations that are making strides to close the achievement gap.
“Our strategy is predicated on sustained investment, deep engagement, collaboration, and measurable results," said Michele Walker-Moak, global community affairs manager at Applied Materials. “Targeting specific geographies enables us to track measurable impact on student success over time. The data allows for course corrections and improvements— all working to further our goal of increasing the number of students who graduate from high school prepared for success in college and life.”
The Education Initiative supports numerous programs that focus on specific age ranges and address common roadblocks to graduation. Applied’s ongoing approach to improve student achievement and teacher professional development across the entire educational pathway encompasses programs that support:
- Kindergarten readiness—entering school ready to learn
- Third grade literacy—reading on grade level by the end of third grade
- Middle school mathematics—completing algebra by eighth grade
- College prep courses—following a sequence of courses in order to be eligible for California’s and Texas’ public four-year universities
Since its inception in 2001, the Education Initiative has impacted 120 schools, 8,200 teachers, and 42,000 students in San Jose. The program began several years later in Central Texas, partnering in select locations within the large, urban district of the Austin Independent School District, and comprehensively with the Manor Independent School District, a smaller district that serves 8,600 students.
Through collaborative partnerships with individual schools, school districts, charter schools, and leading educational nonprofit organizations, Applied Materials’ Education Initiative has increased graduation rates and the number of first-generation college students. One element of the Initiative is its support of Breakthrough in Silicon Valley and Austin. The program makes a six-year commitment to providing a path to college for low-income middle school students who aspire to be the first in their families to graduate from college.
Breakthrough students begin in middle school and commit to intensive summer academic training that helps prepare them for success in the school year. They receive test preparation assistance, college advising services, and are taken on college tours. Both in Austin and Silicon Valley, Breakthrough has helped students achieve a number of accomplishments, and has contributed to significantly higher high school graduation and college enrollment rates.
By investing over a sustained period of time and consistently measuring and reporting results, Applied Materials’ graduation focus provides students with the opportunity to build brighter futures, creating a stronger community for all.
[i] U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics. (May 2015). Public High School Graduation Rates. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp