United Ways of California believes that education is the foundation for a vibrant and sustainable future. All children deserve the opportunity to enter school ready to succeed, attain academic success, and gain the tools they need to live a long, healthy, and productive life.
As such, California’s United Ways are working to improve educational outcomes by helping students:
Bridging the Digital Divide and Distance Learning
As new technologies emerge to better facilitate learning in the classroom, many Public Education systems have struggled to provide fair and equitable access to internet services for all students. By March of 2020, schools around the country were forced to quickly adapt to new methods of teaching in order to ensure the public health and safety of its students from the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools have since adopted brand new policies of teaching, which have included providing classes virtually through video communication platforms, offering in person but socially-distanced instruction with mask mandates, or some offering a hybrid approach by utilizing both remote and in person instruction.
Though well intentioned, many of these remote teaching methods have uncovered what some have coined the “Digital Divide” between American students and their access to online or broadband resources. As many as 1 in 5 students, or 1.2 million families, are without the reliable internet access or devices necessary to attend school virtually and online. Without reliable remote access, many low-income and minority students in particular are left without the resources necessary to thrive or even participate in the classroom. We believe that education is a fundamental right for all California students, and that is why United Ways of California has teamed with 60+ organizations across the state to help bridge this Digital Divide and provide access to the children who need it most.
With a coalition known as the Digital Divide Task Force, United Ways of California is working with community organizations like the California Emerging Technology Fund, EdVoice, The Center for Powerful Public Schools, and more to advocate for better policy recommendations and more equitable broadband access for all K-12 students.
For more information, or to find out how you may help bridge this Digital Divide, contact:
Healthy Start 2.0
Children learn best in loving, nurturing relationships and through everyday experiences. Whether children are at home, with relatives or friends, or in childcare, the quality of early experiences is key to later school success. In addition to improving long-term educational outcomes for students, the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California at Berkeley reports that every dollar invested in early childhood education can yield up to $7.16 in benefits for the California economy (through saved health care costs, job opportunities, state and local tax revenue and more).1
California’s United Ways are leading initiatives to improve the quality of childcare, family support, early intervention, and public awareness activities to equip parents to make the best choices for their families.
According to the newly released 2019 National Assesment of Educational Progress, most commonly referred to as the "Nation's Report Card," approximately 32% of 4th-grade students are proficient at grade level in the state of California.2 Although this is a slight improvement from 2018, California continues to score below the national average. Further, the persistent achievement gap among racial groups means that there is still much to accomplish as a state.
California’s United Ways are working to improve literacy rates by developing partnerships with local school districts, fostering parent engagement, engaging in state advocacy work and more.
Click here to learn more about United Way of Santa Barbara and United Way of Northern Santa Barbara’s United for Literacy program.
Middle school is a critical time for California’s children, both academically and in their potential for future earnings. According to a report by ACT, “eighth-grade students’ academic achievement has a larger impact on their readiness for college by the end of high school than anything that happens academically in today’s high schools.”3 Hence, these formative years are crucial in forming who these children will be as people and their opportunity for life success.
United Ways throughout California are working to address challenges common to middle school-aged children by investing in nutritional programs, school supplies and mentoring services that provide children opportunities to success both now and in the long-term.
Click here to learn more about United Way of Monterey County’s Stuff the Bus program.
Graduating from high school is one of the preliminary indicators of whether a young person can break away from family cycles of poverty. However, many high school students in California fail to graduate on time. The California Department of Education reports that only 83% of high school students who started school in 2014 graduated with their class in 2018. During that time, 48,453, or 10%, dropped out of school.4 The highest dropout rates were seen among the following student groups: American Indian/Native Alaskan, Foster & Homeless Youth, and English Learners.5
Nationally, United Way is deeply involved in the work to increase the graduate rate through two key partnerships - with America’s Promise, a leading national organization working on dropout prevention, and with the Ready by 21 Partnership, a national coalition dedicated to ensuring that all students are prepared for college and/or the world of work.
Locally, United Ways are working with school districts and education partners to ensure students are motivated to stay in school through effective wraparound services such as school and peer mentoring programs, counseling services, SAT preparation and more.
The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that by 2018, 34% of all job openings in the United States will require at least a bachelor’s degree to compete in the marketplace.6 Perhaps more importantly, some economic forecasts predict that each additional year of education can translate up to an 8% increase in earnings over a lifetime.7
At United Ways of California, we believe that educational attainment is the fundamental pathway out of poverty. By furthering educational attainment, students can gain the skills and knowledge assets necessary to compete in the 21st century and obtain the quality health and financial sustainability outcomes they deserve.
1. MacGillvary, Jenifer and Laurel Garcia. Economic Impacts of Early Care and Education in California. Center for Labor Research and Education. University of California at Berkeley. August 2011. http://bit.ly/nglrqd
2. The Nation’s Report Card: 4th Grade Reading. National Center for Education Statistics. http://1.usa.gov/tUkVbI. Accessed November 11, 2019.
3. The Forgotten Middle. Ensuring that All Students are on Target for College and Career Readiness before High School. ACT. 2008. http://bit.ly/eevQxY.
4. Cohort Outcome Data for the Class of 2014-18.
5. Educational Demographics Office. California Department of Education. https://bit.ly/2oGsVj7. Accessed October 27, 2019. Ibid.