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Our Approach

Our Plan

The Big Lift combines high-quality and connected learning experiences from preschool to third grade. The collective impact initiative blends two years of high-quality preschool with summer learning for preschool to 3rd grade students, as well as family engagement and attendance initiatives.

Achieve a big lift in San Mateo County’s educational outcomes by improving the percentage of kids reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade.


In San Mateo County, one of the most affluent communities in the country, 43% of third graders do not read at grade level. This rises to a shocking 60% among Latino, African-American, and Pacific Islander children. As decades of research have revealed, children who start behind are likely to stay behind. Kids who don’t succeed in school have fewer lifetime opportunities and generate higher social costs in public benefits, remedial education, and crime.

The Big Lift collaborative has achieved broad investment and ownership from participants in building infrastructure and resources to sustain the work and continuously improve support for kids. The initiative backbone consists of three strong countywide organizations: The County of San Mateo, San Mateo County Office of Education, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

an image of a young girl playing on playground equipment at a park




Phase 1
Initiative start-up phase with 4 communities

Phase 2
Pilot phase with 7 communities

Phase 3
Countywide initiative extension

A Staged Approach

Given the historically limited capacity of preschool, summer, family engagement and attendance providers to raise funds to support their programs, it was imperative The Big Lift implement a staged approach.

Since the 2012 voter-approved tax measure funding, The Big Lift initiative completed the start-up phase and is now implementing the pilot phase in preparation for a countywide extension. Key stakeholders in Big Lift communities include school districts as well as summer learning, preschool, family engagement, and summer providers. These key stakeholders and community-based organizations convene on a regular basis to strengthen this coordinated collective impact approach within each community. The Big Lift’s 300+ organizations include business, government, education, philanthropy, and nonprofit agencies. The Big Lift is making a difference in the lives of thousands of San Mateo County children who are entering school ready to learn and staying on track to read proficiently at third grade!