HAYWARD -- While education funding from the state and federal government tightens up, the need for a highly educated workforce is becoming more urgent.

To help ensure that local children get the skills they need to land high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley and the East Bay, a partnership of nearly 40 business, education, nonprofit, civic and philanthropic organizations from Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties has been working for more than a year to identify gaps and strengthen the region's "school-to-career pipeline."

The Gateways Cradle to Career Education and Workforce Partnership released a report Thursday at Cal State East Bay that outlines a "road map to success" aimed at improving student achievement from birth through college and beyond.

The partnership is one of four demonstration sites nationwide focusing on finding and promoting new ways to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- or STEM -- instruction, which is expected to boost local economies.

"We're not starting a new program, we're leveraging existing resources and expertise," said Emily Brizendine, who is directing the Gateways partnership for Cal State East Bay, which is anchoring the initiative. "We want to create a system that's going to be supportive of the students all the way through that road map."

Partnership members include corporations such as Chevron, colleges, community groups, foundations and 13 educational agencies, such as the Alameda County, Contra Costa and Santa Clara County offices of education.

"We are able to learn from the work that's going on in the East Bay, as well as we're able to share what we're doing in Santa Clara County and sort of feed information back and forth," said Don Bolce, program director for special projects in the Santa Clara County Office of Education. "We're all looking at ways that we can align our work, coordinate resources and maybe develop some new strategies for improving student outcomes."

The partnership has found that many students in the region perform poorly on nationwide math tests, which can indicate their prospects for future success. It is emphasizing three initial strategies to bolster mathematics comprehension: enhancing teacher education and student preparation; offering hands-on learning at all grade levels; and strengthening school readiness between preschool and kindergarten.

In addition, the partnership helped Cal State East Bay receive a "Promise Neighborhoods" community planning grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the Jackson Triangle area of South Hayward, Brizendine said. This more far-reaching program is focused on meeting the socio-emotional and health needs of children and families, as well as their academic needs, she said.

"It's a very powerful notion to say not one agency can do everything," she said. "It's more powerful when we all come together."

The Gateways partnership was originally funded by the Living Cities consortium in collaboration with the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities and Strive, a model program in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. The S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation has also awarded Cal State East Bay a $1.15 million grant to fund continued collaboration.

"In the Bay Area, 40 to 50 percent of residents are college graduates, yet many really good jobs remain unfilled or are filled from people out of the state or country," said Sheila Jordan, superintendent of the Alameda County Office of Education. "And many of our young people who graduate from college are unemployed or have been displaced and are now looking for jobs. So there's a mismatch between workplace needs and the education system -- and that's a very important and focused goal of this partnership."

Schools in the partnership region are involved in numerous programs and projects intended to excite students about math and science.

In the Mt. Diablo school district, many elementary students learn math with fun chants and songs through the BoardMath program. The San Lorenzo school district in Alameda County is participating in an Integrated Middle School Science Partnership for teacher training funded by the National Science Foundation.

Santa Clara County has embarked on an "SJ2020" initiative to eliminate its student achievement gap by 2020, through a partnership with the mayor, county superintendent, local school districts and businesses, Bolce said. Similarly, he said, the Gateways Partnership involves different sectors of the community.

"I think that's pretty cutting edge," he said. "Maybe it's the challenging times we live in that enables us to do that -- to have a compelling vision and need for people to work together in a focused way. It's really exciting and I think that it has great potential for success."

 The complete Gateways Cradle to Career Education and Workforce Partnership report is available by calling 510-885-4530 or going to www.csueastbay.edu.