Einstein Middle School and Cornell Collaborate on Bird Count

albert bird count

Albert Einstein Middle School in Sacramento shared this great activity with us today. Another great example of building a college going culture through instructional activities.

Every year our school participates in the National Great Backyard Bird Count…which is held every President’s Day Holiday in February across the nation.  On February 12, 2010 ten of our students counted and tallied local bird species.  This recorded information is sent back to Cornell University for analysis.  I use the data in my classroom to have the students create graphs and analyze yearly patterns in our area.  We’ve been able to discuss hypotheses as well.  On March 2nd, all students (and myself) received a “Certificate of Participation” called the “Great Horned Owl Award”.  As a teacher, I am always telling students to keep such records of community service close by to reaffirm that their higher level education starts now!

Special thanks to Ms. Caccamo for sharing this with us. We love to hear what all our schools are doing in building that bridge to the future our students desperately need.

“I’m One in a Million” Scholarship Contest


As we posted here, California needs 1,000,000 additional college graduates by the year 2025 in order to meet our state’s workforce needs. Each student who successfully completes college is “one in a million.” Sponsored by the Campaign for College Opportunity, the contest is for all currently enrolled college students. Here is how you can go for it:

Tell California leaders why you and your peers are one in a million and why they should support college opportunity to help you reach your college dream.

A minimum of 20 scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,000 will be awarded throughout California.

Contest Deadline: June 30, 2010

Contest Categories: You may submit one entry per category.


Submit 400 words (or less) in any written format (essay, letter, poem, story, etc.)


Create an 11″ by 14″ poster. Answer the contest question by drawing, painting, computer graphics,
or other means of illustrating your message. Please do not use 3D materials.


Submit a 30-second (or less) TV ad on CD or DVD format only. You may enter this category as an individual or group (up to 4 students). The award will be split among all contributors.

How do I enter?

All currently enrolled college students in California, including AB 540 students, are eligible to enter.

All written word entries must be submitted here.

To enter the Poster or TV Ad category, fill out an entry form here.  Print out the completed form and mail with the entry to:  College Contest Entry | 900 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 924 | Los Angeles, CA 90017.

Submissions without an attached Entry Form will not be considered.

What if I have questions?

Please contact Maria Luisa at 800-459-9586 or marialuisa@collegecampaign.org with any questions regarding the contest.

To submit an application, please visit the Campaign for College Opportunity site here.

Maywood March Madness is Here!

Maywood Intermediate School in Corning, CA celebrated it’s annual March Madness event this week. Here are some of the activities:

  • The day of the event school staff all wear apparel representing the college they attended.
  • During school assembly classes are assigned a group of schools selected from the 64 NCAA men’s college basketball tournament
  • Classes have to find each college on a US map (timed)
  • Free throw contest
  • Throughout the week classes will learn about their selected schools and track their progress on the giant tournament bracket in the gym

This activity is designed to increase awareness for college throughout the school for both adults and students alike. Another great activity by a great California GEAR UP school.

~Let us know what you are doing on your campus to promote a college-going culture.~

Rivera Middle School GEAR UP Crossword Challenge

Rivera crossword

Just submitted by one of our stellar California GEAR UP Merced, CA schools:

This is one of our activities. Our Counselor set up an activity school wide for students to investigate GEAR UP. This crossword puzzle was up in our gym where students could see it and decorated by college logos our students created. Students were encouraged to pick up a flyer with directions and complete the crossword to win a pizza lunch with the Principal. The activity was based in raising awareness of GEAR UP and its presence on campus!

Another great activity from one of our many amazing schools across the state. Special thanks to the team at Rivera for submitting this activity.

~Let us know what you are doing to create a college-going culture at your school!~

Entire Senior Class Accepted to 4-Year Colleges.

all college

The entire senior class at Urban Prep Academy for Young Men, Chicago’s only public all-male, all-African-American high school has been accepted to four-year colleges. At last count, the 107 seniors had earned spots at 72 schools across the nation.

That’s quite an achievement, especially considering that the overall college acceptance rate for Chicago public school graduates is 52.5 percent. Only 4 percent of this year’s senior class read at grade level as freshmen, according to Tim King, the school’s CEO.

An excellent example of creating a college-going culture, success such as this is further evidence that California GEAR UP’s work in middle grades is more important than ever before. This achievement wasn’t an accident:

“I never had a doubt that we would achieve this goal,” (CEO) King said. “Every single person we hired knew from the day one that this is what we do: We get our kids into college.

College is omnipresent at the school. Before the students begin their freshman year, they take a field trip to Northwestern University. Every student is assigned a college counselor the day he steps foot in the school.

The school offers an extended day–170,000 more minutes over four years compared to its counterparts across the city–and more than double the number of English credits usually needed to graduate.

Even the school’s voicemail has a student declaring “I am college bound” before it asks callers to dial an extension.

A powerful story from the Chicago Tribune you can read in it’s entirety here.

Although this story is the exception, not the norm, what can we learn about the work we do in our schools?

Valley GEAR UP Recognized for Support of Injured Student

Valley GEAR UP Staff (pictured above with award) received recognition for fund raising and support. Will Barker was a recipient of a California GEAR UP Education Trust Award.

On October 23, 2009 during a football game between Davis and Valley high schools, Valley student Will Barker was attempting to make a tackle and was seriously injured.

Davis doctors administered emergency care and Valley coach Preston Jackson accompanied Will in the ambulance to U.C. Davis Medical Center. Will’s family, the Valley coaching staff, players and Athletic Director Stephanie Haas kept vigil while Will underwent six hours of surgery. Will suffered a broken vertebra in his neck. After six difficult weeks at U.C. Davis Medical Center, Will was transferred to Shriner’s Hospital for Children. He has made some gains in the movement of his arms and legs.  He continues to work hard at his therapy. Will often states to visitors, “I am going to walk again.”

During his recovery, a tremendous outpouring of support has come from the Davis and Valley high school communities as well as several other schools, California GEAR UP, other organizations, teams and businesses.

Present at the recognition ceremony were Principal Keven McDonald and Will Barker’s mother, Dorothy Barker, Debi Flory, Davis Booster Club, Stephanie Haas, Valley High School Athletic Director, Ron Riebeek, Valley GEAR UP Coordinator, and many others.

If you would like to support Will and his family, please contact Stephanie Hass, Athletic Director at Valley High School by calling (916) 689-6500. You can also support Will by making a donation to the address below:

William Barker Donation Fund

Attn: Stephanie Hass

300 Ehrhardt Avenue

Sacramento, CA 95823-5699

Everett Middle School Hosts Family University

California GEAR UP Family Initiatives Project (FIP) offers five-week sessions or one day, 5 hour sessions at selected schools based on the need for family programming strategies to enhance the participation of English speaking families at California GEAR UP schools. Schools take the lead in making community connections to ensure full participation. GEAR UP facilitators lead the interactive sessions. FIP Family University sample outcomes:

  • FIP provides families with support, information and resources to increase family participation with the school and community so they can help their children succeed in school for a better future.
  • The family gatherings focus on family involvement and positive proactive communication
  • Helping families navigate the school system on the pathway to college.
  • Discuss financial aid, A-G  and graduation requirements
  • Positive family communication and interaction
  • College: Making it Happen materials.
  • Priority application status for FIP graduates at California State University campuses

Here are some comments from attendees:

“Very good keep it up:  Thank you for coming.”

“Thank you for making this workshop fun and very informative.”

“From this workshop I am better equipped to help my son and family with college and personal affairs.”

“Thank you one of the best meetings I have been to. Thank you.”

“This is a very informative and excellent seminar for parents and students.  Thank you very much.”

“This workshop was very informative with lots of information that will be very useful in preparing for college.  I am going to set up that college account.”

“I feel that the workshop was really educational for myself and child.  Real helpful information thank you for your support.”

“Extremely informative and engaging workshop, we need to  present this same information at the beginning of the school year.  Details about how to conduct parent conference were helpful.  African American parents felt heard and validated.”

“The workshop was very informative, educational and exciting.  It wasn’t boring kept me entertained.”

“I think the presentation was good and informative and done at a good pace.  Presenters were well prepared and handouts were excellent.”

Todays event at Everett MS featured laptop giveaway, excellent participation, and a tasty breakfast and lunch for all attendees.

Latptops and continual support for Everett was provided by Extreme Learning/Avanza Online.

Gaining Ground in Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better


A new middle grades report from EdSource provided further affirmation of the capacity building efforts of California GEAR UP. What is particularly interesting for GEAR UP schools is the findings suggest schools who have high functioning Leadership Teams that focus the school community on a shared “future oriented” mission are far better off.

Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better, is based on surveys from 303 principals, 3,752 English language arts (ELA) and math teachers in grades 6-8, and 157 superintendents in California. Educator responses were analyzed against spring 2009 scores on California’s standards-based tests in ELA and math in grades 6, 7, and 8, which were taken by close to 204,000 students.

The study was designed to identify the practices and policies that differentiate higher- from lower-performing middle grades schools that serve similar student populations.

But the single most important overarching finding was in how these higher-performing schools create a shared, school-wide intense focus on the improvement of student outcomes:

  • They set measurable goals on standards-based tests and benchmark tests across all proficiency levels, grades, and subjects;
  • Their school mission is “future oriented,” with curricula and instruction designed to prepare students to succeed in a rigorous high school curriculum;
  • They included improvement of student outcomes in evaluations of the superintendent, the principal, and the teachers; and
  • They communicate to parents and students their responsibility as well for student learning, including parent contracts, turning in homework, attending class, and asking for help when needed.

Go here to learn more about California GEAR UP middle grades capacity building model. To read the report in full, please visit EdSource report.