API Rankings Reveal Unequal Access to Best Schools

The Education Trust-West released the first Equity Alert which highlights California’s recent statewide API rankings which expose an “all-too familiar” achievement gap. The 2009 Annual Performance Index unveil that race and class continue to play a material role in shaping opportunity in our schools and the inequity is systemic and pervasive. Findings include:

  • 39 percent of African-American students attend the state’s bottom 30 percent of schools. 44 percent of Latinos and 45 percent of economically disadvantaged students are concentrated in the bottom 30 percent of schools.
  • By contrast, 54 percent of white students attend the top 30 percent of schools and only 9 percent attend the bottom 30 percent schools.
  • Economically disadvantaged students represent 54 percent of California’s school-age population, but they make up 83 percent of students in decile 1-3 schools.

The Equity Alert outlines actions state policymakers and education leaders can take to address these patterns of inequity. These actions include:

  • implementing policies to identify, recruit and retain highly-effective teachers and principals;
  • ensuring that high-need students have access to the supports and interventions they need from the earliest grades;
  • providing additional resources to the state’s lowest performing schools in exchange for greater accountability.

We have our work cut out for us. The indicators of what is missing and what is needed are consistently repeated in all of the current research. Our efforts in these struggling school communities often provide the catalyst and the will to address pervasive achievement, resources, and opportunity gaps.

-Shelley Davis, Director, California GEAR UP

We know by bridging research like this with with successful practice already going on in our schools, the achievement gap can be systematically addressed. The questions remain: why aren’t we leveraging every resource to address these issues? What successes can we celebrate and duplicate?

Education Trust Awards are a Hit at Porter Middle School

As Principal Robert Marks announced the California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards last night, excitement could be heard throughout the the large crowd gathered at Porter Middle School during the 2010 8th Grade Award’s Night. It was the first year Porter was to hand out ten $2,000 Education Trust Awards and the many hundreds present, including families, teachers, and students, were all impressed with this years Education Trust Awards recipients. The ETA awards were just a few of the many awards students received throughout the night.

This is historic. I have never witness so many scholarships of this amount given out in one year. Our students are already talking about them for next year.

-Porter Middle School Teacher

This year California GEAR UP gave 288 Trust Awards to middle grades students across California and 50 awards at Valley High School in Sacramento with the expectation that offering a monetary incentive to students will stimulate the entire family and school community to support his or her preparation for college.

How are you creating a college-going culture in your community??

Families Celebrate Education Trust Awards at Henry MS

Click on pictures above for full size image.

On June 10 Patrick Henry Middle School honored families of awardees and alternates of the California GEAR UP Education Trust awards. GEAR UP Coordinator Peter Lee and Principal Michael Bennett hosted families with dinner and a well attended awards ceremony.

This award is the first step in your pathway to college. It is your responsibility as students to make a plan to achieve your dreams and execute that plan no matter how difficult the task, no matter how far away they might seem. Your family, teachers, and GEAR UP believe in you, now you need to believe in yourself enough to become the student you know you can be. The challenge starts here.

-Sean Brennan, GEAR UP Communications Director

My family is so proud of my son right now. We never heard of a college award in middle school before now. We are so excited to start planning for his future!

-Mother of ETA recipient

Special thanks to the GEAR UP Leadership Team at Henry!

Butler School Celebrates Ed Trust Students with Luncheon

Special thanks to Lori Flores, GEAR UP Program Facilitator at the Mary Bulter School for sharing with us:

Butler Middle School’s CA GEAR UP Team honored their two outstanding Ed Trust Award winners at a school-wide assembly in March and then hosted a luncheon for the honorees and their families.  At the luncheon, both students read aloud the inspiring essays they wrote as part of the award selection process.  Family members and teachers alike were deeply touched by the students’ personal reflections and college-going aspirations.

We are excited to share with you all of our schools honoring their ETA students, as well as working towards the goal of creating a college-going culture at their school. If you would like to submit photos or an article, please email us.

GEAR UP Partner Spotlight: Scholarshare

May and June is Education Trust Awards season for California GEAR UP schools, so we thought we would share some information on our partner, ScholarShare. ScholarShare is California’s official 529 College Savings Plan. 529 plans are tax advantaged savings vehicles named for the section of Internal Revenue Code under which they were created. Earnings on 529 investments grow tax-deferred, and disbursements, when used for qualified higher education expenses, are federal and state tax-free.

ScholarShare is a great way to start saving for college for the following reasons:

  • Accounts may be opened online with as little as $50, or $15 with automatic monthly contributions
  • No annual account maintenance fee
  • No income limit

ScholarShare is the investment partner for the California GEAR UP Education Trust Awards. Award recipients are selected by school personnel at California GEAR UP middle schools.  The awards are available to students within one year of high school graduation and upon college enrollment. California ETA awards are in the amount of $2,000 and can reach up to $2,500 by the time students attend college.

For more information on ScholarShare, visit their site or take a look at the comprehensive information on CaliforniaColleges.edu.

The ScholarShare College Savings Plan is administered by the ScholarShare Investment Board, an agency of the State of California. Neither the principal deposited nor the investment return is guaranteed by the State of California, ScholarShare Investment Board, Fidelity Investments or any affiliate thereof, or the federal government or any agency thereof. Units of the Portfolios are municipal securities and may be subject to market volatility and fluctuation.

Santa Ana GEAR UP Partnership Celebrates Trust Awards

The GEAR UP Santa Ana College GEAR UP Partnership is proud of the two intermediate school students, participants in Santa Ana College’s very successful Talent Search/TRIO program, who recently received State GEAR UP Educational Trust Awards. Santa Ana College recognized our two local recipients, Manuel Velasquez from Willard Intermediate, and Ricardo Franco from McFadden Intermediate, at their annual Santa Ana 2000 High School Scholarship Awards Ceremony on June 2nd.

“Although these students are not yet in high school, including them in this ceremony with high school graduates and at the college, communicates to them and their families that these youngsters are scholars who are on track to go to college,” said Dr. Lilia Tanakeyowma, Director of GEAR UP Santa Ana.

Mr. Velasquez said “I am proud of my son and know he will go to college and be a successful man.” Their intermediate school principals joined the high school principals for the first time at this ceremony at the college and pledged to see more of their students have these opportunities and join all efforts available to prepare them for college.

“The Santa Ana Unified School District, after the impact GEAR UP has shown in their early college preparation work at the middle schools, has now instituted a district wide college and career planning curriculum starting in the 6th grade. This recognition of middle school students at this scholarship event is confirmation of our collaborative commitment to early college preparation,” expressed Dr. Tanakeyowma.

~Special thanks to everyone at Santa Ana GEAR UP who made the celebration possible, and thanks to Dr.Tanakeyowma for sharing their success with us for our blog.

What is your GEAR UP program doing to celebrate the Education Trust Award recipients?

‘Save Me A Spot In College’ Winners Move The Crowd

Winners were announced for the annual ‘Save Me A Spot In College‘ contest sponsored by The Campaign for College Opportunity. 6th to 12th grade contestants can enter videos, essays, or posters in response to the following prompts:

(1) Tell California leaders why you and your peers are One in a Million, and (2) Why should California leaders save you and your peers a spot in college?

This year, California GEAR UP Director Shelley Davis was a  judge in the contest, and shared one of the essay entries that was particularly moving. Shelley believes all students deserve access to an excellent education to give students a chance at a college education. “This powerful student voice renewed my resolve to ensure opportunity for ALL students”.

Written by 9th grader Rachel Johnson at Castro Valley High School who was nominated for the grand prize:

Have you ever heard the echo of a gunshot? Did you ever see a warm body hit the cold ground, life pouring out red on the pavement? Were you ever scared to walk your city streets because you’re blue or red?  Do the sirens act as your lullaby, singing you to sleep as you cry? How could we escape this never-ending nightmare; will we ever be given the chance?

Most of my peers would say no; we won’t have the chance or the choice. They always look for someone to blame; believing we don’t have a voice. Either be blue, red, or dead. It’s no longer a black and white world with just shades of gray.  It is a world of colors, and colors can kill.  Wear the wrong color and a passing car might put you on the sidewalk forever.  I want you to help me show my peers that the paths of blue and red aren’t our only options. There is the path of life and knowledge that is obtainable only through college.

Through college we can gain knowledge and wisdom. We can be the movers of mountains and sustainers of mankind. And if we find the mountain unmovable, then maybe with an education we can learn to tunnel through the mountain to the other side where colors are a thing to be admired and cherished for their differences, and not the cause for hate and blood-shed.  Maybe through college, we can learn and then teach that we are not just red or blue, or black or white.  Color should not define us; color should heighten our appreciation for each other. College can be the canvas that helps define us. Maybe red can shape industry and yellow can revitalize the economy; blue can feed the hungry and green can find clean fuel sources.  But in reality, all this can only happen when all our colors work together. And college is the place where this rainbow of colors can rise from the mist and coalesce into the color of purpose.

We can do these things because we are the world’s future, but only if we are blessed with a college education.  What we become depends not only on us, but on your commitment to us.  Will you save us a spot?

To view the other contest winners and their entries, please visit the contest site here.

This year California GEAR UP gave 288 Trust Awards to middle grades students across California and 50 awards at Valley High School in Sacramento with the expectation that offering a monetary incentive to students will stimulate the entire family and school community to support his or her preparation for college.

Edendale Award Winners Honored at Board Meeting

On June 1, 2010 Edendale Middle School in San Lorenzo, CA celebrated the GEAR UP Education Trust Awards at the school district board meeting where the students were honored by district officials. California GEAR UP schools will be celebrating these awards with students and families throughout May and June.

The Ed Trust award has generated much positive excitement about going to college at Edendale Middle School.  Along with other GEAR UP activities, the awards have been a key part in students understanding the importance of their academic success and how it connects to future success in college. The culture of GEAR UP inspires hope leading to motivation that shrinks barriers and open doors.

John Shimko, Edendale Middle School Principal

California GEAR UP middle schools select students to receive Education Trust Awards valued at $2,000. Students can access these funds to pay for college expenses once they enroll in a college or university.

GEAR UP Students Support Speaker Perez at Press Conference

California GEAR UP Students and staff, University of California President Mark Yudof and California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott joined Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Marty Block at a State Capitol press conference on June 3 to voice their support for higher education provisions in the Assembly Democrats’ California Jobs Budget. Speaker Perez spoke about how important higher education programs are to the state in addressing economic and employment woes.

“Educational opportunity is central to creating the kind of quality, high-paying jobs that will lead California back to a strong and lasting economic recovery,” Pérez said. “This is a budget plan that reflects the values of California by protecting education and preserving the pathway to higher education.”

Students from Valley High School, a California GEAR UP school, were there to support the speaker and the higher education provisions in the California Jobs Budget.

Also in attendance was Ben Quillian, Executive, Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer of the California State University; Roberto Torres, Vice President of the California State Students Association; Reid Milburn, President of the Student Senate of the California Community Colleges; Victor Sanchez, President of the University of California Students Association; Diana Fuentes-Michel, Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission; Karen Humphrey, Executive Director of the California Postsecondary Education Commission; Jonathan Brown, President of the Association of Independent California Colleges & Universities; Erica Romero, Western States Director for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; Michele Siqueiros, Executive Director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Special thanks to Max Espinoza from the Speakers office and Michele Siqueiros and Jessie Ryan from the Campaign for College Opportunity for taking time to speak with Valley GEAR UP students after the press conference.

To see video or read the transcript from the press conference, please visit Speaker Perez’ site here.

Valley High School is Number 1 in California Similar Schools

Click on the image above to view the video!

As many of you who follow this blog know, California GEAR UP works with Valley High School in Sacramento, CA in a unique collaboration that provides the school with innovative resources and support services for students, families, teachers, counselors and administrators to create a community-wide college-going culture.

This year Valley High was excited to announce the remarkable achievement on the statewide API. The API reports include a “similar schools rank.” This information shows where a school ranks on a scale of 1–10, compared with 100 other schools with similar demographic characteristics. California public schools serve students with many different backgrounds and needs. As a result, schools face different educational challenges. The similar schools ranks for 2010 allow schools to look at their academic performance compared to other schools with some of the same opportunities and challenges.

Here are some of Valley’s newsworthy accomplishments:

  • Valley is the Number 1 (non charter) in Similar Schools and demographics in California.
  • Of 100 Similar Schools in California, Valley scored a perfect 10. They are the only non-charter to do so!
  • Valley had the highest API score of any non-charter school and had the 8th highest API overall.

The VHS increases are very impressive even compared to the new schools (Monterey Trails, Pleasant Grove and Franklin) which includes more affluent students who moved to these schools from the Valley area. Valley is one of the oldest schools in EGUSD and it compares very well indeed! GEAR UP has much to be proud of in providing academic support.

–Josephine Blick, Valley GEAR UP academic advisor

These accomplishments come along with more great Valley news: a 24 point increase in API since last year!

Special thanks to principal Keven MacDonald and the Valley High School staff for making these achievements possible. Thanks to Chris Wong for the video production!