WestEd: Improving Educational Outcomes for Hispanic Children

A new report from SchoolsMovingUp discusses closing the achievement gap for hispanic students. Here are some of the recommendations:

Federal level:

  • Recognize and share with colleagues that the majority of Hispanic children in ELL classes are U.S. citizens by birth
  • Clearly define Limited English Proficient (LEP) and former LEP students in Title III of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
  • Create a 50-state consortium to share best practices and develop common academic standards, assessment, and reclassification procedures
  • Recommend teacher education policy to ensure all current teachers and teacher candidates learn about second language and literacy acquisition, reading across the content areas, and sheltered instruction and ESL methods
  • Educate parents about college requirements and funding options for post-secondary education
  • Educate and prepare students for various workforce opportunities in addition to traditional college options

State and local level:

  • Introduce college awareness in middle school
  • Coordinate in a comprehensive manner the policy and procedures in ELL placement, reclassification, and assessment;
  • Call for transparency in ELL placement, assessment, reclassification, and aggregate public dissemination of the data
  • Recognize and reduce disparities across schools in the quality, experience, credentials, and professional training of teaching staff
  • Require objective data on the effectiveness of different instructional programs

SchoolsMovingUp, a WestEd initiative, helps schools and districts address the challenge of raising student achievement. In an interactive web format, SchoolsMovingUp offers resources to help education professionals make sound decisions and take action in their school reform efforts. You may remember our post on Doing What Works, also a WestEd initiative.

For the access to the entire report please visit SchoolsMovingUP.

Lessons in Reading Reform, CAHSEE Success from PPIC

Two interesting reports released by the Public Policy Institute of California we’d like to share with you. The first is on the California High School Exit Examination and how student success can be determined as early as fourth grade. The report suggests a philosophy shared by California GEAR UP, that providing resources to struggling students in early grades will be a more effective way to improve achievement than the current approach of focusing on students in the last year of high school.

The report suggests the following (read report for full recommendations):

  • Develop an “early warning” system to forecast which ele- mentary or middle school students will be at risk of failing the CAHSEE.
  • After-school reading classes and related reforms of intervention.
  • Consider targeting additional tutoring funds at elementary and middle school students at risk of failing the exam.
  • Consider additional academic support directed at the many students who marginally pass the CAHSEE.

The second report released this week addressed Lessons in Reading Reform.  The report is the first evaluation of the long-term effects of a massive reform program implemented in the San Diego Unified School District—the state’s second largest and one that is similar to the demographics of other large districts. It comes at a time of national debate over efforts to improve public school accountability. These efforts include setting content standards and student testing—but offer little guidance about how to help students improve.

The key element that seems to have driven success was a significant amount of extra student time spent on reading, with a possible additional factor being widespread professional development for district teachers. The combination was not cheap to implement nor a fix-all. But in elementary and middle schools it demonstrably worked.

Suggestions from the report include:

  • Early intervention is most effective.
  • Middle school students who took extended-length English classes made big gains.
  • A longer school year at elementary schools with the weakest reading scores led to moderate gains.
  • The reforms did not cause negative side effects.

Please take the time to review the reports and let us know what you think. You can comment on the blog or visit us on our Facebook page to leave a comment.

More Minorities Taking ACT But Gaps Remain

Being widely reported across California, ACT has announced the scores of the graduating class of 2010.  While hispanic students showed an increase in college readiness, their scores continue to fall short of those necessary to be successful in college.

“A record number of California students took the ACT college readiness examination in 2010…While the percentage of ACT-tested California graduates who are ready for college coursework is higher compared to five years ago, the findings indicate that there are still too many high school graduates who are not ready to succeed in college-level work. The ACT results also provide further evidence of the achievement gap; a lower percentage of students who are African American or Latino are meeting the ACT’s college readiness benchmarks compared to students who are white or Asian.

“Preparing more students for success in college is key to ensuring that California’s economy remains strong in the global economy of the 21st century. These results tell us that we must continue to focus on implementing strategies that effectively prepare all students for success in college and the workforce.”

-California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell

The ethnic and racial patterns of the score report prompted renewed calls for extra attention to the needs of struggling students.

David Hawkins, the director of public policy and research for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, noted that the ACT results show modest progress toward one definition of career readiness, but that such definitions vary from one postsecondary program or institution to another. In gauging a student’s preparedness for higher education, he said, high school grades and coursework are also key indicators of his likelihood of future success. (from Education Week article)

While the California GEAR UP community strives to address the Achievement gap it takes a dedicated education community to make meaningful gains in scores such as the ACT.

The disconnect between secondary and postsecondary institutions lies at the heart of the problem: Many high-poverty public high schools lack the resources to prepare students for college reading and writing requirements; many colleges and universities, meanwhile, are unaccustomed to extending meaningful academic opportunities beyond their campuses.  In this way, low-income high schoolers are very often confronted by both the weakest bridge between high school and college and the widest gulf to cross.  (Education Week: Commentary “The Promise of Early College” by Stephen Tremaine)

What is your school, program, or community doing to address these gaps?

L.A. Times: Who’s Teaching L.A.’s Kids?

Teacher ‘effectiveness’ is the topic of what has become a very controversial article in the August 14 issue of the Los Angeles Times. Seven years worth of math and English data was obtained and analyzed from Los Angeles Unified School District using a statistical approach called ‘value added analysis’ which rates teachers based on their students’ progress on standardized tests from year to year. Each student’s performance is compared with his or her own in past years, which largely controls for outside influences often blamed for academic failure: poverty, prior learning and other factors.

The LA Times analysis includes a teacher data ‘lookup’ where teachers can find their value added score and comment on it. Data includes performance on more than 6,000 third to fifth grade teachers for whom reliable data was available.

Though controversial among teachers and others, the method has been increasingly embraced by education leaders and policymakers across the country, including the Obama administration.

“You’re leading people in a dangerous direction, making it seem like you can judge the quality of a teacher by … a test,” said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, which has more than 40,000 members.

Among the findings:

  • Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas.
  • Parents obsess about picking the right school for their child, but it matters far more which teacher the child gets.
  • Many of the factors commonly assumed to be important to teachers’ effectiveness were not. Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students’ performance.

Today the United Teachers of Los Angeles announced a massive boycott of the LA Times for what they are calling a flawed article. Flaws include:

  • Value-Added Models exacerbate the overreliance on standardized test scores.
  • Value-Added Models rest on a faulty premise—that high-stakes standardized student test scores can measure a teacher’s effectiveness.
  • VAM is another example of a “quick fix” that some policymakers embrace instead of doing the harder work of pursuing long-term solutions for public education.

“Ms. Caruso was an amazing teacher,” said Rita Gasparetti, whose daughter was in Caruso’s class a few years ago. “She really worked with Clara, socially and academically.”

Still, Caruso said the numbers were important and, like several other teachers interviewed, wondered why she hadn’t been shown such data before by anyone in the district.

“For better or worse,” she said, “testing and teacher effectiveness are going to be linked.… If my student test scores show I’m an ineffective teacher, I’d like to know what contributes to it. What do I need to do to bring my average up?”

Until now access to the VAM data has not been available. In what appears to be a long and incendiary discussion of the effectiveness of schools, teachers, and education as a whole, the value added model is another interesting component of an increasingly complex conversation.

For the full article click here.

Have you read the article? What do you think?

RTI Announces GEAR UP Implementation Awards

In fall 2007, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) began design work for what is known as the Next Generation of GEAR UP Evaluations. In the summer of 2009, RTI issued a call for statements of interests from grantees on behalf of the department of ED for planning awards to develop proposals to evaluate short‐term outcomes of an innovative or promising practice in one of three priority areas:

1. services to support the transition of 8th-grade GEAR UP cohort members into high school and support for achieving 9th-grade success, such as a summer bridge program and/or intrusive 9th-grade support;

2. services to support the achievement of successful completion of grade- appropriate math, such as completion of Algebra I by the 9th grade or earlier by GEAR UP cohort members; and

3. services to support GEAR UP cohorts in high school, such as keeping them on track to graduate, supporting rigorous and advanced coursetaking, offering strategies for college matching, and providing financial aid counseling for students and families.

This initiative is to help build capacity among the grantees to engage in rigorous studies focused on program improvement. In March 2010, a total of 43 grantees submitted their full proposals. An external expert review panel reviewed them and recommended making 12 awards. ED approved these recommendations.

Here is a list of awardess:

-Northeastern Illinois University Chicago Teachers’ Center

Contact: Ms. Wendy M. Stack, w‐stack@neiu.edu

-Western Michigan University.

Contacts: Dr. Nancy Van Kannel‐Ray, Nancy.VanKannel‐Ray@wmich.edu

-American Samoa Community College.

Contact: Mr. Roy Fua, rfua@gearup.as

-Northern Arizona University.

Contact: Dr. Daniel Kain, daniel.kain@nau.edu

-Saturday Academy of Mathematics/Santa Ana College.

Contact: Dr. Lilia Tanakeyowma, Tanakeyowma_lilia@rsccd.org

-Florida International University/South Dade Empowerment Zone.

Contact: Dr. Berrin Tansel, tanselb@fiu.edu

-Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).

Contact: Dr. Robert E. Feir, rfeir@passhe.edu

-GEAR UP Richland School District 2/North Carolina/South Carolina Consortium Math Mastery Project (C2M2P).

Contact: Ms. Kristin Seay, kseay@richland2.org

-Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

Contact: Mr. Robert Dais, rdais@osfa.mass.edu

-Claflin University/21st Century Mathematics Acceleration Project.

Contact: Ms. Wilda J. Robinson, wrobinson@claflin.edu

-Memphis City Schools/BRIDGE Language Project.

Contact: Ms. Gwen Crawford‐Hayes, crawfordg1@mcsk12.net

-Houston Independent School District College Success for All.

Contact: Dr. Laurie Ballering, lballering@projectgradhouston.org

For the full descriptions of each program, please visit the RTI site here. Congratulations to each of these amazing GEAR UP organizations for their continued dedication to student achievement and academic excellence.

Save the Date: National GEAR UP Day Announced for Sept. 30

September 30, 2010


Last year we celebrated the first annual National GEAR UP Day which marked 10 years of successful and transformative college access programs across the country. This year we are pleased to announce National GEAR UP Day will be celebrated on September 30, 2010.

GEAR UP schools and partnerships celebrated in a number of ways:

  • Dinners and luncheons hosting local elected officials and GEAR UP community supporters.
  • Letter writing campaign announcing 10 years of GEAR UP to your community and politicians
  • Creation of a “GEAR UP Dreams Wall” to share students college aspirations
  • National GEAR UP Day poster contest where students design a poster for this event with a gift certificate to a bookstore as the prize.

We will provide comprehensive coverage of National GEAR UP Day activities as they transpire. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more information.

Let us know how you plan to celebrate National GEAR UP Day!

Gearing Up for Excellence with YLS

One of the highlights of this year’s national conference was the Gearing Up for Excellence Youth Leadership Summit. Gearing Up for Excellence has been working with GEAR UP programs and NCCEP since 2003 to provide youth training, teacher development, and professional speakers. Some of the highlights of this years National Conference YLS can be seen on their website HERE.

GEAR UP isn’t about just one thing that happens just one time and then you are on your own. It’s 5,6,7 year commitment not simply offering, but maximizing from the available resources.

Having worked with tens of thousands GEAR UP students from 60 + cohorts, our belief is that while they have a lot to learn (in order to get to College), they have even more to teach us.

Justin Boudreau – Executive Director

Gearing Up for Excellence primary focus is that the students gain experience and learn skills that they can apply everyday, in the real world.

Today’s GEAR UP students are preparing for an increasingly competitive and ever-changing global environment. YLS and GEAR UP believe students need to be better equipped to perform well in the academic, workplace and social settings in order to succeed in college and beyond.

What kinds of youth leadership activities are you doing with your GEAR UP students?