California GEAR UP Completes Statewide Events

It was a busy month for California GEAR UP. Throughout the state, participating GEAR UP middle schools attended strategic planning sessions that are the core of the professional development services. Institutes and Forums involving all School Leadership Team members, Regional Coordinators, GEAR UP staff, and partners.

The two-day Institutes use the SSAR and offers strategies and techniques for focusing on the school-determined needs. It provides opportunities to learn about successes and challenges from other school teams.

This year selected GEAR UP schools making strides to implement college-going culture in their schools were chosen to be ‘Schools on the Move’. The Schools on the Move presented successful strategies at each of the Principal and Leadership Team Institutes. Participating schools and topics include:

Pixley Middle School: In order to establish Rigorous Academic Curriculum, Pixley  Middle School implemented GEAR UP in four specific areas: the structure of our school schedule, common classroom strategies, college centered campus and classrooms, and college awareness activities.  These four areas helped students become more aware of the requirements to get into college and at the same time created an environment of interest to attend college. Also, this new college bound environment lessened the apathy our campus was experiencing.

Pleasant View Elementary: Presentation topics: Offering Rigorous Instructional Programs, and Reflective Rigorous Instructional Practice, Response to Intervention, Parent Involvement & Articulation into High School.

Upland Junior High School: Building a College Going Culture With a “We Can Do It!” Attitude, including: Ideas for building school and college excitement, lessons to build student understanding about getting to college, Upland Junior High’s scholarship application process, Procedures that support student achievement and establish high expectations for all students, how we communicate with our families and include them in the education process.

La Cumbre Middle School: The strategy shared is school wide weekly homework accountability system. Developed several years ago, this easy system really provides weekly feedback to students, staff, and parents. They are happy to share their strategy which has kept students accountable, teachers accountable, and provided a climate of academic success.

Davidson Middle School: The presentation is about how Davidson redesigned every system and structure in the school to conform to the vision of high achievement for every student, one school community, and increased parent involvement.

Pacoima Middle School: Presentation focus on school wide strategies Pacoima Middle School staff developed and implemented to strengthen areas of academic rigor identified on the GEAR UP SSAR.  With GEAR UP and other community-based resources, staff worked smarter in departments and teams, to increase academic rigor and student access to algebra and other rigorous courses. Data-driven instructional practices, department collaboration, and instructional leadership contributed to successful outcomes, including a 47-point gain in the Pacoima Middle School 2010 API scores.

Cali Calmecac Language Academy: Presentation will focus on the use of data analysis to drive instruction and determine the type and need for intervention as well as the effectiveness of the Two-Way-Bilingual Immersion Model. Also address the impact of a Parent Participation requirement for all families and the effectiveness of PIQE workshops for participating families.

Harden Middle School: Sharing our successes and challenges for creating a sustainable college bound culture and aligning these with focus on rigor.  Presenting slides and short segments from our Husky TV that highlight many of our accomplishments and practices.  We will share school changes over a 3 year period.

Tincher Middle School: Presentation of on-going academic success, data driven instruction, successful intervention strategies and use of technology to support the instructional program. The data assessment presentation will include information on action plans and PDSA plans, use of School Loop, communications, transition/articulation meetings, Baldrige approach and data driven instruction, and promoting a scholarly, ‘geared up for college’ environment is a top priority.

All presentations concluded with a question and answer session and time for attending schools to discuss how the Schools on the Move strategies can be taken back and implemented.

Principal and Leadership Institutes in Full Swing

Throughout the month of October, Cohort B California GEAR UP schools will be attending Principal and Leadership Team Institutes across the state.  This cohort of schools is entering the third and final year of GEAR UP and will be continuing to build on the progress of the previous two years of services.

Institutes will be held in Southern California in Costa Mesa on October 12-13 and Glendale on October 19-20. The northern Institute will be in North Emeryville on October 26-27.

The institutes will be focusing on creating a college-going culture throughout the school by looking at aspects of leadership, student expectations, rigorous coursework, school partners and strategic thinking, and communication and data use. Teams will work together over two days to plan and identify next steps in using California GEAR UP professional development funds and tools as well as GEAR UP school based services.

GEAR UP schools who are designated as ‘Schools on the Move’ will present best practices on a variety of topics on day two that will include an open discussion about how schools can successfully implement GEAR UP tools and services.

One of the key ideas of the institutes this year is creating a common understanding of instructional rigor and looking at how GEAR UP resources and services can support school-wide professional development plans to support expectations and rigor.

If you would like more information on our services and events, please visit our website.

Education News Roundup

Photo credit: Good Education Change Agents (click image to read)

Within the small but mighty ranks of California GEAR UP, we often share articles of interest that sometimes become the focus of a blog post or shared on our Facebook and Twitter profile. We decided we would share with you some of the education websites we enjoy and in turn hear from you as to where you like to get your education news. Below is a list of websites and resources which is by no means comprehensive.

L.A. Times Education: A news blog operated by the LA Times that features local happenings and the political pulse of education in the southland. Particularly interesting during times of controversy, such as when the newspaper released testing data on more than 6,000 third to fifth grade teachers.

WestEd: A non-profit, non-partisan, research and development organization that focuses on achieving excellence and equity in education. Their reports are excellent and comprehensive and their enewsletters are a great source of information.

Good Education: Good is a magazine and is an ever evolving, self described ‘progressive’ organization and is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits ‘pushing the world forward’. We like good because they bring fresh ideas from around the world with very little spin or editorial content.

Education Week: A never ending stream of information on all things education. We really like their Twitter feed, as it really is a fountain of information all day long.

Education Trust-West: Their basic tenant is “All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.” They work with school districts, principal, and teachers to conduct research and services to help transform all education institutions. Their blog is a good read.

Public Policy Institute of California: A nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank who are dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. Excellent publications.

NY Times Education: The best part of this NY Times website is the comments section on the articles. Comprehensive and a national focus.

Huffington Post College: College news and opinion from the left leaning Huffington Post. When your standard internet news sites get a little boring, check this one out and enjoy.

ASCD: Founded in 1943, ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization dedicated to advancing best practices and policies for the success of each learner. We like the SmartBrief you can sign up to receive daily education articles and professional readings.

That’s a brief rundown of some of our favorite sites. We’d love to hear where you go to get our education news. Let us know in the comments section, or chime in on our Facebook page.

“Skills for America’s Future” has Community College Focus

President Obama announced this week at his Economic Advisory Board meeting the launch of a new plan to promote better job training at community colleges. The “Skills for America’s Future” initiative aims at connecting private sector businesses with community colleges with a view to boosting job skills in the U.S. This initiative was in conjunction with the Community College Summit also this week.

“The idea here is simple,” the president told the Advisory Board. “We want to make easier to connect students looking for jobs, with businesses looking to hire.”

Community colleges had a rare moment, as the were heralded as the unsung heroes of education and the life-force behind workforce development.

The summit focused on strategies to achieve Obama’s goal of an additional 5 million community college graduates by 2020 and the critical role that two-year institutions will play in developing the U.S. work force of the future, when most jobs will require a postsecondary credential.

“But reaching the 2020 goal that I’ve set is not just going to depend on government. It also depends on educators and students doing their part. And it depends on business and not-for-profits working with colleges to connect students with jobs,” Obama said.

There is a lot of momentum behind the community college push this week, as Melinda Gates announced a renewed commitment to post secondary education and community colleges. Her column in the Huffington Post described the importance of non-traditional students and education institutions that are community based.

To read the White House fact sheet on strengthening community colleges HERE.

For more information on ‘Building Skills for America’s Future’ check out the Aspen Institute site.

Support College Access in Middle School with Donors Choose

Most people think that high school is where students should start thinking about preparing for college, but California GEAR UPKnowHow2GO and the Lumina Foundation for Education know that real success starts in middle school – where students first begin more rigorous coursework.  That’s why they are working together to half-fund middle school college readiness projects across 16 states. KnowHow2GO is an effort initially funded in 2007 by the Lumina Foundation and now works through Donors Choose to match individual donors with teachers.

Attention middle school teachers! If you’re interested in KnowHow2GO funding consider submitting projects that include:

  • College guides, Financial Aid guides, and PSAT/NMSQT/Pre-ACT test prep books.
  • Tools to support AVID classes, rigorous courses, or extracurricular activities that promote college-ready skills (Mock Trial, Debate, Math Club, etc.).
  • focus on college access and exposure.
  • are academically rigorous and emphasize college readiness.
  • include the word ‘college’ in project essay

Middle schools in the following states are eligible:

CA | CT | FL | ID | IL | IN | IA | KY | MA | MI | MT | NE | OH | TN | WA | WI

If you’re a teacher looking for inspiration, or a prospective donor looking to help, check out these great examples of qualifying projects:

A variety of books and other college-focused materials
An AVID class needing books to show them college is in reach
SAT prep materials
A trip for students to visit a local college

Here is how to sign up:

  1. Log in to their teacher account on (any public school teacher can sign up at
  2. Submit up to three project requests for $400 in materials per request, for resources to help their class learn about, visit, or prepare for college.
  3. For priority consideration, projects should be submitted by November 1st, but we suggest your teachers submit their projects sooner for best chance of matched funds this fall.
  4. Then what happens? Within a week of project approval, if their project meets the above criteria, they will see a logo on your project page. For more information about preparing their students for college, they can visit

For more information on KnowHow2GO funding pages on Donors Choose, click HERE.

For more information about the KnowHow2GO program, including how to get students involved or how to volunteer, expend all your mouse-clicking energy right here.

California GEAR UP Hosts Sustainable Schools Events

California GEAR UP hosted their northern Continuing Sustainability Schools in Berkeley today as part of the fall school based services event schedule that will run until the end of October. Participating GEAR UP Schools, many of which have been in the program for more than 5 years, the Continuing Sustainability Project develops and implements long-term strategies to maintain the active participation of middle schools with California GEAR UP and to chart the sustainability of program initiatives towards the development of a college-going culture. Many of our CSP school have been with us for 5 years and are in the culminating stages of their sustainability plans.

Outcomes include:

  1. Development of a high performance (stable, cohesive and communicative) GEAR UP Leadership Team that will lead the school community in continuously assessing the college-going culture of the school based upon the School Self -Assessment Rubric (SSAR) and the GEAR UP indicators.
  2. A clear understanding of what a college-going culture is and looks like as described by the school’s SSAR and the 5 GEAR UP Sustainability indicators.
  3. Continued measurable progress of the 5 GEAR UP Sustainability indicators:
  • Sustainability of the Leadership Team
  • Academic Rigor
  • Academic Counseling
  • College and Financial Aid Information for Students and Families
  • Regular Involvement of Families

4.   An alignment of the school’s Professional Development Action Plan with the GEAR UP Sustainability Plan.

We are lucky to have GEAR UP over the last 5 years to focus on high quality teaching and school-wide involvement in the concept that all students can achieve…can go to college.”

California GEAR UP CSP school principal.