Ed Chief Praises California GEAR UP Success at Tincher

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a round table discussion at California GEAR UP distinguished school Tincher Prep yesterday in Long Beach. The purpose of his visit was to learn best practices of the school and to hear how Tincher has been so successful in creating distributed leadership and a school community working for the same goals.

Principal Bill Vogel said it best: “You give teachers choice in their professional development, you let them lead the direction of the school, and you let the school have discretion in how to best serve their students.” The teachers chose to participate in California GEAR UP three years ago.

“We need funds to keep programs and people” he said. “We need programs like GEAR UP, AVID, and funding for those programs.”

The secretary listened intently as administrators and teachers talked about the programs that make Tincher a success. Mr. Vogel and the staff repeated listed California GEAR UP as a key program in their development. The East Long Beach K-8 school, where more than 50 percent of the students are designated as disadvantaged, has been lauded for its gains in test scores and was named a “School to Watch” by the California Middle Grades Alliance in 2009.

Duncan said the Tincher sets an example for other school districts in the country.

“I’ve studied your school district for a long time, and I think you have so much to be proud of,” he told a crowd gathered in the school library. “I don’t say this lightly, but more so than the vast majority of school districts that I visit, this school district has gotten things right for a long time.”

Also in attendance was Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Long Beach., who said federal funding should be streamed directly to school districts instead of being “tied up” in Sacramento.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed No Child Left Behind, and the fact that virtually every school in Los Angeles Unified School District will be classified as failing by 2014 if the law is not urgently reformed.

That has led to a narrowed curriculum that focuses intensely on those subjects, sacrificing the well-rounded education that every child needs, he said.

Middle school music teacher Laura Strand said No Child Left Behind should have a greater focus on art, music and sports programs that are in danger of being cut in the budget crisis.

“I see students being pulled out of these programs when they’re finding success and it breaks my heart,” she said.

“No Child Left Behind is fundamentally broken,” Duncan said. “We want to fix it before we go back to school this fall.”

He said Congress needs to rewrite the law to be more “fair, flexible and focused” this year, so it can be implemented for the next academic calendar.

Tincher Prep has been a California GEAR UP school since the fall of 2008 and is part of a cohort of schools receiving professional development services with the goal of creating a college-going culture throughout the school community. Tincher recently received the California GEAR UP Leadership Team of the Year award at our Southern California Community conference, and as the Secretary of Education has pointed out, continues to be a model school.

To learn more about how Tincher has become a leader in the GEAR UP community, please visit our website and check us out on Twitter and the other articles on our blog.

10% of California Schools are in Deep Trouble

A recently released report by State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson shows 13 school districts have “negative” certifications.  That means they may not be able to cover their bills through the end of next year.

Nearly 2 million students—roughly 30 percent of pupils in California—now attend school in a district facing serious financial jeopardy, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced.

“The emergency confronting California’s schools is widening and deepening,” Torlakson said. “As disturbing as these numbers are, unless the Legislature moves to place the Governor’s tax extension plan on the ballot, they are just the tip of the financial iceberg facing school districts up and down the state.”

Torlakson’s findings came as he released the results of the first semiannual Interim Status Report that represents budget certifications for California local educational agencies (LEAs) through the end of October 2010. The reports reflect a certification of whether an LEA is able to meet its financial obligations.

The number of LEAs on the negative certification list rose to 13 from 12 last year at this time. The number of LEAs on the qualified certification list dipped slightly to 97 from 114 last year at this time.

“Schools face the daunting challenge of up to $4.5 billion in additional cuts if tax extensions are not placed on the ballot by the Legislature and approved by voters in June, an additional cut of 10 percent.” added Torlakson. “This would be devastating to an education system that has already sustained $18 billion in state funding cuts over the last three years – a loss of one-third of the annual budget for schools.”

With an already decimated education budget in California, massive teacher reductions, the loss revenue from these tax extensions could be devastating. Now more than ever, support for GEAR UP programs will continue to be the lever of change throughout school districts in California.

MetLife: Divergent Views About Pathways to College

Today marks the unveiling of the new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Preparing Students for College and Careers, a substantial majority of teachers, parents, and Fortune 1000 executives believe that one of the nation’s highest priorities in education should be preparing secondary students for college and career success. The survey is the 27th in an annual series. The first of two reports from this year’s survey, Part 1: Clearing the Path, released today, looks at the implications of ensuring all secondary students are college- and career-ready.

Despite agreement overall on the importance of college- and career-readiness, the survey reveals that not everyone prioritizes it in the same way. Although large numbers of secondary school teachers (85 percent), secondary school parents (93 percent) and executives (80 percent) believe that graduating each and every student from high school ready for college and a career should be a priority, views differ on how high a priority. As a group, parents (73 percent) are the most likely to say the goal “must be accomplished as one of the highest priorities in education,” in contrast to about half of teachers (54 percent) and executives (48 percent).

When it comes to students, most agree with parents on the importance of this goal as well. Eighty-four percent of middle and high school students believe that it is absolutely essential or very important that all students graduate from high school ready for college and a career, while only 16 percent say that it is somewhat important or not at all important.

“We all have a role to play in ensuring that students gain the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in their education, careers, and personal lives,” said MetLife Chairman, President, and CEO C. Robert Henrikson. “MetLife is committed to sharing the views of teachers and others to help launch an important discussion about priorities for education in the 21st century.”

Key findings include:

  • Teachers (57 percent) are most likely to believe that strengthening programs and resources to help diverse learners with the highest needs meet college-and career-ready standards should be one of the highest priorities in education, and a significant proportion of parents (59 percent) also rate this as one of the highest priorities.
  • Students have high expectations for college, and these expectations have increased over the past two decades.
  • Parents say schools are not doing enough to tell them how students can get into and pay for college. About half of parents rate their child’s school as fair or poor at providing information to parents on the requirements to get into college (46 percent) or about the availability of financial aid for college and how to get it (52 percent).
  • Middle school students and parents in particular express a need for information. Half or more of middle school students (53 percent) and parents of middle school students (60 percent) rate their schools as fair or poor in providing information to students about what the requirements are to get into college.

The survey is compelling evidence that more supports and information needed to prepare all students for college is needed across the education spectrum. To read the entire report and check out previous Met Life surveys, go to the MetLife Foundation page HERE.

To learn more about how California GEAR UP supports families and schools to create an environment where ALL students can and will go to college, please visit our website.

Call to Action: GEAR UP Faces Funding Reduction

The House of Representatives and Senate have agreed on a two-week extension on federal spending for FY11, avoiding a government shutdown for the time being. Previous to this measure, another Continuing Resolution that expires March 4, 2011, was funding the government.

Although this new CR forestalls a government shutdown, it does not eliminate the threats challenging GEAR UP.  As you may know, the House of Representatives passed the Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 1) on February 19, 2011.  It stipulates the largest cuts in history to education programs ($11.55 billion total).  Many programs will suffer cuts or elimination, and GEAR UP faces a $19.8 million reduction in funding.

Enactment of such a bill (meaning passage by both the House and Senate) would:
1.    Decrease the number of awards available for the 2011 GEAR UP grant competition;
2.    Threaten GEAR UP’s growth and expansion, as funding levels set in FY11 could serve as a high-water mark for some years to come;
3.    Exclude more than 40,000 low-income, minority and disadvantaged students from receiving support on their journey to college.

Other important programs facing cuts or elimination are: Pell grants, supplemental education opportunity grants, LEAP, aid to minority-serving institutions, TRIO, Byrd honors scholarships, higher education teacher quality partnerships, statewide data systems and regional educational labs, amongst others.

We need you to help us stop these threats to GEAR UP, and education as a whole.

Call to Action (today through March 17, 2011)
Contact your Members of Congress now, specifically your Senators and ask them to reject spending cuts targeting GEAR UP.

Act Now:
1.  Call and/or write your Senators.
Ask them to reject the spending cuts proposed by the House of Representatives.  Emphasize how this measure might affect your GEAR UP site’s possibilities for future funding.  Talk about the potential effects your community and/or state would suffer if your GEAR UP grant is not renewed: drops in high school graduation rates; drops in college enrollment rates; jobs losses; decreased workforce competitiveness; etc.
You can find your Senators’ contact information here: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

2. Set up meetings with your Senators. Face-to-face meetings with your Senators and/or their staff are a great way to make yourself heard.  Request them to oppose the spending cuts targeting GEAR UP.  Inform them of the consequences of the potential cuts and share success stories to illustrate the positive effects GEAR UP is having in your community.
You can find your Senators’ contact information here: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

3. Contact local media. Share your thoughts on how these potential cuts would impact your GEAR UP site, your community and possibly jeopardize future funding for continuing the fight to level the playing field in college access for low-income, minority and disadvantaged students.

Whatever you choose to do is great.  All actions work to get your voice heard on Capitol Hill.

The most important thing is to act, NOW.