Gaps Widen in 8th Grade Achievement Subgroups

The Center on Education Policy released the results of it study of state test score trends on April 5, 2011.  Key findings include the fact that achievement at grade 8 has gone up on most state tests; the percentages of 8th graders reaching the basic, proficient, and advanced levels are on par with the other grades (4th and high school) analyzed; at the advanced level, gaps have widened across sub-groups; and Asian American performance at the advanced level has outpaced other subgroups.

Contrary to the perception that 8th-grade achievement is stagnating, a new analysis by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) finds upward trends in reading and math test scores in most states.

Jack Jennings, President and CEO for the Center on Education Policy and Deborah Kasak, executive director, The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform join Spotlight’s Jodie Levin-Epstein in discussing the report’s findings and the impact on low-income students and children of color.

Let us know what you think of the webcast on our Facebook page.

Education Trust Awards Season is Here

Pictured: Ambassadors Program: The California GEAR UP Educational Trust Award is unique in that it is given during the middle grades, as early motivation for students and their families. This $2,000 award is tangible evidence of our belief that with support and encouragement, college is not only possible, but attainable for all students. The Ambassador program was created so that Trust Award recipients now in college can share their experiences with middle school students, middle school staff, and other organizations.

The California GEAR UP model provides school-based services to ensure that students and their families have multiple college and career choices after high school.  The scholarship component of the program requires the state to establish and maintain a financial assistance program for students to attend institutions of higher education.

Since 1999, 5,065 California GEAR UP students have received Education Trust Awards from the program.  Of that number, 2,016 graduated from high school in 2008 and claimed their awards.  Education Trust Awards provide $2,000 (plus interest) in resources to defray the costs of college attendance.  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.

For mor information, including downloadable forms, frequently asked questions, please visit our website.

If you have an Education Trust Award story to share, please email us at:

Gov Shutdown Looms, GEAR UP Funding in Jeopardy

As part of a plan to slash more than $100 billion from the president’s proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2011, House Republicans have passed a bill that would cut funding for the U.S. Department of Education by $4.9 billion, an 8 percent reduction compared to 2010 spending. In an article in Education Week, Joel Packer, former director of educational policy and practice at the National Education Association said the House cuts “absolutely would be the largest cuts ever in history for education programs.”

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee said in a statement:

The GOP approach “would knock the legs out from under our nascent economic recovery, kill jobs, and do virtually nothing to address the long-term fiscal crisis facing our country. Try as they might to convince the American people otherwise, it is simply not possible to balance the budget by targeting 15 percent of federal spending—no matter how deep the cuts are.”

The cuts are devastating not only for K-12 education but for college access programs as well. Programs like California GEAR UP that help low-income students would be hit particularly hard by these cuts. Under the House Republicans’ plan, the maximum award per student for Pell Grants—need-based grants to low-income college students that do not have to be repaid—would be reduced from $5,550 to $4,705. Funding for Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which provide additional need-based grants for low-income students, would be eliminated entirely. In addition, the federal TRIO programs and GEAR UP, which both help low-income students pursue higher education, would lose $24.9 million and $19.8 million, respectively, compared to 2010 funding levels.

Deep cuts in GEAR UP would likely result in decreasing the number of lower income students who are prepared for university and actually attend college. As one of the most successful and far reaching college access programs, GEAR UP is crucial to schools, communities, and families that rely on these types of programs to make the difference in achieving their college dreams.

“GEAR UP has been shown to be the most successful of any federal program for improving the life chances of students from our poorest households by readying them, even as young teens, for possible success in higher education,” —Congressman Fattah, the father and author of GEAR UP legislation.

If, in fact, the government does shut down, it is vital that you contact your Members of Congress and demand that they pass legislation that funds education and protects GEAR UP. Legislators are hedging their bets that the government shutdown will work to their favor. You must let them know that our students’ futures amount to more than a political bargaining chip and hold them accountable for their responsibility to keep our nation afloat. Contact information for all Members of Congress is available at

Partner Spotlight: UC Davis EAOP

One of our many long lasting and successful statewide partnerships has been with UC Davis, EAOP (early academic outreach programs). We’ve worked with Director Timoteo Rico for year, and we had a chance to interview him as part of our ongoing partner spotlight series.

CGU: How did you get into Early Academic Outreach and why are you passionate about it?

TR: During my undergraduate education, I was employed with EAOP by Shelley Davis and her team as a Undergraduate Outreach Assistant, and I have had the opportunity to introduce a variety of outreach strategies that has positively influenced a student’s efficacy toward postsecondary enrollment. Evidently, EAOP has continued to keep the doors of opportunity open for a multiple generations of low-income and first-generation students and families like myself. Through educational opportunities, EAOP create hope and optimism about what the future awaits for our youth in our State.

CGU: Why do you think it is important to engage students early in academic outreach and college opportunities?

TR: Social capital is the currency which creates motivational aspiration in the hearts of our children. Without the exposure and experience of academic outreach and college opportunities, many youth do not realize what options await them in the future. Early exposure and experiences help a student to develop competencies at becoming successful in higher education. Early engagement allows timely nurturing and refining of skills while keeping the adolescent innocence of dreams alive in the student. Unfortunately, without early engagement, students may be plagued by the social challenges in schools and our communities.

CGU: Tell us about your experience in middle and high school. How were you influenced to attend college?

TR: Somewhere, somehow through my elementary and middle school education, somebody placed a seed about pursuing a college education. The idea about college always floated around in the back of my head but the concept did not become into fruition until high school. Specifically, Dr. Ramzy Salem and Ms. Nelson at James A. Garfield began to flourish my mathematical skills and provided greater direction as to how to become an elite student in East Los Angeles community. Both educators connected me to a variety of resources that ensured my timely preparation and advising at becoming an eligible freshman for the UC system. There is no doubt, education is a noble profession.

CGU: What do you think are some of the most important factors that will contribute to preparation for and student success in college?

TR: The positive influence of educators and administrators in motivating the academic and social development of students is pivotal to student’s college readiness. Fundamentally, the inertia that is developed through student motivation causes any pupil to take the greatest academic challenges, persevere against all social obstacles, and engage the concept of college as a reality, not a distant dream. Effective strategies that have positively influenced the academic readiness of students to pursue postsecondary opportunities include academic advising services, awareness of the college setting, comprehensive understanding and application of academic disciplines, and personal motivational strategies that serve as food to the student’s soul.

CGU: Tell us about some of the UC Davis EAOP initiatives you are most proud of.

TR: The six-week Summer Algebra Academies (SAA) has successfully help transition middle school students into introductory algebra by 9th grade. Initially started as the Math & Science Academy at Golden State Middle School in the Washington Unified School District by Josephine Blick, the project has evolved to a great success where the model has been replicated and improved in other regional school districts. Recently, the SAA expanded its model to incoming 8th graders at a regional middle school. In addition, another school began to assess, from an instructional and curricular perspective, whether the traditional mathematical sequence was the best fit for its students. The cohort of students known as da’ PAC (Pacers at Grant Union High School in the Twin Rivers Unified School District, have determine that advanced algebra should immediately follow introductory algebra, not geometry. All these models also included mentoring, advising and college awareness components such as trips to local colleges and universities, and exposure to professions requiring minimally a four-year degree. A core majority of all these students have been successful in their mathematic courses when others had deemed them not teachable.

CGU: Tell us about the relationship between EAOP and GEAR UP?

TR: The predecessors of EAOP are employees of GEAR UP and the historical knowledge of what strategies have work and what has not work, has been highly preserved by the experience of the outreach staff. The sharing of stories and revitalization of our past has continued to keep our passion alive while we continue to reflect how far both programs have come. One common ideal between both programs is value of family – whenever either end of the family tree is in need of assistance, support, and guidance we count on each other. Community starts at home.

CGU: What is your favorite part of your job?

TR: Although this does not occur often as the program director, I enjoy interacting with students and parents while learning about where they intend to be in 10 years. I enjoy witnessing the enthusiasm and energy of our participants, and how our outreach programs are the creators of their internal repository, where limitless amount of energy is readily available to propel them towards academic excellence and success.

Special thanks to Timoteo for taking time out of his day to share his insights with us. Another inspiring GEAR UP early outreach story.

To learn more about California GEAR UP partnerships, please visit our website.

For more on UC Davis EAOP go HERE.