Save the Date: 2013 National GEAR UP Week Sept 23-27


Join thousands of students, parents, teachers, partners and college access professionals from across the nation to celebrate GEAR UP and the successes of your hard work and dedication!

National GEAR UP Week is an opportunity for you to raise awareness in your community about the positive impact GEAR UP is having locally.  It’s a time to engage all your stakeholders – local, state and federal elected officials, funders, partners, as well as local, state and regional media – to share your program’s accomplishments and to get them more involved with your services to students and families.

Don’t miss this opportunity to join Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA-02), GEAR UP’s Architect and Champion, as well as U.S. Department of Education officials, to commemorate your hard work and the progress our students are making towards achieving their life-long dream of going to college!

2013 National GEAR UP Week – September 23-27!

Plan now for success in September!

We encourage you to use the resources below to start planning and preparing for 2013 National GEAR UP Week.

Please share your plans, ideas, and materials with us so we can all benefit from your creativity and energy.  Let us know if you have any questions or comments about National GEAR UP Week and check back often for additional/updated resources.

Inspiration & Resources:

Press & Media

  • Download the National GEAR UP Week logo
  • Media Advisory – This template is to notify media outlets in your area to cover the event you are hosting.  Media advisories are distributed ahead of the event so that outlets can schedule and plan to cover your event.
  • Press Release – This template will help you create some “buzz” about your event.  You can send it out before or after the event takes place, just make sure you edit it accordingly!
  • Op-Ed: Guidelines & Talking Points – Op-eds are a great way to raise awareness about GEAR UP at the local and regional level.  Follow the tips and use the template in this resource to submit your op-ed to your news outlet.

Let us know how you plan to celebrate in the comments section below!


SAVE THE DATE: Principal and Leadership Team Institutes.


Hello Principals and Leadership Teams!

The California GEAR UP program is pleased to invite you to the 2013 California GEAR UP Principal & Leadership Team Institute. Save the following dates & registration deadlines to your calendar.


Wednesday & Thursday

September 18 & 19, 2013

Greater Los Angeles Area

 Registration Deadline

September 5, 2013

Wednesday & Thursday

October 2 & 3, 2013

Northern CA

Registration Deadline

September 16, 2013

Wednesday & Thursday

October 9 & 10, 2013

Orange County

Registration Deadline

September 23, 2013


The two-day Institute uses the SSAR (school self assessment rubric) to look at school-wide perceptions  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. The institutes also provide additional opportunity for the School Leadership Team to work on the SSAR conditions and plan for implementation of their PDAP (professional development action plan)goals. Trained facilitators provide direction through a guided discussion and reflection promotes the beginning of a shared vision, the identification and coordination of resources, and the use of student data to develop and implement a unified schoolwide plan.


Disclaimer: There are a number of factors that help us make our decision in selecting a location. Some of these include competitive pricing, staying within the Education Partnership budget, following UCOP and Education Partnership departmental policies and procedures, hotel meeting space size and capacity, leadership team choices, and staff access.



Early Look At Smarter Balanced Assessments Now Online


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson encouraged students, educators, and parents to try out the Smarter Balanced Practice Tests launched today to familiarize themselves and the public with the new generation of computer-based assessments students will take starting in the 2014-15 school year. Just approved today, Assembly Bill 484 would limit the use of outdated Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) system tests for the 2013-14 school year and begin statewide use of new assessments aligned to California’s Common Core State Standards in 2014-15. The bill is based on recommendations for transitioning California to a future assessment system.

“These practice tests give teachers, students, and parents a glimpse into understanding the skills and abilities our children will need to do well on test day and in preparation for college and career,” Torlakson said. “This marks another step forward in the effort help schools prepare to replace outdated assessments with tests that gauge the kind of critical thinking and deeper learning that comes with a world-class education.”

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) placed online for public access the set of practice tests for grades three through eight and grade eleven. For each grade, practice tests will be available in both English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics.

The practice tests are available on the California Department of Education Smarter Balanced Practice Tests Web page.

The practice tests include test questions with the same features that students will experience in 2014-15, when the tests are scheduled to be given to more than 19 million of the nation’s public K-12 students, including California’s students. Smarter Balanced assessment items and performance tasks were written and reviewed in collaboration with K-12 teachers and higher education faculty and aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

Item types include:

  • Selected response, the more traditional multiple choice, true-false, and yes-no questions;
  • Constructed response, in which students produce a response by using the keyboard or dragging a mouse;
  • Technology enhanced, where items use animations in presenting the information or require students to manipulate materials on the screen to either understand the question at a deeper level in a simulation situation or to respond to an item, such as through drag and drop; and
  • Performance tasks, scenario-based questions focusing on a single real-world circumstance or situation, requiring students to do deeper thinking to draw upon connections across various subjects and ask them to apply their skills to solve more complex problems.

There are 16 English Language Arts tasks in the sample, such as the rewriting of text excerpts to correct errors or identify extraneous information, highlighting and writing of text to support conclusions or prove a point, and reading of text to answer multiple choice questions. Two ELA questions show a video and ask the students to answer a question using details shown in the movie clip to support their answers. Where writing is required, the question includes a textbox into which the student types an answer.

Mathematics has 25 samples, several of them with multi-part questions. These include animations in which students control the variables in the question being answered, and others where the student performs drag and drop activities. Some items include a small calculator on the screen to help the student with the equation. Others require the student to type in an explanation for how he or she solved the problem.

Online access to the practice tests will not require a unique username and password, so schools and districts can use them for teacher training as well as discussions with parents, policymakers, and other interested stakeholders.

Members of the public are also allowed access. There will be no immediate scoring of the tests, but scoring keys will be made available later in the year.

The release of the practice tests follows the administration of the Smarter Balanced Pilot Test, which was the first large-scale tryout of items and performance tasks. The Pilot Test was taken by more than one million students in Smarter Balanced member states from February through mid-May.

Many schools are encouraging teachers to take the practice tests to better understand the impact the assessments will have on instruction. California GEAR UP schools are integrating support for Common Core and Smarter Balanced into their PDAP for 2013-2014 school year. Let us know if you are taking the practice tests and what you think in the comments section.


Sec of Education Honors Everett Middle School With Visit



SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee visited a middle school in the Mission District this morning to call attention to the improvements made in the wake of federal funding to the city’s school district.

Duncan, Lee and other top school officials held a roundtable discussion during a visit to Everett Middle School, one of nine schools in San Francisco that was awarded federal School Improvement Grants in 2011 and current California GEAR UP School.

The historically low-performing schools in the city’s Mission and Bayview districts were given $45 million over a three-year period that went toward professional development and coaching for school staff, among other improvements, according to school district officials.

Since 2008, those nine schools have had an 18.4 percent gain in English language arts proficiency and a 26.9 percent gain in math proficiency, district officials said.

Duncan said he was “absolutely inspired” by the improvements made at Everett.

He said during today’s visit, he talked to an eighth-grader there who “said she was terrified to come to this school as a sixth grader, and now this school has a wait list.”

Lee said the federal funding has helped reduce barriers for low-income students and those who speak English as a second language.

“Once we get rid of those barriers, our kids who come from all over the world will compete on an international basis,” he said.

Duncan said he is working to get more federal funding from Congress, but “they look at education as an expense instead of an investment.”

He said in the meantime, San Francisco can come up with creative ways to maintain funding for the schools, noting that the mayor has sought help from the private and nonprofit sectors.

“People want to be part of a winner,” Duncan said. “We’ve gotten something started and he’s got a heck of a story to tell.”

(excerpts reposted with permission from ABC news)


California GEAR UP schools believe:

  • That ALL students deserve an equitable education – one that provides the knowledge and skills to choose and be successful in postsecondary education pursuits;
  • That students must master rigorous academic standards to successfully progress along the pipleline from middle school to high school and into and through college;
  • That in order for students to plan for college they need to see themselves in college;
  • That overcoming the challenges faced by low-income, first-generation college-bound students requires the continued engagement of school leaders, families and communities.

Climate for Academic Success: Sparks Middle School


We are pleased to share a recent success of one of our star schools, Sparks Middle School in Industry, CA was identified as “Beating the Odds” by a new report from WestEd.

A growing body of research suggests that school climate may be an important variable in explaining why some schools are more successful than others. This report, written by WestEd’s Adam VoightGregory Austin, and Thomas Hanson, contributes to this research by exploring the climate of a handful of secondary schools with extraordinary success compared to that of other schools, including those that consistently underperform.

School success is often defined in absolute terms, such as average standardized test scores. But such criteria are known to be strongly correlated with the socioeconomic characteristics of a school’s student body. And the fact that a largely affluent student body is linked to school success offers little useful direction for those trying to improve achievement in struggling schools with low-income student populations.

To address this limitation, the present study’s design and methodology take student characteristics into account. Specifically, a successful school is defined as one whose test scores are better than would be predicted based on its student characteristics. Using this definition, A Climate for Academic Success investigates how two factors—school climate and school personnel resources—differed among three groups of California secondary schools.

In the report, 40 schools are identified as “Beating the Odds“, derived by using data from over 1,700 California public middle and high schools, these 40 schools were identified that consistently performed better than predicted on standardized tests of math and English language arts achievement. These schools were labeled “beating-the-odds” (BTO) schools.

Of the 40 schools, Sparks Middle School of Hacienda la Puente Unified was the only California GEAR UP school on the list. California GEAR UP schools utilize professional development resources, partner services, and discretionary funds to create a college-going culture over a six year period. Sparks has been a California GEAR UP school since 2011 and has implemented a full compliment of GEAR UP resources to address school climate and culture to ensure ALL students have access to high quality academics and preparation. California GEAR UP schools believe it is never to early to prepare students for their future and it takes a school community of committed adults to achieve great performance.

A previous study using this definition of success found that personnel resources—such as the education, experience, and roles of staff—did not help distinguish successful from unsuccessful schools. The current study looks at the relationship between school climate and success, as measured by the California Healthy Kids Survey. The measure includes such dimensions of the school environment as safety, academic supports, social relationships, and school connectedness. A positive school climate has been associated with higher academic achievement and healthy behavioral outcomes for students.

In addition to the Report Summary, a Full Report is also available on the WestEd Website.


Funded for its third six-year cycle on October 1, 2011, the program goal of California GEAR UP is to: Develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare ALL students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults — counselors, faculty, school leaders and families — who influence middle school students. All program services are geared towards sustainability, such that school change can be successful beyond the life of the grant cycle.