California GEAR UP Celebrates Graduates

tyler grad brad grad ayana gradgraduate
California GEAR  UP is proud to share graduations from our team, which include matriculation from staff, members of our family, and those closest to us. We celebrate all levels of graduates as an extension of our belief that academic excellence and college readiness starts at any age, and that it is up to us to establish a college going culture early and often. One of the best ways to do that is to celebrate!

We are so proud of the educational accomplishments of our GEAR UP family in pursuing their dreams. We strive to set expectations high for all schools, families, and students, so it is only natural we do the same for our own family members. Congratulations to all the graduates!

-Shelley Davis, California GEAR UP Director.

Here are some of the graduates:

Staff Name: Blaze Farrar

Campus: Holy Names University

Degree: Master’s Degree in Writing Program


Graduate: Nate Miller

Relation: Nephew

Campus:  Winnebago High School in Illinois


Graduate: Flora Monacelli

Relation: Niece

Campus: Neuqua Valley High School in Illinois

Degree: General


Staff Name: Brad Trimble

Campus: University of Nevada.

Degree: PhD, Education Leadership (pictured)


Graduate: Tyler Trimble

Relation: Son

Campus: The Goddard School

Degree:  Kindergarten


Staff name: Christian Smith

Campus: Sacramento State University

Degree: Digital Communications


Graduates name: James Smith

Relation to staff: Father

Campus: University of Hawaii

Degree: Business


Graduates name: Pei Tsen Ko

Relation: Wife

Campus name: Soochow University, Taiwan

Degree and subject area: English Literature


Staff name: Kandis Spencer

Graduates name: Thierry M. Waffer

Relation: Daughter

Campus: John H. Still Middle School

Degree: General (interested in Forensic Science)


Staff name:  David Seales

Graduates name:  Ayana Bridges

Relation:  Granddaughter

Campus:  Irene B. West Elementary

Degree:  General (attending Edward Harris Middle School-GEAR UP School)


Graduates name: Ashanti Bridges
Relation: Granddaughter
Graduate: Edward B. Harris Middle School (GU school)
Attending: Monterey Trails High School


Graduates name: Marquis Harper, Jr.

Relation: Grandson

Campus: Providence Country Day (Academic Honors)

Degree: High School – Fall 2014: Sacred Heart University – Fairfield, CT


Graduates: Stori Johnson (pictured)

Relation:  Daughter

Campus: Kaplan College, Sacramento campus

Degree: Vocational Nursing (Academic Honors)


Staff Name: Lynn Baranco

Graduate: Ronnika Gaines

Relation: Granddaughter

Campus: California State University, Sacramento

Degree: Master’s Degree in Social Work


Graduate: Jordan Baranco Bibb

Relation: Grandson

Campus: California State University, Long Beach

Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Communications Studies



Jackman Middle School Culminates with GEAR UP Bridge Project

ETA Jackman 2013

 (Education Trust Award Ceremony)

This year marked the celebration of 480 eight graders completing their final year at Jackman middle school and California GEAR UP Bridge Model cohort. The California GEAR UP  Bridge Model is characterized by collaboration, student progress tracking, and data sharing among a family of schools across educational levels for the purpose of preparing all students in the cohort for college. Data is  collected to measure the impact on student achievement and retention and provide valuable information as to the importance of aligning curriculum, increased communication across educational levels.  California GEAR UP supports the entire school community in creating a college-going culture.  While the model and project services focuses on the cohort of students that will enter high school  in Fall 2013, GEAR UP will continue to provide resources and support throughout the seven schools in the Bridge Model.

“GEAR UP has been welcomed into schools throughout the Elk Grove Unified School District. Together with them- the students, families, teachers and friends – we are building the bridge to be sustained beyond the life of our program.”  – Shelley Davis, California GEAR UP Director

The broader success of this model reflects the investment made by GEAR UP in building relationships throughout the district engaging the Superintendent, School Board Members, Principals, Vice Principals, Counselors, Teachers and families at both Jackman Middle School and Valley High School. With the Bridge Project model, there is increased potential for sustainability of effective practices across a family of schools while  supporting the Elk Grove regional collaborative initiative and the continued support of California GEAR UP through the Whole School Services Model. 
John Reith 6th grade GEAR UP
(Reith Elementary-a Bridge School- at a GEAR UP event)

Successful components of the Bridge Project Model include:

The Leadership Skills Initiative (LSI) is a component of the Bridge Model Project.  The Initiative has evolved to combine positive role models and mentoring, with educational skill building and a safe space for students among others with common issues and challenges.  Data is collected specific to the students involved with LSI from among the cohort of students participating in the Bridge Model.  Program participation has shown to impact student retention, decreased suspensions and increased academic performance, leading to increased graduation rates.  Short term rewards keep students engaged with changes in habits, self awareness and student performance among the long term benefits.

CORE Values-Students participate in a course on ethical values through fun and fitness.  Students will focus on core values topics ranging from discipline, self control, citizenship, kindness, respect, courtesy, and perseverance all while being taught and promoting a healthy, and physical lifestyle.

Family Engagement- Inform and engage families on the college preparation process, particularly in terms of courses in which students should enroll in at high school, and support efforts to encourage families to engage actively in preparing students for success. Activities included: college workshops, Parent Universities, regional events, individual family meetings, at risk family meetings, and individual learning plans for students.

Leadership Skills Initiative Ladies-Focuses on youth empowerment and personal advocacy in young ladies.  Promoting social and character skills development, academic mentoring, coaching, healthy lifestyle practices, and community enrichment.

College and Career Readiness Workshops- Workshops are grade specific to enhance students’ understanding of the steps needed to acquire academic success to meet both high school graduation and college admission requirements.  Information and activities include; developing effective study skills, establishing academic goals, developing academic plans, and career exploration.

Education Trust Awards- 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. 25 Students at Jackman Middle School received awards of $2000 made available when they enroll in a qualifying institute of higher education. The selection process included an essay component, qualifying GPA, letter of recommendation, and completed application.

Whole School Academic Support-activities included regional articulation in writing, supporting a professional learning environment for adults through professional development, and College Making it Happen materials for all students.

Articulation Support- Valley High School in conjunction with the GEAR family center hosted freshman selection night, in which the incoming 8th grade students visited campus to hear about various programs, clubs, and activities the students have to look forward to the following year. With 300 people in attendance the students and their families walked away with a better understanding of student life at Valley High School.

Transition– including ‘Live the Dream College Night”, financial aid planning activities, and profile support.

As part of research and evaluation of the Bridge Project, focus groups of students and teachers were convened to assess the impact of GEAR UP at Jackman. Here are some student responses from the group:

“GU is doing a good job of getting us prepared and building a path to college (all students said they plan to attend college). It is the only program available to help get us prepared for college. GU provides information about A-G requirements, financial aids, and grants.” – student

“GEAR UP gave me the tools to decide that I wanted to go to college.” – student

“I wish GEAR UP activities were every single day, not just every week!” – student

“Before GEAR UP came to campus we didn’t have the slogan “go to Jackman, go to Valley, go to college”.  I feel like we’ve had a major culture-shift among the students since GEAR UP came to campus.” – teacher

“It seems like times have changed since GEAR UP came to campus.  AVID was the primary provider of most of the college and career readiness materials on campus, but they only serve a select segment of the students. We were pushing kids toward college, but not in the capacity that GEAR UP is able to.” – teacher

“Before GEAR UP came the lower performing kids weren’t thinking about college.  Now they think they can go to college.” – teacher


“The GEAR UP provides our team the opportunity to further solidify our college going culture here at Samuel Jackman Middle School. GEAR UP and the resources the program provides has been a tremendous asset to our school community.”  

-Principal Paul Burke, Jackman Middle School

The culmination of the Bridge Project at Jackman is a testament to the success of building strong community partnerships to change a school community culture to support college dreams. California GEAR UP and the Bridge Team is excited to move on to Valley High School next year.

Pictures of the many great Bridge Model activities can be found on our Facebook page. You can continue to follow Bridge Project Success on our blog and website, please let us know if you have any questions.


Teacher Trainings Kick Off California’s Common Core Summer

Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, who wants to hold off on some standardized tests.

SACRAMENTO—With the state budget setting aside $1.25 billion to implement new standards in California’s public schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson kicked off California’s Common Core Summer with a daylong seminar to help teachers instill deeper learning of mathematics in their students.

“For teachers, this is California’s Common Core Summer. They’ve just finished their own school year, but they’re already back in class—because they see the opportunity Common Core presents to prepare students for a successful future,” Torlakson said. “They’re setting aside the one-size-fits all curriculum, recycling the `drill and kill’ worksheets, and dumping the multiple choice `bubble tests’—replacing them with Common Core mathematics, which focuses on a few key areas at each grade level so students learn the skills they really need, step by step.”

At Torlakson’s direction, the California Department of Education (CDE) convened the first of two showcases on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to help teachers learn how to bring the new standards to life. Today’s event, which brought together 150 educators from across the state, was focused on mathematics. A showcase focused on English-language arts instruction is scheduled for later in June.

“The focus today is on teachers—because the success of Common Core depends on great teaching,” Torlakson said. “We’re remodeling our education system, but the standards are just the blueprints. The real work, the heavy lifting of this remodeling project, will be done by teachers. That’s why we’ve brought some of California’s best teachers here, to learn from each other about putting the Common Core to work in the classroom.”

Brad Trimble, Whole School Services Coach for California GEAR UP was in attendance and gave this report:

     The opening session was lead by Phil Gonsalves who works as Director of the Math Coaching Consortium for the West Contra Costa Unified School District.  His presentation was very dynamic and clearly resonated with the 150 math teachers and administrators in the auditorium.
     His motto was, “Less is more with Common Core.”  This echoed Superintendent Torlakson’s sentiment that Common Core is designed to change school curriculum from “going an inch deep and a mile wide” into curriculum which goes “a mile deep and an inch wide”.  The presentation conducted by Gonsalves was completely student-centered.  He challenged teachers to “teach math in a way that makes sense for students” and to throw out traditional and confusing terminology and practices that work against student learning outcomes.  The session included Gonsalves showing the audience how to complete math problems is at least four different ways.
     Almost everyone in the room were experiencing “aha” moments throughout Phil’s presentation as he worked to tear apart the traditional thought patterns that have hindered math instruction and ultimately student learning.  For example, Phil shared an experience when a math teacher in his district had one of these “aha” moments during a presentation at her school.  She shared with Phil that she really liked the method in which he solved an a particular math problem.  Phil’s response to her was “So what?!?”.  He explained that teachers must move away from the types of instruction and practices that “they like” and engage in those that work best for the students and facilitate learning.  Phil concluded his presentation by challenging math teachers to use side-by-side comparisons that show students multiple ways to solve problems and help them understand the structure of mathematics.  He concluded by acknowledging that teachers who aren’t showing their kids how to think about math in different ways will be at a major disadvantage during Common Core assessment.
     The afternoon consisted of breakout sessions lead by various K-12 teachers and administrators which were grouped by elementary, middle, and high school grades.  These sessions covered topics such as student collaboration, critical thinking strategies, changes for teacher professional development, math modeling and content delivery.
     Overall, the event was well received by participants and very well orchestrated.

Torlakson noted that school districts and county offices of education throughout the state were sponsoring similar training sessions as California makes the transition to the new standards.

The Math CCSS Showcase allowed participants to learn how to integrate CCSS math content standards and practices, engage in activities that foster knowledge and the art of teaching, and share strategies for increasing student engagement.

The English-Language Arts CCSS Showcase is set for June 24, 2013, also in Sacramento. Participants will learn how to build their knowledge through content-rich information; develop strategies for reading, writing, and speaking that are grounded in text evidence; and learn how to interpret and teach complex reading materials.

Participants at both events were to also have opportunities to learn how to incorporate elementary or secondary instructional strategies; hear about strategies to support English learners, students with disabilities, and struggling readers; and see techniques that support college and career readiness.

The showcases are the latest in a series of steps taken by the CDE and the State Board of Education (SBE) to prepare educators for the transition to CCSS:

  • August 2010: The SBE adopted the CCSS to provide a practical way to prepare children for the challenges of a constantly changing world—by learning step-by-step the real-world skills they need for college and careers.
  • December 2011: The CDE released a publication called A Look at Kindergarten Through Grade Six in California Public Schools: Transitioning to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics to provide information for educators on curriculum planning and professional development in the CCSS.
  • March 2012: Torlakson and SBE President Mike Kirst presented the CCSS Systems Implementation Plan for California to the executive and legislative branches of state government.
  • September 2012: The CDE made available the first in a series of professional learning modules designed to deepen educator understanding of the CCSS.
  • November 2012: The SBE adopted new English Language Development Standards aligned to the CCSS designed to help English learners build critical knowledge and skills.
  • November 2012: The SBE also approved the first supplemental instructional materials aligned to the CCSS.
  • January 2013: The SBE approved sweeping updates to the state’s career technical education standards that reflect rapid changes in technology and set higher academic goals aligned to the CCSS.
  • January 2013: Torlakson presented Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System to the Legislature.
  • March 2013: The CDE joined the national Partnership for 21st Century Skills network of 18 states, which helps provide additional resources to implement the CCSS.
  • March 2013: The SBE approved anchor standards for English-language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects, which completed California’s adoption of the CCSS.
  • March 2013: The CDE, in collaboration with the San Diego County Office of Education, provided the Spanish translation of the CCSS for English-language arts.
  • April 2013: The CDE opened public comment on the draft framework for the CCSS for math. This 60-day public review closes today; a subsequent review period will open in July. The SBE may take final action in the fall.
  • April 2013: The CDE hosted another CCSS showcase for educators in math, English-language arts, and literacy in history/social science, science, and technical subjects.
  • May 2013: The SBE approved the timeline to adopt instructional materials aligned to the CCSS for math.

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The California Department of Education (CDE) is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. For more information, please visit or by mobile device at You may also follow Superintendent Torlakson on Twitter at

Kid President Has a Plan to Fix U.S. Education

kid president


Everyone’s favorite future president has a message for the country. There’s no way he’ll get to the Oval Office unless he gets through school first. And what he, and schoolchildren around the country need are simple: access to healthy food, early education and an engaging, vibrant classroom experience.

That’s the message he and a cast of other irresistibly cute kids are sharing as part of a new video produced by SoulPancake for the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Campaign.

The three asks are seemingly simple enough. But far too many kids go to school in the U.S. without access to any of the three. And the political conversation about these issues quickly becomes a distant abstraction for people. “When you talk to folks about the opportunity gap in education, most people don’t really know what you’re talking about,” said Joe Bishop, the executive director of the Opportunity to Learn Campaign.

But the opportunity gap is real. More than 22 percent of the nation’s kids live in poverty, Bishop said, and fewer than half of U.S. children have access to pre-kindergarten. It turns out that these sorts of barriers end up having a huge impact on kids’ educational success. Researchers are finding that the achievement gap between kids who are wealthy—and have access to reliable health care, three square meals a day and early education—and those who are poor—and who must sometimes do without any of those three—shows up even before kindergarten. And because a disproportionate number of black and Latino families live in poverty, the opportunity gap is especially relevant to communities of color.

So listen up when Kid President talks. And head to the Opportunity to Learn page to learn more.