Torlakson Reports Improved Results on High School Exit Exam

cahsee picture

SACRAMENTO—Students in the class of 2013 passed California’s High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) at the highest rate since the test was made a graduation requirement, with 95.5 percent earning a passing score, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

CAHSEE and Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) scores, announced earlier this month, figure heavily in state and federal school accountability results, which Torlakson also announced today. For the second straight year, a majority of schools statewide met or exceeded the state performance target of 800 points on the Academic Performance Index (API).

“Despite the very real challenges of deep budget cuts and the ongoing effort to shift to new, more demanding academic standards, our schools persevered and students made progress,” Torlakson said. “These results should give us confidence as we start the new school year, and our efforts to make college- and career-readiness a goal for every student move into high gear.”

The 2012-13 CAHSEE Summary Reports

The CAHSEE is administered each year to ensure that students who graduate from public high schools demonstrate competency in reading, writing, and mathematics. Students who do not pass the CAHSEE in grade ten have two opportunities in grade eleven and up to five opportunities in grade twelve to pass the exam.

The preliminary 2012-13 results—which are for the July, October, November, and December 2012 and the February, March, and May 2013 administrations—show increasedpassing rates among most demographic subgroups of students by the end of their senior year.

The estimated 95.5 percent—or 425,911—students from the Class of 2013 who met the CAHSEE requirement by the end of their senior year represents a 0.5 percentage point increase over 2012 and a 5.1 percentage point increase since the test was first administered in 2006 as a requirement of graduation (Tables 1 and 2).

A larger percentage of students also passed the test in their sophomore year, when the CAHSEE is given to all tenth grade students for the first time. Approximately 73.8 percent of the Class of 2013 passed both the mathematics and English-language arts (ELA) portions of the exam on their first attempt—a 2.3 percentage point increase over first-time test takers in 2012 and a 9.5 percentage point increase over first-time test takers in 2006 (Table 2).

For the Class of 2013 passing the CAHSEE by the end of their senior year also included an estimated 91.8 percent of African American students; 82.2 percent of students who are learning English; 98.5 percent of white students; 93.5 percent of students who are economically disadvantaged, and 93.8 of Hispanic or Latino students (Table 1).

( Please note: The statewide passing rates in Tables 1, 2, and 3 combine the results for both the mathematics and ELA sections of the CAHSEE.  These results are taken from specially prepared reports produced by the CAHSEE independent evaluator, the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO). Other results provided by ETS, the CDE test contractor, including those for counties, districts, and schools are not combined and give the percentages of students passing either math or ELA.)

During the 2012-13 CAHSEE administration, 610,706 students took the English-language arts (ELA) section with 457,606 passing and 597,745 took the mathematics section, with 455,354 passing.

The upcoming graduating Class of 2014 (who were eleventh graders this past school year) and the Class of 2015 (who were tenth graders this past school year) already have increased the percentage of students passing the CAHSEE as first-time test takers during their sophomore year. Some 83 percent of the Class of 2014 and 83.2 percent of the Class of 2015 already have passed the ELA compared to 82.4 percent of the Class of 2013 (Table 4). For mathematics, the passage rate was 83.6 percent for the Class of 2014 and 84.1 percent for the Class of 2015, compared to 82.7 percent for the Class of 2013 (Table 5).

While there has been some progress made over the long term to narrow the achievement gap between student groups, the results have been mixed. The percentage point change  between the Class of 2014 and Class of 2015 CAHSEE for first-time test takers shows a slight narrowing of the achievement gap between Hispanic and  white students  in both English-language arts and mathematics (Table 6). The achievement gap between African American and white grade ten students increased slightly in English-language arts and decreased slightly in mathematics (Table 7).

Results for the CAHSEE, which is one of several state and local graduation requirements for all students, will be provided at the school, district, county, and state levels and will be posted on the CDE CAHSEE Summary Results Web page. Individual student CAHSEE results are confidential and are not included in the Internet posting.

Statewide Accountability: 2013 Growth Academic Performance Index Results

The Growth API results show that the majority of all schools, including 56 percent of elementary schools, 50 percent of middle schools, and 31 percent of high schools are now meeting the state benchmark (Table 8).

The API is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000. School and student group targets are set at 5 percent of the difference between the school or student group’s Base API score (posted last May, along with school ranks) and the statewide target of 800, with a minimum target of 5 points. All numerically significant student groups at a school must meet their growth targets for a school to meet its API growth target.

Statewide, the overall API declined by 2 points from last year, from 791 to 789, although a number of student subgroups saw gains. Realizing the largest gains among student subgroups were socioeconomically disadvantaged students, who increased by 5 percentage points; English learners with a 1 percentage point increase; and students with disabilities with a 5 percentage point increase (Table 9).

Federal Accountability: 2013 Adequate Yearly Progress Results

As expected, the unrealistic federal proficiency targets set under No Child Left Behind continued to identify an even larger number of schools, including many at or above the state’s performance target, for Program Improvement (PI).

“It is unfortunate that officials in Washington continue to enforce a program they have acknowledged is deeply flawed, and that paints too many high-achieving schools with the same broad brush,” Torlakson said. “As an elected official, I’m obliged to comply with the law. But as a teacher, I’ll continue to urge Congress and the Administration to get to work, change course, and replace No Child Left Behind with a workable law that fosters rather than hinders the progress California’s schools are making.”

The Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) performance targets for 2012-13 identify all Title I schools for Program Improvement unless nearly 90 percent of students attain proficiency.

As a result, only 14 percent out of 9,861 schools met the AYP benchmarks this year compared to 26 percent last year. Of the more than 6,200 Title I-funded schools, only 10 percent reached federal proficiency (Table 10).

Among the schools identified for PI, 30 percent have an API of 800 or higher. This year, 741 Title I schools are new to PI (Table 11).

Social Media Postings of Testing Materials

As was noted in both 2012 and 2013 in the administration of other standardized tests among high school students, a number of students posted pictures of CAHSEE testing materials to social media sites.

Social media site postings were linked to 72 schools, of which eight postings showed a test question. At the remaining 64 schools, the postings were not of actual questions, but of test booklet covers or answer documents. As has been the case with other assessments, the postings appeared to be motivated by students seeking to attract attention from their peers, not to gain an advantage on the exam itself. The scores for students who posted test questions to social media sites were invalidated. An analysis of the results showed no evidence that any posting affected the validity or reliability of the assessments themselves.

While these incidents have remained isolated, CDE views any breach of testing protocols with great concern. As with the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program, several security measures were implemented, including more rigorous monitoring and increased numbers of random security audits at school sites, revising test administration guides; and training CAHSEE coordinators and those who administer or proctor the test.

Schools that have been linked to a social media posting of STAR test questions and where more than 5 percent of the students tested were affected by the posting of test materials will have their APIs invalidated. All schools found to have any kind of social media posting during STAR or CAHSEE testing will be excluded from state academic awards programs for the coming year.

Additional information on AYP and full CAHSEE reports are available here:

Common Core State Standards Officially in Print Form


SACRAMENTO—With schools beginning the year deeply engaged in the transition to theCommon Core State Standards, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that they are available in print for the first time.

CDE Press, the publishing arm of the California Department of Education, is now offering print versions of the California Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects (CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy)and California Common Core State Standards: Mathematics (CA CCSSM). Previously, the documents were available only online.

At the same time, Torlakson released a short video explaining in plain language the importance of California’s transition to assessments based on the new Common Core State Standards.

“These standards are the blueprints for remodeling our education system, laying out step-by-step what students need to know and be able to do to graduate ready to start a career or go to college,” Torlakson said. “And if we’re updating how and what we teach students, then we have to update the way we test as well.”

Standards define the knowledge, concepts, and skills students should acquire at each grade level. The Common Core standards are designed so that all students—no matter where they come from or where they live—receive a world-class education that is consistent from school to school, and graduate ready to contribute to the future of the state and the country.

The standards were developed by teachers, principals, parents, education experts, and feedback from the public in an initiative spearheaded by governors and state school chiefs. Almost all 50 states have voluntarily signed on, including California, which formally adopted the standards in 2010.

Implementation decisions remain with local school boards, and the standards establish what students need to learn in English-language arts and mathematics, but they do not tell teachers how to teach. The standards provide a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn at every grade level.

One of the next steps statewide is the transition to new, computer-based assessments aligned to the Common Core. Torlakson’s recommendations for this change are incorporated in AB 484, which is making its way through the legislative process.

The publications are available for purchase, with the prices set to offset printing and shipping costs. Details on how to order them, including sales tax and shipping and handling fees, are available on the CDE Press’ Catalog Listings of Publications or by calling toll-free, 1-800-995-4099.

Common Core Training Session Draws Overflow Crowd

Nearly 1,400 LA Unified educators flooded the California State University Dominguez Hills campus in Carson on Saturday for a free conference on the Common Core State Standards.  “Launch LA Common Core” was organized by Teach Plus, a nonprofit that focuses on professional development for teachers.

The event was held as states are scrambling to train teachers in implementing the new standards. The demand for training is high—about 4,000 teachers wanted to attend the conference at Dominguez Hills. In the first 24 hours of sign-up, 1,700 teachers crashed the online reservation system.

In a workshop titled “Common Core Shifts in Teaching Practice & Learning,” teachers tackled a word problem that instructed them to design the biggest and smallest dog pen possible, using 64 feet of fence. Teachers drew narrow, rectangular pens, square pens and even circular pens. As they worked, they talked about how the problem has “real-world application” and how they would have to provide background knowledge to students who don’t know the meaning of “pen.”

The teachers in the room were most impressed with the way Bonnie Kwon, a 3rdgrade teacher at Knox Elementary, solved the problem. To make the dog pen even bigger, she used a wall of a house as part of the perimeter. “That’s outside-the-box thinking,” one teacher said.

“I never learned like this before,” said Candice Smith, a K–1 teacher at 95th Street Elementary. “When I was a kid, we just learned the formulas for calculating perimeter and area. We threw out the dog!”

All in all, teachers appeared undaunted by the tough task ahead. Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy acknowledged in his opening address that teaching the Common Core standards would be “unbelievably difficult.”

“We’re going to fail; we’re going to stumble,” Deasy said. “But if we are afraid to stumble, we are not going to succeed. The best advice I can give you: Stay calm and teach on.”

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Arne Duncan’s Google+ Hangout with Khan Academy Founder


Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, joined a Google+ Hangout to discuss education in the United States. Secretary Duncan and Khan answered questions submitted via Facebook and tweets with the hashtag #DuncanKhan.

In the hangout, Secretary Duncan reinforced the importance of making higher education more affordable and accessible for American families.

“At a time when going to college has never been more important, unfortunately it has never been more expensive,” Duncan said. “And so we have to work together to drive down costs. We have to have much greater transparency and help young people and their families make better choices.”

Secretary Duncan said that we need to innovate to ensure the best education for American students.

“The fact that we’re still teaching with a nineteenth century model makes no sense whatsoever,” Duncan said. “25 or 30 kids sitting in rows all learning the same thing at the same time at the same pace, again, it’s just like Neanderthal… I don’t want to know how long you sat there, I want to know do you know the material. Do you know algebra or biology or physics or chemistry or whatever it might be. If you know it, you shouldn’t have to sit there.”

That’s why organizations like Khan Academy are so exciting. Khan Academy allows anyone, anywhere to take over 4,500 individual classes online, free of charge. Across disciplines and academic grade levels, Khan Academy courses have allowed millions of individuals to learn something new.

Like Khan Academy, Duncan explained that the Department of Education is continuing to work to innovate in education and secure that the next generation can have all the educational opportunities they deserve.

Duncan’s Hangout was part of President Obama’s initiative to make college more affordable kicked off last week. “A Better Bargain For The Middle Class” kicked off with a new website and a series of speeches that will take place over the next couple weeks.


Join the conversation on making college affordable.

Putting higher education within the reach of all those who are willing to work for it is one of the most important economic challenges we face. So President Obama is introducing a new set of ideas to rethink the way in which we pay for college.

On a bus tour to meet with students, he asked people to raise their voices online to discuss why this issue is so important, and the hashtag #MakeCollegeAffordable started trending nationwide.



Two Year Degrees Offer a Path to Success


Two recently released reports – Baccalaureate Attainment: A National View of the Postsecondary Outcomes of Students Who Transfer from Two-Year to Four-Year Institutions, by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in partnership with the Indiana University Project on Academic Success, and The Economic Benefits of Attaining an Associate Degree Before Transfer: Evidence From North Carolina by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) – suggest that community college students should complete their sub-baccalaureate credentials before transferring to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Transfer is a key mission of community colleges, and, as the NSCRC notes, accurately understanding the pathways and outcomes of these students is critical to the national college completion agenda.

Key findings:

  • Seventy-two percent of transfer students who completed a two-year degree or certificate prior to transferring graduated with a bachelor’s degree, while only 56 percent of those who transferred without a credential did so.
  • Students who transferred after stopping for more than one year had much lower graduation rates than those who transferred within one year of their most recent enrollment at a two-year institution.
  • Students who attended exclusively full-time after transferring graduated at higher rates than those who attended exclusively part-time or those with mixed enrollment.
  • Bachelor’s degree completion rates were significantly lower for students who transferred to private, for-profit institutions than for those who transferred to public or private, nonprofit institutions.

“The report shows that most students who transfer do earn a bachelor’s degree and the data suggest that students who complete a degree at the community college are more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than the thousands of students who transfer before completing their community college degree,” according to Thomas Bailey, George and Abby O’Neill Professor of Economics of Education and the Director of the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University.

The full report can be downloaded and read here.

L.A.Times: Student Finds A Different World at UC Berkeley


Kashawn Campbell overcame many obstacles to become a straight-A student. But his freshman year at UC Berkeley shook him to the core.

(this is a repost from “South L. A. student finds a different world at Cal” appeared in the LA Times Aug. 16, 2013. We thought it was a powerful story worth sharing. )


School had always been his safe harbor.

Growing up in one of South Los Angeles’ bleakest, most violent neighborhoods, he learned about the world by watching “Jeopardy” and willed himself to become a straight-A student. His teachers and his classmates at Jefferson High all rooted for the slight and hopeful African American teenager. He was named the prom king, the most likely to succeed, the senior class salutatorian. He was accepted to UC Berkeley, one of the nation’s most renowned public universities. A semester later, Kashawn Campbell sat inside a cramped room on a dorm floor that Cal reserves for black students. It was early January, and he stared nervously at his first college transcript.

There wasn’t much good to see. He had barely passed an introductory science course. In College Writing 1A, his essays — pockmarked with misplaced words and odd phrases — were so weak that he would have to take the class again. He had never felt this kind of failure, nor felt this insecure. The second term was just days away and he had a 1.7 GPA. If he didn’t improve his grades by school year’s end, he would flunk out.

He tried to stay calm. He promised himself he would beat back the depression that had come in waves those first months of school. He would work harder, be better organized, be more like his roommate and new best friend, Spencer Simpson, who was making college look easy. On a nearby desk lay a small diary he recently filled with affirmations and goals. He thumbed through it. “I can do this! I can do this!” he had written. “Let the studying begin! … It’s time for Kashawn’s Comeback!”

Nothing had ever been easy for Kashawn.”When I delivered him, I thought he was dead,” said his mother, Lillie, recalling the umbilical cord tight around his neck. “He was still as stone but eventually he came to. Proved he was a survivor. Ever since, I’ve called him my miracle child.”A single mom, she often worked two jobs to make ends meet, at times as a graveyard shift security guard. Someone needed to care for her baby, so she paid an elderly neighbor named Sylvia to house, feed and care for Kashawn. “Me and Kashawn always had a strong connection,” Lillie said. “But Sylvia raised my boy, yes she did.”

Sylvia didn’t read many magazines, newspapers or books. Only rarely did she take Kashawn outside their neighborhood. Still, she was kind and loving, and he loved her in turn, as if she were his grandmother.”I used what she taught me and expanded it,” Kashawn said. That meant deciding early on that the life he was surrounded by wasn’t what he wanted his future to be. “I had to be the one to push myself to do beyond well…. If I didn’t do that, nothing was going to ever change.”Jefferson, made up almost entirely of Latinos and blacks, had a woeful reputation. His freshman year, just under 13% of its students were judged to be proficient in English, less than 1% in math.

“It was so rare to have a kid like Kashawn, especially an African American male, wanting that badly to go to college,” said Jeremy McDavid, a former Jefferson vice principal. “We got together as a staff and decided that this kid, we cannot let him down.”By the end of his senior year, Kashawn’s 4.06 grade point average was second best in the senior class. Because of a statewide program to attract top students from every public California high school, a spot at a UC system campus waited for him. But when he got his acceptance letter from Berkeley, he couldn’t celebrate like he always thought he would. It was Sylvia. She was losing a battle with cancer.

He sat near her hospice bed on a muggy day to give her the news. “I’m going to Cal, grandma,” he said. She could barely open her eyes. “I’m going up there and I’m going to keep working hard and doing great. Nothing’s going to change.”Sylvia died later that day.

A month later, when his mother drove him to Berkeley and dropped him off at his dormitory, Kashawn still crumbled into tears at the thought of Sylvia.Yet he did everything he could to fit in. He lived at the African-American Theme Program — two floors in Christian Hall housing roughly 50 black freshmen, an effort to build bonds among a community whose numbers have dwindled over the last two decades. He filled his dorm room with Cal posters, and wore clothes emblazoned with the school’s name. Each morning the gawky, bone-thin teen energetically reminded his dorm mates to “have a Caltastic day!”

“It was clear that Kashawn was someone who didn’t know about, or maybe care about, social norms,” said one of his friends. “A lot of people would laugh at first. They didn’t understand how someone could be that enthusiastic.”But as the semester got going, he began to stumble. The first essay for the writing class that accounted for half of his course load was so bad his teacher gave him a “No Pass.” Same for the second essay.

“It’s like a different planet here,” he said one day, walking down Telegraph Avenue through a mash of humanity he’d never been exposed to before: white kids, Asian kids, rich kids, bearded hipsters and burnt-out hippies. Many of them jaywalked. Not Kashawn. Just as he’d been taught, he only used crosswalks, only stepped onto the street when the coast was clear or a light flashed green. His shoulders slumped. “I’m not used to the people. Not used to the type of buildings. Definitely not used to the pressure I feel.”

Part of the pressure came from race. After peaking at 7% in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the undergraduate African American population at Cal had been declining for years, especially since Proposition 209 had banned affirmative action in admissions to California public colleges. When Kashawn arrived, 3% of Berkeley undergraduates were African American. The low numbers were the source of constant talk on the theme program floors, the symbolic center of black life for Cal freshmen.

“Sometimes we feel like we’re not wanted on campus,” Kashawn said, surrounded at a dinner table by several of his dorm mates, all of them nodding in agreement. “It’s usually subtle things, glances or not being invited to study groups. Little, constant aggressions.” He also felt a more personal burden. He couldn’t let his mother down. She kept a box stuffed with each of his perfect report cards. She swore that he was going to be a lawyer, maybe even the president. Back home her bank account was running low, and he sent some of his scholarship money home to keep her going.

He’d never been depressed. Now clouds of sadness descended every few weeks. When they did he was barely able to speak, even to Spencer, his roommate. The biggest of his burdens was schoolwork. At Jefferson, a long essay took a page and perfect grades came after an hour of study a night. At Cal, he was among the hardest workers in the dorm, but he could barely keep afloat.Seeking help, he went at least once a week to the office of his writing instructor, Verda Delp.The more she saw him, the more she worried. His writing often didn’t make sense. He struggled to comprehend the readings for her class and think critically about the text.

“It took awhile for him to understand there was a problem,” Delp said. “He could not believe that he needed more skills. He would revise his papers and each time he would turn his work back in having complicated it. The paper would be full of words he thought were academic, writing the way he thought a college student should write, using big words he didn’t have command of.”

At the end of the first semester, after he turned in a final portfolio of revised essays, Delp asked Kashawn to come to her office. She told him this last batch of work was better. After reviewing his writing, though, it was clear to her that he had received far too much help from someone else. Both remember the meeting, recalling Kashawn’s shock, his admission that friends and a tutor had offered suggestions and made edits, his insistence that the bulk of the writing was his own. Delp reviewed his record: None of his essays had been good enough to receive passing grades. Still, instead of failing him, she gave a reprieve: His report card would show an “In Progress.” The course wouldn’t count against his grade point average, but he would have to take it again.

Before the start of the second term, hoping for a head start, Kashawn moved back into the dorm before anyone else on his floor. He imagined how different things were going to be from his first semester. He couldn’t wait to see Spencer. “We’re both going to do very well this semester,” he said. “I believe I can follow his lead and ace all my classes.” They hadn’t known each other before the year began. Now they were like brothers, partly because they shared so much. Spencer was raised in a tough L.A. neighborhood by a single mom who had sometimes worked two jobs to pay the rent. Spencer had gone to struggling public schools, receiving straight A’s at Inglewood High. Spencer didn’t curse, didn’t party, didn’t try to act tough and was shy around girls.

As much as they had in common, they were also different. Spencer’s mother, a medical administrator, had graduated from UCLA and exposed her only child to art, politics, literature and the world beyond Inglewood. If a bookstore was going out of business, she’d drive Spencer to the closeout sale and they would buy discounted novels. She pushed him to participate in a mostly white Boy Scout troop in Westchester.To Spencer, Berkeley was the first place he could feel fully comfortable being intellectual and black, the first place he could openly admit he liked folk music and punk rock.

He was cruising through Cal, finishing the first semester with a 3.8 GPA despite a raft of hard classes. “I can easily see him being a professor one day,” said his political theory instructor, noting that Spencer was one of the sharpest students in a lecture packed with nearly 200 undergraduates. In the second term, Kashawn and Spencer volunteered for the same student organizations, and walked each Friday night to a job washing dishes at a nearby residence hall. They even took a class together, African American Studies 5A, a survey of black culture and race relations. It was key for Kashawn: A top grade could ensure he would be invited back to Cal. They sat together in the front row. One teacher noticed that Kashawn subconsciously seemed to mime his roommate: casually cocking his head and leaning back slightly as he pondered questions, just like Spencer.

Kashawn reveled in the class in a way he hadn’t since high school. He would often be the first one to speak up in discussions, even though his points weren’t always the most sophisticated, said Gabrielle Williams, a doctoral student who helped teach the class. He still had gaps in his knowledge of history. But, Williams said, “you could see how engaged he was, how much he loved being there…. You could also see that he was struggling with his confidence, partly because this whole experience was so overwhelming.” Although the African American studies class was a bright spot — Kashawn had received an A on an essay and a B on a midterm, the best grades of his freshman year — the writing course he’d been forced to repeat wasn’t going well.

He knew that another failing effort in the class could doom his chances to return to Cal, so he worked as closely with his new instructor as he had with Delp.There was little to show for the effort. On yet another failing essay, the instructor wrote how surprised she was at his lack of progress, especially, she noted, given the hours they’d spent going over his “extremely long, awkward and unclear sentences.” He told only Spencer and a few dorm mates how devastating this kind of failure felt, each poor grade another stinging punch bringing him closer to flunking out. None of the adults in his life knew the depth of his pain: not his professors, his counselors, any of the teachers at his old high school. He spoke vaguely about depression to his mother. She told him to read the Bible.

Spencer looked out for Kashawn; he was the first person Kashawn would turn to when depression came. Sometimes in the dorm room, Spencer would look over at Kashawn and see him sitting in front of his computer, body frozen and face expressionless, JVC headphones wrapped over his ears, but no music playing. One night Kashawn walked briskly from his room, ending up alone in a quiet, beige-walled lounge at Christian Hall. His mind raced. He chastised himself for his college grades, for being too sensitive, too trusting, too naive. “Why was I even born?” he wondered. It felt like he was outside his body, looking at himself from above. “Is life really worth living under these conditions?”

He tried to calm down. “The way I was stressing myself out, it wasn’t good, it wasn’t healthy at all,” he would recall later. “I just had to find my way out of that lounge. Had to get help, because this was a monster I needed to tame.” It wasn’t long before he found himself sitting for the first time in a campus psychologist’s office. The counselor urged him to put his life in better perspective. Maybe he didn’t have to be the straight-A kid he’d been in high school anymore. Maybe all that mattered was giving his best. The visit seemed to change him. His dorm mates had been so worried about his dark moods that some had called their parents, asking advice on how best to help their friend. As weeks passed and his smile returned, everyone breathed a little easier. “I’ve learned the hard way that academics are not who you are,” Kashawn said as he walked through Sproul Plaza, heading back to the dorm one day in May. “They are something you need to learn to get to the next level of life, but they can’t define me. My grades at Cal are not Kashawn Campbell.”

Finals week. The school year was nearly over. After staying up all night to finish, Kashawn turned in the final portfolio for his writing course. “I’m proud of you,” his instructor said, as he handed her the essays in a black folder. “You’ve tried as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen.” Soon he’d taken his last test, turned in his last report. He stood on a sidewalk outside the dorm, saying goodbye to Spencer, stifling tears. Then he was on a Greyhound bus, heading home to Los Angeles, where he slept on the floor in his mother’s apartment and waited for his grades.

Would he flunk out?

“All I can do is pray,” he said. One morning this summer he walked slowly to the kitchen table, sat in a black chair and cracked open his laptop. Cal’s website had just posted grades.He scrolled down the page and saw the results for College Writing. His teacher said he’d improved slightly, but not enough. She gave him an incomplete. To get a grade he’d have to turn in two more essays, if he came back to school.His heart raced. He saw that he’d passed a three-unit seminar. He scanned further, his eyes resting finally on a line that said African American Studies 5A. There was his grade.


“Yes!” he exclaimed. An A- lifted his GPA above a 2.0.

He wasn’t a freshman anymore. He would return to Cal for his sophomore year.

To read the original story, please visit the L.A. Times here.

Have a comment on this story, let us know below!


GEAR UP/NCCEP 2013 National Conference

NCCEP 2013 students

The 2013 GEAR UP National Conference was held in San Francisco this year, and we were excited to participate and have a prominent roll. This national convening of GEAR UP professionals, parents, students, policymakers, and community partners is coordinated by the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships(NCCEP) and planned in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of this conference is to highlight the importance of education/community partnerships and the accomplishments of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). This conference also serves to facilitate the forging of new alliances among faculty, to help attendees learn about other federal and foundation-sponsored college awareness efforts, to learn about other academic and student support programs, and to find new ways to engage local communities, businesses and professional associations in the work of GEAR UP partnerships. The conference is especially relevant to education practitioners, business leaders and policymakers who wish to learn more about creating and sustaining education collaboratives that can help improve public education and promote student academic achievement.



California GEAR UP director, Shelley Davis, welcomed the attendees on Monday morning with inspiring remarks.

WELCOME to California, your host for the 2013 National GEAR UP Conference. 

WELCOME to the State in which there is an increasing gap between the performance of groups of students at every educational level.  That gap is especially significant because this is the state in which students of color are the majority in our public school classrooms;

WELCOME to California whose voters just increased their own taxes by between $7 and 9 Biliion dollars primarily to fund public schools and higher education;

WELCOME to the State that just enacted a funding formula for its public schools that recognizes that low-income, English Language Learners, and foster youth need additional resources to be successful;

WELCOME to California in which ALL students who have attended California high schools for 3 three years can now receive State financial aid to pursue their higher educational dreams;

WELCOME to the State where our Governor has been the youngest state Chief Executive in the country and now serves as the oldest;

WELCOME to California, the 13th State in the union, where any two people who love each other can choose to marry; and,

WELCOME to San Francisco – the host city of the International America’s Cup and Home of the World Series Baseball Champions for two of the last three years. 

As we begin the 2013 Annual Conference, we are cautiously optimistic and will all need to be thoughtful in order to address the persistent challenges facing the GEAR UP community.  We must be vigilant in advocating for ALL STUDENTS in this state and in every state.  With the leadership of Congressman Chaka Fattah, James Davis of the United States Department of Education, and Nathan Monell and the NCCEP team, we are up to the challenge. 


Roll Call of the GEAR UP States

The Roll Call of the GEAR UP States is a much-anticipated tradition at the Conference. Each state is called, celebrated, and cheered by the audience as a way to welcome all participants to an exciting few days of learning and sharing. Congressman Chaka Fattah spoke during the highly anticipated Roll Call of the GEAR UP States.  Speaking directly to the students in attendance he encouraged them not to let anyone deter them from their dream of a college education. “There will be people who will tell you that you don’t have what it takes to succeed.  Don’t listen to them,” he said. “GEAR UP was created and designed to make sure that any student who wants to succeed in school will have all the tools necessary to help them do just that. GEAR UP will help you reach higher to be more, to be that person you want and know you can be.”




Concurrent Sessions

The conference program includes concurrent sessions focused on impacting middle school and high school students, their families, faculty and administrators, student services and college access professionals, program evaluators, parent involvement coordinators, business and community partners, and education policymakers. California GEAR UP was proud to share Everett Middle School’s accomplishments in using the School Self Assessment Rubric in their San Francisco Middle School. Everett presented with California GEAR UP Whole School Services Coach Michele Molitor.

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Plenary Sessions

Plenary sessions serve as the core of the conference curriculum and are designed to provide the context for concurrent session dialogues. Plenary sessions will feature nationally recognized individuals in the field of education and workforce development, as well as educational policymakers, political appointees, congressional staff, business leaders, and others who champion the cause of improving public education and making postsecondary education more accessible to underrepresented communities.


2013 NCCEP/GEAR UP Youth Congress

NCCEP’s Youth Congress is a youth leadership program that implements a student-focused curriculum, blending leadership development with life skills and strategies for increased learning. GEAR UP  youth who participate in the Youth Congress had the opportunity to experience a professional conference while interacting and learning with other students from around the country. The students will learn strategies for increasing learning capacity, as well as relationship and communication skill-building. They will also experience leadership skill development, while strengthening their confidence to effectively tell their story.

2013 California GEAR UP Partnership Meeting

At each national conference California GEAR UP hosts a discussion with the other GEAR UP programs across the state. This year the conversation focused on Common Core State Standards implementation and was attended by GEAR UP professionals from across the state.

We were once again honored to host the National Conference in California this year. If you attended please let us know what you thought of the conference in the comments section of this blog.

For pictures from the National Conference, check out our Facebook page.