School Success Stories: Using Tech to Support Students

jefferson heartGUOne of our amazing schools, Jefferson Middle School, has a story to tell. We caught up with Darlene Pope, teacher and GEAR UP Leadership Team Member, who shared with us some of the technology she uses in her class to support her students and stay in touch with families.

Zoom video conferencing (and it gaining in popularity across many fields, not just education) is free up to 40 minutes, but I have a subscription. I meet every Wed evening in a virtual online face to face session with students and parents. I meet for an hour. I answer clarifying questions. I can have up to 20 people in my virtual meeting. We kind of look like the Brady Bunch. Check it out at
Remind is awesome. It is how I communicate with parents and students. This is how I alert parents their student has missed an assignment and how I send homework tasks to my classes. I can also text with students about homework. It is a free and digitally safe texting tool. I can even attach documents,
Darlene was considerate enough to sit down with us and answer more questions about how she uses these resources.
  1. Does the entire school use either of these tools? If not, how many teachers do?

No the entire school does not use these tools, but it takes time for it to catch on. However, about 10 teachers are using Remind and I have as a goal getting more on board. I am the only one experimenting with Zoom. I use it as a tool for student support and parent communication as well as conferencing. It allows me to share my desktop, record a session and have about 25 people in on a single conversation. Students pop in and out to ask a question and get clarification.  I can envision it as a way to flip a classroom or as a way to hold class in the event that class is canceled.

  1. How did you hear about them?

I learned about Zoom through my work with CTQ and the NEA. I facilitate online learning with cohorts of teachers who are designing and implementing teacher leadership projects. I learned about Remind from a teacher at our high school several years ago.

  1. What is the response from parents?

Parents love both of these tools. It provides them an easy way to stay in touch. Remind even has an translation feature! I can send a doc via Remind as well. Zoom allows me to see into the home environments of my students as well. They parents who use it are most appreciative.

  1. How many parents do you engage with each tool?

Remind about 90% of my students’ families. Zoom is a much smaller group. Probably only 15%, but this will increase as I modify my parent info presentation to include a demo of this.

We thank Darlene and all the awesome teachers at Jefferson for their forward thinking and deep passion for doing what it takes to ensure ALL students have access to a great education.

Will these resources and Darlene’s experience with them inspire you?


ESSA: What’s at stake for California’s students?


From our Partners at The Education Trust West.

In December President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a bipartisan bill that for the first time in 14 years provides a new framework and requirements for states as they develop their own systems to hold schools and districts responsible for student learning and growth. California is in the midst of redesigning the way we hold schools and districts accountable and policymakers have some important decisions to make:

  • Will we measure student progress through an aspirational accountability system or will we compare schools to a state average?
  • Will our state system combine multiple measures in a way that prioritizes student achievement, or will we have so many measures that it’s tough to easily see if students are learning?
  • Will we have a clear, parent-friendly way to see how schools are doing that also helps policymakers direct support to fix schools that are failing groups of students?

Our latest Equity Alert digs deeper into these questions and examines how California can build a single, stronger accountability system that supports and protects vulnerable students. Read the Alert to learn more about what’s at stake for California’s students of color and low-income students as the state makes these crucial decisions.


Increase in GEAR UP 2016 Funding Announced


GEAR UP Community, this announcement was recently shared by our Washington DC partners, the National Council For Education and Community Partnerships as it relates to an increase in 2016 GEAR UP funding. Celebrate!


I am exceptionally pleased to share that moments ago, the President signed the FY 2016 omnibus appropriations package. Included in the FY 2016 appropriations is a $21.1 million increase for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative, which will bring overall funding to $322,754,000.As we have been discussing and reporting in the NCCEP Digests since last summer, this has been a hard fought process and we are grateful for the bipartisan leadership in the House, Senate, and the White House for supporting GEAR UP. Given the dramatic impact that your work has on the lives of students, families, and communities, we could not be more thankful that today’s outcome will bring over 38,000 new students into the program.

The $21.1 million increase represents the largest year-over-year increase in GEAR UP funding since 2001, and nearly recovers all of the sequestration-based cuts that the program has suffered since 2011, and leaves us just $458,000 shy of our all-time funding peak. I know many of you are anxious to know what this means for the timing of the next GEAR UP competition. It’s too soon to tell, but we will certainly keep you informed as the Department’s plans come together.

This growth is a testament to your work, impact, and commitment to advocating on behalf of the students we serve. I recognize that we have challenged each and every one of you to play a role in advocating for GEAR UP, so I hope that over the holiday season you will take a moment to reflect on what we have been able to accomplish together. Our shared belief that “together we rise,” has never been truer than today.

Of course, the road ahead will remain challenging. As such, we will continue to expand and refine our focus around our “Excel, Prove, Mobilize” strategies so that we sustain and grow GEAR UP. So while I know you will celebrate along with us, I also hope you will be emboldened to do more. Let us consider this victory an important first step, rather than the finish line.

So on behalf of everyone at NCCEP, thank you for your efforts. We hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.

Ranjit Sidhu
President & CEO
National Council for Community and Education Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP), All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you previously opted in to receive e-mails from NCCEP or because of your affiliation with a GEAR UP program.


More Students ‘college ready’, Campuses Crowded

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Source: California Department of Education

High school senior Cynthia Chavez really wanted to study psychology at Cal State Los Angeles next fall. But the student from Jefferson High in Los Angeles instead applied for admission as an English major.

That’s because her chances of winning a spot on campus are much greater in English than in psychology, one of 10 programs at the campus that now have far more qualified applicants than spaces available.

“The most important thing for me right now is to just get admitted to the school. I’ll worry about switching majors after that,” she said. “It’s really sad that this is the new reality for admissions. Just being willing and able to go to college is no longer enough.”

By last month’s application deadline, more than 215,000 high school seniors in California, an expected record high, filed more than 550,000 applications for fall 2016 admission to one or more of the California State University’s 23 campuses. Growing numbers are finding that they will be rejected for campuses or majors where the demand exceeds the supply.

The increasing difficulties students face in not only gaining entry to some CSU campuses but also to majors of their choice is casting a shadow on the principle goal of many of the education reforms underway in California, including the Common Core standards, which lists as a primary objective ensuring that more students leave high school prepared for college and careers. Educators and advocates alike worry a growing number of students will leave high school ready for college – only to find their path to a degree blocked by forces beyond their control.

“More Californians are prepared for college and want to go, yet our public universities cannot accommodate all of the eligible students and the state has failed to invest the resources necessary to expand college access to keep pace with demand,” asserted a recent report by the Campaign for College Opportunity, an L.A.-based advocacy organization.

On average, prospective students apply to two campuses – typically those in close proximity to where they live. That’s not only because they may save money by living with their parents, but also because they get preference over students from other parts of the state, and don’t have to have as high a GPA and SAT or ACT score as those applying from farther away.

Last year, about 33,000 freshmen applicants, or about 15 percent of all applicants, were rejected by each campus they applied to. A decade earlier, just 11,500 freshman applicants, or about 8 percent of all who applied, were denied admission.

Historically, some CSU campuses – including Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and San Diego State – and some majors such as nursing have always been harder to get into. Now the bar for admission is being raised at a growing number of campuses – along with the requirements to get into a major of a student’s choice.

Today, Cal State Fullerton, Fresno State, Cal State Long Beach, San Diego State, San Jose State and San Luis Obispo are entirely at capacity across all majors they offer, while an additional eight universities have five or more majors with more applicants than they can accommodate, according to CSU figures.

In CSU parlance, these campuses and majors are now declared “impacted.”

When an entire campus is called “impacted” it means that it has reached or surpassed existing enrollment capacity in terms of its instructional resources and physical size. A major is “impacted” when the number of applicants who met the system’s minimum admissions criteria exceeds the number of available spaces in that major.

“One of our primary missions is in danger,” said Eric Forbes, CSU’s assistant vice chancellor for student academic services. “We’re trying to squeeze as many students as possible through the neck of the bottle.”

“CSU has always been about access. ‘Impaction’ no longer allows that,” said Nancy Dority, assistant vice president of enrollment at Cal State Fullerton.

At Cal State Fullerton, all majors are “impacted.” At San Francisco State, 20 of 38 majors, from biology and chemistry to English and sociology, have been declared “impacted.” Sonoma State has “impacted” 11 of its 24 majors, and Cal Poly Pomona has “impacted” 13 of 21 majors.

The increased demand has forced campuses to become more selective in the admissions process. Many now require GPAs of 3.0 to 3.5 for students applying to popular programs including nursing, biology, computer science, engineering and business administration.

A decade ago, with some exceptions, virtually every eligible student could secure admission at every campus he or she applied to.

Several years of steep budget cuts, which have forced campuses to cut faculty, freeze enrollment and slash services, coupled with an unprecedented 64 percent gain since 2000 in the number of college-ready high school graduates, threatens part of the system’s core mission. The CSU now struggles to provide access to a high-quality education to all students who meet the system’s requirements for admission.

Although some new and ongoing initiatives aim to help boost the system’s overall enrollment, a solution that could again guarantee access to all campuses to qualified students remains elusive.


CSU is struggling to cope with a series of budgetary and demographic pressures that is having an impact on its ability to admit qualified students.

Between 2008 and 2012, lawmakers cut a cumulative total of about $1 billion from the system, amounting to a loss of about one-third of the system’s state revenue.

During the same time period, California also faced a major increase in college-ready high school graduates, those who completed with a grade of C or higher the A-G sequence, the 15 high school courses in math, English, science and other core subjects students must take to be eligible for admission to CSU.

From 2000 to 2014, the most recent figures available, the number of CSU-eligible students in California grew from 107,926 to 176,926, or an increase of 64 percent.

Educators attribute the increase to the stronger focus of K-12 schools on preparing a wider range of students for college and careers, and the overall student population growth in California.

But through much of this period the number of students admitted to CSU hardly increased.

In fall 2006, 417,112 in-state students were enrolled in CSU campuses. By fall 2012, the system grew in-state enrollment by just 972 students, an increase of less than 1 percent.

CSU Impaction
NOTE: Some majors offer degrees in multiple concentrations.


The CSU has historically had a mandate to provide access to the top one-third of California’s graduating high school students under the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education. CSU officials said that despite the growing number of impacted campuses and majors, some universities can still accommodate nearly all eligible students who apply.

Cal State Bakersfield, Cal State East Bay, Cal State Stanislaus, Cal State Monterey Bay and Cal State Dominguez Hills have room for every qualified applicant in almost every major.

But with so many other campuses being declared “impacted,” tens of thousands of eligible students are no longer guaranteed admission to the campus of their choice, including, sometimes, the school closest to their home.

“Access is eroding,” said Nancy Dority, assistant vice president of enrollment at Cal State Fullerton. “CSU has always been about access. ‘Impaction’ no longer allows that.”

Dority added, “There are thousands of students we deny each year. These are good students who would do fine here. But we have no space for them.”

At Sacramento State, eight majors are currently “impacted,” up from three in 2009. School officials are considering designating all majors as “impacted” as the campus struggles with a growing number of students it accepts with undeclared majors, or those who gain admission into the campus and later hope to enroll in “impacted” majors as space becomes available.

Edward Lascher, professor of public policy and administration at the university, wrote a report earlier this year for university leaders that outlined how demand had grown over the past decade, and how it affected the school’s long-term goals.

He concluded that limiting the number of students in some majors could have both positive and negative outcomes.

“On the positive side, ‘impaction’ might improve (student) progress to (getting a) degree for students within impacted majors by making it easier to get classes, allowing faculty and staff to spend more time with students, etc.,” he said.

“On the negative side, students who fail to make it into ‘impacted’ majors may ‘hang out’ in related majors, hoping to eventually get into their first choice discipline while not making progress in another field… (These students) might get discouraged and leave school or reduce their unit load,” Lascher said.

Dority said that one positive effect of the more stringent admissions is that admitted students are generally better prepared to succeed.

“We now have much better (prepared) students coming in,” she said. “They’re more likely to complete their coursework on time and are less likely to drop out.”

But that also has to be weighed against the CSU mission to provide an education to students with a broad range of qualifications, not just those who are most qualified.


Grace Zhong, a sophomore at Cal State Los Angeles, had hoped to enroll in the university’s nursing program when she began applying for admission two years ago. But after talking with career counselors, she determined her odds of getting accepted would be very low. Instead, she applied as a health science major, a program that’s not “impacted” at the campus. She now plans on becoming a medical technician.

“My mom and aunts are all nurses,” Zhong said. “I wanted to follow in their footsteps. But the nursing programs are so tough to get into.”

Nearly three-quarters of high school seniors turned away from CSU enroll in community colleges, according to estimates. The rest will either attend private schools, out-of-state colleges, for-profit universities, or enter the job market.

Carlos Ramirez, a senior at Norwalk High, applied to nearby Cal State Long Beach, but he worries he won’t be accepted because he’s competing with almost 58,000 other applicants. (Eventually, about one-third will be admitted.) He also applied to Fresno State and Cal State San Bernardino, but said he likely could not afford moving away from home. So he’ll probably enroll at Long Beach City College if he doesn’t get into Cal State Long Beach.

Also, his chances of enrolling at Cal State Long Beach are much higher as a transfer student because of a partnership between the community college and the university that guarantees admission to transfer students who meet minimum admissions requirements.

Other “impacted” CSUs, including Cal State FullertonSan Diego State and Sacramento State, have similar partnerships with community colleges in their enrollment areas aimed at boosting admission rates for local students who have demonstrated they can succeed in college.

“Cal State Long Beach remains my first-choice school,” said Ramirez, who plans to major in business administration. “So if I end up there in a couple years, then I’d still be happy with that.”


For 2016-17, the system will increase enrollment of freshmen and transfer students by 12,600, or 3 percent, following the $269 million increase in annual state funding approved as part of this year’s state budget.

Continuing improvements to the state economy could mean additional funding in coming years to help further boost enrollment and restore services, staffing and programs cut over the past decade, officials said.

Some lawmakers have also proposed building new campuses to help with the increased demand. Stockton and Chula Vista have been floated as possible locations for new CSUs. But given the billions of dollars it would cost, and the political hurdles the plan would face, construction of new campuses, or large-scale expansions of existing ones, isn’t something CSU officials can count on in the foreseeable future.

Some initiatives already underway to increase access include: increasing the number of online courses, currently at 10 percent of all course offerings, to reduce the physical capacity; and providing more support to help more students complete degrees in four years rather than the five to six years it takes a large number of students.

Additionally, CSU is planning to have “impacted” campuses institute year-round academic schedules that would allow for more flexible scheduling for students and more efficient use of facilities that are unused for months during the summer break.

Forbes said CSU officials are also working on improving partnerships with high schools statewide to ensure students begin preparing for college more effectively. They include programs to encourage more students to enroll in Advanced Placement courses where they can earn college credits and programs to help students avoid remediation in math and English. These would reduce the number of students needing CSU remedial and general education classes, thus freeing up resources to help admit more students.

The goal for these initiatives is to increase CSU admissions. They would require additional funding to hire new faculty, build new curriculum and create additional support programs and services, Forbes said.

CSU’s Board of Trustees earlier this month approved a plan to ask the state for an additional $102 million in funding to help pay for initiatives to increase access. Additionally, trustees said tuition increases that are “modest and predictable” might also be necessary to pay for increased services.

“The real solution is to look at all these options,” Forbes said. “We can’t rely on applications someday starting to decline. That’s not going to happen.”

2015 California Partnership Initiative Conference

Logo CPI bigger

The California Partnership Initiative (CPI) is a project of the California State GEAR UP Program, and was formalized at the National GEAR UP conference in Washington, DC in July 2014. Since 1999, the California State program has worked in collaboration with GEAR UP partnership projects to increase college and career readiness for students and families and to improve the college going culture in schools and communities. This initiative brings together the active partnership projects and the state grant to strengthen efforts for ALL students throughout California.  The CPI conference was held on November 18, 2015 in Irvine, CA for all California GEAR UP Staff.


The conference was kicked off by Ranjit Sidhu, President and CEO of the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships. His leadership and vision contributed to the organic nature of the conference and his presence set a positive tone for the day:

“The CPI conference embodied exactly the spirit and attitude that GEAR UP needs to have nationally.  It was clear that the participants were there to learn, share, and ultimately improve their impact on student readiness and success and to tighten their collaborative bond as professionals within the state.  Under the banner of Together We Rise, you could sense that unified momentum building amongst the participants at the event.” 


Programming for the conference included ‘Hot Topics’ Workshops created from content provided by the feedback and requests of participants during the planning phase of the conference.  These topics were identified as ‘of most interest’ through a survey that was distributed to all California partnership Project Directors: Data and Reporting; Sustainability; School Culture; and Family Engagement. Feedback from the workshops will be shared and other topics explored as the work of the Initiative continues.

“The on-going collaboration between GEAR UP partnerships under the direction of our California State GEAR UP grant continues to provide excellent resources, connections and networking to enhance significant successes with GEAR UP students, parents, and communities.”

Julie Johnson, Director Mira Costa College GEAR UP


Networking Sessions were another highlight of the conference and provided an opportunity for those who share similar job roles and responsibilities to describe their project, discuss their successes and challenges, exchange ideas and practices, and find support and counsel from colleagues. These groups (Directors and Co-Directors; Program Management; Direct Services Team; Program Support Team) will continue their collective conversations via the CPI online network, webinars, conference calls, social media and in-person meetings.


At the conference, projects shared resources, ideas and swag during a Resource Fair. Participants also registered for the online community Google Group, which can be accessed on the CPI webpage.  This network will enable programs across the state to stay connected, learn from one another, share information and engage in meaningful work together.

“Professional learning communities go by many different names and for California GEAR UP it is CPI. This initiative is “By GEAR UP and For GEAR UP” and will build upon the knowledge and expertise of GEAR UP professionals throughout our great State.”

Shelley Davis, Director California State GEAR UP


For further information visit



Attend 2016 ACT State Organization Conference

2016 California ACT State Organization Conference 

The California Promise: Achieving Social Justice through College and Career Readiness


The 2016 California ACT State Organization Conference strives to bring education and career readiness professionals a broad range of topics that meet the diverse needs of preparing students for college and career success.

  • Learn about key education strategies that will foster positive change in your school, district, and throughout California
  • Learn about student success best practices used by other institutions
  • Network with other education and workforce professionals

View the agenda.

Early bird pricing is ending soon—save 25% by registering before Friday, December 18, 2016! The cost is $75 per person through Friday, December 18, 2016; $100 per person thereafter. Conference registration includes continental breakfast, breaks, lunch, and conference materials.


  • Friday, February 26, 2016
    7:30 AM – 4:00 PM
    Pacific Time


  • California State University, Fullerton
    Titan Student Union
    800 N. State College Blvd.
    Fullerton, California 92834-6828

Get Driving DirectionsGet Driving Directions

Fullerton Marriott at California State University
2701 Nutwood Avenue
Fullerton, California 92831

Request the ACT group rate of $139 per night, plus tax. Please click on this link to make your reservation.

Hotel Rate Deadline:
Thursday, January 28, 2016; thereafter, reservations will be taken on a space-available basis.


If you need assistance participating in this meeting or event due to a disability as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), please email at least ten business days prior to the scheduled meeting or event to request an accommodation.


Rep Lowenthal Honors Tincher Spirit Assembly

Tincher Lowenthal

This summer Tincher Preparatory Academy, a California GEAR UP school,  was re-designatated for the third time as a National Schools To Watch model school. As part of this honor, Tincher went to Washington DC for the annual Schools to Watch conference in June to not only receive their award as a third time designee, but also to present at the conference how to successfully create a college going culture at a pre-K-8 school.
lowenthal DC

Tincher is the only school in Long Beach and the first K-8 School in the state to hold the honor of  three time recipient of National Schools to Watch. Teachers Erin Brady, Anne-Marie Lander, Tim Schugt, Principal Rosemary Sissons, and GEAR-UP Representative Mary Unverferth – presented at the National School’s to Watch Conference in DC in June. Middle School Teacher, Jamie Vallianos-Healy, accepted the award on the school’s behalf in Sacramento in February.  Tincher was first designated as a Schools to Watch in 2008, redesignated in 2011, and again in late 2014.

While in Washington DC, they were invited to share their success with Long Beach Congressman Alan Lowenthal in his office with his staff, and as a result the Congressman visited Tincher today for the spirit assembly and Parade of Colleges where the school celebrates it’s college going culture.

Rep. Lowenthal taught psychology at California State Long Beach for many years and has been a pillar of the education community while serving as city councilman, state assembly, state senate, and now as congressman of the 47th district.


The GEAR UP Leadership Team has been preparing the students, the campus, and the Tincher families for the congressman’s visit on spirit day.  The visit was at 9 am immediately following Dad’s Donut Day with the principal, which had more than a hundred fathers in attendance.

For the college parade, the GEAR UP team ordered college banners to display at each middle school classroom. The students researched specific colleges and decorated classroom doors, which were all used for the parade of colleges and pep rally.  All of this is possible because of the dedicated staff at Tincher who go far and above their normal scope of duties and are committed to doing whatever it takes for all of their students to succeed and achieve their college dreams.

lowenthal student


Tincher Preparatory School promotes a college-going atmosphere in grades K-8 with programs and activities such as  a College vocabulary list that begins in kindergarten and builds at each grade level along with a  week-long college awareness in the fall.  The feeling of college permeates the halls during March Madness Academics and Fun while a school-wide college presentation in conjunction with a literacy, science, and math night allows parents to learn more about the A-G requirements needed  for college admissions.



In addition to being a GEAR UP School since 1999, Tincher K-8 has also hosted a PIQE (Parent Institute of Quality Education) graduation ceremony last spring for parent graduates.   This 9-week program is free to all participants. Parents and caregivers are provided with the tools needed to create a positive educational environment at home and school.  Participants learn how to have an on-going dialogue with their children and their childrens’ educators to ensure academic success.

Tincher Preparatory School is a  California Distinguished School,  A Middle School ” Schools to Watch”, and a California GEAR-Up Lighthouse School.

For additional pictures of the event and Tincher Prep, checkout our Facebook page.