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The California Partnership Initiative (CPI) is a project of the California State GEAR UP Program. Since 1999, the California State program has enjoyed working in collaboration with GEAR UP partnership projects to reach our mutual goals:  increasing college and career readiness for low income students and improving the college going culture in schools.   CPI was formalized at the National GEAR UP conference in Washington, DC in July 2014.  The CPI planning committee was formed and representatives from the partnership projects met again at the NCCEP CBW in Philadelphia in February 2015.  This initiative brings together the 16 active partnership projects and the state grant to strengthen our efforts for ALL students throughout California.

2017 California Partnership Initiative Conference REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!

Please click the link below to register your team:


The Racial Gap in Education Is Slowly Shrinking


(from CityLab)

In the long fight to close achievement gaps in America’s public schools, some troubling trends are holding strong. The gap between higher- and lower-income students persists, and race, income, and segregation remain deeply connected when it comes to academic performance. But new research shows that the racial gap, though stubborn, appears to be slowly closing.

That’s a finding from a study released Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute that lends hard data to the progress and continued struggles to put students of different demographic groups on equal footing.

The good news from the report: African American and Hispanic students are continuing to catch up to their white counterparts. The gender gap is also gradually narrowing in math and reading: Female students lag males in math by a smaller margin than they did 10 years ago, and male students are catching up in reading, though not quite as quickly.

The bad news: the gap in achievement between poor and wealthy students is as wide as ever, and the proportion of poor students increased significantly over the period of study. Also bad: the gap has actually grown between students who are still learning English (in this study, that was limited to Hispanic and Asian children) and those who are fluent.

“We are going to have to really understand why the social-class gap is not closing. And that’s for whites as well,” says Martin Carnoy, an author of the report. “Poor kids are not making gains relative to non-poor kids. The average lower social class kid is not making gains. The schools have to put much more effort into this.”

Although test scores are rising overall for every demographic, the gains aren’t uniform across all states. An earlier study showed that many states that posted the lowest gains were ones with minimal minority populations. Others, like Michigan and Wisconsin, were states with “long histories of promoting vouchers and charter schools to stimulate privately managed education, to no avail.” The problem for students in these states, most of whom are white, isn’t that second- and third-generation Hispanics are catching up, or that Asian students are pulling further ahead. “The white students in these states are making lower gains,” Carnoy and García write “because their state governments are not making the kinds of public school reforms made by other states, such as Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont, and, in the 1990s, North Carolina”—reforms like strengthening math curriculum and training teachers.

On a national level, Hispanic and African American students in the United States are making headway despite the odds stacked against them. Hispanic and African American students are more likely to be poor and live in low-income, racially segregated neighborhoods or areas of concentrated poverty. And even when these students aren’t poor themselves, they’re more likely to attend schools with large proportions of poor students. More than 40 percent of black and Hispanic students were in high-poverty schools by 2013, compared to only 7 percent of white students, according to the study.


“These kids, on average, are going to the schools which allegedly should not be very helpful to them to do well, according to what we know about these schools,” Carnoy says. “That means that somehow either our judgment of these schools is incorrect, these high-minority, high-poverty schools, or there’s something happening outside getting them to do better.”

That fact, he says, should temper the condemnation of public schools that has come from many politicians, including President-elect Donald Trump and education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. It could also be a case for not making radical changes based on the idea that schools are uniformly failing their students and communities.

“In terms of these ethnic gaps closing, and kids of color doing well in the system, the public schools should keep doing what they’re doing, making the kind of reforms they’re making, whether it’s trying to improve the curriculum, or as in some states, like California, assigning more money to poor kids, trying to do a better job of getting good teachers into these high-minority, high-poverty schools,” Carnoy says.

But language programs still need to make more progress to help English-learners, and the fact that schools are generally becoming poorer also raises some red flags. Among the eighth-graders they sampled for mathematics performance, the share of schools classified as high-poverty rose from 15.7 percent in 1996 to 24.1 percent in 2013. In that same time, the number of schools with more than half of their students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch rose from 31.2 percent to 48.3 percent.

To reach their findings, Carnoy and García examined fourth and eighth graders in reading and mathematics from 2003 to 2013, and eighth graders in mathematics from 1996 to 2013. They used individual students’ microdata from the National Assessment of Education Progress, which allowed them to separately analyze the influence of English language ability on the academic performance of Hispanic and Asian American students.

Their report is more silver lining than cloud: the racial achievement gap has long been one of the more damning symptoms of inequity in education, and it’s getting better. Economic inequality, however, is not—and its consequences on children will shape the future.

The study concludes with some concrete policy recommendations: investing in early childhood education (particularly by strengthening the math curriculum), strengthening public education, and investing in afterschool and summer enrichment programs. These steps aren’t enough to solve social divisions in the United States, but, the authors write, “neither is doing nothing or implementing policies that don’t work for anyone.”


GEAR UP Government Relations Update


(this updated provided in part by NCCEP in Washington DC)

The last week has been incredibly busy on Capitol Hill. Congress passed a resolution to set the 2017 budget and decide funding levels for 2018-2026. This means that Congress wants to create a budget that won’t have to be approved by the Administration and help speed up the process of creating the budget. The primary target of budget discussions has been the Affordable Care Act and not education funding levels.

With the election of President Trump, we’ve been working hard to shore up support for GEAR UP among our Congressional stakeholders, while trying to acquaint the Trump transition team with the importance of the GEAR UP program to communities all over the nation. In December, we submitted a transition memo to key players on the incoming administration’s education transition team, including Robert Goad, who is widely expected to have a key role on the White House’s Domestic Policy Council.

This week, the Senate HELP committee held Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing for the role of Secretary of Education. The hearing was exceptionally partisan and short on policy specifics. Republicans came out in support for with DeVos’s general approach to increasing school choice, whereas Democrats questioned DeVos’s lack of approval through the ethics process, the amount of money she has donated to political campaigns, and her inexperience with the complexities of federal education policy. While her passion for low-income students certainly came through, much of the beltway chatter this morning is focused on her refusal to commit to not privatizing public school, her relative silence on some of the most pressing education issues of the day, and the need for her to be surrounded by a strong team while leading the Department of Education. There’s certainly enough votes on the Committee to approve her appointment, so we’ll be working hard with her and her team to ensure that GEAR UP remains a deeply valued program.

Finally, committee assignments are coming together in the House and the Senate. So far, in the House we know that Diane Black (WI) is likely to chair the House Budget Committee; Rodney Felinghuseng (NJ) will chair the House Appropriations Committee; Virginia Foxx (NC) will chair the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; Tom Cole (OK) will chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Service. In the Senate, Bernie Sanders (VT) will be the ranking member for the Senate Budget Committee; Patrick Leahy (VT) will be the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee; and Patty Murray (WA) will be the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. We are waiting to hear more from House Democrats and Senate Republicans on leadership assignments.

UPDATED 2/2/17

Yesterday, the Senate HELP Committee voted on Betsy DeVos’s nomination for U.S. Secretary of Education. With the public weighing in at an unprecedented level, DeVos was narrowly approved by the committee along a party-line vote (12 for and 11 against). While the nomination will make its way to the Senate floor, two Republicans who supported her in the committee have not committed to supporting her on the floor vote. This is becoming the most contested vote of all of the President’s cabinet nominees so far; Democrats only need three Republicans to vote “no” to succeed in blocking her appointment.

While this committee is somewhat unique in their bipartisan collaboration, Chairman Alexander’s (R-TN) refusal to postpone the vote to allow for deeper inquiry into DeVos’s ethics filing and questionnaire responses sparked an unusually strong rebuke from Ranking Member Patty Murry (D-WA). In addressing the Chairman, she said that the process has dramatically impacted their “ability to work together in good faith moving forward”.

As we shared in a previous Digest, we asked the Senate HELP committee to pose GEAR UP-related questions during DeVos’s hearing. While the hearing itself did not include many program-specific questions, a modified version of our questions were included in the follow-up questionnaire, which required the nominee to submit written responses to the committee.

The questions posed by committee members communicated that GEAR UP and TRIO enjoy “strong bipartisan support” and “play a critical role”. This is a crucial message for them to send to the potential Secretary, and we welcome their sentiment. However, her generic responses to the questions signal very little specifics about where she stands relative to the programs. To her suggestions that she will be “reviewing the effectiveness” and “strengthening” the programs if need be – that is a meeting that we are very eager to have. We have the evidence demonstrating that GEAR UP works and have a reauthorization package to make the program even better!

When given the opportunity, we have no doubt that the GEAR UP and TRIO communities will make an impassioned, evidence-driven case for expanding the modest federal investment in our students, families, and communities. We have included the pertinent questions and her answers below in full.

Senate HELP Committee Questions for DeVos Related to GEAR UP

Question #53 (P.38)
According to a recent report, racial gaps in college completion between white and African American and Hispanic students have widened significantly since 2007. At the same time, the face of the American college student is changing. Students from low income backgrounds, as well as older students and students with children, are increasingly enrolling in colleges across the country. Yet, retention and graduation rates are low for these students compared with so-called “traditional college” students.
  1. With 65 percent of jobs by 2020 requiring education beyond high school, how will you as Secretary help ensure that our historically disadvantaged students are able to access and complete college at a rate comparable to their white classmates, in order to ensure that students from all backgrounds have a fair shot of getting the jobs they need to be successful in a 21st century economy?
  2. Given that creating a highly skilled, competitive American workforce increasingly requires a college degree, what will you do to ensure that traditionally underserved students are able to enter and succeed in college?

ANSWER: The goal of the federal student aid programs is to ensure access to postsecondary education for traditionally underserved populations. These programs are supported by college access programs like TRIO and GEAR UP. If confirmed, I will review these and other programs to ensure they are operating as effectively as they can be. Should these programs need reform because they are not producing appropriate outcomes, I look forward to working with you and your colleagues to strengthen them during the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Question #87 (P.52)
The TRIO and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) are competitive grant programs that identify and seek to increase the number of low-income students who are successful in K-12 and higher education. These programs have strong bipartisan support and play a critical role in ensuring that promising students from low-income families have the resources and the community that they need to be successful. Do you think that students who face greater barriers to success in their education, such as the students who participate in TRIO/GEAR UP, need additional resources such as tutoring and financial assistance to be successful in K-12 and higher education? If so, do you think the federal government has any role in providing those services?

ANSWER: The Higher Education Act (HEA) has several programs designed to help underserved students gain access to higher education and be successful in their pursuits. If confirmed, I look forward to reviewing the effectiveness of these programs and working with you and your colleagues to strengthen programs with a demonstrated track record of success in the HEA reauthorization.