The goal of the California GEAR UP Program is:
To develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare all students for high school and higher education through a systemic network of support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders and families. This expanded capacity is expected to result in a higher proportion of students, particularly from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, enrolling and succeeding in higher education.
The ultimate outcome expected from this Program is that a higher proportion of students will be prepared to enroll and succeed in advanced courses in middle school and high school and enter and graduate with a degree from a higher educational institution.
This Program has three modes of services to support schools in reaching this goal:
- direct service to a cohort of students through the Bridge for Students Model;
- services to a cohort of middle schools through the Whole School Model; and,
- services to all California middle schools through the Educational System Transformation Model.
Bridge for Students Model:
The Bridge for Students Model is characterized by collaboration, student progress tracking, and data sharing among a family of schools across educational levels in order to prepare all cohort students for college. The objective guiding this model is:
Objective 1: To Increase by 20 Percent the Number of Bridge Students Achieving at Grade-Appropriate Levels in Mathematics as Compared to the Respective 2010–11 Class at the School.
The first step in building this bridge occurred when 631 sixth graders at five elementary schools were introduced to a college-going culture in the 2010–11 year. Today, these students are tenth graders at Valley High School in the Elk Grove Unified School District and will graduate from this school in 2017, the final year of this grant cycle.
These high school students received research-supported, grade-appropriate services to enhance their opportunity for success, especially in mathematics, including:
- individualized tutoring in Mathematics three or five days a week, depending on the course;
- enrollment in Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) courses and Career Technical Pathways through Health Teach and Project Lead the Way;
- field trips that expose students to various collegiate environments and careers;
- support from GEAR UP staff to monitor student academic progress and facilitate success at the school;
- career exploration with staff in areas of interest, job shadowing, and mentors in connected fields;
- monthly workshops focused on college and career readiness;
- collaboration with schools in the feeder pattern, local businesses, the Elk Grove School Unified School District, and Consumnes River College to offer more rigorous coursework, create a college-going culture, increase cross-articulation opportunities in Advanced Placement/Honors coursework, and support, place, and adopt Integrated Mathematics.
Whole School Model:
The Whole School Model is characterized by services, staff, and resources designed to create systemic change at a school site. This model is predicated on systemic change theory and research about effective learning communities that demonstrates the importance of planning time, the principal as an instructional leader, and the critical nature of using data to inform decision-making. The objective guiding this model is:
Objective 2: To Increase by Five Percent Each Year the Number of Students at the Participating GEAR UP Schools Who Are Performing at Grade-Appropriate Levels in Mathematics as Compared to the Performance of Students at These Schools in the 2010–11 Year.
In May of 2012, 48 low-income schools across the state were selected to participate in the Implementation Phase of this six-year grant cycle. A School Services Coach has been assigned to each school with the responsibility for assisting to coalesce a GEAR UP School Leadership Team composed of the principal, other school administrators, guidance counselors, teachers in core academic content areas, a parent, and a counselor.
In the fall of 2014, GEAR UP schools attended regional Principal and Leadership Team Institutes to provide opportunities to learn from each other and problem solve together about common concerns and issues. These events were customized to meet the needs of participating schools within each region and in alignment with focused areas of growth identified on the School Self-Assessment Rubric (SSAR) developed by the UCLA Graduate School of Education. The SSAR serves as a yardstick to assess school change over time and guide the development of a college-going culture at the school site. These Institutes were followed by Regional Events in spring 2015 focused on classroom practices for implementing Common Core State Standards, developing region-wide professional learning communities, and proactive whole school engagement to address instructional equity for ALL students.
GEAR UP schools in the cohort have continued to make progress with the implementation of the Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project (MDTP) on the Daskala online platform. This diagnostic test measures student readiness for mathematics courses ranging from Pre-Algebra to Calculus. During this year, GEAR UP Coaches and MDTP Directors have collaborated to monitor progress at the school site. This online tool provides teachers timely diagnostic data to identify specific topics and skills that need more attention, allows them to develop formative assessments, and informs and evaluates instruction and curricula to prepare students for success in mathematics courses needed for college and career readiness.
In October 2013, the Program launched a pilot project in partnership with College Board to implement SpringBoard — the Board’s college and career readiness program in English/Language Arts for grades 6-12. The pilot is being conducted with four GEAR UP schools and includes teacher training, progress monitoring through classroom visitations, data collection, and critical understanding by schools of the nature of their learning and the reasons for doing so. Teachers have access to SpringBoard coaches, grade level seminars, and an online digital community for peer connection and support, including videos and instructional resources.
In May 2014, school principals observed teacher commitment to the depth and rigor of the college preparatory curriculum, and thereafter, the schools adopted the SpringBoard mathematics program school-wide. As a result of this pilot, the teachers from the SpringBoard ELA pilot and Mathematics program will be attending the SpringBoard Train-the-Trainer Conference where schools will send their most effective SpringBoard teachers and instructional coaches to become district-endorsed teachers. Other GEAR UP schools have expressed an interest in SpringBoard and will be participating beginning in the 2015-16 year.
Education System Transformation Model:
An Educational System Transformation Model expands the program’s reach in promoting a college-going culture for all students and offers opportunities to impact the educational enterprise as a whole, albeit less intensively. The objective of this model is:
Objective 3: To Increase by Five Percent in Six Years the Number of Students in the State Completing Grade-Appropriate Mathematics Courses as Compared to 2010–11 Statewide Outcomes.
In July 2014, program staff met with California GEAR UP Partnership project staffs at the National Council for Community and Educational Partnerships (NCCEP) GEAR UP Conference in Washington, DC. The result of these meetings was the launching of the California Partnership Initiative. Through this initiative, the California delegation met again in February 2015 at the NCCEP Capacity Building workshop with plans to meet at the 2015 National Conference.
Another activity undertaken through this model was the co-sponsoring of the Sixth Annual Professional Development Summit in Oakland in January 2015. This two-day event featured state and national leaders and educators to discuss the social justice agenda for African- American students.
Finally, GEAR UP strengthened its partnership with the California Academic Partnership Program (CAPP) — a State initiative to improve instruction in secondary schools through collaborative efforts involving higher education. CAPP funded an initiative this year that included four high schools to which GEAR UP middle schools matriculate students in order to sustain a college-going culture for those students, particularly in grades 10 and 11.