Category: School Sustainability

Report Card on Outcomes for Low Income Students Released


Ed TrustWest Releases Third Annual Report Cards Grading the 148 Largest Unified Districts on Outcomes for Latino, African-American, and Low-income Students

OAKLAND, CA (April 3, 2013) – Today, The Education Trust–West (ETW) releases its third annual District Report Cards, grading and ranking California’s largest unified districts on outcomes for Latino, African-American, and low-income students. Once again, this year’s report cards reveal higher poverty districts that are consistently achieving strong academic results, and graduating high numbers of college-eligible Latino, African-American, and low-income students.

“Just as students receive report cards that measure their performance and progress in school, ETW develops annual report cards that grade California school districts on how well they are educating their Latino, African-American, and low-income students,” said Lindsey Stuart, Data and Policy Analyst at The Education Trust–West.  To create the report cards, ETW uses publicly available data from the California Department of Education to assign “A-F” letter grades and numerical rankings on four key indicators: performance, academic improvement over five years, the size of achievement gaps, and college readiness. Grades on these four indicators are combined into a single overall grade.

In addition, this year’s District Report Cards website contains some exciting new features. The college readiness indicator now includes graduation rates and cohort a-g rates (the percentage of Latino and African-American  ninth-graders who graduate from high school having completed the course sequence necessary to apply to the UC/CSU systems). In addition, we have developed interactive regional maps of district grades and added a section to the website on promising practices in higher poverty, higher performing districts.

“We hope that parents, educators, and community members will use these report cards as a resource to identify districts that are closing achievement gaps and providing greater opportunities for all students to be successful,” said Jeannette LaFors, Director of Equity Initiatives at The Education Trust–West.

This year, the highest overall grade of a B is earned by Baldwin Park Unified (Los Angeles County). In Baldwin Park, low-income students posted five-year gains of 102 API points, far exceeding the average gains of 64 points in other large unified districts across the state. In addition, San Marcos Unified (San Diego County), West Covina Unified (Los Angeles County), and Lake Elsinore Unified (Riverside County) also rank at the top of our rankings. These districts all serve student populations that are over 40 percent low-income, and over 50 percent African-American and/or Latino.

On April 11, The Education Trust–West will host a webinar where district and school leaders from top-performing districts will share the strategies that have contributed to student success.

“Districts with the best outcomes for California’s Latino, African-American, and low-income students don’t always get the recognition they deserve,” said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West. “We applaud their leaders, teachers, and staff for their hard work and their unwavering commitment to equity and improving student outcomes.”

The report cards are available online at:

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About The Education TrustWest-A California GEAR UP Partner
The Education TrustWest works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.

Promising Practices for Success in Linked Learning Schools

For Immediate Release 
March 21, 2013
Contact: Eric Wagner (510) 465-6444, ext 318
New Ed Trust–West Study Finds Promising Practices for Student Success in Linked Learning Schools; Reveals Implications for District-Level Implementation throughout California

OAKLAND, CA (March 21, 2013) – As the Linked Learning high school reform initiative expands across California, the results of a two-year study by the Education Trust–West identifies promising practices in Linked Learning schools and districts. However, the study also notes variation in districtwide implementation of these best practices. The results of the study can be found in the new report released today titled, Expanding Access, Creating Options: How Linked Learning Pathways Can Mitigate Barriers to College and Career Access in Schools and Districts.

“Too many students are not achieving college and career success in California,” said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a statewide education advocacy organization that works to close gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color and low-income students. “Based on our research, we see that Linked Learning has the potential to reduce these inequities and offer students a real connection between academic and career success.”

According to its proponents, the Linked Learning approach aims to prepare students for postsecondary education and careers by connecting academics to real-world applications in school and workplace settings. The study examines the impact of the Linked Learning approach in four schools and three districts. High quality Linked Learning schools mitigated or eliminated traditional high school barriers to student access and success in college-preparatory coursework.

“These Linked Learning schools showed a real commitment to providing every student with meaningful college and career preparation,” said Jeannette LaFors, Director of Equity Initiatives at The Education Trust–West. “Students, parents, faculty, and business/industry partners are all working together to link academic preparation with real life work experiences to deeply engage and motivate students.”

The authors found that students graduated from Linked Learning schools and accessed college- and career-preparatory coursework at relatively high rates. However, students had mixed results on standardized assessments of student achievement such as the Early Assessment Program (EAP). They found that districts expanding Linked Learning have made notable progress, but found wide variation in the implementation of best practices identified at the site level. For instance, districts are offering more college preparatory courses that integrate career and technical education than ever before. However, many of their schools have failed to eliminate practices that can lead to academic tracking by race and class.

The enactment of state legislation (AB 790) is expanding the Linked Learning initiative into dozens of districts through the Linked Learning Pilot Program. The authors recommend that stakeholders hold districts to rigorous standards such as those established by ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career.

“We found that when implemented with fidelity, the Linked Learning approach can fundamentally transform teaching, learning and educational systems,” said Tameka L. McGlawn, Senior Practice Associate at The Education Trust—West. “As with any initiative, expanding Linked Learning offers promise and challenges.  We can and must ensure that Linked Learning intentionally serves all students adequately and equitably,” she concluded.

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About The Education Trust—West, a California GEAR UP Partner. 

The Education Trust—West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.

2013 “Schools to Watch™” Model Middle Schools Announced

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Congratulates California’s 2013

“Schools to Watch™–Taking Center Stage” Model Middle Schools


SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that 12 high-performing California middle schools have been newly designated as model middle grades schools in the Schools to Watch™−Taking Center Stage (STW−TCS) program. Another nine high-performing California schools will also retain their model middle grades schools status under the same program.

“My congratulations and admiration go out to these schools for continually striving to improve student performance,” Torlakson said. “Their success is the result of effective and innovative practices that motivate their students to learn and excel.”

STW‒TCS middle grades schools are high-performing model schools that demonstrate academic excellence, developmental responsiveness to the needs and interests of young adolescents, social equity, and organizational support. STW‒TCS model schools host visitors from California and around the world who are looking for replicable practices that will help them improve their middle grades schools and close the achievement gap.

The 12 newly designated STW‒TCS model middle grades schools are:

Fresno County

1.     Fairmont Elementary K-8 (Sanger Unified School District, Sanger)

2.     Quail Lake Environmental Charter K-8 (Sanger Unified School District, Sanger)

3.     Sanger Academy Charter K-8 (Sanger Unified School District, Sanger)

The three schools are small, rural K-8 schools that have specific programs for middle grades students and have significantly closed the achievement gap. They act as one professional learning community frequently collaborating on better instructional strategies. (In 2011, Sanger Unified’s Washington Academic Middle School was designated a STW−TCS.)

Los Angeles County

4.    Frank J. Zamboni Middle School (Paramount Unified School District, Paramount) is an urban school whose Academic Performance Index (API) scores (on a scale ranging from 200 to 1000, with 800 established as the statewide target) in nearly every student group have risen from the 600’s in 2006-07 to the 800’s in 2011-12. Students who are English learners scored at 789, but made a significant 27-point growth last year. The staff has focused on poverty issues facing their students as part of their concern for the whole child.

Orange County

5.    Pioneer Middle School (Tustin Unified School District, Tustin) has seen significant and sustained improvement over the past five years in student achievement, meeting all significant subgroup targets on state standardized tests. The school developed a successful program, Pyramid on Interventions, to assist all students in becoming proficient, as well as having been recognized as a national professional learning community model.

6.    Thurston Middle School (Laguna Beach Unified School District, Laguna Beach) is a suburban school and has made all its growth targets every year on state standardized tests by supporting all students in using “Best First Practices” and “Response to Intervention” strategies.

San Bernardino County

7.    Summit Intermediate School (Etiwanda School District, Etiwanda) is a suburban school that has made significant increases on state standardized tests over the past five years. Nearly every numerically significant student group is at or above the 800 statewide target. These diverse learners have had increased learning opportunities with “X-Time,” a period where teachers provide additional support.

8.    Vanguard Preparatory K-8 (Apple Valley Unified School District, Apple Valley) is a rural school with more than 1,000 students that is consistently closing the achievement gap. With a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), the school offers family STEM nights to explore these areas.

Santa Clara County

9.    Union Middle School (Union Elementary School District, San Jose) is a suburban school whose API score is a noteworthy 932 points and is ranked in the top 10 percent of state middle schools. Part of the school’s success is due to the school’s collaborative approach, “Intervention on a Page,” that provides all the necessary information for student support.

Santa Cruz County

10. San Lorenzo Valley Middle School (San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District, Felton) is a rural school with a smaller population of about 500 students. The school has gained 46 points on the API since 2007, while the socioeconomically disadvantaged student population has gained 82 points. During the third week of the year, academic counseling and intervention is started so that no child is allowed to fall behind academically.

11. Scotts Valley Middle School (Scotts Valley Unified School District, Scotts Valley) is a suburban school with a growing diverse population and whose state’s standardized test scores show a closing of the achievement gap. The support strategy is using the “Enrichment” period where many services are offered to meet individual needs.

Ventura County

12.  Sinaloa Middle School  (Simi Valley Unified School District, Simi Valley) is a suburban school that is closing the achievement gap with all of its student groups. The API scores for students with disabilities have increased 96 points on state standardized tests since 2007. The school has a plethora of strategies that the faculty has developed through collaboration to engage its students.


The redesignated model middle schools are:

1.    Canyon Middle School (Castro Valley Unified School District, Castro Valley, Alameda County); a STW‒TCS school for six years

2.    Edna Hill Middle School (Brentwood Union School District, Brentwood, Contra Costa County); a STW‒TCS school for six years

3.    Frank M. Wright Middle School (Imperial Unified School District, Imperial, Imperial County); a STW‒TCS school for six years

4.    Granger Junior High (Sweetwater Union High School District, National City, San Diego County); a STW‒TCS school for three years   and previous California GEAR UP School.

5.    John Glenn Middle School (Desert Sands Unified School District, Indio, Riverside County); a STW‒TCS school for nine years

6.    Medea Creek Middle School (Oak Park Unified School District, Oak Park, Los Angeles County); a STW‒TCS schools for nine years

7.    Mistletoe School (Enterprise Elementary School District, Redding, Shasta County); a STW‒TCS school for three years

8.    Oliver Wendell Holmes Middle School (Los Angeles Unified School District, Northridge, Los Angeles County); a STW‒TCS school for six years and previous California GEAR UP School.

9.    Reyburn Intermediate (Clovis Unified School District, Clovis, Fresno County); a STW‒TCS school for three years

In order to be named a STW‒TCS model middle school, school administrators must conduct a self-study evaluation and complete an extensive narrative application. Each site is then reviewed by a team of middle grades experts. In order to retain the designation, each school is re-evaluated every three years.

The nine redesignated schools named today were reviewed last October and are among 36 others selected in previous cycles since 2003 as STW‒TCS designees. All of the schools will be formally recognized at the California Middle Grades Alliance annual luncheon on February 28, 2013, and during the California League of Middle Schools Conference on March 1-3, 2013. Both events will be in Sacramento. At that time, the schools will have an opportunity to showcase their accomplishments and network with other middle grades educators from around the state.

For more information about the Schools to Watch™−Taking Center Stage model school program, visit the California Department of Education Web site at California Schools to Watch — Taking Center Stage . Schools to Watch™−Taking Center Stage is a partner of California GEAR UP. 

Statewide Higher Education Tools Conference Announced

(click to enlarge)


California GEAR UP is pleased to invite you to attend ‘Effective Tools for Preparing Students for Access and Success in Higher Education.’ Presented by a statewide network of higher education organizations, the purpose of this conference is to begin the scalability process with respect to these resource tools and strategies with the following objectives in mind:

  • More secondary school and higher educational staff will be aware and knowledgeable of these resource tools
  • Secondary schools, Academic Preparation Program staff, and community organizations will adopt and adapt these tools to expand the efficacy and effectiveness of their college counseling with students.

Ultimately, the goal of this conference is that more students, particularly from African-American, Latino, Native American, and low-income communities, will be prepared for enrollment and success in college through the utilization of these resource tools. Members of these audiences are highly encouraged to attend: Secondary School Administrators, Counselors, and Teachers, Community Organization Staff, Guiding Secondary School Students on College Preparation, Academic Preparation Program Directors, Counselors, and Advisors, Outreach Officers from Higher Educational Institutions. 

Sponsors include:

ACT, Inc.

Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities

California Community Colleges

California Department of Education

California GEAR UP Program

California State University

College Access Foundation of California

California Education Round Table Intersegmental Coordinating Committee (ICC)

College Board

ScholarShare College Savings Plan

University of California

To register at no cost, please visit the ICC  Website.


Support College Access in Middle School with Donors Choose

Most people think that high school is where students should start thinking about preparing for college, but California GEAR UPKnowHow2GO and the Lumina Foundation for Education know that real success starts in middle school – where students first begin more rigorous coursework.  That’s why they are working together to half-fund middle school college readiness projects across 16 states. KnowHow2GO is an effort initially funded in 2007 by the Lumina Foundation and now works through Donors Choose to match individual donors with teachers.

Attention middle school teachers! If you’re interested in KnowHow2GO funding consider submitting projects that include:

  • College guides, Financial Aid guides, and PSAT/NMSQT/Pre-ACT test prep books.
  • Tools to support AVID classes, rigorous courses, or extracurricular activities that promote college-ready skills (Mock Trial, Debate, Math Club, etc.).
  • focus on college access and exposure.
  • are academically rigorous and emphasize college readiness.
  • include the word ‘college’ in project essay

Middle schools in the following states are eligible:

CA | CT | FL | ID | IL | IN | IA | KY | MA | MI | MT | NE | OH | TN | WA | WI

If you’re a teacher looking for inspiration, or a prospective donor looking to help, check out these great examples of qualifying projects:

A variety of books and other college-focused materials
An AVID class needing books to show them college is in reach
SAT prep materials
A trip for students to visit a local college

Here is how to sign up:

  1. Log in to their teacher account on (any public school teacher can sign up at
  2. Submit up to three project requests for $400 in materials per request, for resources to help their class learn about, visit, or prepare for college.
  3. For priority consideration, projects should be submitted by November 1st, but we suggest your teachers submit their projects sooner for best chance of matched funds this fall.
  4. Then what happens? Within a week of project approval, if their project meets the above criteria, they will see a logo on your project page. For more information about preparing their students for college, they can visit

For more information on KnowHow2GO funding pages on Donors Choose, click HERE.

For more information about the KnowHow2GO program, including how to get students involved or how to volunteer, expend all your mouse-clicking energy right here.

Gaining Ground in Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better


A new middle grades report from EdSource provided further affirmation of the capacity building efforts of California GEAR UP. What is particularly interesting for GEAR UP schools is the findings suggest schools who have high functioning Leadership Teams that focus the school community on a shared “future oriented” mission are far better off.

Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better, is based on surveys from 303 principals, 3,752 English language arts (ELA) and math teachers in grades 6-8, and 157 superintendents in California. Educator responses were analyzed against spring 2009 scores on California’s standards-based tests in ELA and math in grades 6, 7, and 8, which were taken by close to 204,000 students.

The study was designed to identify the practices and policies that differentiate higher- from lower-performing middle grades schools that serve similar student populations.

But the single most important overarching finding was in how these higher-performing schools create a shared, school-wide intense focus on the improvement of student outcomes:

  • They set measurable goals on standards-based tests and benchmark tests across all proficiency levels, grades, and subjects;
  • Their school mission is “future oriented,” with curricula and instruction designed to prepare students to succeed in a rigorous high school curriculum;
  • They included improvement of student outcomes in evaluations of the superintendent, the principal, and the teachers; and
  • They communicate to parents and students their responsibility as well for student learning, including parent contracts, turning in homework, attending class, and asking for help when needed.

Go here to learn more about California GEAR UP middle grades capacity building model. To read the report in full, please visit EdSource report.

Northern Sustainability Schools Collaborate at Forum


(Shelley Davis pictured above welcoming the schools)

California GEAR UP Northern California Sustainability (CSP) schools met a the Berkeley Marina DoubleTree to work on the following outcomes:

Leadership Teams will:

  • Engage in a Professional Learning Community by participating in professional readings and dialogue
  • Debrief School-wide SSAR conversations, pre-survey and facilitation
  • Revisit Sustainability & determine next implementation steps
  • Identify the evidence of growth in the SSAR Conditions
  • Sharing Best Strategies: Successful Intervention Strategies & Support for Struggling Students

The Continuing Sustainability Project develops and implements long-term strategies to maintain the active participation of middle schools with California GEAR UP and to chart the sustainability of program initiatives towards the development of a college-going culture. Many of our CSP school have been with us for 5 years and are in the culminating stages of their sustainability plans.

Collaboration is key in creating a sustained college-going reform effort in your school. We applaud all of our schools for their continued effort in rethinking what schools can be!!

For more information on our sustainability program, please visit our website.

College Culture Sustainability: Maywood Middle School

Maywood Middle School showed off why they are one of our Continuing Sustainability Schools during a visit last week. They held a College and Career Fair door decorating contest that included:

  • career field
  • occupations (minimum of 4)
  • names of colleges, universities, technical training schools
  • programs offered by school for each occupation

Students also participated in a Tri-Fold Poster contest that displayed the following:

Left Side of tri-fold:

  1. Training
  2. Colleges
  3. Prgrams

Center of tri-fold:

  1. Occupation
  2. What it is?
  3. What you do?
  4. Type of postions
  5. Where you work?

Right Side of tri-fold:

  1. Forcast of jobs in the future
  2. Salaries

Sites that might be helpful are and

Thanks for sharing Maywood. Great work!!

What types of activities do you do at your school to promote a college-going culture?

Taking Center Stage Act II launches new website

Taking Center Stage—Act II (TCSII): Ensuring Success and Closing the Achievement Gap for All of California’s Middle Grades Students promotes, illustrates, and supports the concepts embedded in the California Department of Education’s (CDE) 12 Recommendations for Middle Grades Success. Created specifically for middle grades educators, the Web portal delivers developmentally responsive and research-based practices through videos, professional learning activities, and best practice vignettes focused on the young adolescent.

TCSII fits into the 6 conditions of California GEAR UP and is an excellent resource for middle grades in addressing the Achievement Gap.

Visit the site and explore:

Be sure to check out the professional learning presentations including pre-activities and videos.

A great resource!

California joins race for school stimulus funds

From the October 15, 2009 SacBee:

California is back in the race.

Sunday afternoon Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that took away the biggest obstacle to the state winning a share of $4.35 billion in federal Race to the Top funds for education.

Senate Bill 19, authored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, eliminates a statewide ban against tying student test scores to teacher evaluations.

President Barack Obama and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan had warned California leaders in recent weeks that the state would not see any of the Race to the Top stimulus funds if they didn’t change the law.

Simitian said the legislation should putCalifornia back in position to receive the stimulus funds. There were two preconditions to applying for the money, the senator said: “One was fill out the application, and two was remove any barriers to the use of data.”

Federal officials would not comment specifically on California’s chances now that the ban has been lifted, but they indicated it was a step in the right direction.

“We applaud California’s leaders for making a difficult decision,” said Justin Hamilton, U.S. Department of Education spokesman.

Education experts have said Race to the Top grants could be as high as $200 million to $300 million.

“More states are going to lose than are going to win,” Hamilton said. “It has to be the states that are absolutely pushing the envelope.”

State schools chief Jack O’Connell said Tuesday that SB 19 gives California a “fighting chance to compete for Race to the Top funding.”

The legislation eliminated a paragraph in another state law passed in 2006 that barred the state from using student achievement to evaluate teachers.

At the time, the state was planning two new statewide databases, one to track a range of information on students and another to track information on teachers. The student database, known as CalPADS, launched last week. The teacher database is expected to launch in 2011.

Teachers unions lobbied for the language in the 2006 bill to ensure the two databases would not be linked.

Simitian dismissed the whole brouhaha as a “tempest in a teapot,” saying the 2006 bill that created the prohibition  which he authored  may have stopped the state from using student information in teacher evaluations, but not individual school districts.

“We had a small but significant difference of opinion with the United States Department of Education about what the existing law did or did not mean,” Simitian said.

Still, the language caused confusion. And only a couple of school districts in the state are using student test scores to evaluate teachers.

Rick Miller, deputy superintendent of state schools, said the new legislation clarifies the issue for school districts.

“It sends a message that it’s a good idea to consider it,” Miller said.

Local school Superintendents Frank Porter and Jonathan Raymond say they are glad to have the issue clarified and plan to use student scores in their evaluations of teachers.

Porter, superintendent of the Twin Rivers Unified School District, said student data will be one of many things his district will be using to assess teachers. “To use one source of data isn’t fair and reasonable,” Porter said.

Raymond, superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District, said he will look into using “a range of measures to begin to determine teacher effectiveness, and I think that using test score data would be one, but not the only measure.”

Simitian said the legislation opens the door to more discussion about the use of data to improve education. “This is the beginning of a wider-ranging discussion at the Capitol in the weeks and months ahead,” he said.

In order to pass the legislation, state Democrats found themselves in a rare position  opposing the state’s powerful teachers unions.

Marty Hittleman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said the union negotiated hard for the old language and the new legislation leaves him feeling betrayed.

“It makes you question whether you can trust people,” Hittleman said.

State education officials have said, even with the ban lifted, they have no plans to set up a statewide evaluation system for teachers. But Hittleman was not assuaged.

“Jack O’Connell won’t be the superintendent forever,” he said.

Although eliminating the data fire wall qualifies California for the Race to the Top dollars, it doesn’t mean the state is a shoo-in. Obama has said he also wants states to set vigorous standards, turn around low-performing schools and put outstanding teachers in hard-to-staff subjects such as science, math and special education.

Schwarzenegger has proposed another Senate bill to address that. The legislation would require that the bottom 5 percent of low-performing schools implement turnaround strategies, allow students at the lowest-performing schools to attend any school in the state, repeal California’s charter school cap and reinforce a school district’s authority to use alternative pay schedules to reward teachers and create incentives.

“These are things that would make our application more competitive  bonus points if you will,” Simitian said.