National GEAR UP Week 2014 Open Thread

Monday September 22, 2014

NGUW Fattah



Join educators and policymakers all over the nation in celebrating the GEAR UP students, families, educators, and our many partners that work tirelessly to make higher education possible for so many. Join the campaign by:

  • Share the Congressman Fattah’s Video and Secretary Duncan’s Letter locally. Link to the Congressman’s Youtube video and download Secretary Duncan’s letter (see below) for use in your local campaign–let’s get the word out at all levels!

duncan letter nguw

  • Getting social on Twitter and Facebook. Ask your students, teammates, and partners to let the world know what GEAR UP means to them on social media. We’ll be sharing why we love GEAR UP every day and want to hear from you too! Be sure to use the hashtags #iheartGEARUP and #GEARUPworks and follow us at @CAGEARUP and @edpartnerships and on Facebook.

 Updated 9:16pm


Richfield Elementary School coordinated the celebration of its 100th anniversary with students, staff, and community for National GEAR UP week.  In the spirit of academic excellence, Mrs. Spannaus was awarded her plaque for 2013/2014 teacher of the year.  Later that evening, students were challenged to GEAR UP for the school’s 100th annual spelling bee.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 9.25.27 PMElk Grove Unified School District Resolution Supporting National GEAR UP Week in California and in Elk Grove. Elk Grove Unified and California GEAR UP has one of the longest and most successful partnerships in the history of GEAR UP going back nearly 15 years.

Updated September 23, 2014


Tincher Preparatory in Long Beach celebrated NGUW with a college door decorating contest, spirit day, and  college vocabulary and college goal setting activities.

March Madness Hudson

Hudson Middle School enjoyed some ‘March Madness’ fun for NGUW as well as door decorating contests and DREAM Wall activities.


The Accelerated School had a blast preparing a DREAM Wall banner.

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Jones Junior High in Baldwin, Park has activities scheduled for EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK!

Updated 9/24/14


In collaboration with local leadership from the Walmart Mi Futuro program, Vista Preparatory Academy is celebrating National GEAR UP Week with a guest presentation from Officer Macintosh of the California Highway Patrol.  Officer Macintosh covered a range of topics including the postsecondary education and training required to serve in local, state, and federal law enforcement.  Vista students left with a better understanding of criminal justice administration and Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST), and the local colleges and universities that offer such career pathways.

Updated 9/24/14 3:53pm

CDE certificate

We received a letter of recognition from Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today! “Superintendent Torlakson continues to be a champion of education in California. The California State GEAR UP program extends appreciation for the letter of recognition for National GEAR UP Week from the Superintendent.” ~Shelley Davis, Director

Updated 9/25/14 11:24pm

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The 8th grade class at Shasta Lake School spent National GEAR UP Week at Shasta College exploring technical career pathways.  Students received college and career presentations from law enforcement, truckers, technology support, state, and local government officials.

Updated Updated 9/26/14

Valley NGUW2014

Valley High School GEAR UP staff honored NGUW 2014 and the 10th Grade GEAR UP cohort by playing the girls basketball team….and won!

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Hudson Middle School in Long Beach hosted an A-G relay race and “I Love GEAR UP” photo contest!
“Many thanks to California Assemblyman Roger Dickinson for the resolution recognizing National GEAR UP Week in California.  We appreciate his leadership in the State Assembly, for our program and his efforts for educators, students and families across California.”  ~Shelley Davis, Director

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.



Sec of Education Honors Everett Middle School With Visit



SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee visited a middle school in the Mission District this morning to call attention to the improvements made in the wake of federal funding to the city’s school district.

Duncan, Lee and other top school officials held a roundtable discussion during a visit to Everett Middle School, one of nine schools in San Francisco that was awarded federal School Improvement Grants in 2011 and current California GEAR UP School.

The historically low-performing schools in the city’s Mission and Bayview districts were given $45 million over a three-year period that went toward professional development and coaching for school staff, among other improvements, according to school district officials.

Since 2008, those nine schools have had an 18.4 percent gain in English language arts proficiency and a 26.9 percent gain in math proficiency, district officials said.

Duncan said he was “absolutely inspired” by the improvements made at Everett.

He said during today’s visit, he talked to an eighth-grader there who “said she was terrified to come to this school as a sixth grader, and now this school has a wait list.”

Lee said the federal funding has helped reduce barriers for low-income students and those who speak English as a second language.

“Once we get rid of those barriers, our kids who come from all over the world will compete on an international basis,” he said.

Duncan said he is working to get more federal funding from Congress, but “they look at education as an expense instead of an investment.”

He said in the meantime, San Francisco can come up with creative ways to maintain funding for the schools, noting that the mayor has sought help from the private and nonprofit sectors.

“People want to be part of a winner,” Duncan said. “We’ve gotten something started and he’s got a heck of a story to tell.”

(excerpts reposted with permission from ABC news)


California GEAR UP schools believe:

  • That ALL students deserve an equitable education – one that provides the knowledge and skills to choose and be successful in postsecondary education pursuits;
  • That students must master rigorous academic standards to successfully progress along the pipleline from middle school to high school and into and through college;
  • That in order for students to plan for college they need to see themselves in college;
  • That overcoming the challenges faced by low-income, first-generation college-bound students requires the continued engagement of school leaders, families and communities.

Dept of Ed Opens School Turnaround Resources to Public


Washington, DC–Recently, the U.S. Department of Education opened the School Turnaround Learning Community (STLC)  to the public, offering a wealth of resources and networking opportunities to educators throughout the country. The STLC is a collaboration platform that enables educators to share success stories, learn from colleagues throughout the country, and inform the Department with their expertise. Currently, the STLC has 4300 subscribed members, provides approximately 500 turnaround school resources, facilitates eight discussion boards, and has hosted nearly 60 webinars on various topics including teacher and leader effectiveness,increased learning time, and community and parent engagement.

According to the STLC site, “The goal of the STLC is to provide states and districts with easy online access to resources and to facilitate networking that will enable them to support schools more effectively…. Both research-based practices and practical examples from states, districts, and schools inventing on-the-ground solutions are available. The purpose of the STLC is to provide one-stop access to these resources and to promote and facilitate sharing across states and districts to deepen learning over time.”

If you are working to support school turnaround, you may want to take a moment to join the School Turnaround Learning Community (STLC) and their two active groups, Increased Learning Time and Teacher Effectiveness.  Once you join, visit the My Account page and click on the Notifications tab to set your preferences for receiving updates on activity in the online STLC.



Celebrate National GEAR UP Day in California

Dear GEAR UP Supporters,

National GEAR UP Week is next week!

Here is Congressman Fattah’s official invitation and an update on our National GEAR UP week schedule.

It’s critical that next week be a national celebration of GEAR UP, with activities at sites across the country demonstrating the value of our programs and the support they have in our communities. Please let me know as soon as you can if you can do one of the six focus activities.  We have a team of people here ready to help you make your GEAR UP Week activity a success.

As a reminder, GEAR UP Week focus activities are:

  • Post a GEAR UP Dreams Wall – butcher paper for your students to post their dreams and goals
  • Host a celebration event
  • Host a lunchtime celebration at school
  • Write and send letters to your Members of Congress
  • Sign and deliver an oversized thank you card to your Congressperson’s district office
  • Create a GEAR UP Chain of paper links representing the students and families you serve

And here’s our master planning schedule for the week:

Monday, October 24th – NATIONAL GEAR UP WEEK BEGINS!

  • Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Congressman Fattah usher us in with a video message. (Stay tuned for a link – note that it will be available all week.)
  • NCCEP’s National GEAR UP Online Week Call to Action launches: 1000 emails and 100 calls to Members of Congress in support of college access.
  • Puerto Rico GEAR UP’s Dream Wall activity begins
  • Is your action on Monday? Let us know and we’ll list it and help promote it!

Tuesday, October 25th

  • National GEAR UP Week actions across the country
  • Is your action on Tuesday? Let us know and we’ll list it and help promote it!

Wednesday, October 26th

  • National GEAR UP Week actions across the country
  • Is your action on Wednesday? Let us know and we’ll list it and help promote it!

Thursday, October 27th

  • National GEAR UP Week actions across the country
  • Is your action on Thursday? Let us know and we’ll list it and help promote it!

Friday, October 28th

  • National GEAR UP Actions across the country
  • Is your action on Friday? Let us know and we’ll list it and help promote it!

National GEAR UP Week is all about celebrating GEAR UP and all of the hard work you and your team does to help your community of students get into college and succeed. Let us know how you plan to participate.  We’ll be there to help every step of the way.

If you are celebrating in California, email us and tell us what you are doing:

Action Alert: Contact Washington Week

Contact the House and Senate Leadership, YOUR Members of Congress and the White House every day through August 2, and demand they protect GEAR UP.

The debt ceiling debate rages on in Washington, DC. Negotiations between the White House and Congress collapsed last week. Now, both the House and Senate leadership are pursuing two separate plans to raise the debt ceiling before August 2, when America’s borrowing authority reaches its legal limit, resulting in default.

As you can see, things are evolving very rapidly as time runs out and only three things are certain:

  1. Both Republicans and Democrats are aware of the need to raise the debt ceiling to avoid default, but there’s no agreement on how to do this;
  2. Both the House and Senate plans include $1.2 trillion in cuts to discretionary spending over the next 10 years (approx. 12 billion a year);
  3. You need to stand up for the principle that low-income people should be protected in whatever deal is cut.

You need to make sure your voice heard every day this week leading up to August 2 and demand that GEAR UP and other college access programs be safeguarded in the deal-making process.

Here’s what you can do now:

  1. Recruit 5 persons to reach out to the House of Representatives, Senate and White House (GEAR UP students, GEAR UP parents, GEAR UP teachers, GEAR UP partners, colleagues, friends and family).
  2. Contact the following offices:
  3. Follow-up with your group, ask them to continue the “chain” by recruiting 5 more people and get the word out!

PLEASE NOTE: Capitol Hill switchboards and websites have been overloaded over the past few days, keep insisting until you get through because GEAR UP must make its stand for college access, NOW!
The Message

“[ELECTED OFFICIAL NAME], the American people need you to protect the programs and services our low-income, minority and disadvantaged students depend on to enroll in and succeed in college. I urge you to defend GEAR UP in the debt-ceiling and deficit-reduction negotiations, because only an educated workforce can help us secure a prosperous economic future for our country.”

Thank you very much for your hard work and your support in responding to this call to action. It is very important that you act NOW for the duration of this process. Not doing so will have dire consequences for GEAR UP, college access and all of education for many years to come!

Ed Chief Praises California GEAR UP Success at Tincher

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a round table discussion at California GEAR UP distinguished school Tincher Prep yesterday in Long Beach. The purpose of his visit was to learn best practices of the school and to hear how Tincher has been so successful in creating distributed leadership and a school community working for the same goals.

Principal Bill Vogel said it best: “You give teachers choice in their professional development, you let them lead the direction of the school, and you let the school have discretion in how to best serve their students.” The teachers chose to participate in California GEAR UP three years ago.

“We need funds to keep programs and people” he said. “We need programs like GEAR UP, AVID, and funding for those programs.”

The secretary listened intently as administrators and teachers talked about the programs that make Tincher a success. Mr. Vogel and the staff repeated listed California GEAR UP as a key program in their development. The East Long Beach K-8 school, where more than 50 percent of the students are designated as disadvantaged, has been lauded for its gains in test scores and was named a “School to Watch” by the California Middle Grades Alliance in 2009.

Duncan said the Tincher sets an example for other school districts in the country.

“I’ve studied your school district for a long time, and I think you have so much to be proud of,” he told a crowd gathered in the school library. “I don’t say this lightly, but more so than the vast majority of school districts that I visit, this school district has gotten things right for a long time.”

Also in attendance was Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Long Beach., who said federal funding should be streamed directly to school districts instead of being “tied up” in Sacramento.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed No Child Left Behind, and the fact that virtually every school in Los Angeles Unified School District will be classified as failing by 2014 if the law is not urgently reformed.

That has led to a narrowed curriculum that focuses intensely on those subjects, sacrificing the well-rounded education that every child needs, he said.

Middle school music teacher Laura Strand said No Child Left Behind should have a greater focus on art, music and sports programs that are in danger of being cut in the budget crisis.

“I see students being pulled out of these programs when they’re finding success and it breaks my heart,” she said.

“No Child Left Behind is fundamentally broken,” Duncan said. “We want to fix it before we go back to school this fall.”

He said Congress needs to rewrite the law to be more “fair, flexible and focused” this year, so it can be implemented for the next academic calendar.

Tincher Prep has been a California GEAR UP school since the fall of 2008 and is part of a cohort of schools receiving professional development services with the goal of creating a college-going culture throughout the school community. Tincher recently received the California GEAR UP Leadership Team of the Year award at our Southern California Community conference, and as the Secretary of Education has pointed out, continues to be a model school.

To learn more about how Tincher has become a leader in the GEAR UP community, please visit our website and check us out on Twitter and the other articles on our blog.

Reps. Fattah, Honda Hail Launch of “Equity and Excellence”


WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressmen Chaka Fattah (D-PA) and Michael Honda (D-CA), the leading Congressional advocates for school funding equity, hailed the Department of Education’s appointment today of Commissioners who will launch and serve on the Equity and Excellence Commission.

The commission, first proposed and advanced by the two Congressmen in 2009, has been tasked with studying, and recommending solutions to, inequitable school finance systems and their effect on student achievement.

“This commission comes at a critical time in our fiscal history as a nation.  Now, more than ever, we are compelled to use scarce public resources efficiently and effectively,” said Fattah, an innovator and advocate for education reform who proposed the Commission concept at a meeting with the President on Feb. 26, 2009. “We know that there is no more prudent investment in the nation’s growth and prosperity than the education of our young people.”

Fattah, from Philadelphia, praised the work of Equity Commissioner Eric Hanushek, a Hoover Institution Fellow, who calculated that simply increasing the educational attainment of the nation’s lowest performing students would add $72 trillion to GDP, as well as a 2009 McKinsey report that found that the achievement gap has the economic effect of a permanent recession.

“The proof is there: Educational achievement will key our economic recovery,” Fattah said. “This is more than a question of fairness and equity, this is about the nation’s economic future.”

The Equity Commission is charged with collecting data, analyzing issues and obtaining broad public input on strategies for the federal government to increase educational opportunity by improving school funding equity. It will also make recommendations for restructuring school finance systems to achieve equity in resources and further student performance, especially for students at the lower end of the achievement gap.

For a list of the members of the commission announced today, and to read the entire press release, please visit Rep. Fattah’s website HERE.

Congressman Fattah will be a keynote speaker at the free California GEAR UP Community Conferences taking place on March 1 and March 8 throughout California. Register online now!

US Dept of Education Launches New Data Dashboard

The U.S. Department of Education today launched a new website that provides convenient and transparent access to key national and state education data, highlighting the progress being made across the country in every level of the education system and encouraging communities to engage in a conversation about their schools. The United States Education Dashboard, available at, presents important indicators of whether the country is making progress toward the President’s goal – that, by 2020, the United States will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

“The Dashboard highlights both our successes and challenges while providing a new level of transparency that is absolutely essential to our efforts to accelerate student achievement,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We hope communities will use this information to determine where we need to focus on reforms and investments in education.”

The Dashboard contains a range of cradle-to-career data that furthers the Department’s efforts to provide a more accessible and transparent view of the country’s educational system. On a single webpage, those interested will be able to view indicators of the nation’s performance in education, gauge their state’s progress and see how their state is performing compared to others. The indicators in the Dashboard focus on some key outcomes:  Are we preparing young children to enter school? Are students making sufficient progress to graduate from high school and college? Are they completing college in a timely fashion? Are we providing an excellent education to all students?

This first version of the Dashboard contains a set of 16 indicators that range from participation in early childhood education through completion of postsecondary education, plus indicators on teachers and leaders, and equity for elementary, secondary, and postsecondary students. The Dashboard also includes a section, “An Excellent Education for All,” which provides data on whether subgroups are performing sufficiently. In addition to compiling key data previously reported, the Dashboard presents two new indicators.

The first shows the number of states that indicated in their 2010 State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) reports that they have school districts that evaluate their teachers or their principals based in part on student growth or student achievement. The second new indicator shows how high-poverty school districts are funded compared to low-poverty districts in their state.

The Dashboard allows users to quickly find information they need and view it in several different ways.  It also allows users to download customized reports for further analyses.

The Department is committed to continually updating the Dashboard’s data and to enhancing the tools on the website. Indicators will be updated as new information becomes available, and users are encouraged to provide comments and feedback on the Dashboard so that usability and functionality can be enhanced in updates and subsequent versions.

Check out the Dashboard HERE.

U.S. Asks Educators to Reinvent Student Tests

In the NY Times this weekend was an interesting article on a national overhaul in standardized tests. Over the next four years, two groups of states, 44 in all including California, will get $330 million to work with hundreds of university professors and testing experts to design a series of new tests that officials say will look completely different from those in use today.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the tests will look for higher order thinking skills and be computer based.

“The use of smarter technology in assessments,” Mr. Duncan said, “makes it possible to assess students by asking them to design products of experiments, to manipulate parameters, run tests and record data.”

The assessments are being redesigned to align with the common core academic standards that nearly 40 states have recently adopted.

Check out the complete article here.