GEAR UP Regional Leadership Forums Make Strides


Developed to meet the diverse and complex needs of California GEAR UP middle schools, the 2015 Spring Regional Leadership Events provide a forum for school teams to problem solve together and learn from each other about school practices, challenges and solutions.  The events were designed to build on the progress made at the Fall events and were facilitated by Whole School Services Coaches with content designed to respond to the needs of each unique middle school community in their region. Activities were customized to engage and support participating schools within each region aligned with target areas of growth identified in the School Self Assessment Rubric.

Goals of the Regional Leadership Events:

  • Develop and expand working, cohesive school teams;
  • Share and reflect on leadership and approaches for developing leadership;
  • Network to share smart practices and opportunities for continued regional work;
  • Reflect on progress in building a sustainable college-going culture using the SSAR;
  • Use data to identify and address challenges to access and equity for All students;
  • Develop implementation plans for of GEAR UP partner resources and services;
  • Complete the PDAP and Communication Plan.

Below is the complete regional events report including attendees, content areas, presenters, and locations.

2014 Regional Institutes: 360 participants; 15 counties, 29 school districts, and 1 charter school were served

Title: North State Regional Collaborative                                                           October 15 & 16, 2014
GEAR UP Coach: Brad Trimble                                                                         Number of Participants: 55
Focus: Support and engage students transitioning to high school.
Presenters: Brandon Santiago (YouthSpeaks), Mark Cerutti—Assistant Superintendent (Elk Grove USD).
Region: North State                                                                                           Counties: Tehama and Shasta
Districts: Red Bluff, Antelope Elementary, Happy Valley Union Elementary, Richfield Elementary, and Gateway.

Title: 2014 Bay Area Regional Learning Institute                                             October 7 & 8, 2014
GEAR UP Coach: Michele Molitor                                                                    Number of Participants: 60
Focus: Achieving social justice and equity through Common Core strategies to ignite student success.
Tovi C. Scruggs, Principal, San Lorenzo High School, and Alice Kawazoe.
Region: Bay Area                                             Counties: Alameda, San Francisco, Solano, and Contra Costa
Districts: San Lorenzo, San Francisco, Vallejo, and West Contra Costa.

Title: 2014 Southern California Regional Institute                               September 30-October 1, 2014
GEAR UP Coaches: Mary Unverferth and Barbara Sedano                   Number of Participants: 105
Focus: Advancing Equity and Access for ALL Students through High Quality Teaching
Presenters: Robert Kaplinsky (Glenrock Consulting), Bruce Arnold and Mary Sirody (MDTP).
Region: Southern California                                                         Counties: San Bernardino and Los Angeles
Districts: Long Beach, Los Angeles, Mountain View, Palmdale, Rialto, San Gabriel, Baldwin Park, San Bernardino, Hacienda La Puente; Charter: The Accelerated School.

Title: 2014 Riverside Regional, GEAR UP Round-Up                                                September 30, 2014

GEAR UP Coach: Jon Sides                                                                                   Number of Participants: 55
Focus: GEAR UP Leadership Team progress & connecting with the School Self-Assessment Rubric (SSAR).
Presenters: Jon Sides
Region: Riverside                                                               Counties: Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino
Districts: Moreno Valley, Azusa, Los Angeles, and Upland.

Title: Central Valley Regional Institute 2014                                                                    October 1, 2014
GEAR UP Coach: Martin De Mucha Flores                                                     Number of Participants: 45
Focus: Developing the “Why?” in Leadership and Cohesive Teams to influence school change.
Presenters: Encarnacion Ruiz—Director of Admissions (UC Merced); Raul Moreno—Coordinator (CSU Fresno, University Migrant Services), Sharon Twitty, Robyn Fisher, & Martin De Mucha Flores.
Region: Central Valley                                                                       Counties: Fresno, Stanislaus, and Tulare
Districts: Caruthers, Empire Union, Parlier, Pleasant View, and Raisin City Elementary.  

Title: ELA Differentiated Instruction                                                                                October 15, 2014
GEAR UP Coach: Frank Holmes                                                                         Number of Participants: 40
Focus: Strategies in English — Differentiated instruction in middle school Language Arts.
Presenters: Lynne Lertzman (the College Board).
Region: San Diego                                                                                                   County: San Diego County
Districts: Oceanside and San Diego County.

2015 Regional Forums: 318 participants; 12 counties, 21 school districts, and 1 charter school were served

Title: Southern California Regional                                                                                        March 6, 2015
GEAR UP Coaches: Mary Unverferth, Barbara Sedano & Frank Holmes        Number of Participants: 132
Focus: Engaging GEAR UP Schools in their continued work of achieving the conditions on the SSAR.
Presenters: James Kass (YouthSpeaks), Carole Gallagher (WestEd), Julie Mendoza (CAIC), and ScholarShare.
Regions: Southern California & San Diego   Counties: San Bernardino and Los Angeles, San Diego County
Districts: Long Beach, Los Angeles, Mountain View, Palmdale, Rialto, San Gabriel, Baldwin Park, San Bernardino, Hacienda La Puente, Oceanside and San Diego County.

Title: 2015 Bay Area Learning Forum                                                                                    April 15, 2015
GEAR UP Coach: Michele Molitor                                                                    Number of Participants: 66
Enhancing student engagement and building community.
Presenters: Vicki Rice, Cloteal Thrower-Herron, Carlene Davis (CEP), Mildred Gains & Joe Lara (PIQE), Patrice Hill (YouthSpeaks), Tyrone Weaver (Samuel Jackman Middle School), ScholarShare.
Region: Bay Area                                             Counties: Alameda, San Francisco, Solano, and Contra Costa
Districts: San Lorenzo, San Francisco, Vallejo, and West Contra Costa.

Title: Elk Grove/Sacramento Regional Leadership Forum                                              March 25, 2015
GEAR UP Coach: Jill Campbell                                                                          Number of Participants: 60
Focus: The purpose and value of building strong community for all students.
Presenters: Kadhir Rajagopal (Grant Union High School), Jay King, Tyrone Weaver (Samuel Jackman Middle School), Alice Kawazoe, and ScholarShare.
Region: Elk Grove/Sacramento                                                                  Counties: Sacramento and Amador
Districts: Elk Grove and Twin Rivers.

Title: GEAR UP Spring Symposium                                                                                 _____May 15, 2015
GEAR UP Coach: Jon Sides                                                                                 Number of Participants: 60
Focus: Foster care system—resources and tools to support foster youth in Riverside County.
Presenters: Tamera Trotter (Child Protective Services), Alyssa Heckmann (Guardian Scholars, UCR), Christopher Dech (Advisor Student Support, Moreno Valley College), Julie Orozco (EAOP, Cal State San Bernardino), Bruce Petersen (Riverside County, Office of Education & Student Programs) and Cedric De Visser (Upland Unified Child Welfare and Former Principal at Upland Junior High School).
Region: Riverside                                                         Counties: Riverside, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino
Districts: Moreno Valley, Azusa, Los Angeles, and Upland.

Big takeaways: The exchange of ideas, events, projects, etc. as a result of the “reflecting on the past” exercise has been mentioned a number of times.  One (GEAR UP) site contact returned to school and, using her notes, immediately drafted a memo of implementation listing ideas to share with the rest of her staff.  The group-alike breakout sessions gave teachers, administrators, counselors and out of classroom advisers a chance to share job specific experiences in building a college-going culture.  The regional event provided an opportunity for participants to work collaboratively and function as a learning community.

 Jon Sides-California GEAR UP School Services Coach


The mission of California GEAR UP is to develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare all students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders and families. As a result of this expanded capacity, a higher proportion of students, particularly from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, will enroll and succeed in higher education. California GEAR UP is a program of the University of California Office of The President Education Partnerships department and has served whole school communities across the state since 1999.

2015 California GEAR UP Program Update



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.


College Board Partners Wow the Crowd at Leadership Events

college board

 College Board presenters Douglas Waugh, David Jones, and Ana Galindo Shapiro.

This fall we were honored to have College Board, a California GEAR UP strategic partner, provide demonstration lessons at all of our Principal and Leadership Team events that took place across the state. These events focus on the use of our SSAR (school self assessment rubric) to look at school-wide perceptions and provides opportunities to learn about successes and challenges from other school teams. With the looming implementation of Common Core State Standards, schools have requested additional information and support, to which we responded with the College Board CCSS Demonstration Lesson.

One of the presenters, Ana Galindo Shapiro, was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about why she believes in this work so much.

How did you start working with schools and why are you passionate about it?

I started working with the College Board as an AP US History teacher. I remember attending my first AP Summer Institute, during which we participated in a Socratic Seminar using the Board’s recently revised Equity and Access Statement. I was working with students who broke the mold of what an AP student “looks like” for some. Many were English Learners, read below grade level, or were the first in their families to have their sights set on college- but they were so dedicated to challenging themselves. I knew that I was doing important work by believing in my students and supporting them through really rigorous learning experiences. I’m still passionate about that work today; I just have a different audience!

What do you think the most important thing teachers can be collaborating on right now to prepare for the implementation of common core and associated assessments?

I think teachers have an opportunity through the Common Core to teach students to think critically and creatively, something our state assessments have perhaps geared us away from in the past decade. It is really powerful to think that we’ll have assessments that actually honor students building solid arguments, explaining their reasoning, and focusing on depth over a breadth of topics is really exciting.

What was your experience in middle school like and how were you influenced to go to college?

I was an average student in middle school and high school. My father is an educator, and college was not really optional for me; it was a question of where to go (which was really exciting for both of us to explore). I didn’t really find my thrill of learning until college, when I think I was challenged for the first time. I loved being learning history in a historical place, surrounded by really curious young people.

 What do you think are some of the most important factors that will contribute to preparation for and student success in college?

I know that student peer influence is really strong for student success in college. Just like in middle and high school, it is really important for kids to feel connected to their peers and the adults around them. I’ve been reading a lot about growth mindsets and “grit” and how predictive they are to student success, more so than academic or socio-economic factors. That’s inspiring because these are things schools can help to cultivate in young people.

What are some of the most effective ways to create a college-going culture in our school community?

Young people need to “see” themselves going to college. Experiences like college trips, hosted by students who have similar backgrounds, or having tutors on campus that students can relate to is helpful. Adults need to also “see” their students as college bound. This goes beyond speaking it, it requires teachers to understand that there’s a lot of support and sometimes tough love that kids need to make it into and through college. Parents need to “see” their students heading to college by being exposed to college processes and encouraging their children to stick to it when things get difficult.

Tell us about some of the College Board initiatives you are most proud of.

I am most proud of SpringBoard, because ours is a program explicitly designed to support all teachers and students in getting ready for college.

When did you first start working with GEAR UP and why is the work important?

I first started working with GEAR UP as a high school principal. Two of our graduating cohorts were supported since 6th grade with additional staff, materials, and experiences. All students should benefit from these additional resources, designed to put them on a solid path to college. Even though two classes had the direct benefit from GEAR UP, the entire school culture was shaped by work.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love being able to work with educators across school, district, and state lines to learn from their challenges and insights.

 Anything else you would like to share with the GEAR UP Community?

I really enjoyed our time together and hope we’ll see each other again soon!


California GEAR UP Celebrates Graduates

tyler grad brad grad ayana gradgraduate
California GEAR  UP is proud to share graduations from our team, which include matriculation from staff, members of our family, and those closest to us. We celebrate all levels of graduates as an extension of our belief that academic excellence and college readiness starts at any age, and that it is up to us to establish a college going culture early and often. One of the best ways to do that is to celebrate!

We are so proud of the educational accomplishments of our GEAR UP family in pursuing their dreams. We strive to set expectations high for all schools, families, and students, so it is only natural we do the same for our own family members. Congratulations to all the graduates!

-Shelley Davis, California GEAR UP Director.

Here are some of the graduates:

Staff Name: Blaze Farrar

Campus: Holy Names University

Degree: Master’s Degree in Writing Program


Graduate: Nate Miller

Relation: Nephew

Campus:  Winnebago High School in Illinois


Graduate: Flora Monacelli

Relation: Niece

Campus: Neuqua Valley High School in Illinois

Degree: General


Staff Name: Brad Trimble

Campus: University of Nevada.

Degree: PhD, Education Leadership (pictured)


Graduate: Tyler Trimble

Relation: Son

Campus: The Goddard School

Degree:  Kindergarten


Staff name: Christian Smith

Campus: Sacramento State University

Degree: Digital Communications


Graduates name: James Smith

Relation to staff: Father

Campus: University of Hawaii

Degree: Business


Graduates name: Pei Tsen Ko

Relation: Wife

Campus name: Soochow University, Taiwan

Degree and subject area: English Literature


Staff name: Kandis Spencer

Graduates name: Thierry M. Waffer

Relation: Daughter

Campus: John H. Still Middle School

Degree: General (interested in Forensic Science)


Staff name:  David Seales

Graduates name:  Ayana Bridges

Relation:  Granddaughter

Campus:  Irene B. West Elementary

Degree:  General (attending Edward Harris Middle School-GEAR UP School)


Graduates name: Ashanti Bridges
Relation: Granddaughter
Graduate: Edward B. Harris Middle School (GU school)
Attending: Monterey Trails High School


Graduates name: Marquis Harper, Jr.

Relation: Grandson

Campus: Providence Country Day (Academic Honors)

Degree: High School – Fall 2014: Sacred Heart University – Fairfield, CT


Graduates: Stori Johnson (pictured)

Relation:  Daughter

Campus: Kaplan College, Sacramento campus

Degree: Vocational Nursing (Academic Honors)


Staff Name: Lynn Baranco

Graduate: Ronnika Gaines

Relation: Granddaughter

Campus: California State University, Sacramento

Degree: Master’s Degree in Social Work


Graduate: Jordan Baranco Bibb

Relation: Grandson

Campus: California State University, Long Beach

Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Communications Studies



Jackman Middle School Culminates with GEAR UP Bridge Project

ETA Jackman 2013

 (Education Trust Award Ceremony)

This year marked the celebration of 480 eight graders completing their final year at Jackman middle school and California GEAR UP Bridge Model cohort. The California GEAR UP  Bridge Model is characterized by collaboration, student progress tracking, and data sharing among a family of schools across educational levels for the purpose of preparing all students in the cohort for college. Data is  collected to measure the impact on student achievement and retention and provide valuable information as to the importance of aligning curriculum, increased communication across educational levels.  California GEAR UP supports the entire school community in creating a college-going culture.  While the model and project services focuses on the cohort of students that will enter high school  in Fall 2013, GEAR UP will continue to provide resources and support throughout the seven schools in the Bridge Model.

“GEAR UP has been welcomed into schools throughout the Elk Grove Unified School District. Together with them- the students, families, teachers and friends – we are building the bridge to be sustained beyond the life of our program.”  – Shelley Davis, California GEAR UP Director

The broader success of this model reflects the investment made by GEAR UP in building relationships throughout the district engaging the Superintendent, School Board Members, Principals, Vice Principals, Counselors, Teachers and families at both Jackman Middle School and Valley High School. With the Bridge Project model, there is increased potential for sustainability of effective practices across a family of schools while  supporting the Elk Grove regional collaborative initiative and the continued support of California GEAR UP through the Whole School Services Model. 
John Reith 6th grade GEAR UP
(Reith Elementary-a Bridge School- at a GEAR UP event)

Successful components of the Bridge Project Model include:

The Leadership Skills Initiative (LSI) is a component of the Bridge Model Project.  The Initiative has evolved to combine positive role models and mentoring, with educational skill building and a safe space for students among others with common issues and challenges.  Data is collected specific to the students involved with LSI from among the cohort of students participating in the Bridge Model.  Program participation has shown to impact student retention, decreased suspensions and increased academic performance, leading to increased graduation rates.  Short term rewards keep students engaged with changes in habits, self awareness and student performance among the long term benefits.

CORE Values-Students participate in a course on ethical values through fun and fitness.  Students will focus on core values topics ranging from discipline, self control, citizenship, kindness, respect, courtesy, and perseverance all while being taught and promoting a healthy, and physical lifestyle.

Family Engagement- Inform and engage families on the college preparation process, particularly in terms of courses in which students should enroll in at high school, and support efforts to encourage families to engage actively in preparing students for success. Activities included: college workshops, Parent Universities, regional events, individual family meetings, at risk family meetings, and individual learning plans for students.

Leadership Skills Initiative Ladies-Focuses on youth empowerment and personal advocacy in young ladies.  Promoting social and character skills development, academic mentoring, coaching, healthy lifestyle practices, and community enrichment.

College and Career Readiness Workshops- Workshops are grade specific to enhance students’ understanding of the steps needed to acquire academic success to meet both high school graduation and college admission requirements.  Information and activities include; developing effective study skills, establishing academic goals, developing academic plans, and career exploration.

Education Trust Awards- The scholarship component of the program requires the state to establish and maintain a financial assistance program for students to attend institutions of higher education. 25 Students at Jackman Middle School received awards of $2000 made available when they enroll in a qualifying institute of higher education. The selection process included an essay component, qualifying GPA, letter of recommendation, and completed application.

Whole School Academic Support-activities included regional articulation in writing, supporting a professional learning environment for adults through professional development, and College Making it Happen materials for all students.

Articulation Support- Valley High School in conjunction with the GEAR family center hosted freshman selection night, in which the incoming 8th grade students visited campus to hear about various programs, clubs, and activities the students have to look forward to the following year. With 300 people in attendance the students and their families walked away with a better understanding of student life at Valley High School.

Transition– including ‘Live the Dream College Night”, financial aid planning activities, and profile support.

As part of research and evaluation of the Bridge Project, focus groups of students and teachers were convened to assess the impact of GEAR UP at Jackman. Here are some student responses from the group:

“GU is doing a good job of getting us prepared and building a path to college (all students said they plan to attend college). It is the only program available to help get us prepared for college. GU provides information about A-G requirements, financial aids, and grants.” – student

“GEAR UP gave me the tools to decide that I wanted to go to college.” – student

“I wish GEAR UP activities were every single day, not just every week!” – student

“Before GEAR UP came to campus we didn’t have the slogan “go to Jackman, go to Valley, go to college”.  I feel like we’ve had a major culture-shift among the students since GEAR UP came to campus.” – teacher

“It seems like times have changed since GEAR UP came to campus.  AVID was the primary provider of most of the college and career readiness materials on campus, but they only serve a select segment of the students. We were pushing kids toward college, but not in the capacity that GEAR UP is able to.” – teacher

“Before GEAR UP came the lower performing kids weren’t thinking about college.  Now they think they can go to college.” – teacher


“The GEAR UP provides our team the opportunity to further solidify our college going culture here at Samuel Jackman Middle School. GEAR UP and the resources the program provides has been a tremendous asset to our school community.”  

-Principal Paul Burke, Jackman Middle School

The culmination of the Bridge Project at Jackman is a testament to the success of building strong community partnerships to change a school community culture to support college dreams. California GEAR UP and the Bridge Team is excited to move on to Valley High School next year.

Pictures of the many great Bridge Model activities can be found on our Facebook page. You can continue to follow Bridge Project Success on our blog and website, please let us know if you have any questions.


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.

California GEAR UP Schools Complete Statewide Institutes


It took six hard earned weeks, but we are excited to announce all 48 California GEAR UP Middle Schools completed two day institutes across the state. These facilitated strategic planning sessions are the core of California GEAR UP work, involving all School Leadership Team members, Whole School Services Coaches, GEAR UP staff, and our statewide partnership organizations.

“The GEAR UP institutes provide out team the opportunity to further solidify our college going culture here at Samuel Jackman Middle School.  We are able to accomplish this through the team based guided discussions and common planning time that is available to us during the institutes. GEAR UP and the resources the program provides has been a tremendous asset to our school community.”  

-Principal Paul Burke, Jackman Middle School  

The two-day Institute uses the SSAR (school self assessment rubric) to look at school-wide perceptions  and offers strategies and techniques for focusing on the school-determined needs. It provides opportunities to learn about successes and challenges from other school teams. The institutes also provide additional opportunity for the School Leadership Team to work on the SSAR conditions and plan for implementation of their PDAP (professional development action plan)goals. Trained facilitators provide direction through a guided discussion and reflection promotes the beginning of a shared vision, the identification and coordination of resources, and the use of student data to develop and implement a unified schoolwide plan.

Featured activities at the institutes included Leadership Team panels to kick the first day off. In Glendale, Gage Middle School from Huntington Park, CA shared their pathway to becoming a GEAR UP School, and implementing a college-going culture throughout their school while increasing their API and gaining community wide buy-in for their common goals. In Northern California, Harris Middle School (pictured above) shared an inspiring story of coalescing a high functioning leadership team, and even finished their panel with a rousing school song. In Irvine, Vista Heights Middle School in Moreno Valley, CA shared their journey of engaging parents and families effectively while convincing teachers to continue to strive for high expectations despite ‘good’ API results, and the resulting ‘good to great’ transformation.

“California GEAR UP work is about building relationships with the adults who want to change school culture for the better, so that ALL students are prepared to go college. It is systemic change. Despite lay-offs, budget cuts and the changes that come along with these:  teachers, counselors and administrators want what is best for kids and it has shown in the amazing work of the leadership teams at our events.  This is truly meaningful work.”  -Gina Rodriguez, Whole School Services Manager.

Statewide Partnership Services were featured over the two day institutes and include professional development from The College Board and AVID, as well as family engagement services from PIQE and CEP. Presentations from MDTP (math diagnostic testing project) and CaliforniaColleges.Edu shared services to be used directly in the classroom.

Schools teams will now return to their sites with a better understanding of creating a transformative community-wide college going culture while being better equipped to leverage GEAR UP resources. Being a California GEAR UP school is a 6 year process, of which schools are embarking upon their second year. California GEAR UP School Services Coaches will meeting with schools across the state to facilitate use of GEAR UP tools, work on implementing Professional Development Action Plans, and scheduling Partnership and Statewide Services.

The purpose of California GEAR UP is to develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare all students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders and families. As a result of this expanded capacity, a higher proportion of students, particularly from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, will enroll and succeed in higher education.

For more information on California GEAR UP, please visit our website.

To see pictures of California GEAR UP Schools in action, check out our Facebook page and let us know what you think.

National GEAR UP Week Celebration Announced in Elk Grove

September 7, 2012
Elizabeth Graswich
EGUSD Director, Communications


California GEAR UP and the Elk Grove Unified School District will celebrate National GEAR UP Week from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday, September 10, 2012 in the Board Room at the Robert L. Trigg Education Center (9510 Elk Grove-Florin Road, Elk Grove 95624).

Greg Darnieder, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Education on College Access, will attend this celebration as a special guest. Event attendees will also include local and state education officials, teachers, students and family and community members.

National GEAR UP Week is September 10-14, 2012. Across the nation and in California, school communities will mark this occasion through activities, contests, college fairs and other events in celebration of college access for ALL students.

GEAR UP is a program of the U.S. Department of Education, developed to provide school-based services to ensure that students and their families have multiple college and career choices after high school. Since 1999, California GEAR UP has effectively served over 300 schools across the state by providing local and efficient community based services.

Working in collaboration with nine schools in the Elk Grove Unified School district, GEAR UP provides direct support to students, principals, teachers, counselors and families. More information is available at

For more information about this event, contact Elizabeth Graswich at 619-686-7732 or Sean Brennan at or 415-948-9262.


Preparing for National GEAR UP Week 2012: Sept 10-14

September 10-14, 2012  is  National GEAR UP Week, an event highlighting the positive impact that GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), has had on students, families, schools, and communities since Congress authorized the program thirteen years ago. GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

GEAR UP programs, schools, families, and partners across the country will celebrate throughout the week of September 10-14.

How to Celebrate National GEAR UP Day:

1)  Create a “GEAR UP Dreams Wall” by covering the wall of a classroom, hallway, or gym with butcher paper, place a large GEAR UP logo in the center with “Our GEAR UP Dreams” underneath, and have students write their academic, professional, and personal goals on the wall. Take a picture of the students by their dreams and send a few to your legislators, school officials, local newspaper and the California GEAR UP blog to be posted.

2) Host a lunchtime celebration at your school and invite families, your local school district representatives, Members of Congress, and GEAR UP personnel.

3)  Start a letter writing campaign to your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative. Have your students thank the elected officials for supporting GEAR UP. Encourage parents and teachers to discuss the importance of GEAR UP and how it has helped students.

4)    Create a never-ending “College Access Chain” featuring the names of students from your site who have graduated from or are currently enrolled in a college program ! Take pictures of this huge chain created from paper links as it wraps around your school and send those pictures to all GEAR UP partners as a thank you for their support.

5)   Host a “Community Success Stories Breakfast” with a local service club or Chamber of Commerce. Invite your GEAR UP students, parents and partners to share the success stories of GEAR UP students.

6)  Create an over-sized thank you card to send to your U.S. and California Senators and Representatives. With the California GEAR UP logo in the middle, have students, staff, and parents sign the card with their thanks, take a picture, and deliver to your elected official’s or school District Office.

7)   Have all the teachers and staff wear college apparel on National GEAR UP Day and have a discussion in class about goal setting, college opportunity, and career dreams.

We will be announcing events and celebrations across the state as they are announced. Contact us if you would like to participate or will be hosting your own National GEAR UP Week celebration.

California GEAR UP Announces Implementation Phase Schools

California GEAR UP Middle Schools Selected

May 24, 2012 (Sacramento, CA) – California GEAR UP is pleased to announce the 48 schools selected to advance to the 2012-2017 California GEAR UP Implementation Phase.   Through a highly competitive process, these schools were chosen from 168 applicants to the program. The goal of California GEAR UP is to provide a network of support for schools towards implementing long-term, sustainable strategies to create a college-going culture.  We look forward to their growth and success as we collaborate to achieve this common purpose.

The official start date of the Implementation Phase is September 1, 2012.  California GEAR UP will provide services to these schools through the end of the grant in August 2017.  All school leadership teams are committed to work together to: 

  • Convene the GEAR UP Leadership Team of up to eight members on a regular basis;
  • Support the GEAR UP Leadership Team and participate in professional development training
    provided by California GEAR UP and program partners;
  • Utilize the GEAR UP School Self Assessment Rubric (SSAR), to build and sustain a college-going culture for all students;
  • Devise and implement the whole school GEAR UP Professional Development Action Plan (PDAP);
  • Identify matching funds from non-federal resources towards developing a college-going culture;
  • Submit an Annual Report of Funding detailing how PDAP funds were used and expended.
  • Complete and submit annual School Survey and Evaluation data as requested;
  • Develop a procedure to select student recipients of GEAR UP Education Trust Awards.

“We congratulate our California GEAR UP school teams of teachers, staff, students and families who will work together to create a college-going culture throughout their school community.  Their successful practices, challenges and stories will be shared with schools throughout California as we work towards “Academic Excellence and College Access for ALL Students”.   –Gina Rodriguez, Whole School Services Manager

The full list of 2012-2017 California GEAR UP Schools can be found on our website HERE.

Should you have questions about the selection process, you may contact Shelley Davis, Director, California GEAR UP at: (916) 551-1757 or