An Interview With GEAR UP Principal Esperanza Arce

esperanza

Esperanza Arce is the Principal of the Vista Verde Middle School Cougars in Moreno Valley, CA.

Vista Verde has been a California GEAR UP school for 3 years.

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Please tell us about how Vista Verde became STW-TCS redesigned model middle school and as an AVID demonstration school and what it means to you.

Vista Verde became STW-TCS  (California Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage) redesigned model middle school and an AVID demonstration school because of all the hard work and countless hours our teachers, staff, students, and community have dedicated.  Our teachers have common prep periods daily, so they have many opportunities to collaborate as a department and constantly share best practices and strategies.  Additionally, our district office is very supportive giving us numerous opportunities through minimum-day Wednesdays and  district-wide  CORE days to provide professional development to our teachers in best practices/strategies, RTI, PBIS, AIM Lesson Planning, and more.  Every student has Advisory in their schedule; a period of time allocated for school-wide announcements, extra time to complete classwork/homework, once a week anti-bullying lessons, fun activities such as March Madness, and much more. Furthermore, AVID is a priority to us; we offer 9 sections of AVID (3 in each grade-level).  77% of our teachers have received AVID training and soon we will be at 100%.  We also offer rigorous electives such as Spanish and STEM to all of our high-achieving and GATE students.  We provide significant support throughout the day to our various student cohorts.  Our Special Education students receive a Learning Strategies section where they are provided with the opportunity to learn or master study skills and complete assignments from their core classes.  Their Case Carriers have access to their caseload daily via the Learning Strategies and/or their Advisory.  Additionally, they receive support throughout the day.  Our ELD students receive 2 sections of ELD with experienced and expert ELD teachers who also incorporate GATE and AVID strategies.  With over 370 Chromebooks provided by our District Office, our students have access to technology regularly and our teachers incorporate the use of technology in their lessons on a daily basis.  One clear example is the use of these chromebooks during AVID tutorials in content-area subjects.  The aforementioned are only some of the reasons VVMS became a STW-TCS redesigned model middle school and an AVID Demonstration school.

 As a principal, receiving these recognitions can be the highlight of any leader’s professional career, so it means a lot to me.  Many times I try to find ways to validate the hard work of our faculty and staff, but our team is so humble that no matter how great I reiterate to them they are, they simply smile and continue doing a great job.  Therefore, getting these two recognitions, and most recently the CBEE Honor Roll mention, allows my team of faculty and staff to see how valuable they are.  It reinforces their hard work and shows them that others confirm their value.  Vista Verde Middle School is a unique place; there is a true sense of family, collegiality, support for each other, and uniformed vision and mission.  To be the principal of this amazing place is truly an honor.  Words cannot express what Vista Verde means to me; a school that provides a quality education to all students deserves to be recognized; I may be the face, but our staff and students are the heart.

Tell us a little about the community and school.

Our community and school are very diverse.  Vista Verde is in the middle of a large urban community in the center of Moreno Valley.  We are a Title 1 school consisting of students from many different backgrounds and a large range of SES.  The student participation in our various academic programs mirrors our school’s demographics.  We have strong parent support and an involved community.  Over 80% of our student population consists of Latino and African American students.  27% of our student population is in AVID.    Vista Verde Middle School feels like home to our students; they fit in and know we care about them.

Why be a principal?

Any individual involved in education can make a difference.  I am a principal because I wholeheartedly believe in making a difference EVERY DAY.  I help impact the structure of my school to positively affect the quality education we offer our students.  I am a principal because I enjoy working with teachers and staff who are in education, not because it is a job, but because it is a way of living.  We are a team who work together to provide opportunities for those who want to achieve and to change the minds of those who think “they can’t” achieve.  | am a principal because I once thought I couldn’t achieve, but was given the opportunity to do so.

What are some challenges your school community faces?

There are many challenges our school community faces, but some of the more prevalent are the social influences constantly facing our “at-risk” youth.  Vista Verde MS is in the middle of a large city with many pockets of unpleasant influences.  Our students, like many other students, are constantly tempted with these negative social influences.  As a school we are continuously implementing proactive interventions to guide our students through positive pathways, and hence, have the greater impact in their lives.  We do not want to lose our students to drugs, gangs, violence, etc., which are elements of any community, so we work closely with our Student Services department, community resources, and our teachers and parents to provide an environment in our school that we hope to have a long-lasting positive affect in the decisions of our students.  We have done this by creating strong academic programs like AVID, Jr. Scholars, AVID Keepers, SPED-LS, STEM, ELD, and rigorous electives.

Why is getting students to think about college in middle school important?

It is very important to get students to think about college in middle school because for many students thinking about college in high school may be too late.  I worked with high school students for over 10 years and it was very unfortunate to witness many of these students come into high school with little or no knowledge about the college entrance requirements (SAT, A-G, ACT, etc.).  Many high school counselors are servicing over 500 students in their case load; therefore, meeting the needs of their students may be very difficult. Many counselors tend to focus their attention on 12th graders because of priority and time sensitivity, so many 9th to 11th graders tend to get neglected.  Consequently, these students are minimally informed about college/university entrance requirements or options.  Therefore, we have to empower our middle school students to become their own advocates. 

It is never too early to teach our students about a decision that can affect the rest of their life.  The college verbiage should be a constant part of any school.  Every teacher should be talking about college.  I don’t believe that every student will go to college, but I do believe that every student should be given the opportunity to choose to go to college.  If we deprive our students of this essential information, I believe we are robbing them of their choice.  We can never “over inform” students of the college options they have and there is nothing that prevents us from starting in middle school.  As a former high school teacher and administrator, I would be grateful to the middle schools that make this a priority; it will not only increase college-going rates but provide more students with the knowledge of what it takes to make it (of course this is only part of the battle; we must also work on preparing students to be successful once they get to college).

How has the school changed with GEAR UP?

GEAR Up has been instrumental in Vista Verde’s most recent accomplishments.  It has given our teachers the opportunity to get AVID and College Board trained and use the strategies throughout their instruction impacting both AVID and non-AVID students.  GEAR Up has also increased our vertical and horizontal articulation within our school and between our high schools and our feeder elementary schools.  The GEAR Up site leadership team meets regularly and attends critical conferences where the information comes back to the site and is presented to the rest of our staff.  Our GEAR Up coordinator and regional coach/mentor work closely together and are constantly communicating about the latest college activities, updates, information, etc.

Why is an educated workforce important for strong communities?

An educated workforce is important for a strong community because it will contribute to a positive cycle.  The more productive citizens we help develop, the better the workforce, the stronger and more productive the community.  We see this in the research and in the practice.  Our goal as a school is to positively contribute to the community, so that the community can positively contribute to the schools.  It makes sense.  Not all students will stay and live in the communities that help raise them, but many will.

What are some of the challenges in preparing all students for career/college?

Some of the challenges in preparing all students for career/college include the lack of funds to pay for more school personnel.  Increasing the number of school counselors could greatly benefit students.  More funds could increase resources in the school and around the community.  Training and paying our teachers to become college coaches for our at-risk students could greatly benefit preparing students for career/college.  Although we have an amazing AVID program, many of our students could be classified as “transitional-AVID” students.  These students would be placed into an “AVID-type” program where students slowly gain the knowledge and skills to be accepted into the AVID program.  However, more AVID sections would mean the need for more funding.

 Anything else you would like to tell about yourself, your school, or your students?

Vista Verde is a wonderful school and I am so proud to be able to say “…it is ‘my’ school…”  :)  There are many special things happening and there are many more special things in the process of blossoming.  Our school is a GEAR Up School, an AVID Demonstration School, a CBEE Honor Roll School, and a Schools-to-Watch-TCS because our teachers, staff, students, and community work together, have ownership of the school, and truly care.

Vista Verde, besides  being a “School to Watch” for two years and and an AVID Demonstration School, has the good fortune to have a principal, Esperanza Arce, who not only has her vision of educational excellence but also has the wisdom to foster and support the creative efforts of her staff members in attaining this vision.  Except for commute time challenges, I would not hesitate a moment to enroll my seventh grade grandson at Vista Verde.     —Jon Sides, California GEAR UP Whole School Services Coach

For more information on AVID, STW-TCS, GEAR UP, or Vista Verde, check these links out.

http://valverdevvms.ss4.sharpschool.com

http://www.avid.org/abo_demoschools.html

http://www.castategearup.org

http://www.clms.net/stw/

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1,614 Schools on California Business Community Honor Role

RECORD 1,614 SCHOOLS RECOGNIZED BY CALIFORNIA
BUSINESS COMMUNITY FOR HIGH STUDENT ACADEMIC
ACHIEVEMENT AND CLOSING ACHIEVEMENT GAPS
 

Schools Selected by California Business for Education
Excellence for Prestigious Honor Roll 
 

May 15, 2012 (Sacramento, CA) – California GEAR UP is pleased to share today that a record 1,614 schools have been selected by California Business for Education Excellence (CBEE)  as schools in California to receive the title of 2011 Honor Roll school. Included on the list are many current and former California GEAR UP Schools.

Schools receiving this distinction from the California business community have demonstrated consistent high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement levels over time and reduction in achievement gaps among student populations.  For High Schools, the Honor Roll recognition also includes measures of college readiness. The CBEE Honor Roll is comprised of two different awards, the “Star Schools” Award (527 schools),  “Scholar Schools” Award (1,087 schools) and special designation for “STEM schools ” with highest performance in math and science.

Like California GEAR UP Schools, CBEE Star Schools are those with significant populations of socio-economically disadvantaged students that have shown a significant increase in grade-level proficiency over time. CBEE Scholar Schools are schools that are showing significant levels of academic achievement, but do not have a significant socio-economically disadvantaged student population.

“We are so proud to to have California GEAR UP Schools recognized by California’s business community as an Honor Roll school,” said Gina Rodriguez, School Services Manager-Calfiornia GEAR UP.  “Our teachers and administrators work tirelessly to keep the focus on high expectations and student academic achievement and to continuously improving our practices. This hard work and dedication is paying off for all of our students, no matter their background.”

The Honor Roll is the premier school recognition program that uses only academic achievement data showing improved academic growth over time and a closing of the achievement gap.

A full list of the Honor Roll schools and the STEM Honor Roll can be found at: HERE. Full list of California GEAR UP Schools can be found on our website:www.castategearup.org.

California GEAR UP Completes Site Visits and Statewide Events

 

As part of the extensive six-month planning phase, California GEAR UP has completed 51 school site visits and three statewide events in Glendale, Berkeley, and Costa Mesa.

Participating in the planning phase of the California GEAR UP program, schools will complete the following activities:

• Host a School-Site Visit for GEAR UP Orientation (2 hours maximum) with key leaders (potential GEAR UP Leadership Team) to be scheduled between January 27 and February 29, 2012.

• Participate in a Planning Session for GEAR UP: A full-day session, 8 am – 4 pm, for the school leadership team.

• Complete Perceptions Activity with school-wide staff.

• Schools Receive Notification by May 21, 2012: Schools will be notified of their final selection for participation in the 6-year California GEAR UP Program.

Schools level of enthusiasm and commitment already demonstrated tells me that they are ready to be a part of something bigger that will help to create systemic change at their school, in their community and state wide. Plus the fact that we have the opportunity to work with these schools for five and half years – this will give us the time to go deeper and hopefully make a bigger impact for each school, their students, families and the community!

Michele Molitor-Whole School Services Coach

The goal 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 systemic network of  support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders, and families.

The planning phase activities have been designed to begin the capacity building process by introducing tools and services to school leadership teams and begin the 6 year California GEAR UP Whole School Services process.

CGU is about working 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 uplifting work!

Gina Rodriguez-Whole School Services Manager

Leadership teams will now return to their schools to share the planning phase tools and strategies with the entire community, including participating in the Perceptions Tool Activity.

Schools Receive Notification by May 21, 2012: Schools will be notified of their final selection for participation in the 6-year California GEAR UP Program.

Planning Phase Schools Collaborate In Costa Mesa

Costa Mesa, CA–California GEAR UP Leadership Team gathered in Costa Mesa, CA today to kick off the planning phase of a 6 year plan to create a college going culture at their school. Teams will learn more about tools and resources provided by California GEAR UP and collaborate with each other on successful strategies to introduce GEAR UP information into the school wide community.

California GEAR UP schools commit to strong academic programming and a cohesive college and career readiness curriculum, beginning at the middle school and connecting with area high schools and local postsecondary institutions. GEAR UP provides a network of support and professional development activities to integrate a college-going culture into school site reform efforts.

Forty-six middle schools will be selected to receive support developing a college-going culture through professional development, engagement of families and communities, counseling support, partner services and resources for the six-year grant period.

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.

To view the planning phase presentation from the Glendale Workshop, please click here.

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

Planning Phase Workshops Get Underway in Berkeley

 

California GEAR UP Leadership Team gathered in Berkeley today to kick off the planning phase of a 6 year plan to create a college going culture at their school. Teams will learn more about tools and resources provided by California GEAR UP and collaborate with each other on successful strategies to introduce GEAR UP information into the school wide community.

California GEAR UP schools commit to strong academic programming and a cohesive college and career readiness curriculum, beginning at the middle school and connecting with area high schools and local postsecondary institutions. GEAR UP provides a network of support and professional development activities to integrate a college-going culture into school site reform efforts.

Forty-six middle schools will be selected to receive support developing a college-going culture through professional development, engagement of families and communities, counseling support, partner services and resources for the six-year grant period.

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.

To view the planning phase presentation from the Glendale Workshop, please click here.

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

California GEAR UP Announces Cohort of New Schools

 

Monday, January 16, 2012–We are excited and pleased to announce the planning phase for the new cohort of California GEAR UP middle schools!

On behalf of Governor Jerry Brown and the California Education Round Table, the State of California proposes to conduct a State GEAR UP grant to be administered by the University of California.  The goal of this grant is to:

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 organizational capacity is expected to result in a higher proportion of students, particularly from  backgrounds and communities that historically have not pursued a college education, enrolling and succeeding in higher education.

The 2011-2017 cohort begins whole school services with a planning phase already underway. For a list of schools chosen for the planning phase click the link below:

CGU Planning Schools 2012

Selected California GEAR UP schools commit to strong academic programming and a cohesive college and career readiness curriculum, beginning at the middle school and connecting with area high schools and local postsecondary institutions. GEAR UP provides a network of support and professional development activities to integrate a college-going culture into school site reform efforts.

Following a six-month Planning Phase in 2012, schools are selected to participate in the program from January 2012 – August 2017.

If selected to participate in the planning phase of the California GEAR UP program, schools are asked to mark their calendars for the following activities and dates:

• Host a School-Site Visit for GEAR UP Orientation (2 hours maximum) with key leaders (potential GEAR UP Leadership Team) to be scheduled between January 27 and February 29, 2012. GEAR UP staff will work with the school to ensure a mutually convenient time.

• Participate in a Planning Session for GEAR UP: A full-day session, 8 am – 4 pm, for the school leadership team.

• Schools Receive Notification by May 21, 2012: Schools will be notified of their final selection for participation in the 6-year California GEAR UP Program.

Schools are also required to complete an annual school survey. A webinar is available on how to complete the survey on the WestEd website found HERE. (Please note clicking this link will automatically launch the WebEx in your browser.)

We welcome our new schools to take on the challenge of whole-school reform lead by a strategic leadership and coached by California GEAR UP School Services Coaches. Together we are confident we can lead the school toward academic excellence and college access for all students.

For more information about California GEAR UP please visit our website.

 

Apply Now: Become a California GEAR UP School

The time has finally come to apply to become a member of an elite group: A California GEAR UP Middle School.

California GEAR UP supports middle schools in developing a self-sustaining college-going culture for ALL students. The program serves whole schools through the adults that have the greatest impact on student life and experience: the principals, teachers, counselors, families and community leaders. GEAR UP resources, strategies and interventions are implemented by School Leadership Teams and guided by a school-based, six-year plan.

Selected California GEAR UP school teams commit to strong academic programming and a cohesive college and career readiness curriculum, beginning at the middle school and connecting with area high schools and local postsecondary institutions. GEAR UP provides a network of support and professional development activities to integrate a college-going culture into school site reform efforts.

Following a six-month Planning Phase in 2012, schools are selected to participate in the program fromJanuary 2012 – August 2017.

APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS

Schools are expected to:

  • Have a minimum of 51% of students on the federal free & reduced price lunch program.
  • Complete and return this application by Monday December 12, 2011, signed by the principal and district superintendent.
  • Commit to strengthening and continuously improving the school’s college-going culture for ALL students.
  • Participate in Planning Phase activities (Jan. 2012—May 2012): GEAR UP Program Orientation, a one-day planning session at a centrally located site, and conduct GEAR UP planning and information sessions within your school community.
  • Convene the GEAR UP Leadership Team of up to 8 members (principal, site contact, counselor, 2 teachers, a parent representative, and key community partner).
  • Commit to the GEAR UP Leadership Team and the training provided by California GEAR UP.
  • Devise and focus on the Professional Development Action Plan (PDAP) annually.
  • Submit survey and evaluation data to the GEAR UP Program Evaluator annually by March 1.
  • Develop a procedure for student selection and recognition for Education Trust Award (ETA) recipients.

KEY DATES & DEADLINES FOR SCHOOL CALENDARS

  • November 9, 15, 29, 2011: Technical Assistance Days
  • December 12, 2011: Last day to submit program application
  • January 13, 2012: Schools are notified whether or not they have been selected for the planning phase
  • January 2012—May 2012: Planning Phase
  • January 27—February 29, 2012: School-site Orientations
  • March 14, 21, 28, 2012: Off-site planning sessions
  • May 21, 2012: Schools will be notified of their final selection to the 6-year California GEAR UP Program

To apply, download the PDF application HERE. Download the Microsoft Word document HERE.

Deadline:

Please submit the completed application by Monday, December 12, 2011, to

California GEAR UP

Attn:Ms. Blaze Farrar,

Fax (510) 587-6354 Telephone (510) 587-6129, Email: Blaze.Farrar@ucop.edu

NO APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED AFTER DEADLINE.

For further information contact the California GEAR UP office at (510) 987-9137 or (916) 551-1757. Or email Gina Rodriguez Cynthia.Rodriguez@ucop.edu or Blaze Farrar Blaze.Farrar@ucop.edu.

Principal and Leadership Institutes in Full Swing

Throughout the month of October, Cohort B California GEAR UP schools will be attending Principal and Leadership Team Institutes across the state.  This cohort of schools is entering the third and final year of GEAR UP and will be continuing to build on the progress of the previous two years of services.

Institutes will be held in Southern California in Costa Mesa on October 12-13 and Glendale on October 19-20. The northern Institute will be in North Emeryville on October 26-27.

The institutes will be focusing on creating a college-going culture throughout the school by looking at aspects of leadership, student expectations, rigorous coursework, school partners and strategic thinking, and communication and data use. Teams will work together over two days to plan and identify next steps in using California GEAR UP professional development funds and tools as well as GEAR UP school based services.

GEAR UP schools who are designated as ‘Schools on the Move’ will present best practices on a variety of topics on day two that will include an open discussion about how schools can successfully implement GEAR UP tools and services.

One of the key ideas of the institutes this year is creating a common understanding of instructional rigor and looking at how GEAR UP resources and services can support school-wide professional development plans to support expectations and rigor.

If you would like more information on our services and events, please visit our website.

Cesar Chavez MS Displays GEAR UP Pride on Homepage

cesar chavez

Cesar Chavez Middle School in Lynwood, CA effectively uses their schools home page to share with the school community their Education Trust Awards nominees and information about the awards process. Here is an excerpt from the page:

CCMS Is A College Going Culture School!

The California State Gear Up will award these students a $2,000 scholar share account.  The winners of this scholarship will be able to use their money as soon as they graduate from high school and enroll in a university, college, or vocational/trade school.  The alternates have an 80% chance of receiving the $2,000.

Winners were selected based on a 500 word essay stating, Why they felt they deserved the scholarship? and by an interview conducted by three CCMS staff members.  All students will have an opportunity to apply for this scholarship again next year.  For more information, contact Ms. Castro 310 886-7312.

We would love to see how you are celebrating your college-going culture at your school. Submit information to sean.brennan@ucop.edu and we will share on the blog.

Great job Cesar Chavez Middle School!

National GEAR UP Day: 15 ways to celebrate

1.Hold an event celebrating your GEAR UP program! Invite local media, elected officials, school administrators, parents, teachers, and students.

2. Host a Potluck BBQ as a thank you for dedicated GEAR UP volunteers.

3. Create a “See How Much We’ve Grown” Chart indicating the increases in federal funding for GEAR UP over the last 10 years. Turn this into an opportunity to highlight the success of your GEAR UP program.

4. Invite your local elected officials (mayor, city council) to attend a College Access Roundtable with your GEAR UP staff and students. This would be a great time for students to share how much they’ve learned in GEAR UP.

5. Host a “Champions of Education” Reception for your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative. Thank them for their hard work for GEAR UP and highlight some of your best parent volunteers.

6. Hold a “GEAR UP Day” in your state capital for college access and education. Meet with your State Legislators and tell them about how important GEAR UP has been to your community.

7. 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 in your community. Invite teachers and school administrators to attest to the increased graduation rates and test scores students have achieved through GEAR UP.

8. Create a never-ending “College Access Chain” featuring the names of students across your state who have
graduated from or are currently enrolled in a GEAR UP 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.

9. Host a Community Success Stories Breakfast with a local service club or chamber of commerce. Invite your
GEAR UP partners to share the success stories of GEAR UP students.

10. Celebrate GEAR UP with a day of community service! Motivate GEAR UP students to volunteer with a local
literacy group to spread the leadership skills they’ve gained through GEAR UP.

11. Hold a National GEAR UP Day Poster Contest! Have GEAR UP students design a poster for this event with a gift certificate to a bookstore as the prize.

12. Create an over-sized thank you card to send to your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative. With the National GEAR UP Day 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 District Office.

13. Have your mayor or governor proclaim September 18th, 2009 as National GEAR UP Day! Contact NCCEP for proclamation language (www.edpartnerships.org).

14. Create a “GEAR UP Dreams Wall” — Cover the wall of a classroom with butcher paper, place a large National GEAR UP Day 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 students by their dreams and send a few to your
U.S. Senators, U.S. Representative, and State Legislators.

15. Host a coffee with school administrators, teachers, parents, and student leaders of a non-GEAR UP school
to discuss college access and the success that GEAR UP has had in your school district!