Call to Action: GEAR UP Faces Funding Reduction

The House of Representatives and Senate have agreed on a two-week extension on federal spending for FY11, avoiding a government shutdown for the time being. Previous to this measure, another Continuing Resolution that expires March 4, 2011, was funding the government.

Although this new CR forestalls a government shutdown, it does not eliminate the threats challenging GEAR UP.  As you may know, the House of Representatives passed the Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 1) on February 19, 2011.  It stipulates the largest cuts in history to education programs ($11.55 billion total).  Many programs will suffer cuts or elimination, and GEAR UP faces a $19.8 million reduction in funding.

Enactment of such a bill (meaning passage by both the House and Senate) would:
1.    Decrease the number of awards available for the 2011 GEAR UP grant competition;
2.    Threaten GEAR UP’s growth and expansion, as funding levels set in FY11 could serve as a high-water mark for some years to come;
3.    Exclude more than 40,000 low-income, minority and disadvantaged students from receiving support on their journey to college.

Other important programs facing cuts or elimination are: Pell grants, supplemental education opportunity grants, LEAP, aid to minority-serving institutions, TRIO, Byrd honors scholarships, higher education teacher quality partnerships, statewide data systems and regional educational labs, amongst others.

We need you to help us stop these threats to GEAR UP, and education as a whole.

Call to Action (today through March 17, 2011)
Contact your Members of Congress now, specifically your Senators and ask them to reject spending cuts targeting GEAR UP.

Act Now:
1.  Call and/or write your Senators.
Ask them to reject the spending cuts proposed by the House of Representatives.  Emphasize how this measure might affect your GEAR UP site’s possibilities for future funding.  Talk about the potential effects your community and/or state would suffer if your GEAR UP grant is not renewed: drops in high school graduation rates; drops in college enrollment rates; jobs losses; decreased workforce competitiveness; etc.
You can find your Senators’ contact information here:

2. Set up meetings with your Senators. Face-to-face meetings with your Senators and/or their staff are a great way to make yourself heard.  Request them to oppose the spending cuts targeting GEAR UP.  Inform them of the consequences of the potential cuts and share success stories to illustrate the positive effects GEAR UP is having in your community.
You can find your Senators’ contact information here:

3. Contact local media. Share your thoughts on how these potential cuts would impact your GEAR UP site, your community and possibly jeopardize future funding for continuing the fight to level the playing field in college access for low-income, minority and disadvantaged students.

Whatever you choose to do is great.  All actions work to get your voice heard on Capitol Hill.

The most important thing is to act, NOW.

Partner Spotlight: Parent Institute for Quality Education

PIQE (Parent Institute for Quality Education) provides nine week family seminars and teacher professional development to California GEAR UP schools throughout the state and continues to be one of the most successful and popular services provided by GEAR UP. PIQE services are specifically developed for the needs of GEAR UP schools and communities and are are provided in a multitude of languages.

PIQE began in 1987 as a result of discussions with parents of a predominantly Latino elementary school in the San Diego area. Parents were interested in addressing the conditions that prevented their children from succeeding in school.

Armed with information from those meetings, PIQE founders, Rev. Vahac Mardirosianand Dr. Alberto Ochoa, launched the organization’s first program, which included workshops targeted for parents of K-12 children. The seminar has since evolved into PIQE’s signature program, the Parent Engagement Education Program, a nine-week curriculum delivered to parents in their primary language, aimed at helping them become educational advocates for their students. After much success, the program was launched at other schools in San Diego and later, throughout California.

After more than 20 years, PIQE continues to receive rave reviews from families and teachers. Here are some recent quotes:

I just wanted to let you know how successful and empowering the PIQE program has been. Two of my parents were graduates of your program, and came prepared to parent conferences with the most insightful, relevant and comprehensive questions I have ever been presented with.  I really felt as if I was on the ‘hot seat’, and was thrilled.  We all win; teachers, students, parents, and society.

-Bay Area Teacher

English Translation:

I was in your PIQE class at St Helena Elementary, and I am sending you this email to thank you for the information you gave us in the nine classes. I also take pleasure in telling you that most of the parents used the information during their recent Parent/Teacher Conferences including me. The truth is that we needed a class like this and I hope that next year we can have this same opportunity for the parents that did not have a chance to experience it.  I also want to let you know that during our ELAC meeting we had 15 parents instead of 4 and half of those were PIQE parent graduates. Thank you very much for everything and I am going to take your word that we can ask you if we have any questions.

-PIQE Parent

In addtion to the nine week family seminars are GEAR UP schools, PIQE provides Early Childhood Development programs, Family Financial Literacy Education, Teachers Workshop on Family Engagement, and a Four Month Follow UP Parent Coaches Program. Programs are of course not just limited to GEAR UP schools and are available across the state. Check out their programs here.

The California GEAR UP-PIQE partnership is a testament to successful collaboration in providing family engagement services and community education programs. PIQE provides its program in 18 languages and serves ALL communities.  PIQE is now working in 6 states and its most recent office opened in Houston, Texas. For more information on PIQE, please visit their website to learn more.

If you are interested in collaborating or funding PIQE, please contact the President of PIQE, David Valladolid. You can read the Presidents message here. You can also find PIQE on Facebook.

Share with us your PIQE success story!

California GEAR UP Completes Statewide Events

It was a busy month for California GEAR UP. Throughout the state, participating GEAR UP middle schools attended strategic planning sessions that are the core of the professional development services. Institutes and Forums involving all School Leadership Team members, Regional Coordinators, GEAR UP staff, and partners.

The two-day Institutes use the SSAR 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.

This year selected GEAR UP schools making strides to implement college-going culture in their schools were chosen to be ‘Schools on the Move’. The Schools on the Move presented successful strategies at each of the Principal and Leadership Team Institutes. Participating schools and topics include:

Pixley Middle School: In order to establish Rigorous Academic Curriculum, Pixley  Middle School implemented GEAR UP in four specific areas: the structure of our school schedule, common classroom strategies, college centered campus and classrooms, and college awareness activities.  These four areas helped students become more aware of the requirements to get into college and at the same time created an environment of interest to attend college. Also, this new college bound environment lessened the apathy our campus was experiencing.

Pleasant View Elementary: Presentation topics: Offering Rigorous Instructional Programs, and Reflective Rigorous Instructional Practice, Response to Intervention, Parent Involvement & Articulation into High School.

Upland Junior High School: Building a College Going Culture With a “We Can Do It!” Attitude, including: Ideas for building school and college excitement, lessons to build student understanding about getting to college, Upland Junior High’s scholarship application process, Procedures that support student achievement and establish high expectations for all students, how we communicate with our families and include them in the education process.

La Cumbre Middle School: The strategy shared is school wide weekly homework accountability system. Developed several years ago, this easy system really provides weekly feedback to students, staff, and parents. They are happy to share their strategy which has kept students accountable, teachers accountable, and provided a climate of academic success.

Davidson Middle School: The presentation is about how Davidson redesigned every system and structure in the school to conform to the vision of high achievement for every student, one school community, and increased parent involvement.

Pacoima Middle School: Presentation focus on school wide strategies Pacoima Middle School staff developed and implemented to strengthen areas of academic rigor identified on the GEAR UP SSAR.  With GEAR UP and other community-based resources, staff worked smarter in departments and teams, to increase academic rigor and student access to algebra and other rigorous courses. Data-driven instructional practices, department collaboration, and instructional leadership contributed to successful outcomes, including a 47-point gain in the Pacoima Middle School 2010 API scores.

Cali Calmecac Language Academy: Presentation will focus on the use of data analysis to drive instruction and determine the type and need for intervention as well as the effectiveness of the Two-Way-Bilingual Immersion Model. Also address the impact of a Parent Participation requirement for all families and the effectiveness of PIQE workshops for participating families.

Harden Middle School: Sharing our successes and challenges for creating a sustainable college bound culture and aligning these with focus on rigor.  Presenting slides and short segments from our Husky TV that highlight many of our accomplishments and practices.  We will share school changes over a 3 year period.

Tincher Middle School: Presentation of on-going academic success, data driven instruction, successful intervention strategies and use of technology to support the instructional program. The data assessment presentation will include information on action plans and PDSA plans, use of School Loop, communications, transition/articulation meetings, Baldrige approach and data driven instruction, and promoting a scholarly, ‘geared up for college’ environment is a top priority.

All presentations concluded with a question and answer session and time for attending schools to discuss how the Schools on the Move strategies can be taken back and implemented.

California GEAR UP Hosts Sustainable Schools Events

California GEAR UP hosted their northern Continuing Sustainability Schools in Berkeley today as part of the fall school based services event schedule that will run until the end of October. Participating GEAR UP Schools, many of which have been in the program for more than 5 years, the Continuing Sustainability Project develops and implements long-term strategies to maintain the active participation of middle schools with California GEAR UP and to chart the sustainability of program initiatives towards the development of a college-going culture. Many of our CSP school have been with us for 5 years and are in the culminating stages of their sustainability plans.

Outcomes include:

  1. Development of a high performance (stable, cohesive and communicative) GEAR UP Leadership Team that will lead the school community in continuously assessing the college-going culture of the school based upon the School Self -Assessment Rubric (SSAR) and the GEAR UP indicators.
  2. A clear understanding of what a college-going culture is and looks like as described by the school’s SSAR and the 5 GEAR UP Sustainability indicators.
  3. Continued measurable progress of the 5 GEAR UP Sustainability indicators:
  • Sustainability of the Leadership Team
  • Academic Rigor
  • Academic Counseling
  • College and Financial Aid Information for Students and Families
  • Regular Involvement of Families

4.   An alignment of the school’s Professional Development Action Plan with the GEAR UP Sustainability Plan.

We are lucky to have GEAR UP over the last 5 years to focus on high quality teaching and school-wide involvement in the concept that all students can achieve…can go to college.”

California GEAR UP CSP school principal.

Valley High School Ready for National GEAR UP Day

Valley High School is finishing preparations for their second annual National GEAR UP Day celebration to be held on September 30. Activities include:

  • Business and Community Leaders Breakfast starting at 8:00 am.
  • Campus tours and classroom visits
  • Lunch-time Student activities and performances
  • An opportunity to network with business and community leaders, families, and educators.

National GEAR UP Day is a celebration of transformative work of California GEAR UP – Valley High School Collaboration that includes dramatic gains in the statewide API, the opening of a Family Center, distribution of 100 Education Trust Awards, the implementation of a Leadership Skills Initiative, as well as on-going school-wide academic support.

Confirmed attendees include:

For information on this event or to attend, please contact Deisy

Continue to follow events across the state as we cover National GEAR UP Day across California.

Waiting for Superman in Theaters this Weekend

Click here if you can’t see the imbedded trailer above.

Some are calling Davis Guggenheim’s new film “Waiting for Superman” education’s “An Inconvenient Truth“. The new film is bound to be controversial as it is being characterized as supporting everything from ‘corporatizing education‘ to the argument that education failures perpetuate societal ills, from national security and crime to poverty, and that it’s essential to “change the odds” for families who can’t afford private educations.

From the clips available online to those shared on Oprah this week, the documentary promises to be interesting, provocative and heart-wrenching, if a bit simplistic. It’s difficult to make a mainstream film about public education in America that captures the complexities of the system (and without putting people to sleep). But the central theme — the charter school admissions lottery — seems to imply that charter schools are the only ticket out for poor and working-class kids, as though neighborhood schools were something of a lost cause, will be the controversial topic for viewers.

Hopefully the movie will spark meaningful debate that will continue the push for equitable education for ALL students.

It opens this weekend and we will be very interested to hear from our readers what they thought of it.

National GEAR UP Day Press Release


California GEAR UP Celebrates National GEAR UP Day

September 20, 2010 – California GEAR UP announced today the celebration of the Second Annual National GEAR UP Day, commemorating 11 years of success for the program on September 30, 2010GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) was enacted as part of the 1998 Higher Education Act to give more low-income students the skills, encouragement, and preparation to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. In the last ten years, GEAR UP distributed more than $3 billion to nearly 12 million students across the country.

This year schools across California will once again celebrate National GEAR UP Day the entire week of September 27 and will host a kick-off event at their schools. Last year more than fifty California GEAR UP schools celebrated by:

  • Valley High School press conference that included Superintendent Jack O’Connell and Assembly Member Alyson Huber
  • Proclamation in San Francisco from Mayor Gavin Newsom
  • Letter of Recognition from author of GEAR UP Congressman Chaka Fattah
  • Schools displaying student’s ‘college dreams wall’ in their school
  • Teachers hosting community success story luncheons with elected officials.

National GEAR UP Day is a celebration of transformative work of California GEAR UP and the 68 partnership projects have impacted over 1/3 of the 1200 middle schools in California, with the State grant serving over 236,000 students in 260 schools in 106 school districts in 25 counties since 1999.

National GEAR UP Day celebrates students, families and school communities across the United States and beyond. The occasion marks more than ten years of support from Congressional, State and local leaders and recognizes our collaborative efforts to close achievement and opportunity gaps for ALL students.” ~Shelley Davis, California GEAR UP Director.

Please see attached list of celebrating California GEAR UP schools. We invite you to visit our amazing GEAR UP schools in your area. For more information on National GEAR UP Day or a GEAR UP school near you, please contact:

Sean K. Brennan, Communications Director:, 415-948-9262 or Shelley Davis, Director: (916) 551-1757.  Follow events across the state at:

Congressman Chaka Fattah to speak at NCAN Conference

National College Access Network (NCAN) announced Congressman Fattah as the featured speaker for the Awards of Excellence Luncheon on Monday, October 11, 2010.

Congressman Fattah, Representative for the 2nd District of Pennsylvania, is completing his 16th year in the U. S. House of Representatives.  He also serves as chair of the Congressional Urban Caucus and member of the House Appropriations Committee addressing the unique challenges of America’s urban communities and setting spending priorities of federal discretionary funds.

An early advocate for college access, Congressman Fattah is the architect for GEAR UP.  In the last ten years, GEAR UP distributed more than $3 billion to nearly 12 million students across the country.  He was also a chief sponsor of the American Opportunity Tax Credit Act, which provides tax credits for college expenses for students and their parents.  On a state level, he is the creator of the College Opportunity Resources for Education (CORE) initiative and founder of the Graduate Opportunity Initiative.

Before his election to United States Congress in 1994, Congressman Fattah served six years as a Representative in the Pennsylvania State House followed by six years as a Pennsylvania State Senator.  He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including 10 honorary doctorates and the University of Pennsylvania’s Fel’s Center of Government Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.  Time Magazine named him one of the 50 most promising leaders in the country.

You may also remember our post about Congressman Fattah during the GEAR UP National Conference this year. If you don’t, check out the video of the Congressman talking to our director Shelley Davis HERE.

For more information on the conference and to register, please visit the NCAN website.

Lessons in Reading Reform, CAHSEE Success from PPIC

Two interesting reports released by the Public Policy Institute of California we’d like to share with you. The first is on the California High School Exit Examination and how student success can be determined as early as fourth grade. The report suggests a philosophy shared by California GEAR UP, that providing resources to struggling students in early grades will be a more effective way to improve achievement than the current approach of focusing on students in the last year of high school.

The report suggests the following (read report for full recommendations):

  • Develop an “early warning” system to forecast which ele- mentary or middle school students will be at risk of failing the CAHSEE.
  • After-school reading classes and related reforms of intervention.
  • Consider targeting additional tutoring funds at elementary and middle school students at risk of failing the exam.
  • Consider additional academic support directed at the many students who marginally pass the CAHSEE.

The second report released this week addressed Lessons in Reading Reform.  The report is the first evaluation of the long-term effects of a massive reform program implemented in the San Diego Unified School District—the state’s second largest and one that is similar to the demographics of other large districts. It comes at a time of national debate over efforts to improve public school accountability. These efforts include setting content standards and student testing—but offer little guidance about how to help students improve.

The key element that seems to have driven success was a significant amount of extra student time spent on reading, with a possible additional factor being widespread professional development for district teachers. The combination was not cheap to implement nor a fix-all. But in elementary and middle schools it demonstrably worked.

Suggestions from the report include:

  • Early intervention is most effective.
  • Middle school students who took extended-length English classes made big gains.
  • A longer school year at elementary schools with the weakest reading scores led to moderate gains.
  • The reforms did not cause negative side effects.

Please take the time to review the reports and let us know what you think. You can comment on the blog or visit us on our Facebook page to leave a comment.

More Minorities Taking ACT But Gaps Remain

Being widely reported across California, ACT has announced the scores of the graduating class of 2010.  While hispanic students showed an increase in college readiness, their scores continue to fall short of those necessary to be successful in college.

“A record number of California students took the ACT college readiness examination in 2010…While the percentage of ACT-tested California graduates who are ready for college coursework is higher compared to five years ago, the findings indicate that there are still too many high school graduates who are not ready to succeed in college-level work. The ACT results also provide further evidence of the achievement gap; a lower percentage of students who are African American or Latino are meeting the ACT’s college readiness benchmarks compared to students who are white or Asian.

“Preparing more students for success in college is key to ensuring that California’s economy remains strong in the global economy of the 21st century. These results tell us that we must continue to focus on implementing strategies that effectively prepare all students for success in college and the workforce.”

-California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell

The ethnic and racial patterns of the score report prompted renewed calls for extra attention to the needs of struggling students.

David Hawkins, the director of public policy and research for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, noted that the ACT results show modest progress toward one definition of career readiness, but that such definitions vary from one postsecondary program or institution to another. In gauging a student’s preparedness for higher education, he said, high school grades and coursework are also key indicators of his likelihood of future success. (from Education Week article)

While the California GEAR UP community strives to address the Achievement gap it takes a dedicated education community to make meaningful gains in scores such as the ACT.

The disconnect between secondary and postsecondary institutions lies at the heart of the problem: Many high-poverty public high schools lack the resources to prepare students for college reading and writing requirements; many colleges and universities, meanwhile, are unaccustomed to extending meaningful academic opportunities beyond their campuses.  In this way, low-income high schoolers are very often confronted by both the weakest bridge between high school and college and the widest gulf to cross.  (Education Week: Commentary “The Promise of Early College” by Stephen Tremaine)

What is your school, program, or community doing to address these gaps?