• At first, I thought this was only an after-school study class but over the years I have discovered that it’s so much more. I’m so happy that the we’ve had the program for five years but I am sad to know that next year is the last year it will be here.

    Chad Desjardins

Okanogan Valley CWU GEAR UP

This GEAR-UP partnership has served 1500 6th–12th grade students over six years in seven school districts in remote Central Washington: Oroville, Bridgeport, Brewster, Lake Chelan, Omak, Tonasket and Manson.

In May 2011, Year 6 of the grant, 100% of students in these schools, or 422 high school seniors, have made formal application to a postsecondary institution, with 85% acceptance rates as of late May. Seniors are considering financial aid packages and other information as they confirm their choices.

General Services: The project has provided an array of services in each of the seven districts. Services include in-class and extended day tutoring, yearly age-appropriate student college planning activities and learning portfolios, GED, ESL, ABE and computer classes for parents; college outreach activities and campus visits for students and parents; mentoring for students from Central Washington University Bridges program with help for math, writing and language arts, technology and enrichment. Schools developed additional ‘college in the high school’ programs for capable students through grant-provided training subsidies for teachers to CWU’s Cornerstone Project which enables highly qualified high school teachers with Masters level work in a content area to provide coursework that allows students to earn college credits.

Rigorous Course Enrollment: In the third year of the grant, NLA, CWU and school administrators developed a proposal which was adopted by all the seven consortium schools to adopt rigorous math goals to prepare students for postsecondary enrollment: Math is a ‘gateway’ course to successful completion of postsecondary training and university/college attendance. The intent was to prepare students for college work and to reduce the need for students to enroll in remedial coursework as they entered postsecondary programs. The math goals are: 1) all students will successfully complete Algebra 1 with a “C” or higher by the end of their sophomore year; 2) 80% of juniors will enroll in a rigorous math class beyond Algebra 1; 3) 70% of seniors will enrol in a rigorous math class (Algebra II or higher). All schools made significant progress toward meeting these goals.

Student Aspirations/Parent Support: Barbara Peterson of NLA developed age-appropriate print and online materials designed to help students and their parents plan for postsecondary enrollment. Information included in the print documents provided each year to every GEAR UP student included information about various postsecondary options, accessing financial aid, coursework necessary to enroll in four-year programs, information on colleges and universities in Washington State and the region, course and study guides, information for parents, a college-prep reading list of great literature, motivational materials and information promoting financial literacy. By the end of Year 5, the annual survey showed that 88% of all students and 52% of parents were knowledgeable about financial aid and scholarship opportunities and that 88.6% of students said that they expect to complete either a 2 or 4-year degree.

Teacher Professional Development: A variety of PD opportunities were funded through the program, including helping math teachers get content endorsements, complete masters level programs and become qualified to teach college-credit bearing coursework; Robert Marzano Research Group’s Formative Assessment and Standards-Based Grading; training for science teachers at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) at the Hanford Observatory.

8th Grade Transition: Project staff, under the leadership of NLA’s Leroy Werkhoven, undertook several projects designed to promote grade to grade retention for 100% of students. Recognizing that 9th grade can be a pivotal year of loss, the projects undertook several activities targeting 9th graders. Starting in 2007-08, each 9th grader had a minimum of four structured transition interventions to track their successful progress through high school. In Year 5, a transition video was developed by GEAR UP staff in each site to help transition new 9th graders into high school. These efforts significantly reduced the number of drop outs each year of the project.

Yearly Events: – Activities that Build College Awareness: Each year students were exposed to trips and events designed to help them choose a postsecondary option. All sixth grade students made the long trip to Central Washington University’s Ellensburg campus for a campus tour led by college student who hail from these seven rural high schools; all seventh grade students visited Wenatchee Valley College to see a strong 2-year community college program; all 8th graders attended a College/Career Fair; 9th graders participated in workshops on the FAFSA, personal statements, admissions procedures, and ACT/SAT test prep; 10th graders worked with college mentors to frame their futures and to consider college majors; 11th graders created resumes, participated in community service programs, learned how to complete scholarship applications and identified sources for letters of recommendation.

12th Grade Culminating Activity: 100% of Students Make Application for Postsecondary Options: In Year 6 of the project, the grant goal is that 100% of all seniors will make a formal application to an appropriate postsecondary option. Based on the work done in the prior five years with the program, students will chose that postsecondary option – 4-year college or university, community or technical college, trade school or apprenticeship, or the military – that will provide the training that student needs to find a family-wage job and have a stable and fulfilling future. This goal was adopted from a model in Maine where all students must complete a college application as part of their graduation requirement; NLA’s push was to move one step further and insist that students submit the application formally. When funds for the application fee were a problem for a family, the grant sought a waiver from the postsecondary institution or provided school or grant funds to cover the costs.


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