Washington and at least eight other states will team up to more closely examine the effectiveness of GEAR UP programs in promoting college and career readiness, especially among low-income students.
GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, provides participating middle and high schools in low-income districts with resources for tutoring, teacher training, financial aid counseling, college tours and other services to students. The HECB administers the Washington State GEAR UP program, which serves 28 school districts. There also are 10 GEAR UP Partnership grants to various colleges and school districts that serve additional students.
The consortium of states participating in the new GEAR UP evaluation effort will develop common data collection and reporting methods to provide high quality research and evaluation of GEAR UP programs. The work will be conducted in partnership with ACT, Inc., and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships.
“For more than a year, state leaders have been conversing with the (U.S.) Department of Education and ACT, seeking a means to create more useful data in assessing the efficacy of GEAR UP in preparing students to enroll and persist in college,” said Weiya Liang, HECB associate director for the state GEAR UP program in Washington.
In addition to Washington, states that have joined the consortium so far are Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.
Each of the participating states will administer various ACT assessments to all GEAR UP students in the state—in 8th grade, 10th grade and 11 grade, respectively. They will then share the results of the assessments, as well as the cohorts’ high school graduation rate of their GEAR UP students.
The consortium also will analyze the cohorts’ postsecondary enrollment data, as verified through the National Student Clearinghouse. In addition, common survey questions will be administered in grant years two, four, and six, measuring GEAR UP students’ and families’ knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation and financing.
There is already strong evidence that Washington’s GEAR UP program is effective in encouraging and preparing low-income middle and high school students for college. The HECB’s most recent Annual Report on State Financial Aid Programs reported the following outcomes for GEAR UP students who graduated in the Class of 2011:
· 96 percent read at grade level by the end of the 11th grade.
· 100 percent attended information sessions related to college admissions, financiang and scholarship opportunities their junior year.
· 100 percent visited an in-state college their junior or senior year.
· 100 percent were on track to graduate on time.