Thirty Oklahoma school districts have been selected to serve as focus districts for the second year of the Oklahoma GEAR UP program, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education announced recently.
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federal program designed to help middle and high school students better prepare for college. In August 1999, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma a five-year grant totaling $20.5 million to implement GEAR UP activities across the state, including college preparation and awareness programs for students and parents and scholarships.
The selection of 30 new school districts brings the total number of GEAR UP focus districts to 60. By the fall of 2005, 180 Oklahoma school districts will serve as GEAR UP focus districts.
As focus schools, the districts will conduct needs assessments to identify gaps and weaknesses in district services designed to prepare seventh through 12th grade students academically and financially for college. The results from the assessments will be used to tailor plans for implementing GEAR UP services that will fill those gaps. Oklahoma GEAR UP staff also work directly with the schools to help implement the new programs and services.
Additionally, the schools will be eligible to receive numerous free services provided by Oklahoma GEAR UP partners, organizations that have donated more than $25 million in funds and programs to the initiative. Schools will also receive $18,000 in direct funding to support fee-based services provided through the program and to build local capacity to sustain those services over time.
"Through Oklahoma GEAR UP, we are able to offer students across the state interactive and proactive programs that are tailored to meet their specific needs,” said Chancellor Hans Brisch. “The programs provide the students with not only the skills and knowledge needed for success in college and the workplace, but also the encouragement to pursue and achieve their dreams."
The 30 school districts selected for phase two of the Oklahoma GEAR UP program include:
The selected districts represent various regions in Oklahoma that have a high participation rate in the free and reduced school lunch program and a proven commitment to student preparation. Additionally, all school districts meet required federal guidelines and have demonstrated involvement with the State Regents’ Oklahoma Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS), a multi-year education and career preparation system for middle and high school students.
"GEAR UP builds on Oklahoma’s existing programs to make educational programs and services available to all Oklahoma students, regardless of where they live or their background," said State Regents Chairman Leonard J. Eaton Jr. "Approximately 61,420 Oklahoma students in the seventh through 12th grade are currently being impacted through the focus school initiative, and even more students will feel its impact as the program continues."
The federal GEAR UP program was established by Congress to fund partnerships between colleges and universities, middle schools, community-based organizations and businesses to better prepare students for college.
Oklahoma’s statewide GEAR UP grant has been matched by more than $25 million from state and partner resources. With funds totaling $45.5 million, GEAR UP receives 45 percent of total funding from the federal government and 55 percent from other organizations.