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December 16, 2004 :: Twenty-One Schools Named GEAR UP ‘Plus’ Districts for 2004-2005

Media Contact: Amy Bruce
Office: 1.405.225.9281
abruce@osrhe.edu

Twenty-one Oklahoma schools have been selected as GEAR UP “Plus” districts for 2004-2005. The selected schools are receiving comprehensive training opportunities designed to improve student learning and retention through better instruction, guidance and educational leadership efforts.

The districts include: Agra, Barnsdall, Beggs, Buffalo, Checotah, Frederick, Ft.Cobb-Broxton, Guthrie, Hydro-Eakly, Kansas, Kingston, Liberty, Muldrow, Picher-Cardin, Madill, Stringtown, Stroud, Tipton, Quinton, Wister and Wetumka.

GEAR UP, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, 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 activities, scholarship opportunities and public awareness programs for students and parents.

In 2004, Oklahoma received an additional $4.45 million in federal funds to continue statewide GEAR UP activities for a sixth year.

“Plus” participants were selected from among 144 Oklahoma GEAR UP schools based on the district’s commitment to further advancing implementation of Oklahoma’s Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) within their school system.

EPAS is a voluntary program where schools administer tests to students in eighth and 10th grades to measure readiness for the ACT exam. Tests show if students are on the path to being ready for college in math, reading, English, and science reasoning. Test results are provided to students, parents and teachers. The detailed results identify areas that need additional work, help teachers revise lesson plans and help students make course-of-study and career decisions.

GEAR UP “Plus” districts are learning how to better advance implementation of EPAS through a series of seven professional development workshops. The 21 “Plus” districts have completed two workshops this year. The first workshop focused on identifying student planning and curriculum gaps based on EPAS test results. The second workshop helped educators improve their understanding of the link between assessment and classroom instruction. Five workshops will take place in 2005 and include: developing strategies to encourage all students to use higher levels of thinking; vertical teaming among teachers to improve student learning applications in core subjects; understanding curriculum alignment and making curriculum decisions; using early intervention rosters to meet specific student needs in guidance and counseling; and using the power of data to improve performance assessment, curriculum and, ultimately, the school.

“Oklahoma GEAR UP builds on existing state programs like EPAS to generate educational opportunities for as many students as possible in our state,” said Chancellor Paul G. Risser. “The 21 districts participating in the GEAR UP “Plus” program are undergoing training that will help them use assessment data that already exists to improve curriculum and instruction in their schools, thereby improving opportunities for all of their students. These districts are to be commended for their dedication to doing even more to help their students succeed in the classroom and in life.”

Since 1999, Oklahoma school districts have used GEAR UP funding to provide mentoring and tutoring activities, accelerated reading programs, ACT prep courses and software, career exploration tools, and advanced placement training.

In addition, GEAR UP provides staff development opportunities for teachers, counselors, and administrators in variety of areas such as curriculum enhancement, vertical teaming, working with special populations, data analysis and academic improvement.

The federal GEAR UP program was established by Congress to fund partnerships among colleges and universities, middle schools, community-based organizations and businesses to better prepare students for college.

The State Regents worked with ACT to establish EPAS in 1992. From a four-school pilot program in 1993, today nearly 96 percent of the public schools’ eighth and 10th graders in the state attend a school that participates in EPAS.

For more information on GEAR UP or EPAS, visit www.okhighered.org or call the toll-free Student Information Hotline at 800.858.1840.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma with a state GEAR UP grant totaling $20.5 million in August 1999. The grant has been matched by more than $25 million from state and partner resources. With the addition of year six federal funding, Oklahoma’s GEAR UP program has received approximately $25 million in federal funds since 1999. GEAR UP receives 50 percent of total funding from the federal government and 50 percent from other organizations.