Sixty middle and high school GEAR UP educators from across the state converged on the UW campus for a summer institute hosted by OMA&D’s GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) Educator Development Initiative (EDI), June 25-29, at the McCarty Residence Hall.
The week-long institute, “The Common Core: Preparing GEAR UP Students for Rigor and Academic Success,” provided an opportunity for teachers, curriculum directors, principals and GEAR UP staff to become familiar with the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS Initiative is a state-led effort to establish standards for English language arts and mathematics that students should meet when they graduate high school in order to be successful in credit-bearing college courses. In Washington, these standards will be fully implemented by 2014-15.
GEAR UP is a federal-grant that fosters college awareness and readiness for low-income middle and high school students. GEAR UP EDI is sponsored by Washington GEAR UP, and offers professional development targeted to educators.
“Our hope is that teachers, principals and administrators who work with schools that have a high incidence of underrepresented minority, low-income and first-generation students get an advanced look at what it (CCSS) means for how they can transform their curriculum and instruction,” GEAR UP EDI principal investigator Enrique Morales said. “Otherwise, given the current climate there may not be a lot of opportunity for broad training state-wide. At least in that way, we’re able to utilize the grant in the state to focus on areas that traditionally don’t get served to that degree.”
When Tracy Lusby, an eighth-grade English and language arts teacher at Oakland Bay Junior High School in Shelton, Wash., first learned of CCSS it was difficult for her and her colleague to fully grasp the standards by just retrieving information from the internet.
“We really wanted a place to go to have someone explain it to us, so when the GEAR UP grant came up and I saw that it was for common core state standards, I signed up right away,” Lusby said.
During the institute, educators engaged in discussion and activities to gain an understanding of CCSS and how the standards align with college expectations. Sessions on both the mathematics and language arts tracks also helped them explore the standards in-depth.
The mathematics track was facilitated by instructors from the UW College of Education Mathematics Education Project. The English language arts track was facilitated by Sheila Valencia, UW College of Education professor in curriculum and instruction, and Lorena Guillen, a UW graduate student in curriculum and instruction. Additional presenters included Greta Bornemann, the director of mathematics in the Teaching and Learning Program of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), Liisa Moilanen Potts, OSPI director of English Language Arts, and Ismael Fajardo, GEAR UP EDI graduate researcher.
Cassandra Martinez, a GEAR UP assistant site coordinator at E.A.G.L.E. Middle/High School in Toppenish, Wash., found it helpful to get an early start on learning about the standards.
“I definitely feel fortunate to be here in the beginning, so to speak, of the implementation of the CCSS,” Martinez said. “I feel like we’re getting some clear and concise answers to our questions and they haven’t necessarily been fogged by past practices that have failed, or that even necessarily worked for the majority of schools because we are definitely a minority type of school as far as our situation goes.”
GEAR UP EDI Director Roseann London hoped that by attending the conference, GEAR UP educators will take back an increased familiarity with the new forthcoming standards and gain an appreciation of how the standards have embraced college and career readiness.
“What I’ve heard is that they feel like they have a jump start on what they need to know,” London said. “So I’m very happy with that and knowing that it’s a start, we’ll keep improving the achievements of our GEAR UP students.”