Seventy middle and high school educators from across the state converged on the UW campus for a summer institute hosted by the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) Educator Development Initiative (EDI), June 24-27.
The four-day institute, “Digging Deeper: GEAR UP & the Common Core State Standards,” provided an opportunity for teachers at GEAR UP schools to learn how to align their teaching and curricula to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which is expected to be fully implemented in Washington by the 2014-15 academic year.
The CCSS Initiative is an effort to establish the English language arts and mathematics standards students should meet when they graduate high school in order to be successful in credit-bearing college courses. As one teacher commented, these standards “illustrate how everything is relating to each other, across grades and into college.”
The GEAR UP program is a federal-grant that fosters college awareness and readiness for low-income middle and high school students. GEAR UP EDI, housed within the UW Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity (OMA&D), is sponsored by Washington State GEAR UP and offers professional development targeted to educators.
“Our intent was to bring educators together to really dig deeper into the layers of implementing these standards and to push ourselves to think about building in the idea of college along the way,” said Roseann London, GEAR UP EDI director.
“Research shows a disproportion in college enrollment among students from low-income backgrounds resulting from a lack of early college awareness and inadequate academic preparation,” London added. “GEAR UP aims to improve the educational outcomes for low-income students by providing early awareness and increasing students’ academic skills. These efforts can be reinforced by classroom teachers who have a great impact on students’ college aspirations and planning.”
During the summer institute, educators received up-to-date information about the CCSS and its assessment. They engaged in activities to unpack the skills and concepts of CCSS, evaluate text complexity, analyze the cognitive demand of math tasks and engaged in activities to review and revise their CCSS implementation plans.
Educators were also introduced to entry level college syllabi and college writing assignments as a point of reference. Sessions on both mathematics and language arts tracks helped examine the standards in-depth and follow the trajectory of each standard—with the reinforcing notion that each student deserves the right to be “college ready” by the end of high school.
During the institute teachers learned strategies to make college more visible in the classroom. Teachers brought forth creative ideas about what they can do to implement conversations about college into their existing curriculum.
For example, one teacher’s classroom approach is to have students deconstruct a college syllabus by identifying the expectations, deadlines and study skills to be successful in that college level course. One teacher commented, “I remind them there are no re-take tests in college. For math there is a midterm and final and that’s it!”
The mathematics track was facilitated by Anita Lenges and Sunshine Campbell, Evergreen State College faculty members and instructors from the UW College of Education Mathematics Education Project. The English language arts track was facilitated by Natasha Lewis James, who serves as a K-12 instructional support consulting teacher with Seattle Public Schools while pursing her doctorate through the UW College of Education Educational Leadership & Policy Studies program.
GEAR UP educators also heard from UW librarians Amanda Hornby, Anne-Marie Davis and Verletta Kern who provided an engaging conversation around promoting information literacy in today’s “TMI Generation” to help students be better evaluators of information.
Additional presenters and instructors included London, Enrique Morales (OMA&D associate vice president); Cristina Gaeta (GEAR UP EDI graduate researcher); Annie Kirking (UW doctoral student); Liisa Moilanen Potts (English Language Arts director at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) and Marcie Sample (Washington State GEAR UP assistant director).
A similar institute was held for the first time last summer that provided an introduction to the new CCSS Initiative.
For more information, contact London at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-221-5306.
Photos by Erin Rowley