Questions for Discussion in courses, workshops, focus groups, and "think tanks"
Curriculum and Instructional Approaches
On a scale of 1 (no familiarity) -5 (very familiar), how familiar are you with the concepts, knowledge, and skills ("what every student should know and be able to do") your students need to (a) meet the grade-level state and local standards of learning, at least in your content area; (b) master each middle school classroom subject (math, science, social studies, English/Language Arts); (c) excel (i.e., perform in the top quartile) on rigorous standardized tests; (d) get promoted to each grade level; and (e) graduate from high school?
Name 3 key standards of learning/curricular frameworks/performance objectives pertaining to each subject and/or grade level you teach.
Can you describe key products, tasks, and other performance assessments students are expected to complete to demonstrate mastery of the knowledge/content, concepts, and skills articulated in state and local learning standards/performance objectives ? Please explain.
For this school year and the following 2 school years, can you name the specific standardized exams given to students, whose test scores are correlated, such that they measure students' growth in understanding concepts, mastery of knowledge, and development of analytical thinking skills?
On a scale of 1-5, how well do you understand the relationship among standards/performance objectives, assessments, curriculum, instructional practices, classroom management, technology, and other aspects of effective school functioning?
Are you or have you participated in groups (either by subject or interdisciplinary) of teachers who work collaboratively to change/improve curriculum and instruction, make it more challenging, so that students will master the grade-level concepts, knowledge, and skills needed to meet state and local standards/performance objectives and excel on standardized tests? Please explain.
On a scale of 1-5, what is your level of motivation to address the educational needs of traditionally underserved youths, accelerate their capacity for more advanced learning, and ensure that all students reach high academic standards?
On a scale of 1-5, do you have sufficient familiarity with instructional strategies, in order to address a wide-range of students' educational needs, enhance their capacity for more advanced learning, and accelerate their academic achievement?
- Name some instructional strategies (e.g., lecturing, cooperative learning, group discussions, role playing, guided inquiry activities, demonstrations, use of manipulatives in mathematics, and computer applications) you are comfortable using in order to reach students with varying academic needs.
- What are some effective approaches that can be used by teachers and guidance counselors to ensure that all students, and low income youths in particular, complete rigorous academic courses and ultimately earn a college degree?
- Overall, what approaches do you use to reinforce high expectations for learning and behavior?
As you evaluate students' work, do you get ideas about possibly modifying your curriculum and instructional strategies? Yes or No? To what extent does oral or written feedback from students serve as sources for curricular ideas?
On a scale of 1-5, how familiar are you with educational technology to enable students to use technology to engage in active learning and attain technological literacy?
Name some strategies to effectively incorporate college awareness activities into the academic curriculum and classroom practices.
What types of intervention strategies, educational services, and other supports are essential so that your GEAR UP students make a seamless transition from middle to high school?
Name 3 important skills students should develop and master before graduating from high school.
Knowledge of College Programs, Costs, and Financial Aid Opportunities
Are you sufficiently familiar with the following in order to inform your students: college programs (e.g., undergraduate majors), institutional types and their entrance requirements, and costs of attendance?
Explain the key differences among a public; private, nonprofit (independent); and proprietary college.
Name several academic entrance requirements for entering freshman at 2- and 4-year public colleges/universities in your state.
What is the average annual cost of tuition (for 2000-2001) at public 2-year and public 4-year higher education institutions in your state?
Explain the key differences among a grant, loan, and work-study aid.
Are you sufficiently familiar with the following in order to inform your students: (a) Pell grants; (b) College Work-Study (CWS); (c) federal loans; (d) GEAR UP financial aid component; (e) state/local aid; (f) institutional aid; and (g) other sources (e.g., private aid such as Lyons Club)?
How often (e.g., daily, weekly, a few times each month, monthly) do you talk with students about the importance of a college education and preparing for a career?
How often do you show students magazines, college catalogs, and other literature on various colleges, careers/occupations, and required skills?
Explain how you help students make connections between skills acquired through education and careers.
Explain the procedures you would use to conduct a comprehensive "student needs assessment", such as examine prior course work, grades, and standardized test scores; observe a student performing a variety of tasks (e.g., conducting an experiment, solving a multi-step math problem, doing a presentation); and/or speak with parents and former teachers.
On a scale of 1-5, how well do you understand the intellectual and psychosocial needs of low income youth?
What percentage of your GEAR UP students are performing at or above grade level in (1) Math and (2) English/Language Arts? (a) Under 25 percent; (b) 25-50 percent; (c) 50-75 percent; or (d) over 75 percent?
What percent of the current 7th grade will complete Algebra I by the end of 9th grade?
What percent of current 7th graders do you think should be able to handle Advanced Placement (AP) exams (score of 3 or higher) when they reach high school? (a) Under 25 percent; (b) 25-50 percent; (c) 50-75 percent; or (d) over 75 percent?
What percent of the 7th grade is currently on track academically to enter college without mandated remediation programs once they begin college?
What are some strategies you use to reach students who are not performing well (at least at "B" level) with respect to the content, concepts, and skills you are teaching?
Overall, what percentage of your GEAR UP students do you believe can meet high academic standards, perform well in the classroom, score high on standardized tests, and meet rigorous college entrance requirements? (a) under 25 percent; (b) 25 - 50 percent; (c) 50 - 75 percent; (d) 75 - 99 percent; and (e) all of them?
Explain how active your students' parents are in helping their children on a daily basis prepare (academically and financially) for postsecondary education, and acting as partners in their children's long-term educational goals.
Name some approaches that are effective for parents to help their middle school children start preparing now for high school and college (e.g., helping children with homework on daily basis and understanding its relation to content taught in the classroom, periodic meetings with counselors and teachers, listening to children read, attending workshops on understanding grade level requirements and creating home conditions for learning, volunteering in classrooms).
Describe the efforts you make to inform parents of (a) knowledge, skills, and concepts their children must master in order to perform well on standardized tests (e.g., top quartile, top 3 stanines) and successfully enter into the next grade level; and (b) high school graduation and college entrance requirements.
Rank the following approaches (with the most widely used first) used by parents/guardians to contact you: letter/memo, telephone, meeting at school, scheduled conference, home visit, performance or other school event, other (please specify).
Importance of Data Collection, Analysis, and Maintenance
Has anyone from the GEAR UP staff or partners explained the importance of continually collecting, analyzing, maintaining, and having available data on the academic achievement, college program and cost awareness, and educational aspirations of your students? Yes or No?
Explain how you use data to (a) inform your decisions about continuously improving curriculum, instructional approaches, and intervention strategies; (b) ensure that intervention services (e.g., type, frequency, location, time of day, duration, mode of delivery) are directly linked to standards/performance objectives and produce measurable/quantifiable outcomes; and (c) guide your "educational practices" and let you know if you are succeeding with respect to your goals/objectives?
Explain how you use data about your students and parents' backgrounds, and students' classroom performance (e.g., attendance, behavior, participation, homework completion and accuracy, notetaking and listening skills, grades on assignments and classroom tests) to plan your curriculum and instructional practices so that students' continually enhance their capacity for more advanced learning, accelerate their academic achievement, raise their educational aspirations and expectations, and improve their efforts to prepare for college and a productive future.
Explain how you interpret and use baseline data about the students' backgrounds and achievement/outcome data on students' classroom performance (e.g., attendance and retention rates; course enrollment patterns, performance on assignments and in-class exams) and rigorous standardized tests) to:
(a) Address the educational needs of a wide variety of students, and enhance their learning capacity,
educational aspirations, and efforts to prepare for high school and plan for a productive future; and
(b) Shape the curriculum and instructional practices (i.e., make it more challenging) at the GEAR UP school, so that students (a) master the grade-level concepts, knowledge, and skills needed to meet increasingly rising State standards of learning/performance objectives; (b) excel on standardized tests; (c) master core subjects and get promoted to successive grade levels; and (d) continually accelerate their academic achievement so they have more tools to prepare effectively to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
Professional Development Opportunities
Do teachers at your school participate in groups (either by subject or interdisciplinary) to work collaboratively to change/improve curriculum and instruction, make it more challenging, so that students will master the grade-level concepts, knowledge, and skills needed to meet state and local standards/performance objectives and excel on standardized tests? Yes or No?
Describe the workshops or courses teachers were involved in this past year to help them "reinvent" themselves, such as better understand how to align the curriculum and instructional strategies with state and local standards and performance objectives, or better understand how to accelerate the academic performance of low income youths.
Explain the GEAR UP-sponsored professional development opportunities that aimed to help educators (a) promote high academic standards and expectations of all students, (b) use instructional approaches that promote inquiry-based, student-initiated rather than teacher-centered learning, or (c) design and implement a rigorous curriculum that enables students to develop their problem-solving skills.
Is the school creating and implementing a curriculum which develops, fosters, and reinforces students' research and higher order thinking skills, as well as motivation to plan academically and financially for college? Yes or No?
Since GEAR UP has been implemented, has your school or district sponsored any workshops or courses that address planning for low income middle school youths' transition into high school? Yes or No?
Impact of GEAR UP Provisions on Students and Parents
Explain the types of GEAR UP-sponsored services and programs for students and parents have you participated since your school has been part of the program (e.g., Sept. 1999). Types of services include academic tutoring, workshops on college programs and financial aid, conducting diagnostic needs assessments of students skills and deficiencies, developing education/academic achievement plans, meeting with parents about preparing children for postsecondary education, and others. How frequently was each provision offered (e.g., one-time, ongoing, monthly)? Were these activities mandatory or voluntary?
Since GEAR UP has been implemented, do your have tutors in the classroom? Yes or No?
(a) Why does your GEAR UP program have tutors? What research-based evidence does your school (or anyone from the GEAR UP staff) have that attests to their effectiveness in accelerating the academic performance of students similar to the one's you teach?
(b) Please explain how students are "selected" to work with tutors.
(c) Do tutors work in the actual classroom, hallway, or alternate classroom during class time, as other students
do their assignments?
(d) Do tutors work with students one-on-one or in small groups?
(e) Since tutors have been in the classroom, check the following improvements in your students: (1) attendance; (2) participation, (3) homework completion and accuracy, (4) notetaking and listening skills, (5) grades on assignments and classroom tests; (6) improved attitude toward learning; and (7) greater efforts to prepare for high school and plan for productive future.
Explain since GEAR UP has been implemented:.
(a) Are students gaining more control over their own academic progress, developing signals for when to seek assistance, actively seeking feedback on their assignments, and willing to accept constructive criticism about and make improvements in their work? Yes or No?
(b) Have you noticed if students are refining their concept of college and/or visioning and speaking of themselves in college? Yes or No?
Explain the extent of academic progress made by most of your students, and their growth in knowledge of college options and costs.
Since GEAR UP has been implemented, are your students demonstrating understanding of concepts, mastery of knowledge, and development of skills articulated in grade-level standards of learning and performance objectives? Yes or No?
Explain since GEAR UP has been implemented if you have noticed a change in students' parents' attitudes toward and efforts to become more active in planning their children's educational future. For instance:
(a) Do they meet with you more frequently to discuss their child's academic progress? Yes or No?
(b) Do more parents ask about strategies to help their children more with daily homework assignment? Yes or No?
(c) Do more parents ask about rigorous courses their child has the option to complete prior to entering high
school? Yes or No?
(d) Are parents more interested in learning about college programs, costs, financial aid opportunities, and
course entrance requirements? Yes or No?
Areas to be Addressed
What are some prevailing gaps/deficiencies in your school's program opportunities and overall infrastructure to which GEAR UP could provide financial and/or inkind support?
In order for your school to implement a rigorous academic curriculum and promote college awareness for all students, what other provisions could GEAR UP provide that are not in the planning stages or being currently implemented (e.g., more academic tutors in classrooms and/or after school, provide graphic calculators and/or computers, purchase commercial standardized tests in math and English, provide professional literature showing research and approved practices)?
What subjects do you teach? What was your undergraduate major? graduate degree?
Since GEAR UP has been implemented in your school, what are some of the changes you have made to your instructional approaches, curriculum/lesson plans, efforts to relate to lower achieving students, and efforts to get parents more involved in helping their children succeed academically and prepare for higher education?
Andrea C. Baird
GEAR UP Program Officer