Oklahoma has won $200,000 in supplemental federal grant money to study and implement activities to strengthen student preparation and college success not only in Oklahoma, but in other states as well, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education announced today.
Two $100,000 grant projects were awarded through the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a federal program established by Congress in 1999 to fund partnerships of colleges and universities, middle schools, community-based organizations and businesses to prepare students for college.
"The supplemental award will fund two levels of programs," said Chancellor Hans Brisch. "First, the State Regents will work in conjunction with the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), a national association comprised of postsecondary education chief executive officers, to ensure that all state education systems nationwide work together to advocate, communicate and implement challenging middle and high school coursework in ways that prepare all students to succeed in college and work.
"Second, the State Regents will participate in a pilot project between Oklahoma and three other states with GEAR UP programs led by state higher education agencies. After investigating and comparing each pilot states' policies and assessments for admission and placement into college as well as their core skills requirements and college entrance exams, the project will create a model for other states to use," he said.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for Oklahoma," said Brisch, noting that Oklahoma received the maximum allowable funding for the supplemental program.
"Through this GEAR UP supplemental grant, Oklahoma has an unprecedented opportunity to take a leadership role in helping set a national model for college preparation programs and services." Brisch said. "Through these programs we will create a unified, consistent effort that will help middle and high schools offer district-specific coursework and programs that will equip students with the academic skills required in today's challenging world."
Specifically, this grant will provide information on maintaining and sustaining partnerships; creating a clear message on what students need to know and do to succeed in college; how to best communicate that message; how to leverage federal and state programs; how to gather data on student progress to inform curriculum changes; and how to narrow the achievement gap and particularly impact students from low income families.
Brisch noted that one factor in Oklahoma's selection for the award was its existing commitment to academic preparation. For example, in addition to GEAR UP, the State Regents administer a multi-year education and career preparation system for middle and high school students called the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS). EPAS provides parents and teachers information on student progress as measured against the ACT Standards for Transition, which are the core competencies that students should know and be able to do in order to be successful in their entry level college coursework.
Also, Brain Gain 2010 is an aggressive State Regents initiative to increase the proportion of Oklahomans with a bachelor's degree or above to 28 percent by 2010 and the proportion with an associate degree to 10 percent.
"Oklahoma's dedication to improving student preparation can be seen on all levels of education in this state," said Brisch. "As a lead GEAR UP state, we now have the opportunity to engage other states in this much needed endeavor of student preparation."
State Regents Chairman Leonard J. Eaton Jr. said, "By working together, we can better leverage financial and human resources to make an even bigger difference in the lives of our young people.
"We appreciate our partnership with SHEEO and ACT and look forward to building on these relationships as we further our work in this very important area," Eaton said.
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.