In the News

The program offers comprehensive college preparation

A quick glance at a few recent headlines on CJOnline will reveal how hazardous it is for Kansas schools to rely on state funding.

“Justice: How much longer will Kansas have unconstitutional school funding?”

“Legislature passes school finance equity plan slammed by Topeka schools.”

“Topeka USD 501 alarmed over potential loss of $300K in expected state aid.”

Read these articles and you will find ample evidence of inequality, inconsistency and short-term thinking in our education system. This is why the need for the GEAR UP program has never been greater in our state, and we are fortunate to have it in Topeka.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federal grant that funds training and support for students who plan to attend college. In Topeka, GEAR UP is administered by the University of Kansas, and it provides $2.24 million in services to 720 students over seven years.

The 720 students — who are currently seventh- and eighth-graders at Chase and Eisenhower middle schools — will benefit from KU GEAR UP until they graduate from high school in 2020 and 2021. KU GEAR UP has three objectives: First, 65 percent of these students will improve their academic performance and complete the program’s courses on time; second, the same number of students will graduate from high school and attend college without taking remedial classes; and third, 70 percent of parents will “actively” help their children prepare for college.

These are all admirable ambitions, and they should be carefully tracked to demonstrate how well the program works. It’s encouraging that KU GEAR UP is confident enough to set specific goals to which it can be held accountable.

Even though the results won’t be in for four to five years, those with firsthand experience are already lauding KU GEAR UP as an effective way to get students more interested in their studies and future academic careers. Keith Jones, principal of Chase Middle School, credits the program with promoting a culture of higher standards among his students: “KU has allowed me to create space to raise expectations for kids.”

Students at Chase Middle School need this kind of motivation — in 2015, only 10 percent of their test scores suggested future college-level aptitude in math and reading, and 90 percent of their families are low-income. The tutoring, extra classroom time and consistent emphasis on college provided by KU GEAR UP will not only develop necessary skills, it will also get students excited about higher education. Meanwhile, fun activities like college visits, field trips, summer camps and drills with the Washburn University women’s soccer team will keep students engaged.

State education funding will continue to fluctuate over the next four to five years, but KU GEAR UP isn’t going anywhere.

Source: Topeka Capital Journal