Message from the Executive Director
Impact:By Teena Olszewski, Executive Director, Arizona GEAR UP
Achieve60AZ Unites Leaders in a Transformational Goal
The word is out and
it’s good news: Arizona leaders have now set an important goal to dramatically increase
our state’s post-high school educational attainment rate, raising it from the
current 42 percent to 60 percent by 2030! In just 14 years’ time, 18% more
Arizona adults will hold a professional certificate, an associate’s or
bachelor’s degree, or an even higher-level degree.
As we know, the social
impact of education is significant. Reaching the 60 percent goal means we will
have many more adults with increased earning potential and a better quality of
life. We will also have a state that is better poised to meet its workforce needs
and better able to attract and retain new business.
Arizona GEAR UP is proud
to be among the 60+ (and growing) number of educational, community, business,
and philanthropic organizations that have joined to form the Achieve60AZ Alliance, announced last week by Governor
Ducey, as the community-led, statewide effort to support achievement of this
critical new benchmark.
The goal itself is exciting.
Even more impressive is the collaborative power of the shared goal to coalesce and focus efforts that will make this new
standard of achievement reachable.
So, let’s delve a bit
deeper. What does Achieve60AZ mean and why does it matter? I’ll use Arizona GEAR
UP to illustrate broadly.
programs in Arizona are comprised of a wide-ranging constituency. Programs operate
from within a multitude of organizational contexts, and employ different
delivery models to see to it that more students (especially low-income,
first-generation) are prepared for and enroll in some form of postsecondary
education or training.
These college access
programs, through their unique efforts and partnerships, are called on to reach
three overarching objectives:
- Increase college
- Increase high school
graduation rates, and
- Increase postsecondary
Not surprisingly, these
key focus areas are precisely what the Achieve60AZ initiative sees as essential
to reaching the new attainment goal. It is also an area in which Arizona GEAR
UP has consistently evidenced impressive results.
Arizona GEAR UP has exceeded – by large margins – the state’s graduation- and college-going rates
among large cohorts of students from Arizona’s most at-risk schools and communities. GEAR UP raises the
academic aspirations of entire cohorts of students beginning in seventh grade,
and follows the cohorts through high school and into the first year of college.
We create a college-going peer culture, where relationships are key and the
notion of going to college starts as a dream, and becomes a plan. Because this
approach ensures that all students in a particular grade are served, the
program is a natural vehicle for systemic change.
GEAR UP is a complex mix of strategies
and techniques, including curricular and instructional enhancements, teacher
professional development, rigorous, advanced coursework and academic
monitoring/intervention. GEAR UP works
by promoting student motivation, knowledge, and skills through the use of a
wide range of overlapping, research-based services and interventions, guided by
systematic data-driven collaboration and planning.
In addition, GEAR UP’s legacy lives on, even when cohorts of GEAR UP students move on. We are proud to
point to dozens of Arizona schools in which our work with a particular cohort
is complete, yet innovations adopted during the GEAR UP program remain a strong
presence on campus.
For 16 years, Northern
Arizona University (NAU) has successfully administered Arizona GEAR UP as an
effective college access program raising high school graduation- and college
going-rates, and as a responsible steward of the federal funds that include a
1:1 match component. NAU has fostered GEAR UP engagement in multiple state
collaborations and initiatives that have leveraged resources, built capacity,
and supported systemic change related to college access and college-going goals
from which more
students, and future students benefit. Examples include collaborations like the
Northern Arizona College Resource Center and College Depot, and initiatives like the College and Career Planning Guide and app for middle grades and the
online training for College Access Professionals. GEAR UP’s legacy is also created in these kinds of outcomes, and
underscores the importance of all sectors, including government, as partners.
And this is why I am
excited. Having a common attainment goal – and the indicators of measureable
progress that go with it – invites college access programs collectively and
access initiatives broadly to coalesce and focus efforts to ensure that our
work contributes substantially and knowingly to advancing educational
attainment in Arizona.
Finally, with many thanks to the
Governor, we are also celebrating Arizona GEAR UP Week! The proclamation coincides with National GEAR UP Week 2016, commemorating the continuing success of GEAR UP across the country. All the best wishes and
cheers to you, our school partners, in the many events you have planned this
week to celebrate our students’ hard work and progress toward their postsecondary