Each year, we gain insight on the successes, challenges and lessons learned via an independent evaluation of our GEAR UP program. Conducted by Metis Associates, an independent research firm, the most recent evaluation focuses on surveys, case studies and school data from 2017-18 for 6,900+ students in grades 7-13 at 35 low-income, rural middle and high schools across Oregon.

Key Findings

1. GEAR UP continues to play a substantial role in promoting a college-going culture within schools and among students through offering a wide range of services and activities to current and former students and families. Students and educators identified college visits and the summer leadership camp as two of the most impactful GEAR UP activities in this area.

GEAR UP has provided invaluable information and inspiration for our rural students, many of whom would otherwise struggle to find a path to college. {Educator}

2. Student and parent expectations have remained high over the last four years; educator expectations remained constant and were considerably lower than student and parent expectations.

3. The cost of college continues to be one of the main perceived barriers or concerns that may prevent students from pursuing their postsecondary education goals.

4. GEAR UP is helping schools increase the rigor of instruction and provide the academic and social-emotional supports that students need to succeed in school. Students and staff identified efforts that have been particularly successful, including in-school and afterschool tutoring opportunities, AP and dual enrollment classes, and AVID.

Students are starting to think, ‘what more can I do?’ rather than just [trying to meet] the requirements at the baseline. {Educator}

5. Academic underperformance remains a common challenge in most schools, particularly in math. Educators want to make sure students realize the importance of academic success in high school as it relates to their college plans and aspirations. Students want more choice in their courses to keep them motivated.

6. Almost all GEAR UP coordinators and administrators said in surveys that they believe GEAR UP has helped foster relevance by linking students’ career aspirations to their postsecondary educational goals. Students said career fairs and lunch with professionals helped them think of relevant college and career paths, and staff and parents saw how those events got students energized and looking forward to an “end goal.” Notwithstanding these successful activities, evaluation results continued to indicate that schools could do more to make learning relevant for students.

[The Career Fair] was probably one of the best ways to learn about both college and jobs.  I got to go to the things I wanted to learn about, there were many different jobs, and you got to ask specific questions. {Student}

7. Consistent with prior years’ findings, there is agreement among educators, students, and parents that, overall, schools provide a welcoming environment where students can develop nurturing relationships with adults and peers. Educator involvement in college and career readiness has remained constant over the past few years.

8. GEAR UP is helping raise awareness of postsecondary education options and financing in schools. Students' self-reported knowledge of entrance requirements has increased significantly over time. Most parents still over-estimate the cost of college. During site visits, school staff and parents expressed a desire to see more focus and emphasis in GEAR UP on trade and vocational schools as a viable postsecondary option for their students.

9. Getting parents, guardians, and the broader community more involved, and not having enough time or resources for implementing activities and assessing their effectiveness, were identified by some schools as challenges when implementing GEAR UP activities.

10. Notably, many GEAR UP coordinators and administrators reported that staff buy-in has improved.

We have a lot of people invested in the kids, in wanting to help. Which I think is such an asset to us, and to this program, that it's not just one person doing everything. {Coordinator}

Read the full report and see additional evaluations here.