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 2018-19 for 7,400+ students in grades 7-13 at 34 low-income, rural middle and high schools across Oregon. Key findings include:

GEAR UP schools have continued to expand their college and career readiness programming.
Particularly noteworthy was the increase over the last three years in offerings designed to increase rigor and to build supportive relationships. Other areas that were greatly expanded include family engagement events and workshops, career relevance activities such as Career Photobooths, workplace visits, and service-learning projects, and supports for college alumni.

“If you walk in the building, you see the visible college-going culture. We have banners, we've got things, we talk about college all the time.” -Administrator

The cost of college continues to be one of the main perceived barriers or concerns that may prevent students from pursuing postsecondary education.
Yet, about one third or less of students and parents can correctly identify the cost of college. However, students who were able to identify the cost were more likely to say they can definitely or probably afford a college education than other students.

Overall, GEAR UP schools are underperforming in ELA and Math, even though a considerable proportion of schools have experienced gains in these areas over the last two years.
Furthermore, there have been small gains in the proportion of Grade 9 students on-track to graduate and school attendance.

“GEAR UP helped us [do] growth awards this year…not just honoring kids who are proficient, but those who grew. We looked at GPAs…SBAC scores...kids taking advanced coursework. It was a lot of kids, which was amazing.” -School Staff

Educators’ expectations about students completing a college degree or certificate after high school—or completing a college prep curriculum while still in high school—remain low.
For example, educators reported that less than two-thirds (55%) of their students are capable of completing a college prep curriculum, and they expect that fewer (41%) will complete it.

Chart of impact of GEAR UP on reaching higher

There have been significant gains in students’ and parents’ awareness of college requirements, and financial resources to pay for college.
For example, in 2018–19, the large majority of students reported they know all or some of the requirements to get into a 4-year university (77%) or a 2-year community college (82%).

[Students feel] like they can go to college, which is huge… You know, they really credit GEAR UP a lot in their success with being able to navigate the financial aid process, being able to step onto college campuses... And they wouldn't have had those opportunities without GEAR UP. -School Staff

Schools have become more intentional in using data to identify priority areas and develop GEAR UP programming.
Over the course of the grant and as a result of trainings and coaching from Oregon GEAR UP, schools are making data-driven decisions. Successful examples include a high school transition event that had a huge parent turnout, a Math lab initiative for students who did not score proficient on the math assessment the previous year, an expanded dual credit program resulting from the school’s efforts to strengthen their partnership with a local community college, college nights for families, local industry tours, and hands-on career awareness experiences.

Read the full report and see additional evaluations here.