How One School Used GEAR UP School-Based Services – Marina del Rey MS

Fall 2005 | | November 21, 2005 at 2:19 pm

Teachers, students and parents at Marina del Rey Middle School have made significant progress towards establishing a firm foundation for a college-going culture that envisions “Academic Excellence and College Access for ALL Students.” Located near the ocean in the Los Angeles area, the school is a green oasis with cool breezes, especially noticeable when summer temperatures hit the 100’s in California inland areas. Surrounded by houses, apartments and other private and public schools in the residential area, the school enrolls approximately 1350 students in grades 6 to 8. Student ethnicities are 26 % African American, 65 % Latino, and 5 % White; 30 % are English Language Learners and 76 % participate in the Free or Reduced Price Lunch Program.

In 2004-2005 staff began the work of being a GEAR UP school. After the School Leadership Team attended the 2004 October Institute and reflected on the SSAR questions, the principal and team determined that building a College-Going Culture and increasing the Family-Neighborhood-School Supports would be their school focus.
Parents received more information regarding educational planning and college requirements. Teachers participated in schoolwide events promoting college life and how to plan for college. In every Social Studies class, students received the College: Making It Happen guide and had a lesson on the information provided.


A few of the many Marina del Rey Middle School students headed for college.

In addition, the team planned a “GEAR UP for College Day” which evolved into several months of coordinated activities.

  • “GEAR UP for College Day” was scheduled right before high school counselors came to help 8th graders enroll for high school.
  • On “GEAR UP for College Day” teachers and students were encouraged to wear college clothing.
  • A different teacher was interviewed over the Public Address system every day for a week. Students were really interested in the teachers’ stories about why they went to college, who encouraged them, what they studied and how they paid for it. One student was so inspired that he wrote a ‘stay-in-school’ rap.
  • An application process was developed for the Educational Trust Awards—any student with a “C” or better grade point average could apply by writing an essay.
  • Eighty-seven student essays were submitted. The applicants then had an interview with the principal and Title I Coordinator/GEAR UP site contact.
  • The principal and administrative staff changed the testing schedule to be one week with no other activities or lessons planned. Students were called at home by teachers requesting that they to be rested and ready to perform.
  • Parent Institute for Quality Education classes were conducted in February and March. Parents now have a better understanding of why their children need to attend school every day and do well on tests and why academically rigorous courses are necessary.


  • The May test scores showed marked improvement in math and English language. The API scores jumped 19 points, going from 624 in 2004 to 643 in 2005 with all targeted sub groups meeting their API benchmarks.
  • Fifteen student Educational Trust awards of $2,000 each—to be used upon enrollment in college—were made, a first for middle school students. Tears of joy were seen on parents’ faces and even on some students who never thought they would receive an award like this.
  • All teachers in the school are aware of GEAR UP and eager to participate in additional activities because they have seen better performance and improved readiness in their students.

For more information contact Robert Van Zant at

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