New money soon will be flowing into the Commonwealth to help close the achievement gap. State leaders announced Tuesday that Kentucky is one of six states to win a $24.5 million GEAR UP grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
Aaron Thompson, executive vice president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, said the money will be used to increase the number of low-income students graduating from high school and enrolling in college or workforce training programs. He said he believes it’s the right program at the right time for Kentucky.
“This grant is there to serve our underserved populations,” he said, “and as you’ve seen with the results of the testing in Kentucky, many of these students need the kind of assistance that we’re talking about, that this grant can bring.”
The Kentucky Department of Education’s annual student assessment released last week identified 481 schools as needing to close the achievement gap for these students. Starting next year, the GEAR UP grant will help at least 10,000 students in middle and high school, in at least 10 school districts.
GEAR UP stands for “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.” Thompson said it targets four elements for success: the student, the family, school supports, and community and state services. He noted that this is Kentucky’s fourth GEAR UP grant.
“There’s sometimes the mentality that if you’re an underserved student, if you’re low-income, if you’re a minority student, that you may not be able to achieve,” Thompson said. “GEAR UP has been very successful in showing that’s not the case.”
Three national partnership grants also were awarded in Kentucky: two at Berea College and one at Western Kentucky Educational Cooperative.