College of Education receives $24.5 million grant for new program

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A multimillion dollar federal grant to Purdue University’s College of Education – the largest the college has ever received – will help more Indiana students make the step from middle school to postsecondary education. The statewide effort aims to strengthen academic preparation, college readiness and career guidance with a special focus on students in Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program.

Carla Johnson

Carla C. Johnson, associate dean for engagement and global partnerships.

The College of Education received a $24.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) in the state of Indiana. Carla C. Johnson, associate dean for engagement and global partnerships, is the principal investigator and will lead the statewide project.

The project is a seven-year endeavor partnering the college with the Indiana governor’s office, Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the Indiana Department of Education, Conexus, Indiana’s nine educational service centers and several Indiana schools.

“We are honored to lead this project, which will potentially impact 70,000 children,” said College of Education Dean Maryann Santos. “Our college is committed to helping deliver the best education for all students – especially in the area of P-12 STEM education. This project is a way for us to create long-term partnerships with teachers and communities that will make a noticeable difference in the state of Indiana.”

Indiana GEAR UP works to increase the number of students entering postsecondary education at Purdue and other institutes across the state. Despite existing scholarship programs, many students don’t have the academic preparation or career guidance necessary to be admitted into college to pursue postsecondary studies.

The program is designed to include academic facets and college knowledge – both identified by research as key components of college readiness programs.

“This grant will provide students with the resources they need to be successful,” Santos said.

In addition, the funding will support research on the impact of the interventions on student success. The College of Education will research students from seventh grade through high school to better understand STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning, literacy, persistence and entry into postsecondary study and careers.

“Through this project, we will be able to provide much-needed support for students beginning in middle school that will enable them to experience success and have the opportunity to choose their future academic path,” Johnson said. “This grant will not only support students, but will also provide on-the-ground professional development within Indiana partner schools to grow teacher effectiveness and after-school programs that will engage parents and the community.”

Other College of Education faculty and staff involved in the grant are Signe Kastberg, associate professor of mathematics education, and Kerry Hoffman, director of the Center for Literacy Education and Research (CLEAR). Other campus partners include the Colleges of Agriculture and Science, Purdue Polytechnic Institute, and Student Success at Purdue.

The preliminary partnering school corporations are the Community Schools of Frankfort, Crawford County Community Schools, Gary School Corporation, Greater Clark County Schools, Indianapolis Public Schools, Kokomo School Corporation, Lafayette School Corporation, Maconaquah School Corporation, MSD of Warren Township and Muncie Community Schools. The college will partner with Indiana’s nine educational service centers to make resources available to other schools across the state.

These partnerships will expand the depth and breadth of services, supports and experiences for Indiana K-12 students to ensure they graduate high school and are highly prepared to attend postsecondary education. Researchers in the College of Education will administer the program and conduct research on the impact of the interventions on student success.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels said, “There’s no learning more important to the individual and collective future of Hoosiers than science and math, but currently there’s no other area in which we are coming up so short. It’s hard to think of another project that fits Purdue’s mission and the needs of our state like this one.”