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GEAR UP Aspirations Project Evaluation
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The purpose of this study was to conduct a formative evaluation of the first two years of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Aspirations Project (Aspirations) using a Context, Input, Process, and Product (CIPP) model so as to gain an in-depth understanding of the project during the middle school implementation and inform future practices. The evaluation employed Stufflebeam's (2003a; 2007) revised and updated CIPP evaluation model to determine whether the needs identified by students, faculty, and administration at the middle school were satisfied by program goals, objectives, and activities. Since Aspirations was designed to prepare the student cohort for college, the fundamental purpose of this study is to explore the students' college-going mindset at the conclusion of the 8th grade. This examination revealed well over 90% of the students at the middle school had plans for some form of postsecondary education. There was evidence of improved academic achievement at the school and students, faculty, and administration viewed the Aspirations Project and associated GEAR UP staff as contributing to an improved school climate. Though the Aspirations model markedly exceeded performance measures and satisfied the vast majority of stakeholders, there were programmatic complications and difficulties integrating a federally funded, state-staffed project into a school defined by transitional leadership, volatility, and scarcity.