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New Algebra Summer Session Helps Students Stay College Eligible

In a month-long session designed to help more Black and Hispanic students be college ready, AUSD offered a math program this summer that featured small class sizes, one to one coaching, and innovative ways of teaching mathematical concepts.

The result? 100% of the enrolled students improved their grades and are now back on the college track.

In order to apply to the University of California, high school students need to complete the “A-G requirements” - a set of 15 courses, including algebra -  with a letter grade of C or better.  (Other colleges and universities have similar requirements.) As a result, a  D or F in even one class can reduce a student’s chances of getting into a four-year college. 

AUSD data shows that fewer Black and Hispanic students graduate college eligible than White and Asian students. Among all seniors who graduated from Alameda High and Encinal High last spring, for instance, 70% were four-year college eligible. But only 28% of Black students and 53% of Latinx students were college eligible.  As such, creating opportunities early in high school to get back on the four-year college track is a priority for the district.

After looking at math outcomes among AUSD high school students, Shamar Edwards, Senior Director of Equity and African-American, Black, and Multiethnic Achievement,  and Allison Krasnow, an assistant principal at Alameda High School, brainstormed the idea of providing a summer session designed specifically to help students recover the algebra credit they need to apply to four-year schools.

AUSD staff invited all high school students who had received a D or F in Algebra 1 for one or both semesters in 2022-2023 to take the month-long summer school class to raise their grade to a C or above. Instruction focused on using technology to display algebra concepts graphically, continually assessing the students’ understanding of the material,, and structured note-taking, along with small class sizes, one-to-one support, and multiple opportunities to retake quizzes.  When asked what they liked most about the program, students cited the small class sizes and one on one coaching provided.

The program was funded by a $200,000 Anti-Bias Education Grant from the State Department of Education, which was written by the Office of Equity. The teachers selected to run the summer Algebra program included John Denery, a math teacher at Encinal Jr. & Sr. High School and Kristy Winn, a math teacher at Lincoln Middle School. The course was designed in collaboration with Ms. Krasnow, assistant principal at Alameda High School and Lise Needham, a secondary math coach. 

“It is gratifying to see students with the right support,  better understand the content, improve their grade, and get back on the college track,” Edwards says. “In addition, we were excited to see the students' confidence levels soar. Based on student voice, we want to share the approaches we piloted over the summer and apply them more broadly with other math teachers, so more students remain A-G eligible.”

The Anti-Bias Education Grant also paid for 16 AUSD middle and high school math teachers to take a 3-day training led by Janice Bussy, math coach from the Silicon Valley Math Initiative.  The training focused on the Teaching for Robust Understanding of Mathematics, a framework developed by Dr. Alan Schoenfeld at UC Berkeley. Teachers worked in teams to discuss how best to create environments where every student feels they belong in math class and believes they can be successful. Those teachers will receive ongoing coaching this year from the Silicon Valley Math Institute.

“We know that student outcomes are highly reliant on the quality of instruction provided,” says Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi. “I am grateful to the teachers and staff who designed this innovative summer program and who participated in the summer professional development for being so dedicated to improving student outcomes, helping more students get to college, and being willing and eager to grow as teachers and professionals.”