Two students in 2008 summer algebra academy show classmates how to solve a special math problem. (Photo: Barry Zepel)
Hundreds of junior high school students are going to church to learn algebra.
The California State University – with Cal State East Bay spearheading the effort in the Bay Area – has partnered with churches to conduct summer algebra programs in regions of high need throughout the state. It is the second year that CSUEB has provided the algebra instruction.
The primary objective is to help pre-ninth grade students from underrepresented communities to meet or exceed grade level understanding of math concepts.
"The algebra academies are helping students overcome one of the largest hurdles to gaining college acceptance: math skills," said Tony Ross, vice president of student affairs for California State University, Los Angeles and coordinator of the CSU African American Initiative. "Math skills are an access issue and a key to prosperity. With a solid foundation in math, students will have more career options when it comes to the fastest growing sectors of our economy – including jobs in research, technology, engineering and medical services."
Many of the students participating in the institutes are in school districts that have cancelled or limited summer school due to the state budget crisis. Even though the CSU is also facing budget reductions, the system has committed to continue and expand its efforts to provide access to students in the African American community.
Through the CSU African American Initiative, top university leaders visited 70 northern and southern churches in February to spread the college-going message as part of Super Sunday. The system office has also worked with churches to provide admissions counseling training to youth ministers and coordinators.
“The CSU system is very much committed to ensuring that more students are prepared for a college education, and that they have critical course preparation in the key areas of English and math,” said Greg Smith, associate vice president for planning and enrollment management at Cal State East Bay. “CSUEB is a particular leader in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in hosting and developing a number of early outreach efforts that help inform and motivate students to seek out and prepare for college. The algebra academies are one key part of this strategy.”
As one of the most visible signs of continuing support by the CSU, the number of Summer Algebra Academies has increased five-fold, from three last year to 15 this year. The algebra programs will be hosted by northern and, this year for the first time, southern California churches.
"Our commitment to diversity in higher education is enduring and fundamental to the CSU mission," said Jacqueline Mimms, associate vice president for enrollment management at California State University, Bakersfield. "Too many students are not ready for college after high school graduation. Students need to be prepared for, and aware of, college eligibility requirements while they still have a chance to make critical choices."
Students who take rigorous courses in high school, especially in math, are often the most successful during college. The Summer Algebra Institutes not only improve math skills, but are designed to give students the confidence to take on more challenging classes in high school and to succeed in college.