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Summer academies bring algebra to students of Alameda, Contra Costa counties


A volunteer Student Advocate from Chevron works with a student in the Chevron Mathematics Achievement Academy section at Concord High School on June 24. (Photo courtesy of ACOE and ACCLAIM.)

  • July 8, 2010

This summer, algebra, equations, formulas and factors are coming to life for more than 300 students attending California State University, East Bay and Chevron’s Mathematics Achievement Academies.

The college pathway program for mathematics, aimed at strengthening algebra skills for underserved students in middle school and high school, are a joint program of Cal State East Bay, the Alameda County Office of Education, and ACCLAIM (Alameda County Collaborative for Learning and Instruction in Mathematics).

Much of the expansion came from greatly increased private support through the University of Possibilities campaign. Chevron Corp announced in May that it would support the academy program with a three-year, $1.5 million grant to sponsor up to 12 academies in 2010, expanding in 2011 and 2012 to include sections in Geometry and Algebra II.

The Mathematics Achievement Academies also received corporate support from AT&T, Bank of America, Union Bank of California, and Lam Research, as well as funding from the CSU Chancellor’s Office and school districts in Alameda County.

The 20 academy sections, held at schools in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, began instruction in late June, and will run for five weeks. Most are in traditionally underserved districts and in areas identified by supporters as key locations for outreach. The sites are:

  • Alameda Unified School District
    Encinal High School, Alameda (two sections)
  • Dublin Unified School District
    Fallon Middle School, Dublin (three sections)
  • Fremont Unified School District
    Centerville Middle School, Fremont
  • Hayward Unified School District
    Brenkwitz High School, Hayward (two sections)
  • John Swett Unified School District
    Rodeo Hills Elementary School, Rodeo (two sections)
  • Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District
    Livermore High School, Livermore (two sections)
  • Mt. Diablo Unified School District
    Riverview Middle School, Bay Point (two sections)
    College Park High School, Pleasant Hill
    Concord High School, Concord
  • Oakland Unified School District
    Westlake Middle School, Oakland
    Coliseum College Prep Academy, Oakland
  • West Contra Costa Unified School District
    Crespi Middle School, El Sobrante (two sections)

Each section has an instructor as well as college mentors, many of whom are current CSUEB students. Volunteers from Chevron are also serving as student advocates in the Chevron-sponsored sections. The student-teacher ratio is low to facilitate one-on-one attention, said Stan Hebert, associate vice president of Student Affairs, whose office coordinates the academies with CSUEB's partners.

The curriculum emphasizes new approaches to mathematics as well as practical, hands-on work. It’s also important to demonstrate how algebra and related concepts lead to college and careers, Hebert said, so the program includes field trips to see numbers in action. “Students are provided an opportunity to see mathematics in ‘real world’ applications,” he said.

This year, the students will visit Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland and Chevron’s Richmond Refinery. The final field trip will be a visit to CSUEB’s Hayward campus on July 23 for all students, instructors, supporters, and families.

Instructors were recruited through program partner ACCLAIM. The group focuses on supporting teachers of math at the K-12 levels, offering institutes and workshops to improve classroom effectiveness and maintain currency of math skills and teaching methods.

Since its founding in 2000, ACCLAIM has worked with more than 6,000 teachers in the region and beyond. ACCLAIM’s executive director, Phil Gonsalves, is the administrator for the Mathematics Achievement Academies, a mathematics lecturer at CSUEB and a mathematics coordinator at ACOE.

Following the summer sessions, the work will continue with assessment and evaluation, provided by Eric Suess, professor and department chair of statistics and biostatistics at CSUEB, as well as a co-director of ACCLAIM. “From the academic side, we’ll provide support by creating teacher-friendly reports to help the teachers analyze student achievement data and, working with Phil Gonsalves, focus on continuous improvement for students and helping teachers transform instruction,” he said.

The academy program was piloted in 2008 and 2009 as a way to help increase access to higher education for underserved students. Of students who complete Algebra and Geometry by the 10th grade, 80 percent go on to college. Over the next two years, as the academies expand through a three-year college preparatory sequence, students who continue through Algebra II will be prepared to pass the CSU’s Entry-Level Math exam, required for all incoming students.

Mathematics is also a key part of CSUEB’s initiative to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, to meet regional education and workforce needs.

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