NEW! Futures Elementary Covers the Chess Program!
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The Berkeley Chess School is working to make the future brighter for students at Futures Elementary School, an at-risk, low-income Title 1 school in Oakland. At Futures, chess is offered once a week during the school day, the only outside enrichment program offered besides a twice-a-month sports program. The nonprofit Berkeley Chess School believes that if students are given access to chess instruction, their overall scholastic achievement and social development will improve. To prove it, the Berkeley Chess School has launched a two-year pilot program to bring chess instruction to students at Futures and four other Title 1 schools in Oakland. These schools, serving at-risk and low-income communities, carry the legacy of former President Bush’s controversial No Child Left Behind program in which a school’s funding is cut if the students do not make “Adequate Yearly Progress” on standardized tests. Working together with committed teachers and principals at each of these five schools, chess may be the key to helping these children achieve those crucial test results for themselves and their schools.
But how can chess help? The Berkeley Chess School has shown in a similar program in Richmond that children who take chess perform better in both reading and math on standardized tests than their peers at the same school who did not take chess. In the guise of a game, chess builds concentration, memory, critical thinking and a positive self-image. The Berkeley Chess School ‘s two-year pilot program brings the benefits of chess to hundreds of East Bay children at risk, and is designed to ignite a love of learning and improve test scores at Oakland’s lowest-performing schools.
But for the students at Futures, their once a week chess class is just plain fun. “See? They look forward to this every week.” says 2nd grade teacher Ms. Rubin as chess instructor Stephen Shaughnessy enters her class and the students excitedly get ready for their chess lesson and play time. Ms. Rubin finds that some of her students who don’t perform as high academically are excelling at chess, something that the Berkeley Chess School has seen again and again over the 27 years that it has been teaching chess to children. Chess can be a lifesaver for late-blooming students or students who are struggling with mainstream academics. Crucially, also, her students are playing longer and longer games as their chess improves every week, cultivating concentration skills that will help all her students in all scholastic areas. Additionally, for Ms. Rubin’s second grade class at Futures, chess helps her students get along together, a valuable social skill that Futures Elementary is working hard to foster.
For Ms. Mondoux’s 3rd grade class, the benefits are similar. Her students are really learning chess, and she is seeing the results both academically and socially. Echoing the experience of generations of chess dads everywhere who find their beginning students have blossomed into good chess players, Ms. Mondoux says “I don’t want to play ‘cause they might beat me! I feel really lucky that our class got picked to have chess.’ As chess instructor Stephen Shaughnessy asks what the next move is in a classic rook-roller endgame, all hands in the 3rd grade class shoot up excitedly. The future at Futures may indeed be a little bit brighter.
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A "Chess-Timonial" by 4th Grade Teacher Rebecca Jelen:
My class has thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from the Berkeley Chess School's program this school year. I have seen them grow in ways I knew were possible, but had not yet seen before the program. During chess they are extremely focused and attentive, and take the game and the lessons very seriously. I have seen students who normally choose to sit in the back during my lessons make sure they are smack dab in the center front when Mr. S. is here. They have learned to work together, partnering with anyone they are matched against, lose with grace, and win without boasting. They teach each other and allow their peers to teach them. They have even taught me a lot when I have been playing against them. My husband has been trying to teach me for years (his strategy- keep beating me and then I will learn) and by playing my students I have finally learned how all the pieces move and what some of the strategies are. Students are going home and teaching family members how to play, or playing relatives who already know how. They are asking for chess sets as birthday gifts and Christmas presents. They seem proud and excited about their knowledge and new ability at this challenging game.
I believe that chess has affected my students outside of chess class as well. Overall they are more focused, cooperative and are an amazing community compared to where we were when we began this year.
>> Read testimonials from other schools in our program