Berkeley Chess School Outreach Program

True to its mission of enriching the lives of children from all backgrounds, Berkeley Chess School Outreach provides in-school chess instruction at no cost to students in Title I schools. Our outreach program serves under-funded public schools in Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, and West Contra Costa school districts. The goal of the Outreach Program is to reduce the achievement gap among the East Bay’s disadvantaged youth by:

  • Improving test scores in both math and English language arts, especially reading comprehension

  • Enhancing cognitive development by sharpening memory and concentration, developing strategic and critical thinking, and nurturing creativity

  • Building self-confidence

  • Developing good judgment — the ability to “look before you leap”

  • Instilling a lifelong love of learning


The Community We Serve

The schools currently in our outreach program have limited resources for academic enrichment. Many rank among the lowest on the State of California’s Academic Performance Index. The students who are currently participating in our chess program are predominantly from low-income, minority, and/or immigrant families. Many are classified as “English Learners” with limited English proficiency.


Program Details

Our Outreach Program provides weekly in-school chess instruction and play to hundreds of students once a week, during the school year, at no cost to the schools or students. Most of our classes are held during the school day, within regular class hours, and are funded by individual donors, BCS board members, and foundation grants. At the end of the school year, the students participate in a tournament to exercise the skills they have learned and celebrate their achievements. Each student receives a chess set, bag, and board to bring home.


oaklandoutreachtournamentInter-class tournament at BCS outreach school in Oakland




Formal research by the independent educational consultancy Berkeley Policy Associates determined that in our Oakland program chess instruction had a significant impact on academic performance, classroom behavior, attendance, and attitudes towards learning. Students with 20 weeks of chess instruction performed better than their non-chess peers in CST math, and attendance increased significantly in two subgroups.


Another study from UC Berkeley showed that low-socioeconomic status (SES) students in our chess program showed significant improvements in spatial memory and math calculation speed after only 4 months. Surprisingly, these students showed greater overall reasoning improvements than a group of high-SES students did over 18 months in a separate study. Perhaps most importantly, students enrolled in our program showed significant changes in their attitudes toward intelligence; they came to believe in themselves and their own ability to learn and be smart.


The collected data gives fresh insights into the ways chess, properly taught, enhances academic performance and personal development for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and shows that skills learned in chess transfer to other areas of students’ lives.



Feedback From Teachers




Please take a moment to support our important work with disadvantaged youth. Your donation provides chess supplies and instruction to hundreds of students in East Bay Title I schools. Thank you for your generosity!

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