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Advanced Math Stars Shine in California District’s Accelerated Summer Program

Summer school often produces the image of students falling behind that need to catch up. Leaders at Hayward Unified School District in California’s Bay Area created another path for students last summer.

While attending a NMSI Leadership Summit, HUSD counselors, teachers and administrators noticed a gap in the number of students reaching AP Calculus and AP Statistics by their senior year. Students who don’t take advanced math courses in high school often fall behind their peers in college.

“We have really strong students that had never been fast-tracked in math,” says Paul Gonsalves, school counselor at Hayward High School who is part of the NMSI Leadership Team from HUSD.  

The HUSD leaders sought help from NMSI to overcome this obstacle. This led to a successful summer Geometry for Acceleration program that now has almost 100 students from HUSD’s three high schools on a path to reaching these advanced math courses before graduation.

Freshmen who excelled in Algebra I were invited to take the summer geometry program. This allows them to take Algebra II as sophomores and Pre-Calculus in 11th grade so they can reach AP Calculus or AP Statistics in 12th grade. HUSD students often take Algebra I as freshman rather than in eighth grade – making it difficult to reach higher levels of math in high school. The summer program is a way to bridge that gap.

Students from Hayward, Mt. Eden and Tennyson high schools participated in the accelerated program. These schools are going through NMSI’s three-year College Readiness Program.

“At first, I was hesitant because I thought I wouldn’t be able to catch up with all the stuff we were going to learn in one month, but Ms. (June) Hong made it really easy, and she was really flexible and understanding,” shares a Tennyson student. “…. Overall, I enjoyed the class very much, and it was a good learning experience.”

Another student says, “This was a great class. I feel like I've learned a lot over the past month and have really gained more knowledge in math.”

Gary Dragon Cao, who taught the Mt. Eden summer geometry students, was impressed by the students’ dedication to the course.

“These students were all ears all the time – no matter how difficult the lesson,” Dragon Cao says. “Students asked for extensions on office hours, which I’ve never had happen in my life.”

Equitable Math

NMSI helps schools create leadership teams – consisting of counselors like Gonsalves, and teachers and administrators – to work together toward reaching goals. A key goal of NMSI’s College Readiness Program is supporting students who are typically underrepresented in STEM fields in taking advanced math and science courses in high school, which gives them a higher likelihood of succeeding in college and careers.

Focusing on equity, Gonsalves says when inviting students to participate in the accelerated geometry course, “Teachers do the selection and look at the whole child – not just those scoring the highest in Algebra I. They looked at multiple measures.”

Dragon Cao says equity is something he’s always thinking about when working with students. “I tell my students that I don’t care if you’re male, female or what ethnic background you come from,” he says. “Math is a universal language, and students thousands of miles away are doing the same thing.”

While the plan was for in-person geometry courses, the pandemic made those plans quickly change to completely online coursework. Despite this added challenge, almost 100 percent of students consistently attended the class, and more than 90 percent passed the course so they can move on to Algebra II.

“Now, these kids see themselves as advanced math stars,” Gonsalves says. “They have a whole different mindset as sophomores. The way students see themselves is one of the most powerful indicators of success.”

The Geometry for Acceleration course wouldn’t have been possible without funding from the Koret Foundation – a supporter of NMSI’s programming.

HUSD leaders are hoping to continue the success of the accelerated geometry course by implementing a second program next summer.