Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fear No Number - A Math Academy is Born

When Seattle Public Schools posted for public view and analysis, yet another year of failure for African American students and others living and attending school in Rainier Valley, Norman Alston knew it was time to return home.

For the past 12 years prior to 2010 much of his time and energy had been spent on teaching the children in East King County home to Microsoft, and many who make their wealth in the technology industry. They had hired Mr. Alston, a former teacher at Zion Prep Academy, an African American private school, his reputation as an excellent teacher with a unique way of transferring his love of math to any who entered his sphere of influence.

A meeting was organized by Twanda Hill, the parent of one of his former Zion students and with her help the first Saturday Math Academy was established back at his old stomping grounds, Zion Prep Academy the Saturday Math was extended to Summer Math Camp.  For Mr. Alston a gifted teacher, something was still missing for him and out of frustration and other challenges he decided to not proceed with this foray into the area of King County with the greatest need for math enrichment.

By chance, I (Dawn Mason) read a message he posted on Facebook seeking 10 computers for teaching.  I responded and through Parents for Student Success, an education organization I founded and direct I acquired 10 laptops licenses for Microsoft Word and Excel and placed them on loan with Moving Beyond Arithmetic through which Mr. Alston consults on issues of math enrichment.  This struck up a relationship that eventually created a joint venture between MBA and PFSS the Fear No Number Math Academy was born.  What had been missing and what PFSS was able to supply was the engagement of parents in their children's math education.

Yvette Duiobate stepped up as Coordinating Parent to work with PFSS to help inform, organize and represent parent interests, concerns and contributions.  With only Norman as the teacher with no real skills in managing, parents took on the responsibilities along with Marilyn Alston in the management of Fear No Number Math Academy.  Without a hierarchy of officers or a membership dues and rules, parents worked together and with Mr. Alston to improve weekly FNNMA, they paid a tuition of $100 a month.  Parents unable to pay supply sweat equity as an investment in what is being established.

FNNMA remains in inquiry without any absolutes on what it takes to reverse the downward spiraling of math literacy for children who deserve so much more for their time spent in school. We know that parents can make the difference but we needed to know would they make the difference for their children. In most cases they are making that difference and experiencing joy in the elevations of their children's love for numbers and eagerness to attend class.

The Academy, is established to address the critical condition of math literacy for African American children who are at the bottom of every outcome for math and science.  They are leaving school non competitive for admission to four year colleges, academic scholarships, or gaining the kind of education that prepares them for future technical based careers or creating employment for self and others.  Though African American students are the reason for the establishment of FNNMA, and the instruction is based on African cultural norms for education, the classes attract children from other race and ethnic groups and span the economic spectrum.

The first school year is ended but Saturday Math continues throughout the summer. Mr. Alston will teach 1 or 100 students so a drop of students for the summer, does not shut the doors of the Academy.  The Academy moved at the end of the school year to the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club. This arrangement should attract even more students to FNN Math. It will take careful oversight to make sure that parents are clear that the Academy is not a drop off enrichment kind of learning. That to work, the parents must be invested in some way and shed their own fears of numbers.

 and using shape the methods that would bring parents into the classroom with their children. This immediately appealed to some parents, for others it was not so easy, but eventually there were classes in which there were as many adults in the classrooms as children.

The name Fear No

Year End Summary of Parents for Student Success

This year Parents for Student Successwill be the beneficiary of the 19th Annual Mason Family Fish Fry..  Parents for Student Success is located in Seattle. through outreach, capacity building and advocacy for equity in education for all children.  There is a need along WA's I-5 corridor for greater excellence for African American children and others who for too long languish at the bottom of education outcomes in public school.

Through strategic partnerships they expand their reach and vision for a safe Village in which when asked "How are the children?"  it can be said,  "They are well, they are doing very well."

Some of the accomplishments of PFSS during 2010-11 school year:

  • Convened Sept 2010 Community Educators Gathering  with Asst. Supt of Public Instruction, Erin Jones
  • Sponsor Critical Conversations in the Community with Dr. Maxine Mimms - monthly at Life Enrichment Books
  • Developing the prototype for Elders in Residence with South Shore School 
  • Support for Successful Young Women Project 
  • Conducted 10 Parent to Parent Workshops (for capacity building)  - First Place School, Saturday Math Academy, South Shore School, Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club
  • Fiscal agent for AAKEWO and American Museum (Delbert Richardson)
  • Partnered with Rainier Valley Rotary to expand support for literacy for children attending Rainier Valley Schools
  • Creating dialogue that expands our reach to parents who are need of more effective ways to be engaged in and take responsibility for their children's education
  • Initiated the development of a knowledge and support base for African American parents of developmentally disabled children; ARC of King County, Northwest Center, Special Olympics, Office of Education Ombudsman