Algebra academies expand in North Bay

NORTH BAY -- A unique summer algebra academy pioneered in Santa Rosa has grown throughout the North Bay, and organizations as far away as Arizona are expressing interest in duplicating the public-private partnership that works to expose English language-learners to real-world applications for math.

This year, the city of Novato has joined the ranks of areas offering the program, which enlists local companies to host and teach in classes for students that were hand-picked from area schools. The North Bay Leadership Council expanded their version of the program to Novato this year, having begun offering classes in San Rafael in 2011.

[caption id="attachment_56959" align="alignright" width="360" caption="Students in the Mike Hauser Algebra Academy visit Medtronic in Santa Rosa. (Photo courtesy Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce)"][/caption]

The council modeled their program after the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce’s “Mike Hauser Algebra Academy,” which was launched in 2008. The academy, named for the former chamber president, enlists 9th graders from four city school districts, with classes hosted at Agilent Technologies, JDSU, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Medtronic CardioVascular.

The intention for the three-week program, organizers said, is to use hands-on experiences to increase confidence and enthusiasm for algebra and help to further narrow an achievement gap for English language learners.

“As we are looking at learning at this point, we know that students need some kind of practical education to learn better,” said Arlen Agapinan, director of curriculum and instruction for grades 7-12 at Santa Rosa City Schools and a member of the academy’s organizing group in Santa Rosa.

The Santa Rosa program has hosted approximately 60 students each year, after 30 in the initial offering. The North Bay Leadership Council’s program has graduated approximately 25 students during each session.

While data concerning student outcomes is limited, Mr. Agapinan said that the first round of graduates appear to have a higher rate of enrollment in advanced math classes -- a prerequisite for many universities.

“You talk to the students afterwards, and they say, ‘I had no idea that I might use algebra down the road. I might be able to become an engineer,'” he said.

Students attend class five days a week, with sessions that include instruction from a local teacher and by the staff at participating companies. The most recent rounds of students, in Santa Rosa and San Rafael, each graduated on Friday, with the Novato class graduating later this summer.

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