There’s been a big push lately to have all students take Algebra I in eighth grade. A group of kids at Urban Promise Academy, a middle school serving kids from the Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods, have taken it a step further. Their teacher, Abby Paske, shares her story with us. -Katy
After months of hard work and dedication, the eighth-grade geometry class at Urban Promise Academy Middle school is first in the district. 100 percent of students passed the district’s spring assessment, and 83 percent of them achieved a mark of exceeding. The next closest school had a mere 50 percent of students achieving the mark of exceeding.
Urban Promise Academy, or UPA, is an urban school in California where over 80 percent of the students at the school receive free or reduced lunch. It is a small school by design, with the mission of preparing students for college and beyond.
After ranking second in the district mid-term assessments, UPA students were excited, but hesitant about their ultimate success. They didn’t want to settle for second, but were scared of what it would take to be first. When asked what sort of incentive would push them to achieve, there were mixed responses. Several students preferred a vindictive approach: “I want to see that other school’s principal cry when he sees we’re #1.” Others favored a more relaxed approach: “Could we have a day off?” or “How about a trip to Mexico?”
Students finally settled on a two-part encouragement plan — chocolate and glory. If they succeeded in rising to first, they would get two chocolate treats and as much fame as their teacher could dredge up.
The game was on. The students made up a battle cry, “Montera is Going Down… Hill!” referring to the fact that so-called hill schools, such as Montera, have a reputation for being better. Students discussed their favorite baked goods. Then the whole class got down to business.
In our neighborhood being called a nerd is a horrible insult. Street cred will get your farther than honor roll in our neck of the woods. Though their peers may laugh at them, UPA’s middle school geometry students are between one and two years ahead in math. They are incredibly motivated, extremely engaged and very energetic. These are the kids who are ready to beat the odds. They want to understand everything right away, they are impatient and they devour information.
So congratulations to all the students in the UPA Geometry Class: Luis Alba, Kim Alvarez, Vanessa Berrios, Jose Cabrera, Tram Hyunh, Martin Rios, Kathy Robles, Selina Sanchez, Alex Tang, Stan Tran, Vy Truong, and Gonzalo Villalobos. May this moment of success be one of many in your lives.