At its June 18 meeting, the DMPS School Board formally adopted the following goal:

“The percent of Black Male students completing Algebra I with a B or higher by the end of grade 9 will increase from 17% to 35% by August 2023.”

On July 17, the Iowa State University School of Education shared the following related news:

“…the School of Education ha(s) been awarded $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Studies in Education. The two-year grant will support the development of a partnership with Des Moines Public Schools to (1) address the district’s efforts to improve the number of students (and males of color, in particular) who pass Algebra 1 by implementing student-centered, equity-focused instruction and (2) examine students’ mathematics course-taking pathways from Grade 5 to and through Algebra 1.”

Noelle Nelson, the DMPS Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, will spearhead the district’s participation in the grant, along with Director of Assessment, Data, and Evaluation Mary Grinstead.

“Algebra I continues to be an important gateway to higher level mathematics and a strong indicator of future success,” said Nelson. “Our board has articulated aggressive goals around the achievement of black males in Algebra I classrooms.  We know that we cannot achieve these lofty goals alone. This partnership will be imperative in our mission to create classrooms where the most marginalized groups are successful.”

The duration of this federal award only covers the first two of the four school years between now and the self-imposed deadline for achievement of the Board goal outlined above. But the DMPS/ISU collaboration won’t be starting from scratch with receipt of the grant.

“We started the partnership last year as the Board had previously identified males of color and algebra as priorities,” Nelson said, adding that the formal adoption of the Board goals last month “certainly elevates its importance.”

Variables are a fundamental component of algebra, and grants are one of the major variables in the educational funding stream. This one equates to a win-win-win for Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa State and, most critically, DMPS male students of color.

Or, put another way: DMPS + ISU + $400k = W3.

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