April 17, 2013
A program aiming to increase involvement in middle school math classes at Albemarle County Public Schools is receiving national recognition.
M-Cubed has won the National School Board Association's Magna Award for its innovative method of advancing student learning. ACPS nabbed the top honor for schools with enrollment between 5,000 and 20,000, competing against more than 250 other programs from nearly 40 states.
M-Cubed, which stands for Men, Math and Mission, encourages young African-American males to take upper-level math classes. Select rising fifth, sixth, seventh and eight graders attend a two-week summer academy focused on pre-algebra and continue to receive support from adult mentors year round.
"You have a lot of students who come in with different attitudes about learning, but what I like about this program is we're able to look at how students are changing their attitudes towards learning," said Bernard Hairston, the executive director of community engagement for county schools.
Hairston says African-American males are under-represented when it comes to middle school math. In 2008, there was only one African-American male middle school student taking algebra.
"Since then, they've had about 60 students -- African American boys -- become a part of the higher math classes, which I think is really important important for not only the boys individually but for the future of our community as well," said parent Sharon Millner.
Millner's son, Kai, was a member of M-Cubed's first class of students.
"The sky is the limit as far as what he wants to do as long as he puts in hard work and effort," said Millner. "I think Kai can do whatever he wants to do and be whatever he wants to be, and a program like that really helps foster that as well."
The program has already helped pinpoint a potential career path for Sutherland Middle School student Alex Beverly. Beverly became involved in M-Cubed two years ago. Today, he's enrolled in an honors math class and has plans of becoming an architect.
"It definitely makes you want to work harder to show that you can do anything that you set your mind to," Beverly said of the program.
Hairston says the program is not only inspiring students to acquire important skills but also to give back.
"We have a seventh grader who has already declared that he wants to be a math teacher. We have University of Virginia students who are part of our summer academy who are interested in teaching in Albemarle County Public Schools because of this," he said.
A future goal is to expand the program into other counties. Hairston estimates the program would cost roughly $250,000 a year, but says support from the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, State Farm and the University of Virginia help make it possible.