piece of mind

Garry Kasparov asks chess students to explain their work


As chess champion Garry Kasparov finished up his visit to the chess club at Harlem Success Academy I this morning, he posed a question for the three dozen students taking a break from their matches: How does chess help you in school?

At first, the students struggled to answer Kasparov’s question with the kind of specifics he wanted. One boy said it helped, but couldn’t explain how exactly. Another said it helped him strategize, but came up short when pressed for more. Two girls said that chess helped them with complicated math problems and one boy said it helped him concentrate.

Finally, a young girl’s answer seemed to satisfy the grandmaster.

“Chess helps me with writing because when you’re writing an essay you have to reread your work just like you have to reread your notations,” said Hawa Diallo, a fourth grader at the school, referring to the scoresheets kept during games.

“Brilliant,” Kasparov said.

It’s a question that Kasparov said is at the core of one of his life’s goals since he retired in 2005 after spending nearly 19 years as the game’s top-ranked player. Through his foundation, Kasparov has set out to grow chess by exposing it to younger generations and he said that one way to do that is to prove that developing chess curriculum in schools has long-term educational impacts for children.

“It boosts their confidence and this is very important, especially in the deprived neighborhoods,” Kasparov said. “They have to realize that they can succeed in the field of intellect, they can beat other kids from private schools by doing intellectual things.”

Kasparov said the game is growing, but “what is important is that you have more centralized efforts to make sure that these benefits will be maximized.”

In New York City, high-performing schools such as Bronx Science, Edward R. Murrow, Stuyvesant and Hunter regularly are known for their strong chess programs. But many chess clubs and classes are offered in lower-performing schools through support from outside community partners. The largest of these is the nonprofit Chess-In-The-Schools, which teaches chess to 13,000 students in 51 Title I schools as part of their academic school day.

Perhaps the city’s most famous underdog chess team is I.S. 318, a low-income school that Paul Tough wrote about in his best-selling book about character education and was the subject of an award-winning documentary.

At the Success Academy schools, the city’s largest charter school network, chess is not an everyday class but it is central part of its programming. Students are required to learn chess from one of the network’s 10 chess teachers who are nationally ranked by the U.S. Chess Federation. Fritz Gaspard, the staff’s top-ranked player, is considered an expert with a rating over 2100.

Several of the schools also have chess teams that compete in national tournament and against one another in “cross school tournaments.”

But Sean O’Hanlon, the chess program’s director, said he tried not to put too much emphasis on the competitive aspect.

“What you really try to do, even more than win, is get them thinking,” he said.


What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.