Friday, May 13, 2011

The Power of Chess to Make a Difference - Locally

Today I received the latest bulletin from the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation. 

I think scholastic chess is extremely important for several reasons, but the one attempt Goddesschess made to fund some prizes for a small local scholastic tournament was shot down in flames when we felt obligated to point out to the organizers (mostly people affiliated with a religious school) that part of our main website, Goddesschess, is the Las Vegas Show Girls with, er, pasties and double entendres galore :)  Well, that put a nix on that.  We tried, we had good intentions.  But we're not going to change who we've been and who we are just because parents might potentially be uncomfortable that their children know more about the Las Vegas Show Girls than they do. 

So, we keep our nose out of scholastic chess and hope that at least a few of the so-promising girls who play at the scholastic level will continue with chess after middle-school.  Very few even make it that far and far fewer, still, to the K-12 level, which just really really sucks. 

But despite my despair for any increase in female players in the United States coming through the ranks of domestic scholastic chess any time soon, there are glimmers of hope.  There are some hot spots of scholastic chess development that I read about regularly: New York City, suburban Chicago, Lubbock, Texas.  And there is this report about a pilot scholastic chess program at Clara Mohammed School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (my hometown!):

Elizabeth Shaughnessy founder of the Berkeley Chess School and chess educator of the year in 2011, gave an address at the annual ChessFest at the University of Texas at Dallas.  In her address titled "The Importance of Chess in the American Community Today" she shares a graph that shows the improvement of 2nd grade students who were taught chess compared to those who were not taught chess over a three year period.    Another graph she shared shows the difference in math scores of those students who received more than 20 hours of chess instruction per week vs. other students in the districts.  The chess students had a 15.5 point gain in their CST math scores. A third document she shares is a chart showing the progression of student change as they learn chess in relation to their academic achievement.

WSCF has begun this work with one such school in Milwaukee.   Students at Clara Mohammed School who were taught chess all year, according to school leaders, are beginning to show academic and behavior changes similar to those above.  WSCF would like to continue this important work and to this end.
is currently writing grant applications to emulate programs like those in New York, California and Washington.   

Yeah, controversial I know, because the Clara Mohammed School is Islam-based.  It is also located in one of the oldest ghetto areas in the city of Milwaukee.  If chess can help these kids, who need all the help they can get, Goddess help them, then I'm all for chess in schools. 

The Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Foundation

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