Most people don't use quadratic equations in their day-to-day dealings.
Even if it's a formula mastered years ago in high school, those returning to school may not be masters of the math problem. So, when faced with a placement test with such questions, those who go in blind may not score well.
Janet L. Stringer, dean of Science and Technology at Canada College in Redwood City, said that can change with a week of preparation. Math Jam -- an intensive math placement test preparation program for students -- helps ready students for placement exams and also review for upcoming classes. Started in the summer of 2009, the program was originally funded by a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) grant to help students accelerate in math faster.
It's been proven at many colleges: The longer it takes a student to get through requirements, the less likely he or she will finish, explained Stringer. Many of the STEM programs require high-level math. If a student can test into a higher math level, with a little prep work, he or she can save themselves time and money, she said. Since offering the first refresher course, the program has expanded and is now offered three times a year. Students in Math Jam were found to succeed in their higher level classes, stay enrolled in school and also were more likely to return to the program to prepare for other courses, said Stringer.
Math Jam is one of the 19 programs recognized this year by the San Mateo County School Board Association 2012 J. Russell Kent Awards. Given to outstanding and innovative educational programs, applicants must demonstrate how their program promotes student success, employs a high degree of creativity and demonstrates transferability.
"We continue to be impressed by the outstanding innovative programs provided by our schools in so many areas of academics, student support and community," said Seth Rosenblatt, president of the San Mateo County School Boards Association and San Carlos Elementary School District Board trustee.
Most of the awards are for programs focusing on students in kindergarten through high school. Math Jam is the only college-level program to be recognized this year.
Retention Specialist Chris Woo, who oversees the day-to-day operations at Math Jam, started working at Math Jam in 2011. She called it the best job she's ever had.
"I worked for 30 years [in the financial world] and maybe three people said 'thank you.' I worked 30 minutes [here] and had three people say 'thank you,'" she said.
Students are so happy to be helped, said Woo. Now students are returning for help in higher levels of math as well as to offer services as tutors. Some days will have afternoon and evening sessions. Students will come as a tutor to one and to learn in another, Woo said.
A variety of intervention type programs are recognized by this year's Kent Awards.
Redwood High School's Redwood Environmental Academy for Leadership, known as R.E.A.L., is an innovative partnership started four years ago to bring hands-on science lessons to students. Students work with professional partners to build leadership and learn academics through environmental service projects.
Principal Frank Wells said what makes this program special is the impact it's had on students who were headed toward dropping out. Ninety percent of students who have taken part in the program changed directions toward graduation and furthering their education after high school, he said. Wells attributed the program's success to the time taken to study best practices when designing it as well as continued support from faculty and staff.
In the South San Francisco Unified School District, two programs were recognized: Community Partnership Parkway Summer Youth Program and the Alternative to Expulsion Intervention Program.
Superintendent Alejandro Hogan said the district is proud of the two programs. The Parkway program offers a four-week summer course through a partnership with the South San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department, volunteers and donations.
Alternative to Expulsion Intervention was started two and a half years ago to help give students a different option.
During the 2008-09 school year, 342 students were expelled in San Mateo County. Seventy-two of those were from the South San Francisco Unified School District, according to the California Department of Education. Oftentimes, the teens end up at either a continuation or community day school. While both are good alternatives, the smaller communities without as many extracurricular opportunities are not a fit for all.
With the help of Patrick Lucy, who works for the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, the district started offering a program giving students a chance to reflect, evaluate their decision-making skills, learn about opportunities and return to school through a five-day program. But it's not just about the kids. Parents and legal guardian participate as well, making the program an educational experience for everyone.
Hogan said the option has had an incredible impact on the district.
The Kent Awards ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, May 20 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Foster City. Social hour and musical performances will begin at 6 p.m. with dinner and an awards ceremony at 7 p.m.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105
2013 Kent Award winners
o Belmont-Redwood Shores School District: Ralston Middle School -- The Storytech Course
o Hillsborough School District: North Hillsborough Elementary -- Lunchtime Electives
o Jefferson Elementary School District: Thomas R. Policita Middle School -- Dance Program
o Jefferson Union High School District: Oceana High School -- Garden Program
o Las Lomitas Elementary District: Las Lomitas Elementary School -- New Games
o Menlo Park City School District: Encinal School -- Advisory Program
o Pacifica School District: Ortega Elementary -- K-5 Science Lab Program
o Ravenswood City School District: Using Community Resources for Employment Development
o Redwood City School District: Henry Ford Elementary -- The Profession Learning Community
o Redwood City School District: Kennedy Middle School -- Drama Program
o San Mateo Community College District: Canada College -- Math Jam
o San Mateo-Foster City School District: Bayside Elementary -- STEM & Design Thinking Program
o San Mateo-Foster City School District: Beresford Elementary -- Spanish Program
o San Mateo Union High School District: Mills High School -- Intervention Program
o San Mateo Union High School District: San Mateo High School -- Family Literacy Night
o Sequoia Union High School District: Redwood High School -- R.E.A.L. Redwood Environmental
Academy of Leadership
o South San Francisco Unified School District: Parkway Heights Middle School -- Community
Partnership Parkway Summer Youth Program
o South San Francisco Unified School District: Alternative to Expulsion Intervention Program
o Emily Garfield Preventive Counseling Award winner Evelyn Hall of Redwood High School