Determined to change the education system for low-income students and students of color, Osvaldo Adames ’15 took a job teaching eighth-grade math at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice — his alma mater. There, he quietly nurtured a goal: to have his students take the state Algebra 1 exam in eighth-grade rather than ninth, which was typical at the school. If students succeeded, they would get a jump on the pursuit of higher-level math in high school. Adames, a Hamilton math major, was convinced that with adequate support, his students could make the grade on the exam.
That first year of teaching, he identified 19 students ready for the challenge, and every one of them passed. In each of the next two years, Adames identified larger and larger groups of students to tackle the test, and they continued to do well. He is carefully tracking the data that help him zero in on students’ needs.
After Hamilton: Teacher, Teach for America; Teacher, Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice
Goal: Be able to directly connect mathematics and social justice.
This year, his fourth at the school, the administration asked Adames if he wanted all of his eighth-graders to take the exam, reflecting a citywide push. Or he could choose to wait one more year. Adames responded that 100 percent participation had always been his goal. This would be the year. “I was comfortable enough in my data, and I was confident enough in what I’m doing, that I was able to voice that opinion and face the challenge of preparing all of them to pass,” he says.
And that’s what he’s doing — fine-tuning his curriculum, firing up his students, and explaining to them that even if they don’t pass the exam this year, they’ll be better prepared to retake it as ninth-graders. “Hopefully we’ll have a very successful year because of that,” he says.