'Critical race theory' accusations prompt WV school district to pause 'Black Math Genius' program

"Racist," and "Segregationist." Those are some of the words being hurled toward school officials in one West Virginia district who tried to bring a program that focuses on Black kids to Jefferson County. The program is called: "Black Math Genius." 

"Black Math Genius is part of critical race theory. And it’s meant to divide the people. As you can see, we’re divided. If you give special privileges to a group of people because of their skin color, it’s discrimination," said a woman who identified herself a grandparent at the June 28th Jefferson County regular meeting. She and others also questioned the program’s $3.9 million price tag.

READ MORE: Debate over critical race theory boiling over in Loudoun County school district

"Your marketing of this program has created unnecessary divisions whether intentional or not. My questions are why do we need a summer math program? And why aren’t the children learning during the school year?" said another woman at the same meeting.

Calling it "ignorance," the program’s creator told FOX 5 via Zoom, "… when you attach the ‘Black’ to it, that is what, without them even knowing what the program is about, threw it into the category of critical race theory … I didn’t start looking into critical race theory until my program was accused of critical race theory and when I looked it up it’s like, where did they get this from? I mean, this is absolutely nothing about what’s in the program. It’s about mathematics. It’s about the African contributions mathematics. We’re discussing crypto-currency, algorithm and its use in google searches. It’s advanced level mathematics."

READ MORE: Feud between Loudoun County parents over teaching about racism in school leads to police investigation

Assata Moore, the woman behind the "Black Math Genius" program, told FOX 5 it’s supposed to be a four-week, in-person math program that would focus on the Black child through the way the math is taught.

For example, Moore said they go over the history of the Pythagorean Theorem and its connection to Black mathematicians in Egypt. There would be more active math education, such as going outside an measuring a tree truck to study Pi. She also said they would discuss Crypto Currency and programming language – lessons that she described as forward thinking.  

"What’s important is to get our students engaged because mathematics is the backbone, is the basis for stem fields. And stem is what’s driving the future," said Moore.

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The program’s creator, who is based in Chicago, told FOX 5 she was approached by county administrators wanting to address low math performance scores, especially among Black students.

FOX 5 was directly contacted by a parent who said she signed her children up, wanting them to get the help and education she feels they deserve.

While the focus of this program is on Black students, Moore and another official affirmed "Black Math Genius" was open to all students.

She said they had been working on the program for a while and were preparing for 200 seats but only around 60 students-signed up. Of the around 60 students, Moore said that included two White students. The rest were said to be Black or mixed. 

The program creator told FOX 5 there was immediate backlash, which allegedly included school principals not wanting to share the program flyer with students.

"We are currently engaged in a series of equity engagement forums with our community to get their feedback. That is our focus at this time. We will be sharing the results of those meetings once they have concluded," said Jefferson County Schools Spokesperson Hans Fogle in an emailed statement.

Providing more information the data the school system is sharing, the Jefferson County Schools Spokesperson also wrote via email:

The latest data (2018-2019) shows that Black or African American students have a 25% proficiency rating in math. Proficiency in math for other subgroups is higher, with Pacific Islander students at 57%, Asian students at 53%, White students at 46%, Multi-racial students at 36%, and Hispanic or Latino students at 32%. A review of current and past intervention curriculum offerings used over the years in Jefferson County Schools show that while there has been significant progress in raising the math pass rates for all students, those gains have not been equal across subgroups. In particular, the pass rates of white students and low SES students have risen by 13% and 14% respectively while the pass rates of Black students have only risen by 5%.  In the category of "Exceeds Standards" (highest performing level of math performance), White student performance has risen by 11% and low socioeconomic status (SES) by 8%.  However, black students performing in the Exceeds Standards category have risen by only 1%.

As we conduct the community forums, we are asking the following questions to help shape our supports for all students struggling with math:

- Are the current focus areas matched to the performance gaps that need to be addressed?

- Are there ways in which we can modify our approaches that would increase their effectiveness?

- Are there actions that are not included in the plan that you believe would be beneficial and effective in addressing the academic performance issues?

Sources believe there are plans to move forward with "Black Math Genius." The Jefferson County Schools Spokesperson did not confirm this.

Online, the Jefferson County GOP Facebook Page shared a post calling for a "Rally against CRT and Segregated learning" to take place on Monday, July 12th.