Planting SEEDs of hope

An innovative math program recalculates which students will succeed and which will fail at DISD

One facet of Project SEED is that it works inside the school system to improve learning, yet in many ways challenges the so-called "system" through its unique style and attempts to raise teachers' expectations of children. As quasi-outsiders, SEED staffers don't hesitate to criticize "the system," even if they don't name names.

"We're doing kids a disservice by not preparing kids for the future, but for the TAAS [the state's standardized test]," said Glee, on a day when SEED classes were canceled so children could drill for the Stanford Nine, another standardized test used by DISD. "If a kid can't pass the test, that kid is seen as a bad kid," he continues. "But a lot of the kids who can't pass the test end up running big corporations. There's no reward or praise for kids who think out of the box."

Glee worries about declining opportunity for children who fail to learn highly specialized skills in school, citing the plight of the "shade tree" mechanic. Because today's cars, he explains, are largely computerized, neighborhood grease monkeys are quickly becoming extinct. "If you don't have the math aptitude, those jobs are being eliminated," he laments.

Best-dressed mathematicians in town: SEED officials William Glee, left, and Harold Bledsoe.
Best-dressed mathematicians in town: SEED officials William Glee, left, and Harold Bledsoe.

Still, while Project SEED instructors tell stories of disinterested students turned on by higher math and students who went on to become lawyers and teachers, they know their program will not help all children who end up in their classes. In a district where half of the students drop out before graduation (a failure rate comparable to most large urban districts), some students will drift away no matter what, for reasons as varied as boredom to the lure of a fast-food paycheck.

"As they get older, somehow the system beats the questioning out of the kids," Baker says.

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