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 US Chess Signals Re-engagement with Chess in Education

On November 6, the US Chess Scholastic Council and its new Chess in Education (CIE) Committee co-hosted a School-Based Chess Outreach event to share developments aimed at supporting chess in schools. The event comes in response to growing demand by educators for guidance in how to use chess in schools. US Chess Executive Director Carol Meyer stated, “There is a lot of activity across the country in different places and US Chess has been asked by many to do more for teachers who are finding themselves in a position of having to teach chess when they really know very little about it.”

The session began with reports of a survey of state chess federation activity by Carol Meyer, a summary of the work of the Scholastic Council (supporting competitive chess), and initiatives by the re-established Chess in Education Committee.

Survey results

Following the summary, Carol Meyer, Executive Director, reported on the US Chess’s outreach to state chess federation scholastic coordinators. Nineteen of 53 contacts responded to the survey with usable data. For most scholastic coordinators, planning and managing scholastic tournament play is their prime function, not CIE. As a consequence, respondents offered mixed opinions on the question of certification of chess trainers. Nine were in favor and seven opposed, and two providing nuanced opinions. Responders opposing certification argued that certification would impose barriers such as additional costs and startup time to launching chess programs.

When asked what schools were looking for, respondents most frequently cited the need for a curriculum that could be used by teachers. Others mentioned chess equipment, chess federation memberships, and professional development. Meyer declined to share the survey results, offering only the summary slides from her presentation.

Plans for Chess in Education

John Galvin, a co-chair of the Chess in Education Committee, announced plans for two activities intended to foster grass roots support for CIE.

  1. A US Chess Education Program page that includes

    • CIE Charter and Bios
    • Upcoming Events for Chess Educators
    • Chess Grants and Awards for Educators
    • Resources for Chess Educators
      Galvin notes, “US Chess doesn’t have (CIE) resources, but we have big projects we want to work on.” Galvin displayed a draft of the resources page listing links to various commercial and non-commercial websites offering at least some free resources. Co-chair Ranae Bartlett asked participants to submit additional links of free materials. [Editor’s note: we hope to see added to the list soon.] Paid services are expected be added in the future.
    • Chess in Education YouTube Playlist
  2. Monthly Podcasts with Teachers & Others [starting January, 2023]
  3. Organization of a US Chess Educator Community  forum with breakout rooms [coming soon]

A New Openness to Non-Competitive Chess?

For the past decade, US Chess has focused its scholastic chess resources almost exclusively on competitive chess. During years when the organization was financially strapped, the primary driver for US Chess investment decisions  has been short-term growth in US Chess membership revenue. As a result, the governing US Chess Executive Board largely ignored Chess in Education. As a purely advisory committee and no program funding, the Chess in Education Committee struggled. In 2018 the Executive Board disbanded the Committee. Later the Board reconstituted Chess in Education as a subsidiary committee under the Scholastic Council, but Chair turnover hindered progress.

Proposals at US Chess delegate meetings in 2019 and 2021 sought to reestablish a role for Chess in Education. Rather than have an up or down vote on the question of support for CIE, both proposals were “referred to Committee.”

The November 6 information session seems to signal a renewed interest by US Chess in taking an active role in the Chess in Education movement. For the time being, US Chess continues to see sporting chess and chess in education as intertwined. Executive Director Carol Meyer stated that she sees “a synergy between CIE and scholastic chess.” Still, discussion at the event suggested a new openness to promoting chess unrelated to its goal of increasing US Chess scholastic memberships. Presenters made the point that the benefits of CIE training go largely to the population of students who are not, and never will become, US Chess members. Consequently this outreach brings US Chess into closer alignment with its stated mission as an educational non-profit organization.

Attendance / Participation

Sixty-six of 125 registrants attended part of the meeting according to moderator and Chess in Education co-chair Ranae Bartlett. Organizers limited participation by attendees to submission of chat questions through a moderator.

Watch a video of the full 45-minute US Chess November Chess Outreach here.

Upcoming Post:

[This is Part One of a Three-part Series on The Progress of Chess in Education (CIE) in the US.

Part One reports on a November, 2022 US Chess school-based outreach event to share developments aimed at supporting  US Schools. The final article will focus on the future, exploring international strategies being pursued by various national and international stakeholders .]

Part 2 in this series, The Progress of CIE in the United States, examines the larger realm of international CIE initiatives and their relevance to the United States. It will address:

  1. Changes in CIE best practice
  2. How national and international CIE organization changed in the past decade?
  3. The CIE impact on chess training applications
  4. Strategies currently under development
  5. How these strategies are likely to influence CIE in the United States.

Part 3 will focus on how national and international organizations are formulating strategies to advance Chess in Education.]

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