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Spotlight Non-profit: Teaching kids to grow academically one move at a time

LatinaLista — The game of chess gets little respect in the sports world. That’s a shame since it is a game that demands as grueling a workout as any other sport, even though the muscles it’s flexing are in the brain.

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If more saw chess as the sport it is then maybe there would be a greater push for the game to be part of a regular school curriculum. While educators may not be trying to add chess to the PE curriculum, there is one group trying to get more schools to include chess games as part of every student’s three Rs.

Chess-in-the-Schools is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to improving academic performance and building self-esteem among inner-city public school children — all through teaching chess to children.

Launched in 1986, Chess-in-the-schools has taught over 400,000 students the game and organizes over 25 student chess tournaments throughout the school year where between 250 and 500 players from second grade through high school participate. The organization’s tagline is: Helping Kids Grow One Move at a Time.

In 1991 and 1996, Stuart M. Margulies, Ph.D., a noted educational psychologist, conducted two studies examining the effects of chess on children’s reading scores. The studies demonstrated that students who participated in the chess program showed improved scores on standardized tests. The gains were even greater among children with low or average initial scores. Children who were in the non-chess playing control group showed no gains.

Another study in 1999, measured the impact of chess on the emotional intelligence of fifth graders. The results of the study were striking. The overall success rate in handling real life situations with emotional intelligence was 91.4% for the children who participated in the Chess-in-the-Schools program. In contrast, those who were not involved with the chess program had an average overall success rate of only 64.4%.

For now, the organization works only with New York City Title I public schools. Thirty percent of the students involved in the program are Latino. Chess-in-schools relies completely on donations.


“There are no losers in chess, only winners and learners.”


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