Dr. Vinetta Jones featured in Washington Post
Heroes in the war against dummy math
By Jay Mathews, Published: December 2
As a 13-year-old African American in 1954, Vinetta Jones knew the exasperating letdown of people thinking she was not capable of doing whatever it was she wanted to do. Yet it was still a shock when she, an accomplished math student, walked into her all-white Detroit junior high class on the first day of Algebra I and the teacher asked what she was doing there.
“This is my class,” Jones said. The teacher said: “There must be a mistake. You wouldn’t be able to keep up.”
Forced to take Jones, the teacher never called on her even though she got an A on every test. Jones would earn a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, become an education school dean and run statewide reform programs in California and North Carolina. With $32 million from College Board benefactors in the 1990s, she led a program that broke the back of U.S. schools’ resistance to letting minorities, poor kids and other allegedly ill-prepared students take algebra and geometry.
Jones, a Howard University professor and a former dean of its education school, lives in Prince George’s County. With support and guidance from Montgomery County resident Sol H. Pelavin, until recently president of the Washington-based American Institutes for Research, she and thousands of educators proved that remedial math was largely a waste the way it was taught, that good teaching of algebra and geometry was better. Their Equity 2000 program is the subject of my short new book, “The War Against Dummy Math: How Seven School Districts Changed U.S. Education by Embracing Algebra for All.”