ACIS Pilot Project to End May, 2019

November 23, 2018 – After a successful four years, the current Alabama Chess in Schools (ACIS) pilot program will end at the end of this school year. The pilot program has operated as a partnership between Chess in Schools LLC and the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE). Grant funding that would have extended the pilot and opened the program to new schools next year was not approved by the Alabama State Department of Education for FY 2019.

Chess in Schools LLC will remain active in providing services in support of Chess in Education as it transitions to a new business model. Details about a new ACIS 2.0 program will be released here over the coming weeks.

Great Program! Promising Research! What Happened to the ALSDE Funding Support?

Two years ago the business model recommended to us by ALSDE was to apply for a High Hopes grant as an educational service vendor. We would then provide services and grants to school systems who applied for and were accepted by the ACIS program. Chess in Schools LLC was formed to implement this model. Essentially ALSDE outsourced ACIS grant management administration to Chess in Schools LLC with significant savings in administrative labor for both schools and ALSDE. We have learned, after the fact, that this model has fallen out of favor with the new ALSDE administration.
Based on information from multiple sources, we have concluded that the ACIS funding decision had little to do with the merits of the ACIS program. ACIS continues to enjoy support from those within ALSDE who have been directly involved with the program.
State Superintendent Mackey has invited a future High Hopes grant application for FY 2020 and indicated that the new ACIS research results (due in December) would be an important consideration. However it is clear that we need to shift our focus to marketing CIS services directly to Local Education Agencies (LEAs).

Implications for ACIS Schools for This School Year

Chess in Schools LLC will fulfill its ACIS commitments as spelled out in the memoranda of agreement signed with ACIS schools.
• Free ChessKid licenses will remain active through the end of the school year and summer.
• Free access to the CIS Resource Library will continue through the end of the school year.
• Remote support for teachers will continue through
• Research data will be collected for the current school year so that we can continue to build evidence of the effectiveness of chess in education. *** This is important. The ACIS experiment has international visibility. ***
ACIS services curtailed as a result of the funding cut:
• Free on-site visits during the remaining school year.
• Grants to help pay for professional development classes in Summer 2019. Classes will be offered for pay.
We encourage each LEA to consider applying for local community grants for Chess in Schools. Our team will be looking into developing model grant applications to assist schools to start and sustain successful Chess in School programs employing international best practices. Schools should set aside funds now for Chess in Schools professional development this summer.

Chess in Schools 2.0: Plans for the Future

Chess in Schools LLC is fortunate to have a program that has proven effective and popular with schools. The uniqueness and promise of the program are being recognized internationally.
Within a few weeks we will have an interim report from researchers with the results of ACIS performance data from last year. As a results-based organization, our future efforts will be driven by what we learn from the data. We expect it to reflect the positive anecdotal data received from ACIS teachers and administrators.

Chess in Schools remains committed to advancing chess in education programs in Alabama and across the United States. Our visits to Armenia and Qatar this month and to the upcoming London Chess in Education Conference in December should give us a view to understanding and influencing international best practices and integrating them into our class offering. Chess in Education progress is seen in the European Chess Union and is receiving higher priority in FIDE, the international chess governing organization. We need to do our part to see that it happens in the United States.

Neil Dietsch will be leading a workshop at the London conference on Business Development for CiE service providers. Following the conference Neil and Jerry will be taking a 2-day Chess in Education seminar sponsored by the European Chess Union’s Chess in Education Committee. We are expecting to bring back numerous ideas for new classes and methods in our CIS professional development classes.
Based on these international experiences we expect to formulate a new business development plan for Chess in Schools. Continuing to provide summer Chess in Schools professional development courses is an obvious component. We also expect to develop opportunities outside of Alabama.

Last, but certainly not least, we will be searching for financial support for our mission to continue expanding Chess in Education within the United States. For those of you who are able, please consider a donation to Chess in Schools as part of your year-end charitable giving.

Neil Dietsch, Managing Director
Jerry Nash, National Chess Education Consultant
Nancy Johnson, Operations Manager