|photo: Patrick T. Fallon for The Wall Street Journal|
Wonderful things are being done by our friends in St. Louis:
Chess has been a part of after-school programs for at least 40 years, but mainly in the suburbs. In the last decade, it has exploded in popularity in urban areas as research showed that students who play chess do better on achievement exams, especially math.
But few schools offer chess as an academic subject—and fewer still require it, especially for students already labeled as troublemakers, like the ones here.
Innovative Concept Academy was opened last year by a St. Louis Juvenile Court Judge Jimmie Edwards. Tired of watching teenagers get kicked out of school, land in his courtroom and then drop out, Mr. Edwards created his own school to nurture students back to academic, emotional and mental health. The city's school district pays for the building and teachers, while money from not-for-profit groups provides the rest of the funding.
The Academy, housed in a three-story former middle school, caters to sixth through 12th graders who have either been suspended or expelled for fighting, bringing weapons to class, getting caught with drugs or other illegal or disruptive behavior.
The top floor of the three-story school is occupied by teenagers who have been criminally charged and gone through the juvenile court system.
Students attend class from 9 a.m. until 5:45 p.m. and have access to counselors, psychologists and mentors. [...]
The twice weekly chess classes are mandatory for most of the school's 97 students and are an integral part of Mr. Edwards's strategy to curb bad behavior and teach alternatives to violence. He knows that chess won't solve all the behavior problems, but says it offers lessons about self-control and critical thinking.
"Most of my kids are impulsive, reactionary and they lash out without thinking through the consequences," said Mr. Edwards, who walks the school's halls almost daily. "Chess teaches them patience and teaches them that there are consequences to bad decisions."