Typically, according to Lew Frederickson, spokesperson for Portland Public Schools, African American and Latino students perform about one to two grade levels below white and Asian students. Duke puts the blame for this discrepancy on the structure and philosophy of classroom education in the city's public schools.
"They don't work because teachers are the center of attention." Duke says. "They don't teach kids to love learning. The only time you hear from your teachers is when a kid does wrong."
To pick up the slack of the public school system, two years ago Duke launched Revolutionary Math. At the heart of the program is an alternative approach to learning math.
"The whole paradigm has to change," Duke claims. By having the students produce videos about math concepts, Duke tries to combat classroom complacency by engaging the students. So far, the students have produced several videos with memorable sketches including "Improper Fractions are Taking Over the World," and "Prime Number Protest."
The first eight students of Duke's program picked up two years of math skills in six weeks, as measured by the Stanford Diagnostic Test. These gains brought the students up to speed with their current grade level.
Although the success of Duke's first participants have encouraged both further funding from foundations and more students to join the program, Duke finds it disturbing that these students are unable to learn basic math skills without extracurricular programs.