Third year of NSF's math and science partnerships to focus on teachers


Grants made for new teacher institutes, large targeted partnerships and capacity-building

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ARLINGTON, Va.-- Many teachers in K-12 will be able to experience a more intense learning and leadership environment as the National Science Foundation (NSF) embarks on a major effort to improve the mathematics and science education of the nation's youth.

NSF has announced that seven new Institute Partnerships: Teacher Institutes for the 21st Century will be formed as a result of five-year grants made to universities in the third year of competition for NSF's Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program. The new institutes represent an investment of more than $31 million over five years for NSF's newest MSP program component.

The awards for teacher institutes will be directed to disciplinary faculty of higher learning institutions to work with experienced teachers of mathematics and the sciences. This relationship is expected to deepen teachers' knowledge of content and instructional skills so they may become school-based intellectual leaders in their fields. A prototype institute is already underway at the Institute for Advanced Study at Park City, Utah.

New institute awards have been made to the University of Nebraska, Oregon State University, Tufts University and the University of Pennsylvania -- each receiving $5 million over five years. Math and science teachers will study during summers or during the academic year at the new institutes being formed at these campuses. U-Penn (grades 5-12) and Tufts (grades K-8) institutes will specialize in science. At U-Nebraska (grades 5-8) and Oregon State University (grades K-12) institutes will be for math teachers.

Three more institute awards have been made to Rice University (Houston), Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond) and Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton), and will focus on mathematics teaching. The Rice institute ($3.8 million) will focus on grades 9-12, Florida Atlantic will specialize at grades 5-8. And VCU will develop math specialists at K-5 levels.

"The new institute partnerships address a national need for a new generation of experienced teacher-leaders at a time when many teachers of similar stature are retiring" says Joyce Evans, MSP program director. "These multi-year programs will provide courses and experiences that enable teachers to deepen and update their content knowledge, become more effective in the classroom, contribute to the development of more challenging or advanced courses, and become leaders and catalysts for reforming the mathematics and science programs in their schools."

Institute participants, Evans explains further, should be able to assume increased responsibilities in their schools after successfully completing an institute program. To make that a reality, schools and districts are expected to provide the time, administrative support, resources and the recognition and rewards commensurate with this increased responsibility.

Meanwhile, NSF also announced five large Targeted Partnerships with grants amounting to a combined $60 million over five years, aimed at improving math and science performance in nationwide classrooms. Some 224,000 students will be reached through these partnerships that will unite 13 institutions of higher education with 21 local school districts to improve student achievement in specific disciplines or grade ranges.

Arizona State University and City College of New York (CUNY) are each expected to receive $12.5 million over the next five years to target science and mathematics learning at grades 9-12 by testing a model of graduate courses to deepen teachers' understanding of fundamental concepts in mathematics and science. The project will also support teachers in several Arizona school districts (Chandler, Mesa, Tempe and Tolleson) through learning communities with higher education faculty. The CUNY project will create hub high schools as "clinics" for teacher training and education excellence that will address shortages and retention rates among teachers in New York City schools, and create school cultures that emphasize research-driven classroom practices. The project also seeks to improve student performance beyond 8th grade.

Meanwhile, the University of Massachusetts, Boston, is receiving $12.5 million over five years to improve student achievement in science at grades 6-12 in Boston's public schools by enhancing teacher content knowledge and instructional skill. The partnership includes Northeastern University, Harvard University and the College Board.

The other new targeted partnerships will focus on grades 6-8. The University of Colorado, Denver, along with several nearby college and university partners will lead a $12.5 million project to improve student achievement through a combination of high quality coursework in math and science and a push to reduce the achievement gap between minority and non-minority middle school students a program project leaders call "15 months to HQ (high quality)." One facet of this project includes an on-line delivery of teacher coursework that will engage teachers in the more rural regions of Colorado. Another $10 million grant to Birmingham Southern College in Alabama aims to improve middle school mathematics for students while boosting the professional development of high school math teachers. The college is working with the University of Alabama, Birmingham and the eight Greater Birmingham Alabama school districts, and will incorporate engineering modules into classrooms to help answer the age-old question, "Why do I need to know this?" Research from this project will also focus on engaging parents to be better informed about, and advocates for, high quality mathematics in schools.

NSF's newly announced MSP awards bring to 48 the total number of comprehensive, targeted and teacher institute projects underway across the country.

NSF also announced other MSP awards for capacity building - including research, evaluation and technical assistance. The largest, $4.6 million to Horizon Research, Inc., will involve comprehensive "knowledge management and dissemination" for the overall MSP program. Northwestern University has received $2.3 million for a program to study, define and understand teacher leaders and the roles they play. Westat, Inc. received $900,000 to study over time the effects of university disciplinary faculty engagement with the MSP process. This is considered an important facet of MSP and the newly forged relationships that are occurring between disciplinary faculty with K-12 teachers.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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