NSF approves district-wide education awards in five U.S. cities

October 06, 1999

The National Science Foundation (NSF) today named three cities in Texas (Brownsville, Dallas and El Paso), along with Detroit, Mich. and San Francisco, Calif. to receive awards ranging from $7.5 $11.5 million each over five years for district-wide reform in K-12 science, mathematics, and technology education.

The awards, worth a total of $52 million (approximately $11.5 million each for Dallas, Detroit and El Paso, $10 million for San Francisco and $7.5 million for Brownsville) take the form of individual cooperative agreements between NSF and the school systems, and will commence in the 1999-2000 academic year.

Costello Brown, acting director for NSF's Division of Educational System Reform, explained that the Urban Systemic Program (USP) -- under which these agreements are managed -- is part of a larger redesign and enhancement of NSF's urban systemic reform, encompassing 49 urban schools districts.

USPs "evolved from the integration of the Urban Systemic Initiatives (USI) and the Comprehensive Partnerships for Mathematics and Science Achievement (CPMSA) programs," Brown said.

The USPs are designed to help urban school districts implement standards-based, inquiry-centered science, mathematics and technology education and to increase the competency and diversity of the science and mathematics instructional workforce. They also promote collaborations with colleges and universities that have teacher preparation programs to improve their approaches to teacher education. Another goal of USPs is to increase the number of skilled people entering the technology-based workforce. USPs also encourage the use of research as a tool to improve the teaching and learning of science and mathematics.

According to Brown, an urban school district must demonstrate in its proposal how the system's plan will lead to full-scale implementation of a K-12 standards-based science and mathematics operation district-wide. Eligible districts may also establish a collaborative venture with two-year colleges to promote exemplary improvement in technical education, or collaborate with four-year colleges and universities to improve existing teacher preparation programs that reflect a more standards-based mode of teaching and learning. Support for research on practice may also be embedded in the K-12 plan to increase the knowledge base on educational system reform, thereby aiding assessments of urban systemic program practices and results.

Brownsville's plan includes a comprehensive standards-based, inquiry-centered mathematics and science curriculum that infuses new technology and includes professional development and technical assistance for teachers.

El Paso's strategy includes an alignment of K-16 mathematics, science and technology teaching and learning to create a seamless pathway from kindergarten to college. It also plans an improvement in teacher quality and encouragement to significantly increase the number of students pursuing careers in mathematics, science, engineering and technology.

The Dallas system will focus on graduate student tutoring and mentoring as a major strategy to improve science and mathematics education. Partnering with higher learning institutions, the effort is designed to increase the likelihood that graduate and undergraduate students in science, mathematics, engineering and technology disciplines will elect teaching at the K-12 level, or beyond, as their career choice.

In Detroit, a research venture will evaluate the extent to which students develop a deeper understanding of critical concepts of science based on the use of technology. Results will provide an opportunity to move from continual experimentation to research on practice.

One of San Francisco's major thrusts is to build more effective partnerships with institutions of higher education which have teacher preparation programs. The program will attempt to: develop new courses for both the university and the district; attract and recruit undergraduate science and mathematics majors into a career of secondary teaching; work with teacher induction programs; and impact how teachers receive credentials.
For more information, see: http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/EHR/ESR/usp.asp

National Science Foundation

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