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NSF initiates massive effort to rebuild teaching leadership in science and mathematics.

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News - October 16, 2001 NSF PR 01-80 Media contact:  William Harms (703) 292-8070 Program contact: Janice Earle  (703) 292-5097

NSF Initiates Massive Effort to Rebuild Teaching Leadership in Science and Mathematics

The National Science Foundation has launched a $100 million initiative to regenerate leadership in teaching and research in mathematics, science and technology by establishing Centers for Learning and Teaching throughout the country. The centers will encourage the development of new faculty and new materials to boost learning in kindergarten through 12 th grade as well as prepare graduate students in areas of critical national need to eventually assume leadership roles.

"Not since the late 1950s has such an undertaking been envisioned," said NSF Director Rita Colwell. "Our country again faces new challenges and the work of teachers, scientists and engineers will be critical to our success as we enter this new era. By working with local school systems, this initiative will reshape the learning of thousands of students all over the country."

In order to address the needs, NSF is funding five new centers for $10 million each over a five-year period. NSF funded two prototype centers in the past fiscal year and intends to fund three more, bringing the total funding to $100 million.

The new Centers for Learning and Teaching will help encourage undergraduates to go into research and teaching in sciences and mathematics and create a new cadre of faculty with fresh ideas and talents. They will replace a generation of people now retiring who entered the fields as a result of the investments made in the post-Sputnik era.

Research has shown serious problems in the workforce of teachers in science, mathematics, engineering and technology, said Judith Ramaley, NSF’s assistant director for the Division of Education and Human Resources.

"In grades 7-12, approximately 33 percent of mathematics teachers and 20 percent of science teachers have neither a major nor minor in their teaching field; yet these underqualified teachers teach more than 26 percent of mathematics students and 16 percent of science students," she said.

The problems are confounded by the pending retirements of university faculty who prepare teachers. For example, more than half of the faculty in universities that grant doctoral degrees in mathematics education will be eligible for retirement in two years and almost 80 percent will be eligible in 10 years.

"In addition to the retirements, the challenges of teaching science, mathematics, engineering and technology have changed drastically in the past 40 years," said Ramaley.

The student population is even more diverse than it was in the late 1950s and state testing requirements have put an emphasis in boosting overall student achievement, she added. Additionally, computer technology has opened new possibilities for student learning.

The programs emphasize a diverse approach to teaching and learning and confront problems in urban areas, as well as disadvantaged communities across the country. Research universities and other institutions will work with local school districts to fashion practical approaches to specific problems and provide models for the rest of the nation.


Attachment: List of Centers for Learning and Teaching


Centers for Learning and Teaching

New Centers

The Diversity in Mathematics Education Center for Learning and Teaching is a consortium of mathematics and education faculty at three universities (the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of California-Los Angeles) with two large school districts and the California Subject Matter Project (a state-wide project in mathematics education). The center, based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, looks for ways to improve teaching of algebra to diverse populations. Success in algebra -- considered a gatekeeper course -- determines if students continue to advanced science and mathematics instruction.

The Appalachian Collaborative Center for Learning, Assessment, and Instruction in Mathematics is a partnership of the University of Tennessee, the University of Kentucky, Ohio University, Marshall University, the University of Louisville and the Appalachian Rural Systemic Initiative. It is based at the University of Tennessee and looks at improving mathematics education in isolated rural schools and boosting mathematics faculty teaching in small colleges in the region.

The Center for Informal Learning and Schools is a collaboration of the Exploratorium (a San Francisco based museum), the University of California-Santa Cruz, and Kings College-London (a world-wide leader in training doctoral students in informal education). Researchers will look at ways in which informal learning can improve science education through the center, which is based at the Exploratorium.

The Center for Learning and Teaching in the West brings together Montana State University, Portland State University, Colorado State University, the University of Montana, and the University of Northern Colorado, as well as Fort Belknap College and other tribal and community colleges, Portland Public Schools, and rural and reservation schools in Montana and Colorado. The consortium, based at Montana State University, will look at ways to serve sparsely populated areas through distance learning and other strategies.

The Center for Assessment and Evaluation of Student Learning is a collaboration among WestEd (a major nonprofit research, development, and service agency), The Concord Consortium (a nonprofit education research and development organization), Stanford University, the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of California-Berkeley, more than 10 school districts, and Apple Computer, Inc. The center is based at WestEd, and will develop infrastructure to better prepare specialists in science assessment and evaluation.

Prototype centers

The Mid-Atlantic Center for Mathematics Teaching and Learning is a consortium of the University of Delaware, the University of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, the Delaware State Department of Education, the Prince George’s County Maryland Public Schools and the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Public Schools. It is based at the University of Maryland and works with graduate mathematics education linked to local school reform efforts with diverse student populations.

The Center for the Applications of Information Technology in the Teaching and Learning of Science, housed at Texas A&M University, is a collaboration among that university, the Dana Center at the University of Texas-Austin, a community college, five systemic initiatives, and 20 Education Service Centers in Texas. The center looks at new ways of teaching high school science and examines ways to incorporate technology in current science teaching.