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10-Year Project Aims To Improve Math for Minorities

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Washington--The Mathematical Sciences Education Board of the National Research Council last week launched a 10-year project designed to improve educational and career opportunities in mathematics for minority students.

Organizers said the initiative, called the Alliance to Improve Mathematics for Minorities, or aimm, will be a concerted effort by leaders in precollegiate and higher education, parent and community groups, professional organizations, business, government, private foundations, and the news media.

At a meeting here late last week, representatives from those areas4were set to adopt a plan for the project that draws on recommendations from six regional workshops hosted by the MSEB over the past year with the help of a grant from the Exxon Education Foundation.

"Growing numbers of minority students and adults are increasingly disenchanted with their continued lack of accomplishment in school and in mathematics," Iris M. Carl, vice chairman of the MSEB and president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said in one of several papers prepared to frame the discussions at last week's sessions.

She expressed the hope that the initiative would help "prevent their disenchantment from hardening into disbelief in themselves, their innate abilities, and the national education agenda."

Officials of the mathematical-sciences board said they would ask the leaders involved in the meeting to spearhead efforts within their fields to improve minority students' academic achievement.

The groups represented in the effort include the American Federation of Teachers, the Children's Television Network, the Education Commission of the States, the Exxon Education Foundation, the National Alliance of Black School Educators, the National Education Association, the National Governors' Association, and several federal agencies, ranging from the Education Department to the National Security Agency.

State and District Efforts

The plan prepared for guiding Project aimm also emphasizes the formation of state coalitions of organizations and agencies to make improvements in math education.

It asks school systems to make fuller use of math and science specialists; establish mentor-teacher programs in those areas; evaluate teacher competency on an ongoing basis; reduce the workload for teachers; develop opportunities for elementary-school teachers to develop expertise in specific content areas; and ensure that panels of math specialists review preservice training programs for teachers.

As further steps toward enhancing minority performance, the recommendations call for elimination of tracking if no provision has been made for early intervention for pupils with lagging achievement; exploration of alternative methods for testing; creation of alternative programs of instruction for students who demonstrate two or more years of declining achievement; redesign of curricula to ensure that all students study math and science; efforts to improve the verbal skills of students through math instruction; and development of approaches to introduce the importance of math to parents who have not completed high school.

In addition to its proposals for school districts, the plan:

Calls on institutions of higher education to improve elementary-school teacher-education programs in math;

Recommends that business and foundation leaders establish and fund such educational endeavors as "community mathematics-science centers" and programs in those subjects targeted for younger children;

Encourages parents to emphasize to their children the importance of studying math;

Urges community groups to help get minority parents more involved in math education and in the political process for improving schools;

Asks the government to increase funding for math education;

Calls on professional organizations in the field to establish policies to increase minority participation in the mathematical sciences; and

Requests the news media to publicize exemplary programs and to air public-service announcements stressing the importance of mathematics.

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