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Researchers Choose 6 Sites To Test Mathematics Project

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Six schools have been chosen to participate in the first phase of the quasar Project, a national initiative to improve middle-school mathematics instruction for students in poor communities.

Quasar, which stands for Quantitative Understanding and Amplifying Student Achievement and Reasoning, is a project of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

The five-year effort is being supported by a $10-million grant from the Ford Foundation.

Researchers from the center and from outside institutions will study the development and implementation of the programs used at the various schools, as well as their effect on the mathematical knowledge and performance of participating students.

Additional schools will be chosen in the later stages of the project as "adaptation sites," where the programs now under development can be field-tested.

The schools chosen for the project were selected from an initial group of 180 nominations. The field was narrowed through review by an expert panel and site visits.

Each school selected will receive an annual grant of $450,000 over the five-year life of the program.

The final list of schools comprises a "constellation of sites that represented ethnic and geographic diversity" in addition to strong intellectual and instructional programs, according to Edward A. Silver, director of the project.

Four of the schools have been chosen as quasar "development sites," described as "hot house" settings for designing and implementing new methods or modifying existing ones.

They include the Magnet Middle School in Holyoke, Mass., which opened this fall with a mission of serving the needs of at-risk Hispanic students. (See Education Week, Aug. 1, 1990.)

Researchers and teachers at the school will attempt to adapt "Summermath," a program for high-school-age girls, to the needs of middle-school students.

The enrollment at the school is more than 60 percent Latino.

The other development sites are:

The Portsmouth Middle School in Portland, Ore.

Researchers from Portland State University and faculty members from the school will attempt to refine "Visual Mathematics" and "Math in the Mind's Eye," curricula that engage students in the use of "manipulatives," models, sketches, and diagrams as tools for teaching key concepts and principles in math.

The school's population is 64 percent white.

The Sulzberger Middle School in Philadelphia.

In partnership with the Philadelphia Alliance for Teaching Humanities in Schools/Philadelphia Renaissance in Science and Mathematics, researchers there will emphasize the transition from, arithmetic to algebra, using "Transition Mathematics," a program developed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics project.

The school's student body is 99 percent African-American.

The Thomas A. Edison Middle School in Milwaukee.

The school's faculty, in cooperation with researchers from Marquette University, propose to supplement the existing curriculum with the cognitively guided instruction method developed at the University of Wisconsin. Under that approach, teachers use research findings on students' intuitive knowledge and reasoning to develop and modify instruction.

The school's student body is 51 percent African-American, with large populations of Hispanic, Asian-American, and white students.

In addition, two schools have been chosen as quasar "planning sites," where the groundwork for new instructional programs will be laid over the next four months. They are:

The Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Atlanta, where the student population is 90 percent black.

Researchers there will develop a strategy to achieve the school district's goal of making algebra accessible to all students.

The Spurgeon Intermediate School in Santa Ana, Calif., which has a student body that is 88 percent Mexican-American.

There, the staff will develop an approach to integrate the teaching of math and science.

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