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Math, Science Network Receives $1 Million Grant

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A philanthropic venture of the Annenberg Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has awarded a $1 million grant to the Education Commission of the States to support a mathematics- and science-education reform initiative that will encourage policymakers to interact by means of computer networks.

"It's very different from anything that's been done before,'' said Christie McElhinney, an E.C.S. spokeswoman. "We're showing policymakers how things can and should be done in a different way. That's a unique approach to reform.''

The grant, announced in late May, is the latest in a series of such awards by the Annenberg/C.P.B. Math and Science Project, a 12-year, $60 million project designed to apply technology to the improvement of math and science teaching.

The Colorado-based E.C.S. will use the grant to support the "Synergy Project,'' a pilot restructuring program in New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

The project, which began in March, will harness such technologies as videocassettes, teleconferencing, and computer networks. Its aim is to help education policymakers work cooperatively and thereby to think about reform in new ways.

"We will be designing activities and having conversations with key opinion leaders in the three pilot states and using technology to put vivid pictures in front of them that illustrate what a more effective education system looks like,'' said Arleen Arnsparger, the project's director.

Target Audience Unusual

The project is unusual in that it targets education policymakers, rather than practitioners, at all levels of the education system, noted Elizabeth Holman, an E.C.S. spokeswoman.

A goal of the 27-month initiative is to counter the popular perception that "'policymakers will never use this technology,''' she added.

The initial effort will focus on helping a core group of five to 10 policymakers in each state who will work collaboratively. It is hoped that their work will encourage others to join them on the network.

Though the project has a strong emphasis on computer networking, there also are plans to hold meetings in each state to bring larger groups of decisionmakers together face to face.

At least one video teleconference is also planned, and the E.C.S. will produce a series of as many as 10 videocassettes featuring effective approaches to math and science teaching that can be used to stimulate discussions about reform in those fields.

"We drew the title 'synergy' from the idea that 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts','' Ms. Holman said. "We want policymakers to say 'I see myself in a different way and I can work differently with other folks.'''

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