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D.C. Gets $13.5 Million N.S.F. Grant To Reform Math, Science Teaching

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Washington

The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $13.5 million grant to the District of Columbia public schools to support comprehensive reform of mathematics and science teaching.

The award marks an unusual departure from the N.S.F.'s emphasis on education reform in the nation's poorest cities, but officials said that Washington's high percentage of African-American students justified the change.

As with other awards made under the N.S.F.'s Urban Systemic Initiatives program, the school system will have to meet specific targets for improving student performance every year to qualify for funding in the future.

The "cooperative agreement" between the N.S.F. and the school district was announced at a news conference here last week by Neal F. Lane, the N.S.F.'s director, and Superintendent of Schools Franklin Smith.

"This is not an entitlement, this is an investment," said Luther Williams, the N.S.F.'s assistant director of education and human resources.

Because Washington is not one of the poorest cities in the nation, it is technically ineligible for funding under the guidelines of the systemic-reform initiative.

But N.S.F. officials noted that roughly 88 percent of the district's 81,000 students are African-American. A major thrust of the N.S.F.'s systemic-reform programs to is close the "performance gap" between white and minority students on standardized tests.

Four-Part Plan

Mr. Williams noted that in addition to the N.S.F. award, other federal agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Education and Energy departments, have pledged an additional $5 million to support education reform in the nation's capital.

The N.S.F. will contribute $1.5 million of the $2.5 million to be awarded to the school system in the first year of the program.

The award will be used to carry out a four-part reform plan that includes the following elements:

  • A new math, science, and technology curriculum aligned with national standards;
  • The creation of a professional-development program for math and science teachers and administrators that emphasizes hands-on and student-centered instruction;
  • The establishment of demonstration schools and teacher-led research groups at the elementary, middle, and high school levels to disseminate the latest and most effective practices; and
  • Efforts to forge links with community organizations, scientific institutions, and other resources to enhance math and science teaching.

The award is one of the largest yet made under the systemic-reform program.

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