Third of Science, Math Teachers Each Year Found To BenefitFrom Small E.D. Program

By Debra Viadero — October 24, 1990 3 min read

Arlington, Va.--Preliminary findings from a soon-to-be-released study suggest that as many as one third of the nation’s precollegiate science and mathematics teachers are benefiting each year from a small, little-known federal program designed to improve teaching in those fields. The study, by the research firms sri International and Policy Studies Associates, is the first to take an in depth look at the projects funded across the nation through the federal government’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Education Program. The $130-million program was created in 1984--under a different name--to improve science and mathematics education by funding a wide range of professional-development activities for educators teaching those subjects.

Funds from the program go to state education departments and higher-education authorities, and in turn are channeled to school districts and colleges and universities.

Despite having been around for a relatively short time, according to the new report, the program “has rapidly become a vital element of the nation’s strategy for improving math and science education.”

During the 1988-89 school year, for example, the report said Eisenhower program funds helped pay for 600,000 different professional-development experiences for teachers, ranging from brief inservice workshops to extensive, graduate-level courses.

“We interviewed some teachers who could not have gotten their master’s degrees otherwise,” said Andrew A. Zucker, co-director of the $750,000, two-year study. He presented his preliminary findings last week during a federally sponsored conference here of more than 200 state coordinators of Eisenhower-funded projects.

Of some concern, however, the researchers noted, is that those experiences lasted, on average, only six hours. “There is a benefit in shorter exper iences in that it raises teachers’ level of awareness of important ideas,” Mr. Zucker said. “But that is often not enough to help them make the significant changes in actual practice that many [national science and math] groups are recommending.”

The researchers also found that:At the school-district level, the funds tended to be a “modest resource,” amounting to an average of $30 per teacher. Programs operated through colleges and universities, in contrast, received an average of $31,000.

The activities funded tended to re flect the educational priorities of a state and, in most cases, the funds ac counted for half of all of a state’s dis cretionary money set aside for improving math and science education.

More than 700 demonstrationprojects were funded through the pro gram during the 1988-89 school year; and,

In colleges and universities, the directors of Eisenhower-funded ef forts tended to be faculty members of mathematics and science depart ments, rather than teacher educa tors, and many of those projects had unusually low overhead costs.

Funding Increase Sought

Officials of the U.S. Education De partment and state project coordinaH tors said that the report’s generally positive findings would provide am munition for their efforts to lobby this year for a substantial increase in funding for the program. Origin ally known as Title II of the Educa tion for Economic Security Act, or P.L. 98-377, the program has been appropriated as little as $50 million in past years. The Education DeL partment is asking the Congress, during the current budget talks, to increase the program’s funding to $230 million in fiscal year 1991.

“By and large, elementary-school teachers get no training in science and math unless they want to spe cialize in those fields,” said Alicia Coro, director of school-improve ment programs for the department’s office of elementary and secondary education. “This may be their only chance to improve their knowledge in those areas.”

Copies of the final report will be available in December by writing the Planning and Evaluation Ser vice, Office of Planning, Budget, and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Ed ucation, Room 3127, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202.

A version of this article appeared in the October 24, 1990 edition of Education Week as Third of Science, Math Teachers Each Year Found To BenefitFrom Small E.D. Program