Science Agency To Fund Teacher-Training Plan

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Washington--The $15 million that Congress appropriated for precollegiate science and mathematics education next year is likely to be divided between two programs: a $1-million project to recognize excellence in teaching and a $14-million program to increase secondary-school teachers' knowledge of and interest in the two fields.

The preliminary plan, which must be approved by Congressional appropriations committees, was described at last week's meeting of the National Science Board Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology.

Analyzing the 'Crisis'

The 20-member commission was established in April 1982 to analyze all aspects of the "crisis" in science and mathematics education. At the end of its 18-month "mission," it must issue recommendations on how to respond to the problems.

Now approaching the point of devising the recommendations, the commission members wanted to know not only how the National Science Foundation (nsf) proposed to spend the $15 million, but why officials favored those approaches.

Walter Gillespie, director of the office of scientific and engineering personnel and education for nsf, told commission members that the foundation proposed to focus on secondary-school teachers because officials prefer to "keep the money together" rather than spreading it across all grade levels.

Foundation officials "recognize tremendous problems" at the elementary level, Mr. Gillespie said, but do not believe that the $15 million would make enough of an impact to justify using it there.

Under the proposed plan, school districts would evaluate programs to see how they could improve teachers' knowledge and skills and would then apply for the funds. The federal government would provide half the funding for secondary-school pro-grams, and the rest would come from state and local sources.

Collaboration and cooperation with universities and local industries, Mr. Gillespie said, would play major roles in the plan.

The general structure of the proposal, several observers noted, bears a strong resemblance to earlier nsf programs--summer institutes for teachers and the like.

'Organizing Questions'

At the commission's meeting, discussion focused on the "organizing questions" that the group will use to frame its recommendations. Summarizing much of the discussion at the meeting, Cecily Cannan Selby, co-chairman of the commission, described four major areas that the commission is likely to address:

The issue of public perception of science and mathematics education. In its first interim report, the commission suggested that public perceptions, rather than public schools, were largely responsible for the sorry state of science education. (See Education Week, Oct. 27, 1982.) A recommendation might address how public perceptions can be improved.

The issue of "curricular resources," including educational goals. Studies have found that many districts offer only minimal courses in science and mathematics, which may deter or prevent students from pursuing further studies in the subjects. The commission could offer suggestions on how state and local officials could expand or modify curricula.

The issue of teaching science and mathematics. Numerous surveys have shown that many science and mathematics teachers are inadequately trained. And the few who are well trained are likely to leave teaching for higher-paying jobs in industry. Hence, the commission's recommendations will probably deal with salaries and prestige as well as teacher training.

The issue of technology. Technology, the commission agreed, will be a shaping force in both how science and mathematics are taught and what careers are available to students after high school. The recommendations may address both aspects.

Within each of the four areas, Ms. Selby suggested, the commission may consider other issues: the role of "exemplary programs"; the "fundamental issues of structural change" in education (such as lengthening the school year, for instance); and the type of educational research that has been done or should be done on the four topics.

Vol. 02, Issue 18

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