37 Districts With NSF Grants Launch Coalition To Improve Information on Math, Science

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Nearly 40 superintendents who lead many of the nation's largest urban districts last week launched a coalition dedicated to sharing information on math and science education.

All of the 37 participating districts are recipients of grants from the National Science Foundation, either as part of the federal agency's Urban Systemic Initiatives program or, for smaller districts, its Comprehensive Partnership for Science and Mathematics Achievement program. Subscribe to Teacher Magazine

Luther S. Williams, the head of the NSF's education and human resources directorate, said last week that the aim of the coalition was to push districts to share both successes and failures so that each, in isolation, is not reinventing the wheel. That will mean the agency will get more for its money, he said.

"What they are going to do is share math and science model programs, assessment strategies, use of technology, and approaches for meeting accountability to the public," Mr. Williams said.

Another goal in creating the coalition is to prevent the kind of failure of an NSF-funded reform initiative that occurred in the District of Columbia schools, Mr. Williams said. Last fall, two years into the program, the NSF pulled the plug on what was to have been a $13.5 million, five-year award to improve math and science education. The district lost about $10 million. ( "NSF Cuts Off Funds to D.C.,Three States," Oct. 2, 1996.)

Though unsure such a coalition would have saved the program, Mr. Williams said, "I think it's reasonable to suggest they would have done a much better job."

Electronic communications will be essential to the success of the coalition, Mr. Williams said. Members are to share information through e-mail or a common World Wide Web site. One district may eventually host an administrative center for the group, he said.

Participation in the coalition is not a condition of continued NSF funding, he said. But districts will be "strongly encouraged" to participate, he said, in part by contributing a tiny share of their grants toward its operation.

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