Teaching & Learning

October 08, 2003 6 min read
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NSF Hands Out $216 Million To Enhance Math, Science

The National Science Foundation announced last week that it would be giving $216.3 million in grants to improve student achievement in mathematics and science.

More information about the Math and Science Partnership program is available from the National Science Foundation.

This is the second round of grants the independent federal agency has awarded under its Math and Science Partnerships program, which pairs experts from colleges and universities with state departments of education and individual school districts. (“NSF Plots New Education Strategy,” Nov. 7, 2001.)

For example, in this round of five- year grants, the board of regents for the University System of Georgia was granted $34.6 million for a collaborative venture of the Georgia education department, seven colleges under the university system, and 13 districts in four different regions of the state.

The Georgia project will focus on improving teachers’ professional development, designing more rigorous math and science curricula, and spearheading a public-awareness campaign aimed at parents, teachers, and students. The campaign will encourage students to take higher-level math and science courses.

Other grantees include Michigan State University, which will get $35 million to work with three districts in Michigan and two in Ohio, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which was granted $19.9 million to work with the Milwaukee public schools.

The NSF awarded $240 million in grants in 2002.

Teacher-Prep Aid

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $4.5 million grant to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education to train reading professors at colleges that primarily enroll minority students.

The funding, announced last month, will provide professional development for 115 teacher-educators who work at 25 historically black schools, Hispanic-serving institutions, and American Indian tribal colleges.

“More than half of the African-Americans teaching in public schools today earned their bachelor’s degrees at historically black colleges and universities,” said Boyce Williams, the project director and vice president for institutional relations at NCATE, in a statement. “It is critical that teachers from these institutions and other primarily minority- serving institutions have the necessary knowledge and skills to teach P-12 students to read and succeed at higher levels.”

NCATE, based in Washington, accredits 550 institutions nationwide that offer teacher-preparation programs.

Brand NEA

McDonald’s over Burger King. Scotch tape rather than the generic brand. And, for teachers, the National Education Association in preference to a slew of independent teacher associations or no association at all.

That’s the line of thinking these days at the nation’s largest union, which is opening a division of “branding and message development” as part of a larger effort to build an in-house public relations firm.

The new shop will concentrate on boosting recognition for the 2.7-million member group, which represents teachers and other people working in schools. The NEA is in the midst of a recruitment drive focused on 20 of its weaker state affiliates.

“As you know, message development and discipline has been one of our greatest challenges over the past year,” said John Wilson, the executive director of the NEA, in introducing the new division to employees.

He has hired Steve Grant, an executive with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and an adjunct professor at American University in Washington, to manage the group, starting later this month.

The NEA also recently hired Andy Linebaugh to direct the union’s public relations department. Mr. Linebaugh has been the communications director for the Massachusetts Teachers Association, a state affiliate, as well as a journalist and an English teacher.

Pledge Popularity Grows

In the two years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, 17 states have passed or amended laws requiring the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, according to a survey by the Education Commission of the States.

Survey results are available from the Education Commission of the States.

In all, 35 states require the pledge during the school day, and five others encourage schools to include it.

The Denver-based ECS also found that 10 states have an oath to their state flags, with Texas mandating that it be recited in addition to the Pledge of Allegiance.

While the 35 states require public schools to set aside time for reciting the pledge, student participation is optional in all but seven of them.

In a 1943 decision, however, the U.S. Supreme Court held that states cannot compel students to take part in such observances as reciting the pledge or saluting the flag.

Federal courts ruled earlier this year in two cases that pledge laws violate students’ First Amendment rights. In an ongoing case in Pennsylvania, a U.S. District Court judge handed down a permanent injunction on the pledge requirement there. A federal district court in Colorado, meanwhile, issued a temporary injunction against that state’s law through the 2004 legislative session, when lawmakers are expected to consider an amendment to the law.

Smithsonian Online

The world’s largest museum complex has launched a Web site specifically for educators and education. Billing itself as “the gateway to Smithsonian education resources,” offers teaching materials, ideas for lessons and field trips, and links to hundreds of online resources.

The site draws on the resources of the Washington-based Smithsonian Institution museums, the National Zoo, and the Smithsonian’s research centers. It includes separate areas for teachers, students, and families, and it features interactive activities with graphics and animation.

In the field trip section, tap in “Civil War” and “grades 4- 8" to get, among other possibilities, student participation in a mock trial at the Smithsonian of the abolitionist John Brown. In the lesson-plans section, use “language arts” and the same grade levels to bring up detailed directions for helping students write a dialogue between objects they have studied. Users can even see on the same Web page the results that one teacher got from the assignment.

Ciao, Studenti Americani

The College Board plans to add a course in Italian language and culture to its popular Advanced Placement program in 2005. The course will join 34 others in the high school program, which introduces rigorous academic content and allows secondary students to earn college credit.

More than 1 million students across the country took 1.7 million AP tests last year.

The Italian government and several Italian- American organizations are helping to underwrite the development of the Italian course. A task force will draft an outline of the course and exam specifications, according to the College Board.

The new subject is part of an effort by the New York City-based board to promote the study of other cultures and languages.

Earlier this year, the board’s trustees also approved plans to offer courses and exams in Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. They also agreed to study the feasibility of courses and exams in African- American history, Latino studies, and Asian studies.

—Julie Blair, Michelle Galley, Bess Keller, & Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

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