$12.5 Million National Science Foundation Grants Awarded

October 25, 2002
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) will be a partner in two major grant projects totaling $12.5 million funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), with the goals of enriching science instruction so students can meet rigorous state standards and of providing science to diverse learners.

A $7.5 million grant will partner MCPS and university science teachers in a collaborative effort to improve science teaching at both the high school and college levels. Another $5 million grant will provide funding for research on how to differentiate the science curriculum for a highly diverse student enrollment.

"These projects underscore the importance of working closely with area colleges and universities as well as the National Science Foundation," Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said. "Together with our science teachers, we have a great opportunity to make lasting improvements in what students know and are able to do in science."

The grants reflect an ongoing collaboration with the University of Maryland system, Montgomery College and George Washington University that is a crucial component of Weast's efforts to improve resources and support for the school system.

MCPS will be a co-investigator in the $7.5 million NSF grant project, along with the University System of Maryland and Montgomery College. The project, "Vertically Integrated Partnerships K-16," will develop a K-16 professional development model for high school science teachers, prospective teaching candidates and college faculty.

One major goal of the project is to enrich science teacher knowledge to improve high school science instruction so students can better meet rigorous state science standards as measured on the Maryland Science High School Assessments. Another is to improve teaching skills of college science faculty in order to improve the quality of undergraduate general education.

The partnership will bring together high school science teachers with their peers from Montgomery College and the University of Maryland system to form the Maryland Science Faculty, charged with collaboratively rethinking and redesigning how science is learned, both in high school and college. Through summer institutes and school-year collaborative sessions, small professional learning communities will develop best instructional practices and materials linked to high school assessments.

The project will phase in biology, earth/space systems science and physics/chemistry over a five-year period, and will involve more than 350 science teachers serving about 37,000 high school students, along with 36 university faculty.

The $5.2 million NSF grant will enable MCPS, in partnership with George Washington University (GWU), to conduct research on how to differentiate the science curriculum for a diverse student population. The Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs and GWU will collaborate on the five-year research project titled "Scaling Up Highly Rated Curriculum Units for Diverse Student Populations: Using Evidence to Close Achievement Gaps."

The project will focus on identifying and understanding specific differentiation for diverse learners. As a project partner, MCPS will be allocated $2 million of the $5.2 million grant. The collaboration will involve researchers from both GWU and the Office of Shared Accountability.

Grant activities will improve the way MCPS serves students by seeking to better understand how highly rated curriculum materials function in middle school science classrooms. Special attention will be paid to their effects on achievement of diverse students. All middle school science students and science teachers across MCPS will be served by the project.

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