Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

NSF Grants $13.5 Million to Schools in Nation's Capital: An `Investment,' Officials Say, to Boost Science and Math Education

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

NSF Grants $13.5 Million to Schools in Nation's Capital: An `Investment,' Officials Say, to Boost Science and Math Education

Article excerpt

NSF Grants $13.5 Million to Schools in Nation's Capital: An. 'Investment,' Officials Say, to Boost Science and Math Education

by Michael A. Fletcher

WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to boost the number of Blacks and other minorities prepared for technological careers, the National Science Foundation (NSF) plans to award up to $13.5 million to the District of Columbia public schools to totally revamp the way the schools teach science and math to the District's 82,000 students.

Called the largest "merit-based" federal investment in the Washington schools, the recently announced award is aimed at rewriting and better organizing technology-related curricula in the District schools, which are 88-percent African American.

"What is being requested of the District of Columbia Public Schools is a truly revolutionary transaction," said Luther S. Williams, the NSF's assistant director for education and human resources. "NFS is asking that the school district produce a true systemic reform ... not attempt incremental improvement of the existing one."

Rather than an ordinary grant, the NSF characterizes the money it is spending on the District's schools as an "investment" that it plans to closely oversee. It also vows to be a partner in helping the District remake its science, math and technology curriculum.

"Each partner will have specific responsibilities and will be held accountable for meeting them," Williams said. "A measure of this accountability is that this award is being provided through a cooperative agreement between NSF and [the District] which will list specific deliverables and benchmark measures of progress."

Williams said a key element of NSF's role would be to help marshal federal resources already available to the schools into "a coherent, unitary enterprise."

In addition to the $13.5 million NSF grant, the District expects another $5 million from other federal agencies, including the departments of Education and Energy.

The school system is slated to receive a total of $2.5 million in the first year of the grant, the federal fiscal year that ends this month.

Franklin Smith, the District's superintendent of schools, said he planned to use the grant to better coordinate the school system's ongoing efforts to make science and math instruction more accessible to students. …

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