NSB Approves Multimillion Dollar Award for Milwaukee's System-Wide Education Reform
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Milwaukee is one of three cities named to receive a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for developing systemwide reforms in K-12 science, mathematics and technology education.
NSF's governing body, the National Science Board, has approved Milwaukee's plan as well as proposals offered by the San Diego, Calif. and St. Louis, Mo. urban school systems. Negotiations are underway for the five-year, $15 million grant Milwaukee will receive under NSF's Urban Systemic Initiatives (USI).
"We are happy that Milwaukee will be undertaking this challenging, satisfying, although somewhat risky business of reform for the betterment of its children," Luther S. Williams, NSF Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources, said.
The Milwaukee School system is adopting a multi-faceted reform plan, according to Williams, based on collaborative relationships to improve the teaching of math and science, to reduce achievement gaps among white, ethnic and minority groups and to break artificial boundaries between schools and the local community.
Technology will play a central role in Milwaukee school reform. An inventory analysis and a survey of every teacher and staff member in the system will attempt to find where the greatest needs are in technology development and usage. A five year goal is to provide a fiber optic backbone in every school, a file server, connection to the Internet and networked multimedia computers on a ratio of one computer for every three students.
Each school will operate as a "community of learners." Improvements to teaching and learning will be emphasized. A core group of teaching and mentoring leaders will look to transform school communities into better learning experiences for students.
"As we continue to promote these system-wide reforms in math, science and technology education, we have seen the accomplishments that are possible. I have every reason to expect that Milwaukee schools will stimulate high performance from their students measured by their achievement," Williams said.
Twenty-seven cities are now eligible for NSF support to fund a portion of their science, math and technology education improvements since NSF's urban reform initiatives began in 1993. These cities have the largest numbers of school-aged children living in poverty. NSF purposefully took on some of the hardest possible cases, says Williams, in an attempt to focus reform where it is most needed.
Starting in 1993, each eligible city received $100,000 from NSF to undertake a self-study of its K-12 system of math and science education. Each city was then asked to develop a plan of system-wide reform addressing critical issues of standards, student achievement, policy development, resource allocation and a system of support from the local community.
Nine cities received USI funding in 1994. Seven more received funding in 1995. Milwaukee, San Diego and St. Louis are the first cities chosen to receive funding in 1996.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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