NSB Approves Multimillion-Dollar Awards for Atlanta and Jacksonville Public Schools
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Atlanta, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla., were named today to receive a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for system-wide reform of their K-12 mathematics, science and technology education programs.
The National Science Board (NSB), NSF's governing body, approved both cities' reform plans at its May 7 meeting in Arlington, Va. The approval clears the way for negotiations to begin for five-year, $15-million grants, managed by NSF's Urban Systemic Initiatives (USI) program. Negotiations will likely conclude in late September, in time for the awards to be made and for activities to commence in the 1998/99 academic year.
"The addition of Atlanta and Jacksonville to the growing list of urban public school systems that have chosen to undertake the significant challenge of reform will be a rewarding enterprise for both cities and the nation at large," said Luther S. Williams, NSF assistant director for education and human resources. "Through this bold step, these cities will be contributing to the intellectual betterment of their children."
According to Williams, both Atlanta and Jacksonville are adopting comprehensive plans that will benefit all students by: promoting increased graduation requirements; increasing rates of course-taking in rigorous math and science; and promoting better support for students through instructional improvements.
Local education policymakers are also revising course and curricular content, incorporating a standards-based approach, providing math and science achievement benchmarks for students, parents, teachers and administrators.
USIs share a common vision to: improve the math and science literacy of all students; provide the math and science fundamentals that will permit all students to participate fully in a technological society; and enable a significantly greater number of these students to pursue careers in math, science, engineering and technology.
Accomplishing these goals, concludes the NSB, "requires systemic change that provides for strong and effective leadership at multiple levels."
"I have every reason to expect that Atlanta and Jacksonville will elicit higher performance levels from their students, as measured by their achievements," Williams said.
Currently, 22 cities participate in the USI program, which began in 1993. These cities have very large numbers of school-aged children living in poverty. "NSF purposefully took on some of the hardest possible cases," said Williams, "in an attempt to focus reform where it is most needed and to test the feasibility of the program designs and strategies."
Starting in 1993, each eligible city received $100,000 from NSF to undertake an assessment of its K-12 system of math, science, and technology 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. The resulting proposals were then subjected to competitive merit review through peer evaluation.
The USI program was initiated with the funding of nine cities in 1994. Atlanta and Jacksonville are the first cities chosen this year to receive funding.
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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