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Prepared under Contract
#SED 92-55369

Nancy Vaden-Kiernan
Joan Michie
Joy A. Frechtling
Westat, Inc.

October 1994
NSF Program Officer
Conrad Katzenmeyer

Directorate for Education
and Human Resources

Division of Research,
Evaluation, and Dissemination

About the National Science Foundation
The Foundation provides awards for research
in the sciences and engineering. The awardee is
wholly responsible for the conduct of such
research and preparation of the results for
publication. The Foundation, therefore, does not
assume responsibility for the research findings or
their interpretation.

The Foundation welcomes proposals from all
qualified scientists and engineers, and strongly
encourages women, minorities, and persons with
disabilities to compete fully in any of the research
and related programs described here.

In accordance with federal statutes,
regulations, and NSF policies, no person on
grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin,
or disability shall be excluded from participation
in, denied the benefits of, or be subject to
discrimination under any program or activity

receiving financial assistance from the National
Science Foundation.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and
Engineers with Disabilities (FASED)
funding for special assistance or equipment to
enable persons with disabilities (investigators and
other staff, including student research assistants)
to work on an NSF project. See the program
announcement or contact the program
coordinator at (703) 306-1636.

The National Science Foundation has TTD
(Telephone Device for the Deaf) capability,
which enables individuals with hearing
impairment to communicate with the Foundation
about NSF programs, employment, or general
information. This number is (703) 306-0090.


Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for
Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching

This report summarizes the findings of an
impact study of the National Science
Foundation’s Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching program.
The program provides recognition to outstanding
mathematics and science teachers in all 50 states
and territories.

Although the program has been in place for
over a decade and is considered to be

extremely valuable, little information has been
gathered about its impact on those who are
recognized. In 1994, NSF asked Westat to carry
out a series of informal conversations with a
small number of awardees to gather more
systematic information on what it means to be
recognized as an awardee and how receiving the
award has affected the teachers’ lives and
careers. This report presents the results of these

This report is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under NSF contract
no. SED 92-55369. Any opinions, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this report are those of
the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for
Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in
Science and Mathematics Teaching program
(PAESMT) was begun in 1983 to recognize
outstanding science and mathematics teachers in
all 50 states and the territories. Since that time,
over 1,600 teachers have received national
recognition for their subject matter competence
and teaching skills. Although PAESMT is a well
recognized and respected program, no formal
evaluation of its impact on participants has ever
been conducted. The purpose of this study is to
examine program impact as perceived by the
awardees themselves.

Conversations were held with 115 of the 430
teachers who received awards in 1990 and 1991.
Topics covered included

· the impacts of the recognition on the

· their use of financial rewards and gifts,
· their reflections on the nomination,
selection, and award process, and

· their suggestions for strengthening the
program and broadening its coverage.

Our findings show that PAESMT is seen as
an overwhelming success in terms of its impact
on participants and the recognition it provides to
the importance of good mathematics and science
instruction. Strong positive effects are found on
the personal level, the professional level, and the
public level for those who have been recognized.
Awardees report increased respect for teachers
and the teaching profession and a renewed sense
of validation for their efforts and motivation to

continue as teachers. Few awardees leave
teaching; many take on increased duties and

The monetary reward ($7,500) associated
with the award is used in a wide variety of ways,
with most recipients spreading the funds among a
number of different uses, and many seeking
opportunities to combine them with other
resources to make a larger and more long-lasting
impact. Many teachers look for ways to share
the reward with their colleagues, providing
support for conferences or other training
activities. Ninety percent see the financial award
as an important part of the recognition.

While many of the awardees have received
considerable personal recognition and publicity
as a result of the award, awareness of the award
itself and the nomination process was described
as less broad based and in need of improvement.
Some felt that only those actively involved in
professional teacher organizations were
sufficiently familiar with it. Other suggestions,
besides increased publicity for bringing a wider
representation of the teaching force into the
recognition circle, centered on possible revisions
to the application process itself. The application
process was described as being "burdensome"
and discouraging to some very worthy

Taken as a whole, the findings indicate that
PAESMT is a program of significant merit and
that its positive impacts reach far beyond the
1,400 teachers who have been individually

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 1

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in
Science and Mathematics Teaching program
(PAESMT) was begun in 1983 to recognize
secondary-level mathematics and science
teachers. Over the last decade, the program has
expanded to include elementary as well as
secondary teachers in all 50 states and the
territories. Over 1,600 teachers have received
national recognition. In addition, individual
states have provided celebrations to recognize the
talents of hundreds of teachers.

Criteria for selection include subject matter
competence and evidence of sustained
professional development, an understanding of
how children learn mathematics and science, an
ability to engage students in direct, hands-on
learning activities, and an ability to foster
curiosity and generate excitement among
students. Awardees are expected to provide
examples of their innovative approaches to
teaching, as well as their leadership abilities
(description taken from PROFILES: A Closer
NSF, in press).

Although PAESMT is a well recognized and
respected program, no formal evaluation of it has
ever been conducted. In an effort to gain
knowledge that will enhance and improve the
program, the National Science Foundation (NSF)
has requested a study of the program's impact as
seen through the eyes of recent awardees. The
purpose of the impact study is to gather data
from a small sample of awardees that will be
used to examine both the strengths and
weaknesses of the program and to determine the
effects on a teacher selected for this program.

The sample for this impact study was drawn
from 430 awardees recognized in 1990 and
1991. We selected this group because

· Teachers from all grade levels (elementary
and secondary teachers) were included
(elementary teachers were added to the
program in 1990);

· All awardees received a $7,500 award to
use for educational purposes (this amount
was established in 1989);

· The relative recency of the award would
result in comments on the strengths and
weaknesses of the program that are
current; and

· Sufficient time has passed to allow the
development of a meaningful picture of the
impact of being named an awardee.

A sample of 126 awardees was drawn using
the following rules:

· Awardees were sorted by state.
· Awardees from Puerto Rico, the
Department of Defense schools, and the
U.S. territories were excluded.

· All minorities were selected with a
probability of "1." (These awardees--25 in
total--were heavily concentrated in two
locations, the District of Columbia, 6, and
Hawaii, 5.)

· The remaining 101 members of the sample
were selected within states, balancing out
subject matter and grade level.

Telephone interviews were completed with
115 awardees, 91.3 percent of those sampled.
The remaining 11 were not interviewed because
of problems in scheduling or locating the awardee
or because he or she had died. None of the
awardees contacted declined to be interviewed.

The exhibit that follows presents the
characteristics of the respondent sample.

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 2

The respondent sample
(1990 and 1991 awardees)

Elementary Secondary
(N=58) (N=57)

American Indian....... 1 0
Asian ....................... 7 2
African American..... 5 4
Hispanic .................. 0 2
White....................... 45 49

Male........................ 3 17
Female..................... 55 40

Mathematics ............ 28 27
Science .................... 30 30

A telephone interview protocol was developed
to guide the conversations. Although the exact
questions varied from respondent to respondent,
the menu of topics covered included the

· the impacts of the recognition on the

· their use of financial awards and gifts,
· their reflections on the nomination,
selection, and award process, and

· their suggestions for strengthening the
program and broadening its coverage.

Overview of Findings
Our conversations with the sample of
awardees from the 1990 and 1991 program years
indicate that the Presidential Awards for
Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching
program is clearly seen as a success in the eyes
of the many elementary and secondary teachers
who have been recognized. Impacts are found on
the personal, professional, and public levels. The
program appears to be tremendously effective,
not only in terms of its impact on individuals, but
also for the recognition it provides for the many
success stories in the field of teaching. Further,

the benefits of the program are shared by many
colleagues and students with whom the awardees

The pages that follow present what we
learned from our conversations with the 115
awardees, frequently in their own words. And,
while there are some problems that were revealed
and some rough edges that need smoothing, it is
evident that PAESMT is a program of significant

Impacts of the Recognition
The awardees' widespread view of the
PAESMT was extremely positive. Many
expressed the thrill of winning the award, the
benefit of the recognition, and the changes that
the financial award allowed them to make. Many
felt that the award gave them renewed interest in
continuing a teaching career. And, fortunately,
most of the outstanding teachers have chosen to
remain in the classroom. The sentiment heard
over and over again was that of "validation."
The award validated their own personal belief in
the importance of teaching and their confidence
in their ability to make a difference. As one
awardee put it,

It was an incredible experience. I
am still floating. It expanded me
professionally and gave me the
freedom to do what I want to do.

Others discussed the statement the award
makes about the teaching profession. One
awardee commented,

It is a big award and a great
honor. It's difficult for teachers to
be recognized and this award says
that what you do is important.

Another said,
It stresses that excellence in
education is recognized and

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 3

Other awardees emphasized what the award
allowed them to do for other people. Because of
the award, noted one recipient, he will affect
many students with the upgrading of education
accomplished through his leadership efforts. As
he put it,

the students are the real recipients
of the award.

The awardees also reported that the award
affected the attitudes of their students and their
students' parents, enhanced interest and respect
for excellence in teaching among local school
personnel, affected opportunities for awardees to
make changes, and led to increased opportunities
for networking with other teachers.

Unfortunately, not all of the effects of the
award were positive. Some teachers experienced
jealousy from their fellow teachers and from
administrators. In some cases
the jealousy served as a positive
motivating factor and created a
beneficial competition, while in
other cases it created a negative
atmosphere for the awardee.

Both the positive and
negative effects of the award are
discussed in more detail below.
Where possible, percentages are
provided to summarize results.
In other cases, the range of
activities engaged in by
awardees are described as
examples of activities rather
than as percentages.

Changes in Job Duties
By and large, the teachers recognized by the
program have remained teachers and continue to
provide high quality educational experiences for
their students.

The majority of teachers (73 percent) did not
experience significant changes in their job duties

or responsibilities following the award, although
over a third (37 percent) mentioned an increase in
the amount of respect that they were given at
their job. Some awardees said that the increased
respect and credibility came from other school
personnel, while others described increased
respect from parents. Many indicated that others
trusted their judgment more and that they were
now asked to contribute whenever important
decisions were made. Some also mentioned that
the award enhanced respect for the school within
the community.

Of those 27 percent of respondents who
experienced changes in their job duties, these
changes were largely in the direction of a higher
level of responsibility than they had prior to the
award. (It should be noted that some teachers did
not experience significant changes in job
responsibilities because they already had a high
level of responsibility at the time of the award.)
For those who did experience
significant changes, new
responsibilities included
becoming the chair of the
department or the coordinator of
curriculum, starting new
programs, being on committees,
and training other teachers.
Other respondents changed
schools or began teaching at the
university level.

Few of the respondents
intended to leave teaching. Only
12 of the 113 respondents (11
percent) who had been classroom
teachers at the time of their
award did not intend to remain
so. Of these, 2 were no longer
teaching because they had retired. The others
who reported that they were no longer involved
in teaching (or intended to leave teaching
shortly) remained in the field of education in
roles such as training other teachers or working
at the state level.

Almost half of the awardees (49 percent) who
were still teaching at the time of the interview

Percentage of classroom
teachers intending to
remain in teaching
(1990 and 1991 awardees)

11% Leaving

89% Remaining

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 4

said that the award had increased their
enthusiasm for teaching. Most of those who said
their enthusiasm had not increased indicated that
they had always loved teaching and their
enthusiasm was always high. Of those who
noted a change in their enthusiasm,
many mentioned that the PAESMT
award renewed them and made
them believe that what they were
doing was important. For
example, respondents said that the
award was "a real shot in the arm,"
a "boost," and that it gave them
"renewed spirit." The following
comments illustrate awardees'

[The award] energized me and
enhanced my commitment to
science education.

[The award] gave me new
techniques and the confidence to
try them.

[The award] validated that I had
something to offer and gave me a
greater sense of what I can give
back to others.

Others mentioned the need for increased
enthusiasm in the midst of troubled times for
schools. One awardee said the award came at a
low point in her career because of the poor status
of her school system. The PAESMT award was
very uplifting for her morale. Another
respondent, who had taught for 18 years prior to
the award, said that the award had come at a time
when education was at a low point. There had
been many cutbacks, but

the award gave me a tremendous
feeling of validation. It was what I

Aspect of the Program with the Largest

When asked about what aspect of the
program had the biggest effect, 62 percent of
respondents said that it was the
recognition. Other aspects
mentioned frequently by
respondents were the financial
award and the networking both in
Washington and through the
association for awardees. One
respondent also mentioned the
beneficial effect of the IBM
computer that was given as part of
the PAESMT package.

Effect of Award on Parents and Students
When asked whether the award had affected
the attitudes of the respondents' students and their
parents, 96 percent said that it had. Of those
who said that it had not, many of them mentioned
either that they had always had high credibility
with parents and students or that expectations for
teaching excellence were so high at their school
that the award was to be expected.

Only one respondent said that the parents and
students did not know about the award. In this
case, there had been many previous PAESMT
winners in the district. Because it was not a new
occurrence, there was not widespread publicity
about the award.

Most respondents reported that parents and
students were proud and congratulatory, and
some mentioned the pride brought to the school
and community. One teacher said that her school
had a pep rally for her and that the mayor named
the day in her honor. Another said that the award
brought positive recognition to a school and
teachers that were

[otherwise] perceived very poorly
by parents, by the administration,
and by the media.

[The award]
validated that I had
something to offer and
gave me a greater
sense of what I can
give back to others.

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 5

Teachers in this community had been
"embarrassed" to say in public what they did. In
her community, the PAESMT award was a real
uplift, " a local phenomenon."

Many of the respondents reported that the
award reinforced for parents and students that the
awardee was a good teacher. As one awardee

PAESMT gave the parents
confidence in me.

Another teacher said that the award made
parents more attentive at workshops and resulted
in the parents supporting her more. Another
teacher noted a change in parents' perceptions of
the meaning of an education. In her community,
education had been perceived only as a means to
an end for a job.

To make math a fun science was
the farthest thing from their minds.

But through her differing approaches to teaching
and the validation of the award, parents' views of
education changed.

Despite almost all positive effects on parents
and students, two teachers mentioned negative
effects. One noted that although it was nice to be
recognized and to have parents want to have their
children in his class, not all children could be in
the same class and this caused some problems for
those left out. Also, parents' requests are
sometimes difficult for the teachers who are not
requested. Another teacher mentioned that
because he was frequently out of the classroom
due to his increased opportunities, parents and
students complained.

Effect of Award on Enhancing Interest and
Respect for Excellence in Teaching

Almost all teachers (90 percent) indicated that
the award had enhanced interest and respect for
teaching among other local school personnel.
Some teachers reported that other teachers now
come to them for advice. Other awardees have
been asked to do inservice training of fellow
teachers. Others mentioned that their award has
encouraged other teachers to try to get PAESMT

Although the award had many positive
effects, 15 percent of respondents indicated that
there was some jealousy about their award. And,
respondents indicated how disappointed they
were to experience animosity from those whom
they thought were their friends. One believed the
jealousy at the school stemmed from limited
resources. Another believed that the school did
not publicize the award for fear of jealousy. Still
another noted that he had to handle the financial
award in a way designed to avoid jealousy. He
tried to spend it on the school building and not
just on his classroom and himself. He also sent a
picture of the school to President Bush in order to
make the school feel ownership of the honor.

Effect of Award on Influence at the Local
School or District

Despite some negative effects of the award
among school personnel, a majority of teachers
(86 percent) said that the award increased their
opportunities to make changes or have influence
over how math or science was taught at the local
school or district. Thirty-one percent of these
respondents said that following the award their
opinions carried more weight in how math or
science was taught. Many awardees became
involved in curriculum development, while others
taught inservice workshops for other teachers or
mentored teachers in other ways.

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 6

Effect of Award on Opportunities Beyond
the Local School or District

A majority of teachers (83 percent) reported
that the award affected their opportunities for
leadership or influence at the state level.
Opportunities at the state level varied widely.
Twenty-six percent of those involved at the state
level reviewed nominations for the next
PAESMT awardees, and 19 percent were
involved in developing Statewide Systemic
Initiative (SSI) programs. Other such
involvement included working on committees for
student awards, developing curriculum,
consulting with other districts,
providing leadership in state
board testing performance
evaluation, sitting on review
panels for grants of higher
education, teaching workshops
at universities, teaching a
course for NSF, working on
state competencies, speaking to
the state legislature, and setting
state standards.

Over a fifth (23 percent) of
teachers indicated that the
award affected their involvement
at the federal level. Of
these, 52 percent were involved
in NSF grant review panels.
Other types of involvement
varied greatly. These included
being involved in NSF teacher
enhancement, being part of an NSF reading
panel, addressing PAESMT awardees, and
participating in proposal reviews for the U.S.
Department of Education. One teacher was also
an advocate to the Science and Space
Committees in Congress for appropriations for
aircraft to carry an infrared telescope. She was
one of the first elementary school teachers to fly
in the KUIPER C141, which carries as its cargo
for NASA a 2-meter telescope that does infrared
exploration of the universe.

The award affected other types of
opportunities for respondents as well. Almost

three-fourths of respondents (74 percent) believed
that the award had affected their opportunities in
teacher associations. Activities in this area
included giving talks at association meetings,
being part of planning conference activities,
being on the editorial board of the National
Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
arithmetic panel, being involved in the NCTM
National Goals Panel, and being on a National
Science Teachers Association (NSTA) committee
task force.

Sixty-four percent of respondents indicated
opportunities in the public media. (However, it
should be noted that some
respondents counted publicity
about the award itself in
answering this question, while
others did not. Thus, this
percentage may be inflated.)
Much of the public media
opportunities mentioned by
teachers appeared to concern
publicity about the award itself.
Few teachers had other
opportunities in the public
media, with some exceptions.
For example, one teacher had a
regular radio program and
another made a videotape of her
teaching for an educational
television station. Others had
contributed to a PBS television
series, and one teacher had a
regular television program
during the school year. Although the question
was not specifically asked, about 9 percent of the
respondents volunteered that they were involved
in publishing. Activities in this area included
authoring books, textbooks, and journal articles.

Over half (57 percent) of the teachers were
offered opportunities in the private sector.
Again, these activities varied widely. They
include teaching at universities, being on an
advisory board for a museum, working with PBS
on a math program, and working with businesses
in the community.

Percentage of sample reporting
that the award enhanced
interest and respect for
teaching among other
local school personnel
(1990 and 1991 awardees)

90% Enhanced Interest

10% No Change

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 7

Over a third of teachers (37
percent) believed the award affected
their opportunities to further their
own education. Some have pursued
administration and supervision
certificates, master's degrees, and
Ph.D.'s, while others have taken
more credit hours in a subject,
attended special institutes, or
received training in specific areas of
interest, such as meteorology and
family math. One teacher said that
the award gave her motivation to go back to
school. Before the award, she had never thought
of getting a higher level of education.

Most teachers (85 percent) indicated that the
effects of these awards were long lasting, even
though many of their opportunities arose right
after the award. A few teachers had received
several other awards, and the PAESMT award in
combination with these had a "snowball effect."

Effect of Award on Opportunities for

A vast majority of teachers (90 percent)
indicated that the award affected their networking
with other teachers, including fellow awardees,
and getting to know other teachers at conventions
and meetings. Networking has been helpful to
teachers in sharing ideas, keeping current on the
latest issues in their field, getting teaching ideas,
and gaining support for teaching. Many teachers
network with other awardees. As one teacher

When I need a resource person, I
pull out my PAESMT directory.

Although many respondents
noted that the networking was
the biggest "plus" of the award,
others were disappointed in the
networking, especially at the
national level. Some said they
had not networked as much as
they had hoped because they did
not have enough time or it was
not something that came to them
easily. Others said that they
could not afford to go to
conventions, and still others said they wish that
continuing meetings with other awardees was a
mandatory part of the PAESMT program so that
they would be sure to maintain their contacts. Of
note was that many teachers reported not being
able to use their computers to network with other
teachers. Many mentioned the need for more
training in this area.

Comparison Between Whites and
Minorities of Opportunities Resulting from

There were few differences in opportunities
between whites and members of minority groups
in opportunities that were the result of the award.
For example, there were only slight differences
in the percentages of minorities and whites who
reported increased opportunities at the state level.
Eighty-six percent of minority members and 83
percent of whites reported increased
opportunities. There were also only small
differences in opportunities to participate in
teacher associations (71 percent minorities versus
74 percent whites) or networking opportunities
(86 percent of minorities and 91 percent of

However, minorities reported more
opportunities than whites in involvement at the
federal level (33 percent minorities versus 22
percent whites) and in the private sector (76
percent minorities versus 53 percent whites).
Whites, however, reported more opportunities
than minorities in making changes or influencing
how math/science is taught at the school or

It made an entire
school that was not
“into” science become
interested and
understand the
significance of what
was going on in

Percentage of awardees reporting positive
effects on opportunities for leadership at
various levels (N=115)

Federal level ........................................ 23%
State level............................................ 83%
Teacher associations ............................ 74%
Public media........................................ 64%
Private sector....................................... 57%

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 8

district level (96 percent whites versus 70 percent
minorities) and in opportunities for continuing
their education (38 percent whites versus 29
percent minorities).

Impact of Financial Award and Gifts
This section provides information on how the
awardees used the monies that they were given.
As the responses illustrate, their choices were
innovative, creative, and in many, many cases,
unselfish. Virtually all respondents said that the
financial award was important and made an
impact on what they were doing. Some typical
comments follow.

I had the ability to buy something
that never would have been
possible with the limited school

By helping each teacher, I helped
each child and everyone was
touched by the grant. It was an
award for all.

It gave me a little bit of a voice.
Once the principal saw how the
computer was used in the
classroom, the principal got an
additional nine computers the next

It gave me the freedom to explore
other options that are not tied to
the local bureaucratic system.
It made an entire school that was
not “into” science become
interested and understand the
significance of what was going on
in science.

Use of Award Money
Respondents were asked for some specific
details about how they had spent their $7,500

award. The vast majority had spent the money
on more than one item, sometimes using it as
seed money, sometimes combining it in
innovative ways with other sources of funds.
Only 9 of the 115 respondents (8 percent)
reported that they used all the money on one item.

At least 59 percent of the respondents spent
all or part of the money on other teachers in their
school or district. A few commented that sharing
the award with other teachers had been suggested
during the week in Washington. Of the 69
respondents who had used part of the money for
other teachers, 46 percent used it for attendance
at conferences or meetings, 36 percent for
materials, and 39 percent for training or
workshops. (Some respondents sponsored more
than one activity.) Among the comments made
by respondents were these.

I tried to spread the money among
other teachers and get them

I tried to give other teachers more

I was very open to teacher

I looked for things that would

Three teachers spent all $7,500 on the training of
other teachers. One of them got matching funds
from the district and funded a 10-day training
program on new strategies for teaching
mathematics for elementary and secondary

One awardee sent a fifth grade teacher who
hated math to the NCTM convention in Seattle.
This "turned her on to math." As the awardee

I lighted another fire.

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 9

Another awardee provided the funds for an
aide to attend a national science convention; she
said a district would never fund an aide to do
this. The experience motivated the aide, who
now has a degree.

At least three math teachers provided
materials for the science teachers. One math
teacher established a three-tiered approach for
spending the money: 1) for teachers, materials for
math and science; 2) for students, scholarships
for a summer program for at-risk students; and
3) for parents, information packets as part of a
parent program. One awardee formed a group of
staff, parents, and community members to
identify how to spend the money.

Computers were purchased by about one-third
of the respondents (31 percent). Other kinds of
equipment, such as graphing calculators, laser
disk players, microscopes, and printers, were
mentioned by 58 percent. Manipulatives and
materials for hands-on instruction were
mentioned by 17 percent. About one-third (31
percent) had used part of the money to attend a
professional conference or meeting; these
expenses included travel and lodging as well as
the cost of a substitute teacher.

Other ways in which the individual
respondents spent the money varied considerably.
A listing of some of the innovative uses of funds
is presented on the following page.

Sometimes the awardees mentioned certain
barriers that impeded their use of funds, but such
occurrences were relatively rare and
idiosyncratic. Of the respondents who were
asked about barriers in spending the money, 82
percent said there were none. In a few cases,
there was disagreement regarding how the money
would be spent. In three instances where such
conflicts arose, NSF was called in to help resolve
the problem. Some of the problems that arose
are as follows:

· In two cases, the school had a new
principal who wanted to spend the money

on such things as renovations, replacement
equipment, and a rug for the office.

· In another case the administration wanted
to purchase materials that the respondent
did not think the other teachers were ready
to use. As a result of the disagreement,
one administrator still does not speak to

· Three other respondents had trouble with
the type of account they wanted to set up.
For example, one district insisted that the
money be put in the general fund and
could not be in an interest-bearing
account. After a letter was sent from
NSF, the money was put in a separate
account, but it does not earn interest.

· One awardee ran into problems when she
switched districts.

· The other respondents experiencing
barriers made more general comments
about the red tape involved.

Awardees comments regarding the financial
award (N=115)

Important ........................................... 90%
Essential............................................. 44%
Meaningful and motivational............... 23%
Needed for an impact.......................... 23%

Importance of the Financial Award
The financial award is an important part of
the program, according to 90 percent of the
respondents. For 44 percent of them, it is an
essential part of the award. In fact, for four
respondents, the only reason they applied to the
program was because of the possibility of
receiving money for their students. Several
commented that the money gives credibility to the
program. Others said that it was essential in
schools that have few resources. An

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 10

Innovative Uses of Award Funds
(1990 and 1991 awardees)

· Improvements to a model stream fish
· · Surveying a nature trail behind the
· · Conversion of a room to a
· · Purchase and construction of a log
cabin to serve as the science
classroom; around the cabin is an
outdoor learning center with herb
and vegetable gardens
· · Two-day ecology summer camp for

· · Establishment of a statewide
telecommunications center
· · Telecommunications center for tracking
· · Establishment of a direct satellite
receiver station
· · Weather satellite imaging project
· · Computer center for distance learning in
a district with students in small rural
schools that are 150 miles away; the
students can continue to live at home
and take courses in physics and

· Foreign travel with a scientific emphasis -- one teacher went to the
Peruvian Amazon and the other to East Africa to study biodiversity
· · Organization of an alliance of physics teachers under the American
Physical Society
· · Special little projects, each costing a few hundred dollars, that the
awardee would ordinarily hesitate to do. For example, the teacher
has a contest for the students in which they must mail a potato chip
to him. They must design the package to weigh as little as possible,
and the potato chip must arrive intact. The postage and materials
cost about $100 per year.
· · Conference for young girls to expand their horizons in math;
minority students were encouraged to attend
· · Mobile science shows that travel throughout the rural area of the

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 11

additional 23 percent said that it was important,
meaningful, and motivational. In addition, 23
percent said that the money was needed in order
to have an impact. Comments from the awardees

It enables the school to share in
the recognition.

The effect of the money is to the
school and the district.

You come back from Washington
with a mission; for some things
you need money.

One awardee commented,
I'd like to say, "No," that it's not
essential, but money makes the
district and people around sit up
and notice.

The few respondents who said that the money
was not a necessary part of the program still
thought it was wonderful to have. Many
respondents said that the money gave them the
freedom to do what they wanted. It was a
mechanism for empowering teachers. Some
illustrative comments by respondents follow.

It enabled me to do special things
I couldn't do otherwise. It gave a
cushion to act in a professional

There are so many reforms going
on. You can't do a lot without
resources. Many teachers buy
things with their own money.

In our society, money talks.
I have taught a science program
on a budget of $142 for the entire
year. So you can imagine what
this infusion of $7,500 means to

It mentally empowered me. I have
money that I can spend and don't
have to ask for. It's power you
don't have in teaching.

For 57 percent of the respondents, the award
would not be less meaningful without the
financial component. They said that the
recognition was far more important and that
being acknowledged is sufficient. A few added
that for the individual teacher, it is the honor that
is important. For the 43 percent of the
respondents who disagreed, the money was seen
as adding meaning and prestige.

Most respondents thought that the amount of
the financial award was sufficient to make an
impact. Over four-fifths (84 percent) thought the
amount was sufficient, although, not
surprisingly, many of these added that more
would be better.

Additional Donations or Gifts
Many of the respondents had received a
number of small gifts after winning the award. It
was often unclear if these were gifts for all
awardees that year or just for the individual. One
awardee commented that she wrote 74 thank you
notes. The kinds of awards received by the
respondents include $1,000 from a consortium of
electric companies and $1,500 from a gasoline
company. In addition, many of the PAESMT
awardees have won other awards as well, many
of which come with money and/or gifts. One
respondent suggested, "Other programs use the
Presidential Award list as a guide for selection."

Some respondents were able to use the award
to leverage additional funds.

It got me to start writing grants
for more money.

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 12

The pot is large enough
to get business to
match. The
Presidential Award
gave a foot in the door.

It's a high profile
award and receives
much media attention.
This makes it easier to
get local grants.

The awardee who made the
last comment also received
$1,000 from the local utility
company to spend however she wanted. She
received additional money from the National
Tandy Technology Scholar award. The award
also made it easier for her to apply to a local
philanthropic organization.

However, some awardees tried unsuccessfully
to obtain additional money. One said that the
superintendent was not comfortable with teachers
making contacts with businesses.

Examples of how awardees used the
additional funds follow.

One awardee received a Chevrolet van from
29 dealers in the state. She used it for her
mobile science show, which was taken
throughout the state. This awardee also
established a summer training program for
teachers in the state and received $750,000 to
support this effort.

One respondent now teaches in the same
building as the previous year's awardee. They
pooled some of their award money to establish
a statewide telecommunications line. The
system has been used to do environmental
monitoring. Both of the awardees also
received Christa MacAuliff awards of
$30,000 each. They have used this money for
the network. The respondent also received
$35,000 from the Tapestry awards sponsored
by Toyota. In addition, he has gotten grants

through local banks. He
commented, "Once a
project gets going and has
a track record, it is more
likely to be funded. The
initial seed money is the
hard part."

"NSF encourages getting
funding from other sources,
an extremely worthwhile
idea," was a statement
made by another awardee.
The materials for a weather
imaging project cost
$5,000. In addition to
PAESMT money, the awardee used money
from an effective schools grant, from the
State Office of Basic Industry, and from a
school fundraiser (a carnival). In addition,
she received a GTE gift grant to integrate
physics and algebra; $7,000 was shared
between math and science.

Nomination, Selection, and Award Process
Another area we explored in the conversations
with awardees was the nomination, selection, and
award process. We were especially interested in
finding out how the process differed by states.
Respondents' comments indicated somewhat of a
lack of knowledge in this area, particularly where
the awardee had not been called upon to play a
role in the selection of others. We were not,
therefore, able to develop a very good picture of
the differences that do exist and what might
affect them.

Program Administration
Familiarity about the administration of the
program varied considerably across respondents.
Some simply did not know how the program was
administered. Others were more aware because
they had served on a committee to select the

I have taught a science
program on a budget of
$142 for the entire year.
So you can imagine what
this infusion of $7,500
means to us.

The pot is large enough to
get business to match.
The Presidential Award
gave a foot in the door.

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 13

The general picture across states is quite
similar. Nominations are sent to the state
department of education or state board of
education, which then sends an application
packet to the nominees. The nominees complete
the materials and submit them to the state office.
A selection committee, generally composed of
representatives from several arenas, including
past awardees, picks the three state finalists for
each category. The names of the finalists are
submitted to NSF, which makes the final

Some respondents thought that the state
science and math teachers' organizations were
involved in the process, or actually ran it.
However, responses from teachers in the same
state differed, so a complete picture was not

In one state the process is overseen by the
math consultant in the state department of
education. The consultant has two senior
awardees who serve as facilitators; the
respondent was one of the facilitators. The
facilitators are responsible for getting the readers
together and for most of the administration of the
process. The facilitators do not serve as readers.
This year, the respondent sent all nominees a
personal letter in which she offered to help them
with the paperwork. Three people did ask for
help. In another state, an information meeting is
held for the whole state before the application is
due. One of the respondents currently conducts
this session.

Nomination Process
Nominations were most frequently made by
principals (43 percent of respondents);
curriculum coordinators, supervisors, and
department chairs (18 percent); and teachers and
colleagues (17 percent). Others making
nominations included students, the president of
the state math association, a daughter who is also
a teacher, and the state superintendent of schools.
Four of the respondents said that they had asked
someone else to nominate them; in three cases it

was the principal. Some awardees were
nominated by more than one person. Indeed, one
had been nominated by 28 people. Thirteen
percent of the respondents did not know who had
nominated them. An additional 12 percent were
unsure but mentioned who they thought had made
the nomination. Three respondents had attended
a Woodrow Wilson Foundation program and
thought that all participants were nominated for
the PAESMT. Most respondents thought that
their experience was typical of the way people
become nominated.

A few respondents had been pressured to
apply. One was sent an application by the math
supervisor, but she refused to fill it out because it
was too lengthy. However, her principal insisted.
Another respondent said,

The principal is an assertive
person who likes to be involved in
this kind of thing. The principal
said, "Don't you want to do it for
the money for the school?" It was
more of a directive.

One respondent was nominated as the result
of a serendipitous event. He was supposed to
meet someone for breakfast, but the person never
showed up at the restaurant. The winner from
the previous year, who also teaches in the same
district, happened to be there and they started
talking. The respondent described what he was
doing in his classes and the previous awardee
became most interested in his ideas and decided
to nominate him.

Almost half (48 percent) of the respondents
had been nominated before. Generally, they had
been nominated once or twice before and had
often been one of the three state finalists. Two
respondents had been nominated five times

Major sources of nomination for awards
Principals............................................... 43%
Curriculum coordinator, supervisors,
department chairs ................................. 18%
Teachers and colleagues ......................... 18%

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 14

before. One science awardee had been nominated
the year before in mathematics. Four respondents,
each from a different state, said that in
order to nominate someone or to be nominated
you must have taught for either 3 or 5 years,
depending on the state. (It should be noted that
the guidelines call for 5 years of teaching.)

Awareness About the Program
Respondents' comments suggested that
"awareness" may be somewhat of a
problem and that lack of awareness
may result in limited numbers of
applications in some states or from
some groups. A significant number
of those addressing this issue (41
respondents) suggested that
awareness was linked to
membership in professional
organizations or being "in the
network" of science and math

The following comments are illustrative.
In 1990, when I got the award, I
wasn't that aware of it. Awareness
has grown since then. It's a small
state and the number of awardees
has grown. Teachers who are
active in the state organizations
are definitely aware. For the
others, I would guess that
awareness is low.

The crowds I hang out with are
very active and very aware, but
this is not a majority. In a
department of 10 to 12 teachers,
only 1 or 2 attend conferences.
The award is mentioned in the
newsletters of math professional
groups but you have to belong to
get the information and many are
not members.

Awareness may have increased since 1990, both
because of the wider coverage of the teaching
force (the addition of elementary school teachers)
and explicit efforts toward wider publicity.

Teachers are very aware now
because of the statewide
telecommunications network. The
state also has a strong science
teacher association, which has a
weekend science camp attended by
about 1,000 people each year.
There is a reception for the
winners as a part of the

It used to be more of an
"old boys network." The
process has improved and
the program is becoming
more known throughout the
state. More teachers are
willing to participate now
that the selection process
is fairer.

Information is there if people take
the time to read it. A state
newsletter goes to every teacher in
the state. The award is mentioned
in the state professional
organization newsletter and the
state union literature. A spring
conference is held on all awards.
Nomination forms are sent to
every district.

Some respondents commented that
teachers are aware of the program, but many do
not apply because of the difficult application. As
one stated, "Probably 30 percent of those
nominated never apply because the application
packet burden is horrific." Suggestions for
making the application process more user
friendly are presented in the Suggestions for
Strengthening the Program section of this report.

The week in
Washington made
me feel proud of
myself and through
this I was able to
motivate other

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 15

Publicity About the Award
Publicity received by awardees ranged from
overwhelming to "no media coverage." For 77
percent of the awardees, the amount of publicity
was moderate to substantial, particularly at the
local level. The most common forms of publicity
were newspaper articles, television and radio
interviews, and articles in professional
publications. Twenty-three percent of the
respondents said they had received little coverage
or not enough.

Some of the more unique stories regarding
publicity are as follows:

· One awardee had a telephone interview
with the Secretary of Education.

· One respondent wanted to "low key" the
publicity. However, the teacher who
nominated him called the newspaper. He
was on the front page with a picture. In
addition, this respondent has served as the
chief negotiator for the teachers in his
district for 14 years. Settlement came on
the same day as the award, so a second
article about him appeared on the front
page. "It showed that you can be a strong
union advocate and a strong teacher. I am
most proud of this." He was also named
citizen of the month and received other
local recognition. The state union put an
article in its monthly publication with a

· One respondent was one of the awardees
interviewed by CNN during the week in
Washington. She also went up on Capitol
Hill and spoke before the Education
Committee. She was one of seven
speakers--three math winners, three
science winners, and Luther Williams, the
director of NSF's Education and Human
Resources Directorate.

· The local utility company publicizes the
winners of both the state- and nationallevel

· One awardee was named state person of
the week. A full page in the newspaper
was written about her. Articles also
appeared in the education association and
district newsletters.

· One awardee received no state publicity --
"absolutely no TV, no radio, no newspaper
had any news about the award." The
announcement came on the same day as
the teams involved in the greatest college
football rivalry in the state played, "so that
was the news and the rest was old the next

· The public relations person for the district
made the publicity arrangements for one
awardee. He was written up in three
different newspapers. He also received a
proclamation from the State House of

· Mostly as the result of the PAESMT, one
respondent was named a State Farm good
neighbor in 1993. There was a magazine
ad campaign in many national magazines
(Life, U.S. News & World Report, etc.)
with a picture of her and several of her
students and a write up about her and her

· The annual state math conference was
dedicated to one awardee. There was an
awards ceremony and a square dance was
named in her honor.

Suggestions for Strengthening the Program
Major Strengths and Weaknesses of the

When asked about strengths of the program,
respondents expressed their happiness with the
recognition given to them through the award, the
excitement of the week in Washington, the
networking, and the opportunities created from
the financial aspect of the award. A strength
mentioned by many was that PAESMT rewards

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 16

hard-working and creative teachers. For most,
the week in Washington was one of the highlights
of the program. One said the week was "totally
impressive, wonderful, and organized." Another

The week in Washington made me
feel proud of myself and through
this I was able to motivate other

Several commented that they were glad that
elementary school teachers could now be

When asked about the weaknesses of the
program, almost a fifth of respondents (18
percent) indicated the need for more
publicity about the award. Many
teachers also mentioned this in the
context of increasing the
participation of underrepresented

Nineteen percent of respondents indicated the
need for more followup after the award and the
need to have a contact person at NSF to inform
about their activities. Some had written reports
of their activities after a year and a half and were
wondering whether they should write a final
report. They had no idea who to contact at NSF
to ask questions or to share the exciting activities
in which they had been involved. They seemed
unaware that there was a program officer
overseeing PAESMT or may have been confused
because of the rotating nature of this position.

Also, almost a fourth (24 percent) of
awardees noted the tremendous amount of time
involved in completing the application. The
application was described by some as
"harrowing." Many suggested streamlining the
application so that it did not require so much
paperwork. Others discussed that the application
due date should not be at the time that grades are
due, but should be in the summer when teachers
have more time. Although many respondents
disliked the application, others said that they

enjoyed completing it because it allowed them to
evaluate where they had been and where they
were going. Others said they realized that the
lengthy and difficult application was necessary to
make good selections.

Some suggested that the application process
depended too much on how applicants "look on
paper." Many suggested the need for classroom
observations or videotapes in order to see the
teacher in action.

Despite the increased amount of networking
that has resulted from the award, some
respondents, nonetheless, suggested the need for
expanding opportunities for networking. Some
discussed the need for more time in the
networking sessions during the week in
Washington. One wanted to have
money set aside to send awardees to
conventions so that they would be
able to network. Another mentioned
the need for a reunion of awardees to
reestablish a national perspective on
the award and discuss reform in education.
Another wanted an alumni association of
awardees. ( This may be a case of the awardee
being unaware of existing organizations or,
perhaps, wanting an alumni organization that is
somehow different in nature from those that
already exist.)

Others said that NSF needs to draw more on
the talent pool of PAESMT awardees. As one
respondent put it, she loved being wined and
dined in Washington, but while they were being
wined and dined, their brains could have been
picked more.

We're a resource that doesn't get
used enough.

Others mentioned the raffle in D.C. as an area
of concern. Because awardees can go away with
vastly different amounts of prizes, they suggested
discontinuing the raffle and making gifts to
teachers of equal value.

We're a resource
that doesn't get
used enough.

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 17

Other suggestions made by awardees were
that they thought middle school teachers should
not have to compete with secondary school
teachers, that the awards should be scheduled as
much as possible around the schedule of the
President, that the award should be tax exempt,
that the financial award be made directly to the
teacher to control expenditures, that all
applicants be notified about results, and that
there be more focus on the state winners. As one
respondent said,

They are winners too.

Suggestions for Increasing Participation
Most discussion in this area focused on
increasing participation among underrepresented
groups, such as minorities and the disabled.
Many teachers who have been in the position to
review PAESMT applications were concerned
about the small numbers of minorities who apply.
Others were aware of the problem in other states,
but came from states where there were few
minorities. Nevertheless, some had been active in
nominating minorities themselves.

Teachers' suggestions for increasing
participation among underrepresented groups
mainly focused on having greater publicity,
especially outside professional organizations,
which may have low minority memberships.
Almost a fourth (23 percent) indicated that the
award should be more publicized. One suggested
providing information about the award in
magazines like Newsweek. Others suggested
using television announcements and using PBS.
Respondents also noted the need for
administrators and teachers to know about the
award, and some mentioned the need for the
announcement of the award to be made in
Spanish. Many mentioned that the announcement
should be sent to every school with a note
about encouraging minorities. Special emphasis
should be put on inner city schools.

Other respondents mentioned the need for
mentoring minorities and providing assistance

with application materials. Several suggested
that previous awardees should fulfill these roles.
Winners who are members of minority groups
may be especially encouraging to other
minorities. One respondent suggested a 1-800
number be used for help with the application.

Ten percent of the respondents suggested that
there be workshops for persons interested in the
award. Workshops could be used to improve
writing abilities and provide information about
how to complete the application. Also, because
several noted that some cultures value humility
and have difficulty with self-promotion and
asking for others to promote them, workshops
could be used to address "blowing your own
horn" and how to ask for letters of

Finally, many respondents noted the need to
get more members of underrepresented groups
into teaching so that they could be nominated for
the PAESMT. In many states, minorities have
very low representation in math and science.
Thus, more work needs to be done at the high
school and college levels to encourage members
of underrepresented groups to go into these areas
of study.

The findings from our conversations with
teachers recognized by PAESMT in 1990 and
1991 indicate that the program is one of
significant merit. It provides recognition to
individual teachers and the teaching profession,
motivates the awardees themselves, and
empowers those recognized to share their skills
and resources with their colleagues and the
community. The word heard over and over again
was "validation," both individual and collective,
for those who devoted themselves to teaching.

In presenting our findings we have tried to use
the words of awardees themselves as much as
possible because their comments to us, more than
any statistical figures, provide a rich
documentation of the impact that PAESMT has

Short-Term Impact Study of the Presidential Awards for Excellence
in Science and Mathematics Teaching 18

had. Even with using the awardees’ own words,
however, it is not possible to convey the
enthusiasm that permeated the conversations and
the excitement that was reflected in the stories
that were shared. PAESMT is a program with
significant impact on the teachers recognized;

the teachers recognized, in turn, have impacted
their colleagues in some very significant ways.
By recognizing 1,400 individuals, NSF has
positively touched several times that number of
teachers and learners.

I lighted another fire.

NSF 95-50

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