The National Science Foundation (NSF) is unveiling an innovative $7.5-million educational program that will enable talented graduate students and advanced undergraduates to serve as teaching fellows in K-12 science, mathematics and technology-based education.
"We cannot expect the task of science and math education to be the responsibility solely of K-12 teachers while scientists, engineers and graduate students remain busy in their universities and laboratories. There is no group of people that should feel more responsible for science and math education in this nation than our scientists and engineers and scientists- and engineers-to-be," NSF Director Rita Colwell said in announcing the program.
"Enlisting the knowledge and skills of graduate students and advanced undergraduates who are working toward science, mathematics, engineering and technology-related degrees will be a positive step in improving K-12 learning," Luther S. Williams, NSF's assistant director for education and human resources, said.
Piloted in FY 1999, the teaching fellows program was formally proposed by Colwell as part of NSF's proposed fiscal 2000 budget.
Williams said that "with sufficient training, graduate students and advanced undergraduates can serve as valuable resources for science and math content, as well as for technology applications, in K-12 schools and thereby assist in providing quality education."
Through this program, academic institutions offering graduate degrees in science, mathematics, engineering and technology fields are eligible to apply for two- to three-year awards of $200,000 to $500,000 per year. These institutions will be responsible for selecting the teaching fellows.
NSF anticipates the program will improve communication and teaching skills for the fellows, enrich learning by K-12 students, and enhance professional development of K-12 teachers. It should also strengthen partnerships between institutions of higher education and local school districts.
"We have maintained in this country a vast, unsupportable chasm between our elementary grades' system of science/math education and our graduate education system -- all without a rational foundation. It is time to begin to make a connection between these systems. This NSF program will `jump-start' this connectivity," explained Colwell.
"The most important lesson that educators can learn from our students' failures, as revealed in the TIMSS [Third International Mathematics and Science Study] achievement results, is that we must approach science and mathematics education with new ideas and the courage to see them through," said Williams. "This program will help bring our nation's educational systems into a full circle of accountability, with higher education injecting new energy into K12 and K-12 positively influencing higher education -- all while satiating a desperate hunger for mutual responsibility between all levels of science and mathematics education."
For more information, see: http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?nsf9976