Rutgers was one of seven educational institutions nationwide to be awarded the NSF grants announced Monday, Sept. 30. The funds, which will be disbursed over five years, will be used to unite the activities of higher education institutions, pre-kindergarten through high school systems and other partners to support better teacher development in math and science, and raise student achievement.
The Math and Science Partnership will be active in schools in Asbury Park, Bound Brook, Bridgeton, Millville, New Brunswick, Phillipsburg, Plainfield, Roselle, South Bound Brook, Toms River, Union City and Vineland. Rutgers' Graduate School of Education in New Brunswick and Center for Math, Science and Computer Education are the lead partners in the program.
"Better teacher recruitment, training and performance is vital to improving math and science instruction for our children and to producing the educational reform that New Jersey so urgently needs," said Joseph J. Seneca, Rutgers' university vice president for academic affairs.
"Rutgers has long played an important role in setting the standards of teacher education and training, and we are pleased to be working with our colleagues at Kean and Rowan universities on this very important endeavor," he added.
The Math and Science Partnership builds on the 10 years of success of the New Jersey State Systemic Initiative (NJSSI), a partnership of schools, districts, colleges and universities, science centers and museums, business and industry dedicated to strengthening mathematics, science, and technology education for all students in New Jersey.
"The new partnership provides a wonderful opportunity for us to help 12 districts to ensure that all their children meet the state's challenging mathematics and science curriculum standards," said William Firestone, professor of education at Rutgers' Graduate School of Education, director of the school's Center for Education Policy and Analysis and the principal investigator on the project.
In New Jersey, the Math and Science Partnership will have two primary goals. First it will attempt to increase achievement and reduce achievement gaps in science and mathematics by helping districts provide professional development for principals and teachers, such as leadership training and intensive workshops on content and instructional strategies.
Second, it will attempt to increase and sustain the number, quality and diversity of mathematics and science teachers by providing potential teachers with experiences designed to make teaching seem attractive as a career, improving teachers' knowledge of math and science, and supporting new math and science teachers with mentoring programs.
Deborah Cook, principal investigator at NJSSI, which is based at Rutgers' Center for Mathematics, Science and Computer Education, will oversee all project operations. Janet Caldwell, professor of mathematics at Rowan University, will oversee operations in southern New Jersey. Sharon Brendzell, professor of science education at Kean University, will coordinate her university's contribution to teacher education and improvement. Larry Leverett, superintendent of Plainfield schools and former assistant commissioner of urban affairs at the New Jersey Department of Education, will represent district interests and concerns.
The program will serve students most in need. Enrollment at the 12 participating school districts totals 75,067 students, with an average of 68 percent minority enrollment. Eight out of the 12 districts are so-called "Abbott districts," which serve the state's poorest communities, and the remaining four are in the lower half of the state's socioeconomic range. Eleven have 4th- and 8th-grade math and science test scores below the state averages. All 12 show substantial performance gaps between black and white students.
EDITOR'S NOTE: ATTENTION EDUCATION REPORTERS AND EDITORS: To contact William Firestone, call him at 732-932-7495, extension 8231 (work), or 215-872-0563 (home).