Could extra high school math and science courses in the senior year significantly improve chances of earning a college degree, especially among urban public school students whose success has been disappointing for decades?
Experts at five Chicago-area universities, in conjunction with the Chicago Public Schools, think so. They've collectively formed the Chicago Transformation Teacher Institutes (CTTI), and the National Science Foundation has awarded them a $5 million, five-year grant to develop an effective program.
Working with the Chicago Public Schools, CTTI hopes to motivate math and science teachers from an initial group of 20 high schools that will put a premium on developing innovative instruction.
University of Illinois at Chicago chemistry professor Donald Wink has headed up several successful projects to improve high school science education, and is CTTI's lead principal investigator.
Wink, along with other top professors with expertise in science and math education at UIC, DePaul University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University Chicago and Northwestern University, will create and teach graduate-level courses and workshops to selected Chicago high school instructors. Those instructors will, in turn, become "team leaders," working with administrators and other teachers on new and inspiring ways to bolster the quality of math and science education.
"We'll offer a program of courses and workshops, but the teachers will be the ones who actually change what the school does," says Wink.
CTTI professors will work with about 160 top Chicago high school science and math teachers.
"We have to design a process in dialogue with the schools," says Wink. "We'll be listening a lot to the teachers, principals and district leaders about criteria they want to use. For the program to be effective, it needs good school leadership and dedicated teachers."
Among the program's goals are annual improvements in standardized test and advanced placement scores of at least 10 percent; new advanced placement or capstone courses; and getting freshmen college students who graduated from CTTI schools to score grades of "B" or better in college math and science courses.
If the CTTI program succeeds, NSF may adopt it as a national model.
Co-principal investigator Michael Lach, a teacher and officer with the Chicago Public Schools' "Teaching + Learning" program, says the NSF grant will help make 12th grade courses a strong bridge from high school to college.
"Few cities have as strong a university-school partnership as Chicago," says Lach. "This grant is a testament to the power of a whole city working together to advance mathematics and science education."
Besides Wink, CTTI partner university leaders include John Baldwin, professor emeritus of mathematics and Steven Tozer, professor of educational policy, both at UIC; Dean Grosshandler, research assistant professor of learning sciences at Northwestern; Norman Lederman, chairman and professor of mathematics and science education at IIT; Carolyn Narasimhan, professor of mathematical sciences at DePaul; Stacy Wenzel, associate research professor and David Slavsky, associate professor of physics and director of Loyola's Center for Science and Math Education.
The NSF award is funded under the federal government's economic stimulus plan, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
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