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March 18, 2004

NSF Funds Pitt-City School Partnership in Math and Science

Science and math students, as well as their teachers, in the Pittsburgh Public School District soon will benefit from a new partnership with six departments in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education.

Pitt has been awarded a three-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support selected graduate and undergraduate fellows who will work with science teachers in 12 elementary and middle schools in Pittsburgh.

“The most significant challenge in our district and across the nation is to improve student achievement in mathematics and science,” said Richard Mathews, Pittsburgh Public School District science program officer and senior project partner.

Funding will support 12 teams of elementary or middle school teachers, Pitt fellows and math and reading specialists from selected schools. Graduate and undergraduate fellows will be drawn from Pitt’s departments of chemistry, biological sciences, physics and astronomy, geology and planetary science, mathematics and neuroscience.

Fellows will help teachers apply the theme of energy across the entire curriculum, and will help emphasize the nature of science as a process instead of a system of facts and figures.
“The unifying theme of energy will allow students to connect what might appear to be diverse and unrelated topics in their curriculum with fundamental theories in biology, physics or chemistry,” said Joseph Grabowski, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and principal investigator of the project.

Grabowski expects that teacher-fellow partnerships will result in enhanced student learning of overarching concepts as well as evaluated and improved materials and strategies to assist teachers in their mission. The teams also will design and deliver professional development workshops to other Pittsburgh School District teachers.

During the summer before the school year, fellows will take courses in teaching methods and theories, led by Jennifer Cartier, assistant professor in the Department of Instruction and Learning in the education school and co-principal investigator of the partnership. During the school year, fellows will work in the schools with teachers to plan and implement tasks and specific learning activities. “This partnership will provide opportunities for our teachers to have contact and input from experts to sharpen their skills and deepen their subject knowledge,” said Mathews. “Pitt fellows will gain an understanding of the complexities of urban education,” he added.

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