Press Release - USM Receives $7.5 Million Federal Grant

October 25, 2002

USM Receives $7.5 Million Federal Grant to Enrich Science Instruction in Montgomery County High Schools

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $7.5 million grant to the University System of Maryland (USM) to increase teacher capacity to raise student achievement. The grant will fund a five-year program to bring together science teachers in Montgomery County high schools with their college and university counterparts in USM institution-based laboratories and classrooms. 
Faculty from the University of Maryland, College Park, Towson University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and Montgomery College will participate in the program. Montgomery County high school science teachers will join their college counterparts in campus labs and other settings in mathematics, science and engineering during a series of professional development days and summer institutes. There, they will engage in a variety of science experiences and experiments tied directly to the Montgomery County science curriculum standards that they can refer to when they return to their individual schools.
The model program is designed to improve high school science instruction as well as high school students' ability to meet stringent state science standards as measured by the Maryland High School Assessments. In addition, the teaching skills of participating USM faculty members will be enriched, leading to enhanced general undergraduate science courses. Overall, the synergies created by the grant are expected to cultivate better graduates in a county and region whose economy is increasingly driven by science and technology.  
The Vertically Integrated Partnerships K-16 (VIP) grant was developed jointly by representatives of the USM Office of Academic Affairs and the Montgomery County Public Schools, the state's largest school system. It was one of only 24 awards nationally under the new Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program, a potential investment of $240 million over five years to improve the achievement of K-12 students in science and mathematics. According to the NSF, the MSP is an important facet of President Bush's No Child Left Behind education plan and the first investment in his five-year, $1 billion math and science partnership initiative. Montgomery County Public Schools will administer approximately $4 million of the grant; the USM will administer about $3 million.
USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan said the grant represents "the next big leap" in ensuring that USM institutions are developing best practices for improving the learning experience of Maryland's high school students, a significant number of which will enroll in USM institutions.
"At its heart, this is another investment in building a highly educated population and workforce for our state," Kirwan said. "The state and nation need talented leaders in math and the sciences, and so we must do our part to make sure that Maryland's high school students are exposed to as much quality teaching as possible, especially in these areas. We have the research faculty, classrooms, and laboratories on our campuses, and we have many science majors who will be enlightened through their participation in the work of the grant. Hopefully, many of these students will become high school science teachers as a result of their involvement in the work of this project. It's a great project, and the USM is the right organization to make it a success."  
Kirwan, who also serves as co-chair of the Maryland Partnership for Teaching and Learning K-16 (, an ongoing collaboration among all segments of the educational community to provide students with a seamless, high-quality learning experience from Kindergarten through college, added that the VIP award confirms Maryland's national leadership in the K-16 approach.
"It is terribly important to prepare students for graduation from high school and then to properly transition them into college life," Kirwan added. "A lack of preparation in high school can lead to a need for remediation in college, and simply put, that is not a productive use of anyone's time and money. Better high school science students in Montgomery County will mean better college students at our institutions, and better college students mean better faculty. The grant improves the learning environment all the way around."
Simultaneously, university research scientists, professors and graduate students will receive a practical, valuable experience in teaching from the master teachers who will be leading the workshops.
Nancy Shapiro, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at the USM and principal investigator for the VIP award, said the program will reach 350 high school teachers in Montgomery County and approximately 50 USM professors and graduate students.
"Our university faculty and research scientists are wonderful signifiers of the value of a science education," Shapiro said. "But they rarely have an opportunity to work directly with high school science teachers or focus on improving their own pedagogy in their undergraduate courses. The VIP will broaden their horizons and encourage both graduate and undergraduate science students to think about high school teaching as a career. But the primary goal, as stated in the grant, is to improve science and math education for all high school students in Montgomery County."
According to the NSF, the VIP is one of 17 targeted partnership grants designed to improve achievement in specific disciplines or grade ranges. With a total of about $90 million over five years, they will affect about 200 school districts and some 600,000 pre-K through grade 12 students in 11 states.
As the grant begins in spring of 2003, the Partnership has committed to five goals: (1) Improve student learning outcomes, as measured by high school assessments and end-of-course final exams; (2) Improve teacher content knowledge in the sciences by providing high quality professional development to inservice high school teachers; (3) Improve college faculty teaching skills by providing them with expert mentor/master teachers during summer institutes; (4) Enhance graduate student teaching skills by exposing them to expert mentor/master teachers during summer workshops, and having them complete teaching portfolios; and (5) Increase the number of undergraduate science students who choose teaching as a career.


Chris Hart
Phone: 301/445-2739