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“Do The Math: It’s Rocket Science!” $34.6 Million Grant Will Launch Georgia Students

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University System of Georgia Will Use NSF Funds For “PRISM” Initiative To Boost Student Achievement In Science And Mathematics

Atlanta — September 29, 2003

Georgia school children now have a new figure to calculate when they tackle math and science projects – $34.6 million. That’s the amount of a grant the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has been awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to strengthen math and science programs in 13 school districts in Georgia. The collaborative statewide educational reform initiative is titled Partnership for Reform in Science and Mathematics (PRISM).

The five-year grant, which was awarded to and will be administered by the University System’s Office of P-16 Initiatives, is the largest grant ever received by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

The over-arching goal of PRISM is to improve educational achievement levels and close the performance gaps among Georgia’s students in science and mathematics. The statewide educational reform initiative is a collaborative effort between state and numerous regional partners, including the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Education, seven University System of Georgia institutions, and 13 K-12 school districts in four regions of the state. The partnership reflects the seamless collaboration that is essential to solve systemic problems in education that span the educational spectrum from kindergarten to high school to colleges and universities.

“We are grateful for the generosity and the vision of the National Science Foundation in awarding us this funding,” said Chancellor Thomas C. Meredith. “This $35 million grant is a major milestone –not only for the University System of Georgia, but also for our state – because of the impact this grant will have for decades to come on the lives of individual students. In today’s increasingly knowledge-based economy, solid science and mathematic abilities are undeniably essential skills that pave the wave to student success and viability in the competitive workplace. We intend to significantly enhance student achievement in Georgia in both of these critical academic subjects.”

Once underway, PRISM will impact more than 170,000 students and more than 10,000 teachers in the participating schools. It also will impact future science and mathematics teachers who are being prepared at University System institutions, by showing them the best ways to teach these subjects. The convergence of several events, including the timing of the awarding of the PRISM grant and the rewriting of the state’s curriculum make this a unique opportunity to make substantive positive changes to Georgia’s educational effort.

“I applaud the hard work and collaborative effort of the University System of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Education. A grant of this magnitude will have a direct, positive result on improving instruction and student achievement in science and mathematics in Georgia,” said Governor Sonny Perdue.

PRISM’s goal is to increase student achievement in science and mathematics by ensuring that all students in the 13 participating school districts are taught science and mathematics by highly qualified and ethnically diverse teachers, that all students successfully complete challenging science and mathematics courses, and that they develop a deep understanding of the major concepts in science and mathematics.

Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reflects that Georgia lags behind the nation in both science and mathematics achievement. Additionally, there are marked differences in achievement among racial groups. For example, 2000 NAEP math achievement statistics reflected that:

  • 42% of Georgia fourth graders operate below basic mathematics proficiency, compared to 33% nationally
  • 17% of Georgia fourth graders operate at proficient levels compared to 22% nationally
  • 45% of Georgia eighth graders operate below basic mathematics proficiency, compared to 35% nationally
  • 16% of Georgia eighth graders operate at proficient levels compared to 21% nationally
  • The 2000 science achievement data reported by NAEP show similar patterns of performance regarding Georgia students compared to their national peers:
  • 42% of Georgia fourth graders operate below basic science proficiency, compared to 36% nationally
  • 21% of Georgia fourth graders operate at proficient levels compared to 24% nationally
  • 48% of Georgia eighth graders operate below basic science proficiency, compared to 41% nationally
  • 21% of Georgia eighth graders operate at proficient levels compared to 26% nationally

PRISM will test solutions to these issues, which later can be replicated in all public school systems and in all University System institutions.

“The NSF PRISM Grant will help us move Georgia’s students to higher levels of performance and achievement in math and science through a collaborative and systemic partnership that has never before been pursued in our state,” stated Dr. Jan Kettlewell, associate vice chancellor for P-16 Initiatives with the University System of Georgia and chair and principal investigator for the PRISM grant. “We are tremendously excited about the desired outcomes for this partnership, because more students in K-12 will be given an enhanced opportunity to be proficient in math and science – which is essential for successful postsecondary attendance.”

Key elements of PRISM are teacher professional development; raising the bar in student expectations through a more rigorous curriculum; a public awareness campaign designed to inform all Georgians - including students, parents and teachers - of the importance of pursuing rigorous courses in science and mathematics; an Institute on the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics; and P-16 learning communities in which school, college, and university faculty members figure out “what works for who, how it works, and under what conditions” so that lessons learned can be replicated throughout Georgia and shared nationally.

An inherently unique feature of PRISM is the partnerships at the state and local levels, particularly those between University System of Georgia institutions and the Georgia Department of Education’s K-12 school districts.

“This partnership aligns perfectly with our mission to lead the nation in improving student achievement,” stated State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox, in commenting on the grant. “This is yet another step in the right direction as we work with national experts to strengthen our Quality Core Curriculum to help Georgia’s students perform at a world-class level.”

The PRISM grant will be implemented in four regions of the state, and will be led within each region by a co-principal investigator from a University System institution and a regional P-12 coordinator. The regional partnerships are comprised of the following colleges, universities and public school districts:

Metropolitan Atlanta

  • Atlanta Public Schools
  • Georgia State University
  • The Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing-outreach center for K-12 education at the Georgia Institute of Technology

Northeast Georgia

  • Clarke, Jackson, and Oconee County School Systems
  • The University of Georgia
  • Georgia Perimeter College

East Central Georgia

  • Bulloch, Evans, Screven, Liberty, and Effingham County School Systems
  • Georgia Southern University

Southeast Georgia

  • Chatham, Bryan, Camden, and Glynn County School Systems
  • Armstrong Atlantic State University
  • Coastal Georgia Community College

At the state level, PRISM will be coordinated by a State Leadership Team, which includes key leaders from the Georgia Department of Education, the University System Office, the eight regional co-leaders, the project director and associate director, the internal evaluator, the heads of the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Georgia Science Teachers Association, and the co-principal investigator, principal investigator, and special assistant of the grant.

While the development of the PRISM grant proposal reflected the ideas and writing of a broad-based collaborative at both the regional and state levels, the primary authors were:

  • Dr. Jan Kettlewell, principal investigator for the PRISM grant, who will serve as the chair of the State Leadership Team;
  • Dr. Ron Henry, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Georgia State University, and co-principal investigator of the grant, who will serve as Director of the Institute on the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics;
  • Sheila Jones, executive director of P-16 Programs, who will serve as the PRISM project director;
  • Judith Monsaas, director of P-16 assessment and evaluation, who will serve as the PRISM internal evaluator; and
  • Tonya Kilpatrick, special assistant to the associate vice chancellor for P-16 Initiatives, who will serve as PRISM’s special assistant.

The grant activities are expected to get underway Oct. 1, 2003 and annual progress reports will be submitted to the National Science Foundation, providing evaluative data and measurement of the initiative’s progress in improving the performance of Georgia students in math and science.

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