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University of Iowa News Release

May 4, 2004

UI Science Educators Score Three Grants For Second Consecutive Year

The University of Iowa College of Education's Science Education Center has scored a trifecta of sorts, having secured government grants totaling $264,000 for three separate initiatives launched last year to help K-12 teachers across Iowa learn how to more effectively teach math and science and to better assess the results.

This marks the second year in a row the three projects have gotten funding. Each project received a one-year, $88,000 grant.

"I think it really says something about our science education program here at the University of Iowa that all of our grants have been renewed," said science education faculty member John Dunkhase, director of one of the projects. "It's great we all got funded again."

Dunkhase's grant will be used to continue the work of his Science and Mathematics Inquiry Learning Enhancement (SMILE) Project, a collaboration involving the UI College of Education's science education center, the science and mathematics faculty, the Grant Wood Area Education Agency and a number of eastern Iowa school districts.

Dubbed SMILE II, the project will continue working to increase the achievement in science and mathematics of students in grades five through eight who are in the participating school districts and to accelerate the math and science achievement growth of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Price Meals.

The program consists of an intensive summer workshop, academic year lesson-study groups and onsite implementation assistance from project staff.

With his grant, Professor Robert Yager will continue work on his Iowa Chautauqua Assisting With Reforms Project, which seeks to foster collaboration among teachers in eight districts in the Mason City area (up from three districts last year).

Teachers will take part in a two-week summer workshop, periodic study-group meetings with peer teachers throughout the year and ongoing collaboration via the Internet to learn how to adapt to science classes in kindergarten through grade nine teaching methods promoted by the National Science Foundation.

"The big change this year is that we will be using some of the most successful teachers from last year as key staff people this time," Yager said.

Professor Ed Pizzini hopes to continue the success of last year's Project "SNAG: Science-Narrowing the Achievement Gap" project. As with last year, SNAG II will emphasize specialized science education training and the use of strategies that benefit all students in a Summer Leadership Institute and academic year workshops for select teachers. The professional development will model "best" practices, according to the current research on teaching and learning.

Under SNAG II, teachers from select schools in the Grant Wood and Great River Area Education Agencies will be targeted. Their students -- who come from high poverty, low socio-economic backgrounds and who are underachievers -- will be tracked to determine whether the achievement gap between them and their peers narrows.

Pizzini said more teachers are interested in the project than can be accommodated this year, and he hopes to secure yet another grant for the project in 2005.

"The first year has proven that if we really want teachers to engage in action research on classroom practice, we have to show them to value it by doing it themselves," Pizzini said.

Funding for the grants comes from Iowa's Improving Teacher Quality State Grant Program, part of the state's efforts under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The Improving Teacher Quality program encourages Iowa colleges and universities to conduct professional development activities for the state's elementary and secondary school teachers, in cooperation with high-need local education agencies.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu.