Montclair State University Receives $6.8 Million in Grants to Lead Cutting-edge Collaborations to Improve Science and Math Education in New Jersey Schools

The Prudential Foundation, National Science Foundation and New Jersey Department of Education to Provide Funding

Office of Communications and Marketing

MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair State University ( ), nationally recognized for its teacher preparation programs, today announced the receipt of $6.8 million in grants to improve the teaching of math and science in New Jersey schools.

The three grants, coming from the private sector, a federal agency and the state will underwrite three initiatives: a math and science teacher recruitment/education program in Newark, a math and teaching fellowship program involving five northern New Jersey districts, and a program providing on-site professional development for math and science teachers in 26 school districts.

"One of the vital issues facing our state and our nation is how to improve the teaching of mathematics and science," said New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Lucille Davy. "These grants will enable Montclair State to share its expertise in science and math education with local districts to improve children's math and science skills." Together, the grants will enable Montclair State to work with 30 school districts, impacting 257 teachers and touching more than 10,000 students. The three grants announced by the University are:

  • A $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to promote math and science education by having the University's math and science graduate students serve as teaching fellows in five Northern New Jersey school districts;
  • A $1.6 million grant from The Prudential Foundation to recruit, educate and mentor 45 new math and science teachers to work in the Newark public schools; and
  • A $2.4 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Education to have Montclair State faculty work with third- and fourth-grade math and science teachers in 26 school districts.

"Montclair State's educational mission has always extended beyond the campus gates," said University President Susan A. Cole. "The University is a resource for all New Jersey, partnering and collaborating at the local and state level to confront issues and create change. We're honored to be leading these cutting-edge collaborations and believe the lessons learned will have profound benefits for schools and teachers throughout the state."

"At Prudential, we believe that great public schools are the foundation of strong communities. That's why we've joined with Montclair State University and the Newark Public Schools in this innovative partnership for teacher recruitment and preparation," said Prudential Chairman and CEO Arthur Ryan. "Montclair State is a national leader when it comes to preparing teachers who offer rigorous curricula. Teachers who have been prepared at M ontclair State will be able to help empower Newark's children to succeed in school and in their professional lives."

Bergen County's North Arlington School District is one of the five northern New Jersey districts taking part in the National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative, which is part of a national NSF program that enables graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math to serve as teaching fellows in K-12 classrooms.

"We in North Arlington are proud to be a part of this National Science Foundation grant and a partner with Montclair State University," said district Superintendent Oliver W. Stringham. "Science and mathematics are critical areas for our nation's current and future success. We look forward to our students and staff working with the Montclair State graduate fellows over the next three years to enhance science and mathematics opportunities for all involved."

The challenge of improving knowledge of math and science has become especially urgent today as Americans compete within an increasingly global and high-tech economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings requiring science, engineering or technical training will increase by more than 24 percent, to 6.3 million, by 2014.

At the same time, studies show America lagging when it comes to preparing students for these jobs. Just seven percent of American fourth- and eight-graders achieved the "advanced" level on the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS, 2003) test. By contrast, in Singapore 38 percent of fourth-graders and 44 percent of eight-graders achieved the advanced level.

Teacher preparation and recruitment will be a major part of the answer to this challenge, and Montclair State's collaborations with the private sector, the state government, a federal agency and numerous local school districts illustrate that the challenge will require extensive resources and a broad array of partnerships.

"There is no more powerful predictor of success in college than the level of mathematics learning a student has achieved upon graduation from high school," said Montclair State's Dr. Cole. "I would like to see New Jersey become a model for the nation in mathematics and science education, and we have the talent and the knowledge to achieve that goal."

(Please refer to the attachments for additional information about each of the three grants.)

Montclair State University
Montclair State is New Jersey's second largest university. It offers the advantages of a large university--a comprehensive undergraduate curriculum with a global focus, a broad variety of superior graduate programs through the doctoral level, and a diverse faculty and student body--combined with a small college's attention to students. Web site

Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) Program

Program Name: NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program Grantor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Grantee: Montclair State University College of Science and Mathematics
Amount: $2.8 million
Five years
Number of Districts:
List of Districts:
Kearny, North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Rutherford and East Rutherford
Number of Teachers to Participate:
Estimated Number of Students Impacted:

Program Summary:
The program at Montclair State University, "GK-12 Fellows in the Middle: Partnerships for Inquiry and Interdisciplinary Middle School Science and Mathematics," promotes math and science research and education by having Montclair State University graduate students serve as resident scientists and mathematicians in middle school classrooms.

Background: The $2.8 million grant is part of the National Science Foundation's Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program, an initiative that supports research graduate students (fellows) in science, technology, engineering and math by placing them in K-12 classrooms. More than 5,000 graduate students across the country have participated in the program since the NSF established it in 1999.

It is the largest National Science Foundation grant ever received by Montclair State.

The funding will enable Montclair State to provide $30,000 annual stipends and $10,500 towards tuition and related expenses for each participating graduate student. Montclair State intends to select a total of eight graduate students per year (four math students and four science students) and match them with eight middle school science and math teachers.

"The graduate students involved in this program bring exceptional knowledge about current research," explains Ken Wolff, a professor of mathematics and principal investigator of the project, "the K-12 students can gain information about major topics in math and science such as genetic engineering or game theory." Professor Mika Munakata, also a professor of mathematics and principal investigator, adds " This program addresses the need for connections in the classroom; between current science research and K-12 education, school-based learning and field experiences, and middle school and graduate students."

School officials in the participating districts expressed excitement at being part of the project and high hopes for what it may accomplish.

"We're absolutely thrilled to have Montclair State as a partner," said East Rutherford Schools Superintendent Gayle Strauss, Ph.D. "Our schools have been struggling to raise test scores, as the number of students in ESL (English as a Second Language) and special education in a district our size has a large impact on our overall scores. This program will target those populations."

Professors Wolff and Munakata, and Montclair State physics professor Mary Lou West will direct the program, supported by a team of research faculty and graduate students in the areas of biology and molecular biology, chemistry and biochemistry, computer science, mathematical sciences, and earth and environmental studies.

Professor West said the participating districts were selected in part for the teaching challenge presented by the district's fast-changing, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual student populations. All the communities have experienced an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Asia, South Asia and Latin America. To meet the challenge, West predicted that the program fellows and middle school teachers would develop more hands-on classroom activities, workshops and field projects that transcend language barriers.

"Math and science are universal languages," said Professor West.

e-CUSP (Elementary Creative University School Partnerships)

Program Name: e-CUSP (Elementary Creative University School Partnerships)
New Jersey Department of Education
Montclair State University College of Science and Mathematics
$2.4 million anticipated over three years ($675,000 in year one)
Three years
Number of Districts:
List of Districts:
Alpine , Bergenfield, Englewood Cliffs , Essex Fells, Fairfield , Hillsdale, Leonia, Little Ferry, Lodi, Lyndhurst, Montclair, Mountainside, North Caldwell, Ogdensburg, Oradell, City of Orange, Park Ridge, Passaic City, River Edge, Roseland, Rutherford, Teaneck, Totowa, Wayne, West Orange and West Paterson
Number of District Teachers to Participate: 210 over three years
Estimated Number of Students Impacted:

Program Summary: University experts in math and science will provide coaching and professional development for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers in 26 school districts located in Bergen, Essex, Passaic and Sussex counties.

Background: e-CUSP (Elementary Creative University School Partnerships) is an intensive, three-year partnership between Montclair State University and 26 local school districts in which University professors share their expertise in math and science, as well as in teaching theory and methodology. This e-CUSP program is one of several programs created and implemented by the University's Professional Resources in Science and Mathematics (PRISM) initiative, which is housed within the Bristol-Myers Squibb Center for Science Teaching and Learning, a key resource for teachers in the region.

The program begins over the summer when participating teachers from local districts attend two weeks of workshops in math and science on the Montclair State campus. It then continues throughout the school year with an ongoing series of workshops at the University and periodic visits from University math and science "coaches" to local districts.

The e-CUSP initiative involves a diverse array of urban, suburban and rural district partners and makes use of current educational research as well as findings from earlier math and science reform efforts to design a custom program for each.

"Montclair has a unique track record of getting scientists and mathematicians into the schools," notes Jacalyn Willis, Director of the PRISM initiative, "this experience proves to be a great strength, especially in retooling a workforce of teachers who may not have had much initial training in these disciplines."

The Montclair State professors help local district teachers increase their knowledge in math and science, evaluate and select the right teaching materials and resources such as kits, computer software and workbooks, and also modify the classroom environment to stimulate learning. For example, the traditional classroom environment of desks in straight rows might give way to "clusters" with math and science centers.

The program expands upon an existing $2.3 million Montclair State "CUSP" initiative that was geared to middle school math and science teachers to now reach into the younger elementary grades.

The Ogdensburg Elementary School District in Sussex County is one of the districts already participating in the CUSP program and now will join the e-CUSP initiative.

"It's been a real bonus for us," district Superintendent John Petrelli said of Ogdensburg's participation in CUSP. "Our staff has had nothing but great things to say about the workshops and their coaches from Montclair State."

Prudential Teaching Fellows

Program Name: Prudential Teaching Fellows
The Prudential Foundation
Montclair State University College of Education and Human Services
Amount: $1.6 million
Term: Three years
Number of Districts: 1 (Newark)
Teachers to Participate: 45 over three years
Estimated Number of Students Impacted:
Approximately 4,500 per year

Program Summary: Montclair State University's College of Education and Human Services will recruit, educate, mentor, and support 15 math and science baccalaureate degree holders each year to teach in the Newark school system.

Background: One of the biggest problems in staffing schools is the retention of teachers, especially in urban districts, where approximately 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first three years. The Prudential Teaching Fellows (PTF) Project responds to this challenge with an innovative teacher recruitment, education and mentoring effort that focuses on the Newark Public Schools.

The PTF Project will seek out highly qualified individuals with math and science backgrounds, including math and science professionals interested in teaching as a second career, and support them every step of the way as they prepare for positions in the classroom.

The design of the project is intended to address both the recruitment and retention of new teachers in urban districts and is based on research indicating that intensive support in the critical first three years of teaching is a key factor in keeping the very best teachers.

"The Prudential Foundation selected this Montclair State University program for support because it not only addresses critical areas of educational growth--the need to attract and retain talented teachers to urban schools, and the need to bolster math and science learning in the K-12 years--but also because of the University's strong track record of implementing effective educational programs in our community's schools," said Gabriella Morris, president of The Prudential Foundation.

The program begins this fall when a cohort of 15 Prudential Teaching Fellows will be selected and start graduate course work in teacher education at Montclair State University. The teaching fellows will take five classes for 15 college credits in their first year, and take another 15 credits in their second year, as well as gain field experience in student teaching. Upon completion of this two-year preparation program, the teaching fellows will be hired by the Newark Public Schools, where an intensive mentoring and support program continues for their first three years as teachers.

Prudential Teaching Fellows receive free tuition at Montclair State and free program services in exchange for a binding commitment to teach in Newark Public Schools for a minimum of three years.

"We hope that the outcome of this program will be a compelling model for promoting teacher quality and improving retention rates, and that it will be an ongoing model adopted by Newark, as well as other, especially urban, school districts," said Ada Beth Cutler, Dean of Montclair State's College of Education and Human Services.

The project also includes an evaluation study to be conducted by researchers at Montclair State's Center for Research on Public Education, providing insight into best practices of the program and possible directions for implementing this program model in other districts and regions around the country.

May 15 , 2007