Contact: Francis (Skip) Fennell, Program Director
Division of Elementary, Secondary and Informal Education
National Science Foundation, Room 885
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230
Phone: (703) 306-1613
Fax: (703) 306-0412
To fully support the use of technology in your school or district, the U.S. Department of Education recommends that you spend about 30 percent of your technology budget on professional development. But where are you going to get the money to train teachers and other staff members in the use of technology? For starters, you might try this National Science Foundation program.
Teacher Enhancement (TE) supports professional development projects in the context of improving science, math, and technology (SMT) education. Projects typically involve entire school communities–administrators as well as teachers–to promote “supportive school organizations and cultures, enabling teachers to engage all students in rich and challenging learning environments.” One of the program’s goals is to strengthen the teacher workforce by “increasing understanding and use of appropriate and effective applications of educational technologies.”
Last year, TE awarded grants of up to $1.2 million per year for 3-5 years. TE is a cost-sharing program, which means successful candidates must show how they plan to supplement the award with other funding sources. It’s also a competitive program: According to program director Skip Fennell, only about 25 percent of applications are funded each year. In 1997, for example, 52 of the 211 proposals were funded.
At press time, NSF had yet to release this year’s guidelines–but check its web site, because they’ll probably be posted by the time you read this. Preliminary proposals, which are required and are limited to 6 pages, are due around April 1 and give applicants a chance to get feedback from NSF program officers before submitting full proposals, which are due in August.
According to Fennell, K-12 districts are most likely to receive funding in two categories: local systemic change (LSC) and educational leadership.
Local systemic change
LSC projects support school systems and their partners in reforming the delivery of science and math education in grades K-12. School districts or coalitions of school districts must submit proposals in partnership with at least one organization with a scientific or educational mission, such as a college or university, state or local education agency, professional society, research lab, or private foundation.
LSC projects represent a shift in focus from professional development of individual teachers to that of all teachers within a school organization. Projects should result in the establishment of professional communities that empower teachers to change their practice and reflect on their own teaching and learning. In these projects, “new beliefs, skills, and behaviors are learned and explored within a supportive school culture, which is itself engaged in renewal.”
NSF funds are intended to support teacher enhancement activities, not the actual costs of providing selected curricula for classroom use. Instructional materials, equipment, and supplies aren’t covered; however, they may be funded by other sources in the sharing of costs.
One exception to that rule from last year’s program: In situations where networking technology would help sustain professional development opportunities for teachers, equipment purchase was considered within the allowable funding level, as long as other requirements were met.
Last year’s grants offered up to $3,000 per teacher for projects that focused on grades K-8, to a total of $1.2 million per year, and up to $4,500 per teacher for projects that focused on grades 7-12, to a total of $1 million per year. Cost sharing from the school district, state funds, the private sector, and project partners was expected to equal or exceed the amount requested from NSF.
Educational leadership projects prepare teachers to serve as school or district mentors and/or agents of change responsible for supporting the improvement of SMT education. Within the category of educational leadership, K-12 districts are most likely to be funded in the sub-category “Teacher Leaders.”
Last year’s Teacher Leaders projects targeted teachers at the middle- and high-school levels. Projects with the potential for greatest impact are most likely to be funded–so you should partner with as many other districts as possible when applying.
NSF limits its support for projects in this area to an average cost of $6,000 per teacher. In addition to teachers, leadership teams may also include building and district administrators and other appropriate personnel.
Typical leadership projects exceed the equivalent of four-to-six weeks in duration. They may involve multiple-year work through summer institutes and/or academic year programs. Projects must include adequate time for in-depth study, reflection, and guided practice and should model effective approaches to curriculum, teaching, and assessment.