Responding to what it calls a “critical need,” the National Science Foundation has launched a $100 million initiative to regenerate leadership in teaching and research in math, science, and technology by establishing Centers for Learning and Teaching throughout the country.

The centers will encourage the development of new faculty and new materials to boost learning in kindergarten through 12th grade and to prepare graduate students in these areas to assume leadership roles.

Research has revealed serious problems in science, math, engineering, and technology education, said Judith Ramaley, NSF’s assistant director for the Division of Education and Human Resources.

“In grades 7-12, approximately 33 percent of mathematics teachers and 20 percent of science teachers have neither a major nor a minor in their teaching field; yet these underqualified teachers teach more than 26 percent of mathematics students and 16 percent of science students,” she said.

The student population is much more diverse than it was in the late 1950s, and state testing requirements have put an emphasis in boosting overall student achievement, she added. Plus, computer technology has opened new possibilities for student learning.

To address these needs, NSF is funding five new centers for $10 million each over a five-year period. The centers will encourage undergraduates to go into research and teaching in sciences and mathmatics, create a new cadre of faculty with fresh ideas and talents, and work with local school districts to fashion practical approaches to specific problems.