Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
News Conference Via "Access" Grid
NSF-Funded Report On Urban Systemic Initiatives
June 28, 2001
Good afternoon, and thanks to Curt Suplee for opening
this "21st century-style" interactive meeting.
I'm delighted to welcome you to one of NSF's first
We intend to use this format again if your response
to this avenue of communication is enthusiastically
I want to reinforce Curt's expression of gratitude
and appreciation to the people at the National Center
for Supercomputing Applications for their time, effort,
and support, and notably for allowing us to use this
We recognize that it took an extraordinary effort to
create the links to school officials across the country,
and to provide communications with journalists through
the Web and e-mail. We look forward to their comments.
Let me begin with an old Chinese proverb and then an
update of that proverb. The ancient version says:
If you are planning for a year, plant rice. If you
are planning for a decade, plant a tree. If you are
planning for a lifetime, educate someone.
That is wise advice but I believe it needs an update.
If you are planning for the 21st century,
educate with a focus on science and math. And that
is why we are all here today.
Our society is knowledge driven and deeply rooted in
science and technology.
It is critical to inform and impress upon the public
the need for every child to have solid background
in science and math in order to flourish in this new
The improvement of mathematics and science education
in our urban schools has been a priority concern for
the National Science Foundation.
Eight years ago we embarked on a bold initiative to
invest in system-wide reform of science and math in
urban school systems. We targeted some of the largest
cities with underserved student populations. Twenty-two
cities were included in this study based on the resulting
awards for Urban Systemic Initiatives.
As the Urban Systemic Initiative approaches a decade
milestone, an external evaluation team has reported
substantial payoffs on this national investment in
At today's event you will hear comment and assessment
from around the country and from the various participants
in the project.
It was Aristotle who said, "Well begun is only half
done." These results do not represent a complete analysis
but they do indicate a good beginning and the promise
of continuing opportunities for progress.
The two major components of any form of learning are
the student and the teacher. You cannot hope to advance
student learning without also improving teacher training
The participating school systems are reforming their
science and math curricula, providing state-of-the-art
materials for teachers and students, and expanding
opportunities for teacher professional development.
A solid grounding in math and science education is
more important now than ever before for all young
people. They need these skills to succeed in the 21st
And the fundamental need is to prepare the next generation
of scientists and engineers whose discoveries and
innovations will help sustain our social and economic
prosperity, and make the world a better place.
Today you will also hear about the important contributions
that university, corporate, and non-profit partners
are making to school reform efforts.
Through its urban K-12 programs, the National Science
Foundation has invested hundreds of millions of dollars
to help school systems in our largest cities provide
high quality math and science education.
Together with all of our partners, we have made substantial
progress toward the goal we've set ourselves: to be
the world's leading nation in math and science.
In that process we need continuing expertise and assistance
from experienced leaders in education. I have the
distinct pleasure of introducing such a leader as
our next speaker.
Dr. Floretta McKenzie understands student learning,
teacher development, and school system reform. She
has been a DC school system superintendent. She has
been a leader of reform. And she has been a consultant
with her own company that is called upon for organizational
and leadership support.
Her knowledge of NSF's programs is significant, and
her knowledge of ongoing urban reform is even greater.
Dr. McKenzie is here with us to present some of the
key findings in NSF's evaluative study, Academic
Excellence for All Urban Students. Please welcome