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Directorate for Education and Human Resources
Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education

Science, mathematics, and technology (SMT) education—pre-kindergarten through grade 12 (preK-12)—lays the foundation of knowledge and skills needed by future researchers, educators, and technologists; students pursuing postsecondary education in other disciplines; and individuals directly entering the technological workforce. The Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education (ESIE) supports the National Science Foundation’s mission of providing leadership and promoting development of the infrastructure and resources needed to strengthen preK-12 SMT education throughout the United States.

ESIE’s comprehensive and coherent research-based program portfolio strengthens the Nation’s capacity to support high-quality SMT education. Innovative instructional materials and student assessments, as well as new models for teacher education, contribute to SMT classroom environments that enable all students to achieve their full potential. Moreover, ESIE’s informal learning opportunities via media, exhibit, and community-based projects increase scientific and technological literacy, as well as develop lifelong learning skills that benefit students of all ages. All ESIE programs work together, adding to a knowledge base that informs practice and forging partnerships that leverage the expertise and resources of other major education stakeholders, including higher education, state and local education agencies, school districts, informal science education institutions, professional societies, and industry.

1. Centers for Learning and Teaching (CLT)

The Centers for Learning and Teaching Program is a comprehensive, research-based effort that addresses critical issues and national needs of the science, mathematics, and technology (SMT) instructional workforce across the entire spectrum of formal and informal education. Each center has a specific research focus, but all offer rich environments that meld education research, high-quality teacher education, and innovations in instructional practices. Centers consist of a doctoral degree-awarding university and one or more school districts, plus partnering organizations.

CLT program goals are:

  • to renew and diversify the cadre of national leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education through doctoral, postdoctoral, and internship programs for the broad array of professionals who educate and support the instructional workforce;
  • to increase significantly the numbers of K-12 STEM educators in schools and informal settings; and
  • to provide substantive opportunities for research into the nature of learning, strategies of teaching, policies of educational reform, and outcomes of standards-based reform.

Eligibility Requirements for CLT

The CLT program has special eligibility requirements beyond the standard NSF requirements. For more information, see program solicitation NSF 03-522.

2. Teacher Professional Continuum (TPC)

The TPC program is managed jointly by ESIE and the Division of Undergraduate Education. TPC addresses the full continuum of teacher education (grades K-12) from recruitment and preparation, through enhancement, retention, and life-long learning of science, mathematics, and technology (SMT) teachers. TPC supports four categories of projects: (1) Research Studies to identify effective strategies for educating teachers; developing supportive structures and environments that sustain SMT educators; and impacting teaching practice through teacher learning; (2) Research and Development of Educational Models and Systems to evaluate overall effectiveness of models and systems to be studied, as well as how relationships among various components influence effectiveness; (3) Professional Resources Development that are grounded in recent advances in research on teaching and learning; and (4) Conferences and Symposia that focus on planning and dissemination of research findings, issues, innovations, and action plans.

The goals of the TPC Program are:

  • to improve the quality and coherence of the learning experiences that prepare and enhance SMT teachers;
  • to develop innovative curriculums, materials, tools, ideas, and information resources for the professional development of SMT teachers and administrators;
  • to research, develop, and identify models, organizational structures, and systems that support the teacher professional continuum;
  • to use scientifically based studies to research teacher learning throughout the teacher professional continuum and its impact on teaching practice;
  • to advance the knowledge base on the preparation, enhancement, and retention of SMT teachers, and on the strategies that strengthen and diversify the SMT teaching profession; and
  • to disseminate this knowledge and research, as well as innovative models and resources, to a national audience.

Eligibility Requirements for TPC

The TPC Program has special eligibility requirements beyond the standard NSF requirements. For more information, see program solicitation NSF 03-534.

3. Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST)

Administered on behalf of the White House, the PAEMST Program recognizes teachers who incorporate creativity into their classroom teaching and demonstrate leadership in the education community. Beginning in 2003, the competition will alternate each year between teachers of grades 7-12 and teachers of grades K-6. In 2003, teachers of grades 7-12 mathematics and science in each State and the four U.S. jurisdictions are eligible for nomination. Teachers of grades K-6 will be eligible for Presidential Awards in 2004. Awardees receive a $10,000 cash award and a special citation from the President, and are honored in Recognition Week ceremonies in Washington, D.C.

Eligibility Requirements for PAEMST

The PAEMST Program has special eligibility requirements beyond the standard NSF requirements. For complete information, visit the PAEMST Web site,

4. Instructional Materials Development (IMD)

The IMD Program supports development of rigorous single- and multiyear curriculums in science, mathematics, and technology (SMT); supplementary instructional materials; and assessments to guide instruction and evaluate student learning. IMD’s student-based materials are generally accompanied by materials for teachers, administrators, and parents/caregivers. The three categories of IMD projects include: (1) Instructional Materials for Students that include embedded assessments, enhance classroom instruction, and reflect SMT education standards developed by national professional organizations; (2) Assessments (including creation of tools for assessing student learning) that are tied to nationally developed standards and assist in the implementation of new assessments; and (3) Applied Research that provides evidence of the effectiveness of instructional materials and feedback for future program development. IMD projects are national in scope and significance; are grounded in recent research in teaching and learning; and have the potential to make a noticeable impact on the nationwide market for instructional materials.

Eligibility Requirements for IMD

The IMD Program has special eligibility requirements beyond the standard NSF requirements. For more information, see program solicitation NSF 03-524.

5. Informal Science Education (ISE)

The Informal Science Education (ISE) Program is designed to increase public interest in, understanding of, and engagement with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). All ISE projects have the informal learner (from young child to senior citizen) as their primary audience, presume voluntary participation, and are not related to formal school activities or curricula. The outcome of ISE projects is an informed citizenry that has access to the ideas of science and engineering, and an understanding of their role in enhancing quality of life and the health, prosperity, welfare, and security of the Nation. Categories of projects include media (television, radio, film); exhibits (museums, science centers, aquariums, zoos, libraries, other informal learning institutions); and community and youth-based programs.

ISE Program goals are:

  • to engage the interest of children and adults in STEM disciplines so they will develop scientific and technological literacy, mathematical competence, problem-solving skills, and the desire to learn;
  • to bring together individuals and organizations from the informal and formal education communities, as well as from the private and public sectors, with the objective of strengthening STEM education in all settings; and
  • to develop and implement innovative strategies that support development of a socially responsible and informed public, and demonstrate promise of increasing participation of all citizens in continued learning and careers in STEM disciplines.

Eligibility Requirements for ISE

The ISE Program has special eligibility requirements beyond the standard NSF requirements. For more information, see program solicitation and guidelines NSF 03-511.

6. Communicating Research to Public Audiences (CRPA)

CRPA grants are a special category of projects supported under the Informal Science Education (ISE) Program. These grants, with funding levels up to $75,000, provide an opportunity for principal investigators (PIs) of awards from any NSF directorate or the Office of Polar Programs to communicate, in nontechnical terms, research results, research in progress, or research methods to a broad and diverse audience. Grants can be used for any activity that falls within the definition of an informal science education activity (e.g., media presentations, exhibits, youth-based activities) in order to disseminate research results, research in progress, or research methods.

Eligibility Requirements for CRPA

The CRPA Program has special eligibility requirements beyond the standard NSF requirements. For more information, see program solicitation and guidelines NSF 03-509.

7. Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST)

The ITEST Program seeks to increase opportunities for students (grades 7-12) and teachers to learn about, experience, and use information technologies within the context of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, including information technology courses. Two categories of projects are (1) Youth-Based projects, which create innovative models for engaging students in meaningful, intensive learning experiences, building the skills and knowledge needed to advance their studies so they can function and contribute in a technologically rich society and (2) Comprehensive Projects for Students and Teachers, which are designed to infuse information technologies into STEM courses, giving teachers opportunities to put into practice what they have learned via summer laboratory experiences with students in grades 7-12.

Eligibility Requirements for ITEST

The ITEST Program has special eligibility requirements beyond the standard NSF requirements. For more information, see program solicitation and guidelines NSF 02-147.

8. Advanced Technological Education (ATE)

The ATE Program is managed jointly by DUE and the Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education. The program promotes improvement in the education of technicians in science- and engineering-related fields at the undergraduate and secondary school levels. It particularly targets two-year colleges and encourages collaboration among 2-year colleges, 4-year colleges, universities, secondary schools, business, industry, and Government. Proposals are solicited in the following three tracks:

  • Projects—Activities may include the adaptation of exemplary educational materials, courses, and curriculums in new educational settings; preparation and professional development of college faculty and secondary school teachers; development of educational materials, courses, curriculums, and laboratories; internships and field experiences for students and educators; evaluation and broad dissemination of exemplary educational materials, curricula, and pedagogical practices designed by previously funded ATE centers and projects; and research on effective practices in technician education.
  • Centers—Centers are comprehensive national or regional resources that provide models and leadership for other projects and act as clearinghouses for educational materials and methods. National Centers of Excellence engage in the full range of activities described above for projects. Regional centers for manufacturing or information technology education pursue comprehensive approaches that focus on reforming academic programs, departments, and systems to produce a highly qualified workforce to meet industry's needs within a particular geographic region. Resource centers constitute a highly visible source of materials, ideas, contacts, and mentoring in particular fields of technological education.
  • Articulation Partnerships—Focus on enhancing either of two important educational pathways for students between 2-year colleges and 4-year colleges and universities. One type of Articulation Partnership focuses on strengthening science, technology, and mathematics preparation of prospective K–12 teachers enrolled in preprofessional programs at 2-year colleges. The other type of partnership targets 2-year college programs for students to continue their education in 4-year science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs, especially programs that have a strong technological basis.

Proposals in all three tracks must show evidence of a coherent vision of technological education—a vision that recognizes the needs of the modern workplace, the needs of students as lifelong learners, and the need for articulation of educational programs at different levels. Whenever feasible, projects are expected to utilize and innovatively build from successful educational materials, courses, curriculums, and methods that have been developed through other ATE grants, as well as other exemplary resources that can be adapted to technological education.

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