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Originally published September 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 8, 2007 at 2:07 AM

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State gets grant for math, science education

Washington one of seven states to gets money for teacher training and college-level courses to spur students' interest in math and sciences.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Washington is getting millions of dollars to push college-level courses in select high schools across the state.

The Dallas-based National Math & Science Initiative has awarded its first grants to seven states, including Washington, to pay for Advanced Placement training and incentive programs, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) announced Friday.

Intended to spur career interest in math and science, the grants are each worth up to $13.2 million over six years.

"This award will help us provide significant additional support to teachers and students and, ultimately, will move us closer to a world-class, learner-focused education system," Gov. Christine Gregoire said in a statement released by her office.

The grant is geared toward helping students who may not have access to strong Advanced Placement programs, and to train instructors teaching the courses, the National Math & Science Initiative said. High-school students can earn college credit by taking Advanced Placement exams, which are administered by The College Board.

A nonprofit, the National Math & Science Initiative was formed in response to a 2005 report that found low performance in math and science was hurting the United States' global competitiveness. The organization's board members include executives from The College Board, state education departments, universities and private businesses.

Next week, OSPI representatives will meet with the initiative to discuss how the money can be distributed, said OSPI spokesman Nathan Olson. Specific schools and districts haven't been chosen.

Mentoring Advanced Placement, a Vancouver, Wash.-based organization providing mentors to teachers and students, will help administer any new programs in Washington.

This year, about half of 10th-graders passed the math portion of the statewide Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). In contrast, about 81 percent passed reading and 84 percent passed writing.

Lagging performance on the math WASL was a key reason state lawmakers decided last legislative session to delay making passage of the test a graduation requirement. Beginning with the class of 2008, students must pass the reading and writing WASL to graduate, but math and science aren't required until 2013.

SAT scores released by The College Board last month showed that, for the class of 2007, average math scores in the state this year were the lowest in six years.

The State Board of Education is reviewing Washington's math-curriculum standards, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson is expected to present rewritten standards to the Legislature this winter.

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The six other states receiving the National Math & Science Initiative grants were: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Virginia.

Initial funding for the initiative is from ExxonMobil, which is providing $125 million, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Christina Siderius: 206-464-2112 or csiderius@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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