UC Irvine announced Monday that it has been awarded a $14.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop teachers in those disciplines for preschool through 12th-grade classes.
"What this does," said Juan Francisco Lara, the university's assistant vice chancellor and director of its Center for Educational Partnerships, "is define UCI as the preeminent leader in math and science education in California. This is where the epicenter is."
Under the terms of the grant, the university will provide after-school and Saturday development classes for math and science teachers serving three Southern California school districts: Compton, Newport-Mesa (westside Costa Mesa schools) and Santa Ana.
Among the estimated 100,000 students in those districts, university officials said, are a large number who are poor or not fluent in English.
In addition to training teachers, Lara said, the university will direct an "aggressive outreach" to encourage some of its 22,600 undergraduate students to consider careers as science and math teachers.
"It's a national problem," he said, "and the problem is that, in general, instruction in math and science at the secondary level is uneven across the state. Most universities [in discussing outreach] are talking about students already enrolled in their graduate schools. I'm talking about freshmen and sophomores and juniors. With a serious, aggressive outreach effort, we could probably come up with 10% of the student body who would say 'Sure, I'll consider it.' "
The grant--to be disbursed over the next five years--is the second largest in the university's history and the largest from the science foundation, said Tom Vasich, a UC Irvine spokesman.
"It really enters us into something much more far-reaching than what we've done in the past," he said.
UC Irvine was one of seven educational institutions nationwide--and the only one in California--to be awarded science foundation grants. The others are the University of North Carolina; University of Texas, El Paso; Baltimore County Public Schools; University of Wisconsin, Madison; University of Kentucky and Rutgers University in New Jersey.