Much is said about how mathematics and science education in the U.S. compares to programs around the world. But eight years ago the National Science Foundation (NSF) discovered some variation in how math and science students fared within the country: students in urban school systems often performed poorly in math and science, and large gaps existed between the achievements of minority and majority students. In response, the NSF implemented the Urban Systemic Initiatives (USI) program to encourage and support reform of kindergarten through 12th-grade math and science education in 22 urban school systems. And, in a report released today, the NSF says the program is working.

According to the new study, Academic Excellence for All Urban Students, students in a majority of cities involved are taking more math and science courses and attaining higher levels of achievement. What's more, minority students are making larger jumps in enrollment and achievement, thereby reducing the rift between them and the rest. The USI reform effort utilizes standards-based curricula, professional development for teachers, and accountability, through data collection and assessment, for achievement.

"This is not a complete analysis, but it is a good beginning for cities to gauge what can be done," says Judith Sunley, NSF's interim assistant director for education and human resources. The report covers USI cities' participation through 1999, and the data will be updated in August to include the 2000-2001 school year. This early report and the programs it describes, Sunley adds, will provide valuable information for the continuing evolution of NSF's approach to kindergarten to 12th-grade mathematics and science education.