Dana Center profiled in Insight, the undergraduate newsletter of the College of Natural Sciences

Posted on June 10, 2009

The article below by Daniel Oppenheimer appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Insight.

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If you were to try to visualize all the ways that the Charles A. Dana Center has been involved in improving math and science education, you might start with a map of the United States. There would be a big star in the middle of Austin, where the centerís been doing its groundbreaking work since it came to the College of Natural Sciences 15 years ago. Emanating out from that star would be thousands of lines of infl uence.

The network of lines would be densest in Texas, where the Dana Center has been a major player in education policy since the mid-1990s, when it was brought on by the Texas Education Agency to coordinate development of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in mathematics and science. These are the standards for what all Texas students should know and be able to do in these subjects.

The centerís infl uence, however, has spread across the country, to almost every place where parents, teachers and administrators are fi ghting to use the best available research and theories to teach kids to learn math and science.

"The center's purpose," says executive director Uri Treisman, "is to strengthen KĖ12 math and science education, especially in communities that serve many low-income kids."

That simple charge has expanded since Treisman founded the center to encompass a vast range of programs, products, reports and recommendations. The centerís initiatives range from detailed lesson plans for 4th grade science teachers to training workshops for Texas administrators to the Urban Mathematics Leadership Network (UMLN), which has brought together leaders from 22 of the biggest cities in the country to develop a coordinated approach to improving math education.

The center now has a presence in more than 1,000 Texas schools and in nearly every county across the state. In New York City there are thousands of students using online materials developed by the center, and the center is working with Providence, Rhode Island, on supporting implementation of the public schoolsí math and science core curricula standards.

"Most of our work, now, is at the intersection of public policy and education," says Treisman. "We're university based, but we work on problems that scale. We don't just work with 20 teachers, or with one school district. We work with 30,000 teachers a year, 10,000 administrators. The question we ask here is—what kind of strategies can you scale up to hundreds of thousands or millions of kids?"