Department of Education awards multi-million dollar grant to UALR

October 13-19, 2014

UALR Communications

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a multi-year, multi-million dollar grant to the Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education at University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The total amount of the five-year grant is approximately $2 million, with the first year funded at just over $420,000.

The grant, STEM Starters+,  was awarded through the Department of Education’s Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program, whose major emphasis is serving students throughout the U.S. who are traditionally underrepresented in gifted and talented programs.

In particular, economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient, and disabled students receive attention through the program.

The Mahony Center will use the grant funding to scale up a previous Javits project to identify and increase the numbers of underrepresented students served by gifted and talented programs in Arkansas.

“We have already demonstrated through STEM Starters that we can increase science achievement for all children in elementary schools,” said Mahony Center Director Dr. Ann Robinson, the project’s principal investigator.

“Among other things, this new funding will enable us to add a grade level to our current project, expand geographically, and incorporate an engineering curriculum for elementary students differentiated for advanced learners,” she added.

The engineering curriculum stems from a collaboration between the Mahony Center and the Museum of Science in Boston.

The museum’s vice-president, Dr. Christine Cunningham, said the partnership is a perfect fit to achieve the stated goals of both institutions.

“A central goal of our Engineering is Elementary project is to introduce elementary students, particularly underserved and underrepresented children, to engineering. We are excited to work with the Mahony Center to further this goal in Arkansas,” she said.

The four major project design components for STEM Starters+ are professional development, curriculum materials enhancement of the Blueprints for Biography series developed at the Mahony Center, science and engineering curriculum implementation, and evaluation through a randomized field study.

Intensive summer institutes and virtual coaching are key to the project, according to Robinson.

Sixteen schools from the El Dorado, Little Rock, and Pulaski County School Districts will be involved with the project and will serve approximately 120 teachers, 136 classrooms, and 2,412 students.

UALR Dean of the College of Education and Health Professions Dr. Ann Bain noted that the Mahony Center was in great company, referencing the other nine universities to receive the USDE funding.

Among them are top-rated institutions such as North Carolina’s Duke University, George Mason University in Virginia, and the University of Southern California.

“UALR has every reason to be very proud of the work accomplished by the Jodie Mahony Center,” Bain said.

“Certainly, children and teachers are its primary benefactors, but the whole state is now and far into the future will be better off as a result of this type of research and demonstration project.”