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President of the National Academy of Sciences To Help Launch UCR ALPHA Center

President of the National Academy of Sciences To Help Launch UCR ALPHA Center

(April 26, 1999)

Bruce M. Alberts, the president of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the National Research Council, will travel to Riverside to speak at the official opening of The Academy of Learning through Partnerships for Higher Achievement (ALPHA) at the University of California, Riverside.

He will speak at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 6 in the CinemaStar Theater at University Village, on the future of mathematics and science education from the perspective of a scientist.

Alberts is a respected biochemist recognized for his work both in biochemistry and molecular biology. He has long been an advocate of improving early science education and has served on the advisory board of the National Science Resources Center and on the National Academy of Sciences' National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment.

ALPHA, directed by Pamela S. Clute, encompasses a variety of campus programs that reach out to improve the achievement of students, in collaboration with school districts, teachers and parents. It is a newly created center, a joint project of the UCR School of Education, the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and the UC Office of the President.

The newest addition to the center, and a major source of funding, is the School University Partnership (SUP) program that supports projects linking UCR faculty members with individual schools or programs.

"We have proposals from just about every department on campus," said Kathy Bocian, a faculty member working with ALPHA.

One project would spend $22,864 to bring Jurupa Unified School District teachers together to help align the district's mathematics curriculum. Other projects would allow students and teachers to learn Web-page design at the UCR/California Museum of Photography or go on archeological digs in conjunction with the Western Center of Archeology and Paleontology.

In addition, some existing UCR programs are now coordinated through the ALPHA center:

  • Project ATHENA, funded with a $710,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Intermediate school girls get mathematics and science help from college-age women and UCR faculty members. Clute hears from both the young mentees and the college-age mentors that they are beginning to think of math and science as friendly fields that contain interesting possibilities. An evaluation is already underway to measure if that attitude translates to better academic performance in high school, and even college. "This project is a collaboration of various women at different stages in their learning and professional development," Clute said. "Together they are working toward success in mathematics and science."
  • The Community Teaching Fellowship Program, which boosts elementary students' interest and achievement by allowing them access to graduate students in mathematics.
  • The Inland Area Mathematics Project, which trains teachers in mathematics content and innovative teaching methods.

Clute said the lecture will be attended by educators, scientists, parents, students, teachers and administrators who are interested in making U.S. students world class when it comes to performance on measures in mathematics and science.

Citing studies that show high school seniors in the U.S. at the bottom of a list of 40 countries in math and science skills, Alberts suggests a shift from a textbook-driven emphasis on memorization toward a more comprehensive understanding of scientific principles and thought.

"It's important to understand the world, not to know the names of whales," he said.

Science education has been gradually improving since 1970, but not fast enough, according to Alberts. "Clearly, we can and must do better if we are to remain a strong and productive nation."

The solution, he said, lies in a better process for selecting textbooks, hands-on curriculum for teachers and teacher training. "The professional development of science teachers must become a non-ending process that is deeply embedded in each school district."

Alberts said the World Wide Web is a largely untapped resource that can bring the best teachers together to share experiences that can be duplicated in other classrooms.

He also encourages young science and math majors to consider teaching. "In my opinion, we need many more pathways that allow people who know science and mathematics well to readily enter the teaching profession."

Alberts, 60, was elected to membership in the Academy in 1981. He came to Washington as Academy president in 1993 from the University of California, San Francisco. As president, Alberts also serves as chair of the National Research Council, an 1,100-employee enterprise that conducts independent science, engineering, and health policy studies under a congressional charter, with an annual budget of $180 million.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, non-profit organization established by an act of Congress in 1863 to elect outstanding scientists and engineers to serve as independent advisers to the federal government on issue of science and technology.

Its current membership totals some 1,800 people, including UCR faculty members John Moore, George Zentmyer, Noel Keen and Michael Clegg.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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