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Council Focuses on Education

By Karen W. Seto

The Institute-wide Council of Primary and Secondary Education is designing and supervising programs to lessen the deficiencies in U.S. K-12 education, especially in the areas of math and science.

The main goal of the CPSE is "technological literacy for all Americans," said Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Ronald M. Latanision, chair of the council. Science, math, and technology penetrate into every aspect of society, he said.

"With only about 30 to 40 percent of all American students eventually attending college, many of the [remaining] are very underprepared for the technological demands of today's society," Latanision said. "We feel great sympathy for those who lack that background."

While the programs sponsored by the Council have enjoyed success, finding the necessary funding is a challenge, Latanision said. "Council members are not paid to do this - they find time to make a commitment to CPSE," he said.

Institute teaches teachers

One of the programs supervised by the council, The Institute for Learning and Teaching, brings community-based teams of primary and secondary school teachers, administrators, and business representatives from across the country to MIT for three weeks in July, according to TILT Communications Manager Linda Breisch.

TILT is managed by a design team of six MIT professors and administrators and a Boston-area school teacher, Breisch said.

The program participants attend workshops designed to build negotiation and team cooperation skills and discuss and propose solutions to educational problems, Breisch said. The attendees also work on hands-on projects they can bring back to their students.

Last summer's projects included constructing bridges to support crossings of miniature robots and building a device to pump water from a reservoir to an elevated tank, Breisch said.

During the academic year following the residential phase, TILT grants each team $10,000, a one-year loan of a laptop computer, and a subscription to America Online. TILT provides support throughout the year to assist each team, Breisch said.

In addition, the team can request the help of an MIT student for one week during Independent Activities Period, she said.

TILT, which is two years old, is "still growing and evolving," Breisch said. "We're looking at the good and the bad, and still working on a mission," she said.

TPP prepares students to teach

Another CPSE program, the Teacher Preparation Program, certifies students to teach in Massachusetts. The program is headed by Professor of Music and Theater Arts Jeanne S. Bamberger and Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Susan Carey. TPP is run jointly with Wellesley College.

TPP allows students to take teacher preparation courses emphasizing the relation between the school and community through the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Latanision said.

"Traditionally, teachers have often been portrayed as underachievers, but MIT students are not underachievers," Latanision said. "We want to show that teaching is a respectable profession."

TPP students learn different ways to learn, understand, and teach by designing experiments to prove textbook theories, observing high school classes at least four hours each week, and preparing oral and written reports on these observations, Bamberger said.

"The class [11.124] is very interesting, very worthwhile," said TPP student Becky Wagenberg '96.

Enrollment in the program doubled to 14 from last year, Bamberger said. "One of our hopes for the future is that there be a concentration or even a minor in education at MIT," she said.