A&M International Part of Statewide Rural Math, Science Ed Reform Effort

Texas A&M International University will be part of an extensive state-wide $10 million effort to improve mathematics and science skills for nearly a quarter of a million Texas rural school children.

The Texas Rural Systemic Initiative (TSRI) is a five-year project funded by the National Science Foundation, led by West Texas A&M University in Canyon, the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, a state research agency, and 17 partner members of The Texas A&M University System, the Texas Education Agency and other educational associations.

TSRI is focused on improving the way mathematics and sciences are taught and seeks to address barriers to high-quality mathematics and science instruction in these areas through partnerships with rural school districts.

Dr. Juan Lira, professor of education and project contact at A&M International, said the TRSI project is one predicated on the power of partnerships.

"This is a win-win way of extending the resources of A&M International to eligible districts through partnerships aimed at helping them to offer the best in science and math education to their students. Rural students should have the same learning opportunities as their urban counterparts. These partnerships are aimed at removing the barriers of time, distance and expertise to help rural students to be able to successfully compete in the global marketplace," Dr. Lira said.

Those districts that will participate are those in counties having less than 20,000 population and 30 percent or more school-age children living at or below the poverty level. Texas has 85 eligible counties with 227 school districts.

An initial regional start-up group eligible to participate includes districts in Dimmitt and Zavala counties. The start-up group will have 26 school districts with over 34,000 students combined. Other counties in the immediate area that will be eligible for later inclusion are Zapata, Jim Hogg, Duval, Uvalde, LaSalle, Frio and Starr.

Among activities the project anticipates assisting with are district-wide commitments to reform and inquiry-based learning for all students; principals supporting teachers in implementing high-quality mathematics and science, technology training for teachers and students, and parental support.

Four major components will make up the project: A district and community leadership forum to joins administrators, teachers, students and the community in working towards reform; a Systemic Leadership Institute to help activities designed to guide district leadership teams in their reform programs; a Principal Partners Academy to support rural school principals leading school reforms and a Teacher Partners Academy to help teachers in the daily process of improving the teaching and learning of mathematics and science.

A special focus for the TRSI is helping school districts with implementation of the new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in mathematics and science, adopted by the Texas State Board of Education and effective this month.

In addition to A&M International, other partners in the project include Angelo State University, Prairie View A&M University, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University-Commerce and Texas A&M University -Corpus Christi.

Additional partners are Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Texas Association of Community Schools, Texas Education Agency, Texas Engineering Experiment Station, Texas Rural Education Association, Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative, Texas Tech University, and Texas Woman's University.

For additional information, please contact the A&M International Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at 956.326.2180.

University office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu