Program Profile: Charles A. Dana Center

Program Profile:
Charles A. Dana Center
f 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 center’s 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 influence.
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 center’s influence, however, has spread
across the country, to almost every place where
parents, teachers and administrators are fighting
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 K–12 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 center’s 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 schools’ 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?”