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Understanding the Role of Partnership Configuration in the NSF-MSP Program


The National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Math and Science Partnership Program (MSP) promotes the development, implementation, and sustainability of exemplary partnerships to produce high-quality math and science education at all K-12 levels. The MSP Program anticipates that the partnerships will be instrumental in improving student achievement, as well as reducing achievement gaps among student populations differentiated by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, or disability, a strategy advocated by Haycock, Hart, and Irvine (1991). This paper explores how different configurations influence the types of partnering and educational activities undertaken by partnerships. It further provides illustrative examples of education partnerships from the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Math and Science Partnership (MSP) Program, which calls for inter-institutional partnerships among institutions of higher education (IHEs), local education agencies (LEAs), state education agencies (SEAs), and other for-profit and nonprofit entities. The study examines partnerships awarded in three cohorts during FY2002, 2003, and 2004 in three categories: Comprehensive Partnerships, Targeted Partnerships, and Institute Partnerships (Teacher Institutes for the 21st Century). Data sources include interviews conducted with the MSPs, archival data submitted by the awardees as part of the MSP Program's Management Information System (MSP-MIS), available extant literature, awardees' annual reports, awardees' evaluation reports, documents available through the awardees' learning network (www., and Web site information reported by the individual partnerships in the MSP Program accessible through 2007. Preliminary results indicate that the particular type of configuration of the MSP partnership does not appear to significantly impact the quantity and types of activities the MSPs carry out and accomplish. Those partnerships configured with multiple IHEs did, in some instances, show an enhanced capacity to conduct a greater number and richer array of activities.