Our Story

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In 1991, the U.S. government broke ground on an audacious project. The superconducting super collider would hurl particles at breathtaking speeds through miles of tunnels deep under the Texas soil to bring light to big questions about the very nature of our universe.

Scientists and engineers from around the world were needed for the massive undertaking. Schools in rural north-central Texas would need to provide high-quality education for their students.

An idea was born to raise the caliber of the area schools.

  • By 1993, the Superconducting Super Collider project was cancelled, but the program to improve the schools remained. And thrived.

    Today, that idea and other proven programs comprise NMSI’s core efforts to support today’s teachers, challenge students and develop the next generation of great STEM teachers.

    The many shapes and colors of our NMSI logo reflect the many efforts that have come together to bring the organization to life.

    Texas philanthropist Peter O’Donnell Jr., a key supporter of the Superconducting Super Collider, recognized that drawing thousands of scientists and engineers from around the world to a small town south of Dallas would require world-class schools for their children. To accelerate improvement in area schools, O’Donnell used his family foundation to start the Advanced Placement Incentive Program, focused on increasing student participation and success in rigorous math, science and English courses through extensive teacher training and additional time-on-task for students. The program also included merit-based financial awards for teachers and students.

    In 2000, the O’Donnell Foundation created Advanced Placement Strategies to expand the program across Texas and named Gregg Fleisher — a calculus teacher who was instrumental to APIP’s success in Dallas ISD — as its president.

    As APIP continued to produce unprecedented student achievement results across more than 70 Texas school districts, a national movement to bolster the country’s scientific and technological standing in an increasingly global economy was gaining traction. In 2005, the National Academies commissioned a seminal report, titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” calling for improved American student performance in math and science to ensure U.S. global competitiveness.

    Dallas attorney and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Tom Luce heeded that call to action and mobilized support to create a nonprofit organization that would scale-up programs with a proven track record of success in improving education outcomes: APIP, now known as NMSI’s College Readiness Program, and the UTeach program, founded at The University of Texas at Austin to address the need for more highly qualified math and science teachers.

    ExxonMobil invested $125 million. With additional founding support from the O’Donnell Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the National Math and Science Initiative was born in 2007.

    In 2012, the nationally recognized teacher training organization Laying the Foundation became part of NMSI, thereby creating a seamless system for preparing middle and high school students to succeed in advanced coursework.

    From the start, NMSI’s model has been rooted in state and local partnerships. These partnerships allow NMSI to quickly activate proven programs in schools large and small and to ensure that state and district leaders can continue to grow local programs long after the initial partnership. Today, state-funded replications of NMSI’s College Readiness Program continue to flourish in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana and Kentucky; hundreds of other schools are participating in the program nationwide. Thousands of teachers attend Laying the Foundation training each year and the UTeach program has expanded to more than 40 universities.

    A decade after its launch, NMSI has supported students, teachers and schools in 40 states across the country, resulting in a stronger corps of math and science teachers, increased student access to and achievement in rigorous STEM courses, particularly among students traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, and greater workforce preparedness.

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