COMET • Vol. 1, No. 12 – 1 May 2000


(1) “L.A. Proposes Linking Teacher Pay to Tests”

by Ann Bradley
Source: Education Week — 22 March 2000

Interim Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines last week formally proposed to the school board a plan that would tie individual teachers’ compensation to their students’ scores on the Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition and on Advanced Placement exams.

The board had 30 days to gather public comment on the idea before voting April 11 on whether to make it part of the upcoming contract negotiations with United Teachers Los Angeles.

The preliminary contract proposal comes as Mr. Cortines and Howard Miller, the chief operating officer of the 700,000-student district, work to reorganize schools into 11 minidistricts and cut hundreds of administrative positions. The teacher-pay proposal calls for establishing a one-time bonus program that would pay up to $2,000 to teachers in schools that exceed improvement targets set by the state’s accountability index. It would pay an additional bonus of up to $3,000 to teachers in low-performing schools that meet their goals.

The pay scheme means that teachers in low-performing schools that meet academic performance targets could earn as much as $5,000 extra. The district has about 300 such schools….

The union, whose contract expires at the end of June, has denounced the idea of linking pay to test scores. Day Higuchi, the president of the 43,000-member UTLA, called it a “diving for dollars” scheme….

“The district’s initial bargaining proposal is so bad that at first I thought it was a practical joke,” writes Mr. Higuchi, who could not be reached last week for comment. “But, sadly, it is no joke. There’s blatant disrespect for teachers as hard-working professionals in every element of the proposal”…

Allan Odden, a professor of educational administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert on teacher compensation, has promoted paying teachers for the development of knowledge and skills.

Kentucky, Maryland, and North Carolina have created plans that pay group incentives for teachers in schools that meet performance goals. Denver is creating a performance-pay plan, while teachers in Rochester, N.Y., are paid for certain knowledge and skills.

Mr. Odden, who had not seen the Los Angeles plan, cautioned that individual pay incentives could “squander the opportunity to do something bold.”

“When you put individual stuff on the agenda, you’re going to get divisiveness, opposition, and fragmentation–a real fight,” he said. “And L.A. doesn’t need that right now.”

(2) “District, Union OK Pay Hike for 1st-Year Teachers” by Louis Sahagun

Source: Los Angeles Times — 25 April 2000

The Los Angeles Unified School District and the teachers union Monday announced an agreement that would raise beginning teachers’ salaries to $37,000….The agreement is not part of the broader contract negotiations between the district and United Teachers-Los Angeles, which are expected to begin sometime next month.

Under the agreement, the minimum salary for eligible teachers would increase from $32,569 to $37,000 for the 1999-2000 school year. The raise would be retroactive to July 1, 1999, and would affect about 3,500 employees….

About two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Board of Education approved a labor contract offer of a 6% raise for teachers, with merit pay for instructors who improve their students’ performance on the annual Stanford 9 test.

The proposal would for the first time link teachers’ pay to students’ test scores. It offers far less than the 21% raise sought by the teachers union and asks teachers to give up extra pay for bilingual credentials and the power to decide what classes they want to teach….


(1) “From Brain Scan to Lesson Plan”

Source: APA Monitor — March, 2000

Neuroscientists are uncovering how the human brain learns, and will soon be able to translate that knowledge to the classroom. But more research–and collaboration between psychology and other fields–is needed.

“…Researchers must establish typical systems of learning in the brain, something neuropsychologist Stanislas Dehaene, PhD, is doing with math in his lab outside Paris at the Service Hospitalier Frederic Joliot. He is using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)–which traces blood flow–to support his theory that memorized math facts inhabit the same brain area as language, but that “real number sense” lives elsewhere.

In studies on college students, Dehaene finds that people tap brain networks in the left frontal lobe–areas associated with such verbal memory tasks as stringing together a sentence–to do multiplication tables. But they tap networks in the left and right parietal lobes–areas in the rear brain associated with visual and spatial tasks–to perform estimations. The reason, he theorizes, is that estimation is more “intuitive” math, an innate sense of quantity developed through human evolution.

Based on his findings, he says, children who are slow to read can still efficiently learn math.

“Often people say you can’t teach children math until they get language,” he says. “I say you can still teach numbers to children in a nonverbal way. One way is to use black and white rods to do addition, subtraction and other concrete operations that map nicely to the nonverbal system without using language at all.”

Dehaene’s findings also shed light on the poorly understood area of math disability. Building on his work, school psychologist Lisa Rowe, EdS, at the University of Florida and the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is testing whether children with math problems have difficulty using the “intuitive” nonverbal math system that Dehaene finds associated with the rear brain. Based on her findings, Rowe hopes to eventually develop interventions that tackle developmental math disability….

(2) “National Council of Teachers of English Endorses ‘Fairness and Accuracy in Student Testing Act'”

Source (6 April 2000): Peggy Harris–Phone: 800-369-6283, ext. 3643;
Also see
for Wellstone’s press release

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), a professional association of 77,000 educators in English studies, literacy, and language arts, applauds the “Fairness and Accuracy in Student Testing Act,” introduced by Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota on April 4. A companion bill is being introduced in the House by Representative Robert Scott (D-Virginia).

The Council urges Congress to take swift action to pass this legislation, which will engender equitable decision-making by utilizing standardized test scores as only one of multiple measures of student achievement…

“We are encouraged to see that this legislation calls for fairness and accuracy in the use of student testing. Senator Wellstone is correct in saying that high-stakes, single measure tests should only be used in combination with other measures of student performance and in concert with the judgments and observations of teachers and parents to make educational decisions that support, encourage, and ensure deep and continuing learning for all students.”

Wellstone’s bill requires that if a state or district receiving funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) uses a standardized test to make decisions about the graduation, promotion, tracking, or ability grouping of students, the test must be used as only one of multiple measures of student achievement and may not have determinative weight in the decision-making process. It further assures that if tests are used in making high-stakes decisions about students, the tests must:

  • Be valid and reliable for the purposes for which they are used
  • Measure what the student was taught
  • Provide students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency
  • Provide appropriate accommodations for students with limited English proficiency and disabilities

NCTE also endorses comments Wellstone made at a testing conference in New York: “We must never stop demanding that children do their best. We must never stop holding schools accountable. Measures of student performance can include standardized tests, but only when coupled with other measures of achievement, more substantive education reforms, and a much fuller, sustained investment in schools.”

(3) “Test Scores May Be Misleading, Experts Warn”

by David J. Hoff
Source: Education Week — 5 April 2000

A decade ago, policymakers set out to create testing systems that they said would be worth teaching to. But they haven’t achieved their goal yet, according to testing experts attending a two-day federally sponsored conference here.

In states where test scores are rising, the improvements may have nothing to do with whether schools have upgraded their teaching and curricula, some experts said.

Instead, the increases may be the result of students’ and teachers’ increased familiarity with the state assessments and consequent changes in instruction, they said. The scores also could be climbing because students have improved test-taking skills unrelated to the curriculum. Or, the experts suggested, the results may be following a general pattern in which scores on a new test start low and then rise, before leveling off and later declining.

“You may be documenting a situation where scores go up and down, and the test isn’t measuring what is to be taught,” said Eva L. Baker, a co-director of the Center for Research on Evaluation of Standards and Student Testing, or CRESST, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Rather than focus on test scores, policymakers should consider other indicators of progress, such as increases in the number of students taking challenging courses and improvements in the quality of students’ work, Ms. Baker argued at the March 24-25 gathering of state policymakers and school district personnel. The National Science Foundation and the RAND Corp., a Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank, sponsored the event…

(4) “Riley Urges U.S. To Rejoin International Education Group”

by Joetta L. Sack
Source: Education Week— 26 April 2000

The United States should step up its efforts to collaborate with other countries in improving education worldwide, including rejoining UNESCO, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley urged in a speech last week…

“UNESCO offers the broadest world forum for action on making education for all a reality, and the United States should have a seat in that forum,” Mr. Riley said to the nearly 300 people who attended the speech, including ambassadors, embassy officials, and representatives of various U.S. and international groups…

He reported that he had shared ideas on a wide range of topics that have also challenged the leaders of those countries: the use of technology and the “digital divide” between wealthy and poor nations, a dissatisfaction with teacher-training and professional-development efforts, attempts to balance academics with social and moral development, and alternative ways of assessing students’ readiness for higher education.

During the trip, the secretary visited schools in Singapore, one of the countries that have outperformed the United States in international mathematics assessments, to study instructional strategies there. Those teachers, he said, spend more time working with their students in depth on one concept, instead of trying to cover many concepts at once.

“Many experts believe America’s math curriculum is an inch deep and a mile wide, and that we do not challenge our students enough. My visit to Singapore confirms that opinion,” he said…

Secretary Riley will continue his international travels next month, when he is scheduled to visit schools in Italy and Ireland and meet with education officials in London.

(5) “Forces for Change in Mathematics Education: The Case of TIMSS”

by Donald S. Macnab
Source: The Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA), 8(15)

Abstract: The results of the Third International Study in Mathematics and Science Education (TIMSS) were published in 1996/7. Since that time, the participating countries have reacted in a variety of ways to the comparative performance of their students. This article investigates the diverse effects these reactions have had on mathematics curricula and teaching methodologies in a selection of these countries, within the context of a wider analysis of the motivations which determine change in education.

We now look at the effect of TIMSS, country by country. Essentially direct quotations from questionnaires or official documents are given in quotation marks…

JAPAN –Japanese students performed very well in both populations. “TIMSS revealed that Japanese children didn’t like (mathematics). Therefore spontaneous activities were emphasised. In order to find time for this, topics were deleted from the curriculum. Greater emphasis was placed on children’s’ mathematical activities.” A report of the Japan National Curriculum Council (1988) included the following recommendations: “greater emphasis on practical and problem-solving activities, and on real- life contexts, in the process of acquisition of basic knowledge and skills in number, quantity, and geometrical figure; “some reduction in curriculum content, in particular complicated computation and the use of complicated geometrical figures; “use of repetitious learning as a help in mastering computation skills; “establishing a new subject in upper secondary school incorporating mathematical history and statistical processing of daily events, this subject to be a required elective”…

SINGAPORE — Singapore students performed well in the TIMSS tests. A national report has been published on the TIMSS website: This report listed 7 possible reasons for this success.

1.The Homogeneity And Coherence Of The Education System.

2.Changes To The Curriculum – placing greater emphasis on the development of mathematical concepts and the ability to apply them to solve mathematical problems.

3.The Working Ethos Of Teachers.

4.Training And Professional Development.

5.Home Environment – the virtue of hard work and the need to strive for excellence is ingrained in students in Singapore from an early age.

6.Peer Influence – while students in Singapore feel that doing well in schools is important, what is perhaps more important is that they also perceive their friends to place a similar emphasis on academic achievement.

7.Fostering Of Interest In Mathematics And Science – the climate of opinion in Singapore is conducive to the learning of mathematics and science.

USA — The United States did not come out well from the test results, although at both age levels it was placed above the UK countries. A national curriculum development program, Attaining Excellence, has been prepared involving a set of video-taped lessons from classrooms in the US, Germany, and Japan, together with an action strategy for improving achievement in mathematics and science. Two books have been published–A Splintered Vision (ASV) (Schmidt et al., 1997b) and Facing the Consequence(FC) (Schmidt et al., 1998)–which analyse the US results in their international setting and discuss in detail their consequences for US mathematics education. These publications reveal considerable soul-searching regarding the causes of the poor performance of the US. Three of the main conclusions reached are that US schools mathematics curricula are:

= Too fragmented and lack coherence;
= Cover too many topics and lack depth;
= Concentrate too much on skills and too little on problem-solving…

(6) “Senate Panel Approves ESEA Reauthorization”

Source: Education Week — 15 March 2000 (via the NASSMC Briefing Service)

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has approved an ESEA reauthorization bill that would dramatically change the way the government currently distributes funds to schools. Senate Republicans pushed through their “Straight A’s” plan, which would allow 15 states to consolidate federal education funding and use the money the way they like. The states would have to show improved student achievement in return for the greater flexibility. The House approved a similar version of the bill last fall.

Senate Democrats condemned the bill, saying it would simply “block grant” federal funds to governors and undermine their efforts to reduce class sizes and support school construction. Democrats were also critical of the accountability portion of the bill. Senator Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) said each participating state would have to lay out goals in a performance agreement. “So, [states] set the goals?” replied Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut). “That’s a pretty good deal.”

(7) Fourth Meeting of the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching

Source: Jamila Rattler <>

The fourth meeting of the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century will take place on May 8-9, 2000 at the Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 Thomas Circle, NW at Massachusetts Avenue and 14th Street. The Commission meeting will be held from 3:30 pm-6:30 pm on May 8 and from 8:30am-4:30pm on May 9. You – or any of your colleagues who may be interested – are cordially invited to attend any portion of the meeting as observers.

The proposed agenda will focus on the Commission’s draft report and potential recommendations. Other topics that may be addressed as part of that discussion include: (1) financial incentives for accomplished performance, (2) alternative routes into the profession, and (3) preparation for teachers of mathematics and science. The proposed agenda will include both plenary sessions and presentations.

An agenda will be posted at

We would appreciate your help in letting other interested people know about the upcoming meeting. Please feel free to share this message widely.

So that we may have adequate seating as well as copies of materials available for the public, please let us know if you plan to attend by contacting Jamila Rattler through the internet at or Please include your name, title, affiliation,

complete address (including e-mail, if available), telephone and fax numbers.


(1) The National Math Trail

Source: Gil Bandel, National Math Trail Outreach Coordinator
Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education- Telephone: 323.965.8794

Now is the time to join K-12 teachers across America on The National Math Trail, as their students go out into their communities to discover the wealth of mathematics that exists in everyday life.

Participation: Have your students find examples of mathematics in your community, and then create mathematics problems based on what they find. If possible, include photographs, illustrations, narratives, or video or audio tapes. You can even create a web page.

Submit them to the National Math Trail website. We’ll post all submissions during National Math Trail Week, May 15-19. After that, they will be indexed by grade level and math topic for easy access by teachers looking for real-world math problems.

Professional Development: To find out more about just how to do a Math Trail activity, visit the website, You’ll find step by step guidelines on utilizing the project as a classroom activity and on preparing a Math Trail submission. You can also read about master teacher Kay Toliver and her utilization of the Math Trail as part of her context-based teaching strategies. Her popular “Math Trail” video is also at the site.

The site’s Technology Tutorial offers basic training on conversion of text, images, audio and video material to digital format and on the various types of equipment you might use to create a digital Math Trail submission.

Participation is Free! The project is produced by FASE Productions with support from the US Department of Education’s Star Schools program, through the Satellite Education Resources Consortium (SERC), and from Texas Instruments. The National Math Trail is being hosted by The Futures Channel (

2000 Is World Math Year! This project joins of array of global math events planned for the year 2000, which has been designated World Mathematical Year by the International Mathematical Union. WMY2000 is sponsored by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

For more information contact the project coordinator, Racquel Skolnik, at or phone at 323-937-9911

(2) Association of Teacher Educators’ Fifth Annual Conference


The Fifth Annual AMTE Conference will be held on January 18 – 20, 2001, at the Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel in Costa Mesa (Orange County), CA. This conference will be held jointly with the Association for the Education of Teachers in Science (AETS). Conference strands include the following: Content Courses, Methods Courses, Equity, Field Experiences, Technology, Integrating Mathematics & Science in Teacher Education, and Implications for Teacher Education of the new NCTM Principles and Standards. Proposals to speak at this conference must be received by June 1, 2000. More information is available on the AMTE web site (first announced in the 26 February 2000 issue of COMET)

(3) The Role of Technology in Support of Standards-Based Mathematics Instruction 9-12

Source: Kurt Kreith

G.D. Chakerian and Kurt Kreith recently published “Iterative Algebra and Dynamic Modeling: A Curriculum for the Third Millennium” and are presenting an institute based upon this book for teachers of students in grades 9-12 on July 31-August 18, 2000 (with follow-up sessions through the year) in Davis, California. For more information, please contact Dr. Kreith or visit his web site:


COMET is an online newsletter that seeks to provide timely information in a digest format about state (California) and national news, articles, events, opportunities, and web resources related to mathematics education. Information from a variety of print and online sources is compiled and distributed via COMET approximately once a week. The target audience includes California PreK-12 teachers of mathematics and school/district administrators, as well as university faculty throughout the nation who are interested in issues related to mathematics education (with a focus on California news).