COMET • Vol. 1, No. 24 – 18 September 2000


(1) “Elementary Makes the Grade!”

Source: Terry Shorey, California Department of Education, (916) 657-3697

“Elementary Makes the Grade!” is the new elementary grade-span document from the California Department of Education that provides guidance in implementing standards-based education in elementary schools.

“Elementary Makes the Grade!” provides educators in elementary schools with information that is based on current research and aligned with standards. It calls for renewed commitment by those who believe that every child has a right to high quality educational opportunities. It also calls for renewed action by elementary educators and others who believe that the work of public schools is not merely to establish high academic standards, but also to ensure that all students will meet or exceed these standards.

“Elementary Makes the Grade!” is the second in a series of grade span reform documents developed by the Elementary Networks Office and published by the CDE. “First Class: A Guide for Early Primary Education” was released in September 1999. Both documents are intended to provide guidance to assist schools, parents, community members, and policy makes in implementing a standards-based education. Regional roll out events highlighting these two documents will be held across the state this fall. (See below for dates.)

If you have any questions, need any additional information, or have comments you want to share about “Elementary Makes the Grade!” please contact Barbara Baseggio at (916) 657-2926.

REGION I: October 24 – Eureka October 25 – Santa Rosa

REGION II: October 6 – Redding

REGION III: October 10- Sacramento

REGION IV: October 3-San Mateo

REGION V: October 11-Monterey October 25-Santa Clara-SCCOE

REGION VI: September 19-Stockton October 11- Modesto

October 17- Angels Camp October 18-Stockton

October 26- Modesto January 31- Angels Camp

REGION VII: November 14 – Fresno

REGION VIII: November 16- Ventura County Office of Education

REGION IX: October 24 – San Juan Capistrano

REGION X: October 24 – Mammoth November 7 – Riverside or San Bernardino

REGION XI: October 25- Glendale November 1- LAX Marriott


(2) “Framework to Develop a Master Plan for Education [in California]”

Source: http://WWW.SEN.CA.GOV/ftp/SEN/COMMITTEE/JOINT/MASTER_PLAN/_home/framework.htm

The Joint Committee has been empanelled to develop a Master Plan for Education that will provide a comprehensive organizing template for California’s schools, colleges, and universities that assures Californians opportunities to engage in the learning process throughout their lives. The framework contained in these pages is intended to guide the continued deliberations of the Joint Committee in that effort. The Joint Committee also will create advisory working groups to examine key education issues and forward policy recommendations for the committee’s consideration. It is expected that through those collective deliberations, the Joint Committee will specific recommendations for the attainment of the strategic objectives listed herein, from which the framework will evolve into the Master Plan for Education.

The provisions delineating the structures and functions of California’s public education system are contained in the state constitution, statutes, and regulations, as well as case law based on them. Organizing the state’s schools, colleges, and universities into a more cohesive, learner-focused system will necessarily require that some of those provisions be modified, while building on the strengths of many others. The reader should not consider potential modifications to be confined to those that impact statute. The Joint Committee will also explore issues that are currently constrained by the constitution. If warranted, the committee will recommend appropriate constitutional amendments to the Legislature and the electorate for their consideration.

This framework is derived from the initial activities of the committee and its staff, including hearings, interviews, symposia and other public activities, reviews of research, and the recommendations of numerous entities.


The Joint Committee to Develop A Master Plan for Education –
Kindergarten Through University August, 2000

Senator Dede Alpert, Chair
Assemblyman Ted Lempert, Co-Vice Chair
Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni, Co-Vice Chair

Other members:

Senators Richard Alarcon, Betty Karnette, Bruce McPherson, Kevin Murray, Jack O’Connell, Charles Poochigian, Richard Rainey, John Vasconcellos
Assembly Members: Jim Cunneen, Dean Florez, Sarah Reyes, Gloria Romero, George Runner, Jack Scott, Virginia Strom-Martin…

(3) Ed-Data: Fiscal, Demographic, and Performance Data on California’s K-12 Schools

What are the basic facts about each California school district? The profile of your local school? How does your district compare with others in the state? How does California compare with national averages?

This site offers easy access to answers to these frequently asked questions. We also provide a snapshot of education in California and the nation as well as explanations about California school issues and policies….Each report has the latest available data. Typically the information for a school year is certified and released by the CDE in the winter of the following year.

This site is unique in its combination of the latest financial, demographic, and school and student performance data, plus clear and impartial analyses and discussions of current issues. As it progresses, you will be able to create various graphics from the data and make more sophisticated comparisons. You can investigate Resources for interesting supplementary sites and sources for more material.

The accurate information should help you make important decisions for your students and colleagues, your own child, or your school community. This comprehensive site contains school, district, and county profiles, test results and comparisons, and much more.



(1) “Women Perform Better In Math When Tested Without Men, Study Says”

Source: Science Daily – 9 September 2000

Women perform as much as 12 percent better on math problems when tested in a setting without men, according to a study of Brown University undergraduates led by a graduate student of psychology. Specifically, women tested in single-sex groups scored a 70-percent accuracy rate on math exams; women tested in groups in which they were outnumbered by men scored a 58-percent accuracy rate, said lead author Michael Inzlicht, whose study appeared in the September issue of the American Psychological Society’s journal, Psychological Science.

Being outnumbered may cause females to suffer from “stereotype threat,” a situational phenomenon that occurs when targets of a stereotype – in this case the idea that women do not perform as well as men in math – are reminded of that stereotype, according to Inzlicht. “The presence of men can interfere with women’s problem-solving performance because anxiety can distract someone from taking an exam,” said Inzlicht, whose co-author is Talia Ben-Zeev, assistant professor of psychology at Williams College…

Participants completed either math or verbal multiple-choice questions from the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) test guide, and were informed beforehand that their performance would be reported to the other group members…

Different gender ratios never resulted in changes in male test performance; men consistently registered about 67-percent accuracy on math exams.

However, simply being in a classroom with men did not affect women’s overall intellectual performance, Inzlicht said. The performance differences were limited to situations in which women were tested on math, a subject that is traditionally stereotyped. Researchers did not find any gender difference in performance on verbal exams.

The research is not intended to determine whether or not females would benefit from single-sex education, but the data suggest that females may benefit from single-sex math classes, said Inzlicht…

Editor’s Note: The original news release can be found at

(2) “Internet at School Is Changing Work of Students–and Teachers” by Kenneth J. Cooper

Source: Washington Post – 5 September 2000

…The wiring of America’s schools–originally conceived as a way to bridge the “digital divide” that isolates poor children and to transmit advanced courses to rural schools–is also changing the way teachers teach and students learn. Quite possibly, it may be increasing how much students learn, particularly average and shy ones, educational technology experts say…

“There is nothing that says technology will improve student achievement, but we believe that it does because it meets so many different learning styles,” says Cindy Bowman, an education professor at Florida State University.

Two-thirds of public school teachers say they now employ computer applications in lessons, and at least 30 percent use the Internet, according to an Education Department survey. And students at every grade level this school year will exchange e-mails with “keypals” in foreign countries, take “virtual field trips” to museums and historic sites or research the range of academic subjects on the Internet.

One particular format for student research projects, called WebQuests, has rapidly become popular with teachers in the five years since it was designed at San Diego State University…

Education technology specialists say there is preliminary evidence that the students who may learn more using the Internet include “visual learners,” average students, disabled ones, students not fully proficient in English and shy ones who shrink from joining classroom discussion.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that many learners do blossom with interactive media more than they do face to face,” says Chris Dede, a professor of learning technologies at Harvard University.

In the opinion of Dede and other experts, the Internet can also alter the learning experience for all students. Rather than studies being linear and sequential–one page or textbook chapter after another–researching a topic on the World Wide Web can lead students to spontaneous discoveries of related information drawn from more than one academic subject, similar to browsing through open stacks in a library.

The technology-driven changes penetrating schools across the country mean the most adept teachers do less lecturing, and change from classroom know-it-all to learning coach who guides students to what they need to know…

In 1995, Bernie Dodge, a professor of educational technology at San Diego State University, designed another kind of learning adventure–WebQuest. For a growing number of teachers, WebQuest has wrung the mystery and frustration out of using the Internet. WebQuests are research projects designed to make students think creatively about “real world” problems, then propose and argue for solutions.

The projects pose an open-ended question such as “What government policy should be established to regulate cloning?,” the central task of a popular WebQuest for high school science students entitled, “Hello, Dolly.”

Each WebQuest lists relevant Web sites so students will spend less time searching for information and have less chance of being exposed to inappropriate material. Teachers can follow the six-part format to create their own WebQuests, or use at no cost any of the 200 linked to Dodge’s Web site (…

(3) “How Tests Can Drop the Ball” by Richard Rothstein

Source: New York Times – 13 September 2000

Mike Piazza, batting .332, could win this year’s Most Valuable Player award. He has been good every year, with a .330 career average, twice a runner-up for m.v.p. and a member of each All- Star team since his rookie season. The Mets reward Piazza for this high achievement, at the rate of $13 million a year.

But what if the team decided to pay him based not on overall performance but on how he hit during one arbitrarily chosen week? How well do one week’s at-bats describe the ability of a true .330 hitter?

Not very. Last week Piazza batted only .200. But in the second week of August he batted .538. If you picked a random week this season, you would have only a 7-in-10 chance of choosing one in which he hit .250 or higher.

Are standardized-test scores, on which many schools rely heavily to make promotion or graduation decisions, more indicative of true ability than a ballplayer’s weekly average?

Not really. David Rogosa, a professor of educational statistics at Stanford University, has calculated the “accuracy” of tests used in California to abolish social promotion. (New York uses similar tests.)

Consider, Dr. Rogosa says, a fourth-grade student whose “true” reading score is exactly at grade level (the 50th percentile). The chances are better than even (58 percent) that this student will score either above the 55th percentile or below the 45th on any one test.

Results for students at other levels of true performance are also surprisingly inconsistent. So if students are held back, required to attend summer school or denied diplomas largely because of a single test, many will be punished unfairly.

About half of fourth-grade students held back for scores below the 30th percentile on a typical reading test will actually have “true” scores above that point. On any particular test, nearly 7 percent of students with true scores at the 40th percentile will likely fail, scoring below the 30th percentile.

Are Americans prepared to require large numbers of students to repeat a grade when they deserve promotion?

Professor Rogosa’s analysis is straightforward. He has simply converted technical reliability information from test publishers (Harcourt Educational Measurement, in this case) to more understandable “accuracy” guides.

Test publishers calculate reliability by analyzing thousands of student tests to estimate chances that students who answer some questions correctly will also answer others correctly. Because some students at any performance level will miss questions that most students at that level get right, test makers can estimate the reliability of each question and of an entire test.

Typically, districts and states use tests marketed as having high reliability. Yet few policy makers understand that seemingly high reliability assures only rough accuracy — for example, that true 80th percentile students will almost always have higher scores than true 20th percentile students.

But when test results are used for high-stakes purposes like promotion or graduation decisions, there should be a different concern: How well do they identify students who are truly below a cutoff point like the 30th percentile? As Dr. Rogosa has shown, the administering of a single test may do a poor job of this.

Surprisingly, there has not yet been a wave of lawsuits by parents of children penalized largely because of a single test score. As more parents learn about tests’ actual accuracy, litigation regarding high-stakes decisions is bound to follow. Districts and states will then have to abandon an unfair reliance on single tests to evaluate students…

If students took tests over and over, average accuracy would improve, just as Mike Piazza’s full-season batting average more accurately reflects his hitting prowess. But school is not baseball; if students took tests every day, there would be no time left for learning.

So to make high-stakes decisions, like whether students should be promoted or attend summer school, giving great importance to a single test is not only bad policy but extraordinarily unfair. Courts are unlikely to permit it much longer.



Early Childhood Math Activities

Source: The Math Forum Internet News – 11 September 2000

The U.S. Department of Education has published “Early Childhood: Where Learning Begins – Mathematics.” It is available at

Mathematical activities for parents and their children ages 2 to 5, in a free printable booklet by Carol Sue Fromboluti and Natalie Rinck, edited by Diane Magarity with illustrations by Barbara Leonard Gibson.

For parents and caregivers, this publication focuses attention on children’s early lives before they enter school. Contents include:

* Preface – why this booklet?
* Introduction – how to use the booklet
* What is Mathematics? – big concepts in mathematics and some general strategies for helping children learn them – activities for Your Day – math activities that might easily fit into everyday routines, including: Getting Up in the Morning; Waiting at the Doctor’s Office or Other Places; Around the House; Games for More Than One Child
* Appendix – children’s books on math topics; Web sites, CD-ROMs, and other resources that deal with math
* References


(1) Mathweb2000

Source: Susan Doherty; Group Jazz, Inc.; 202.686.4848 x849;

Mathweb2000 is coming to you! The first-ever 100% Web-based mathematics conference hits your browser October 30-November 17. The theme for Mathweb2000 is “Assessment: Benchmarks for Success.” Engage in open dialogue with educators representing elementary, middle, and secondary levels. Sponsors include NCTM, PBS, Hewlett-Packard, Modeling Middle School Mathematics (MMM), and the Show-Me Center. Visit for details and register today!

(2) Mathematics Case Methods Seminar

Source: Norma Sakamoto (

* What Do Teachers Say About Case Discussions?

“What you get is everybody’s input into what they see, what the situation means, and, most important, how to change the situation to help a child learn.”
“We are constantly talking about empowering teachers. I think this is a great way to do it.”

* What does this seminar offer?

The cases are about real classroom situations and include dialogue and student work. You will begin by discussing cases on fractions and decimals, and then learn how to use the same techniques and skills to examine a primary grade case. Read about our project in the January 2000 issue of Intersection (

* You will learn:

– to examine the math, student thinking, instruction and language in a case.
– how cases are facilitated and practice the techniques if you volunteer!
– how to introduce cases to others (day 3).

* Newcomers Option: November 3 – 4 ($350)

Day 1 – Learn about Cases
Day 2 – Learn about Facilitation

* Advanced Option: November 3 – 5 ($450)

Day 1 – Learn about Cases
Day 2 – Learn about Facilitation
Day 3 – Learn How to Introduce Cases to Others

* Location: WestEd office in Oakland, CA (across the Bay from San Francisco!)

For a brochure or questions:

Phone: Angela Sackett at 510-302-4253; E-mail:
Registration deadline: October 16, 2000
Send name, address, phone number, fax number, and check (payable to
WestEd) to: Carne Barnett; WestEd; 300 Lakeside Dr., 18th Floor; Oakland, CA 94612

(3) Subject Matter Project Showcase 2000 – Fresno


A Conference for K-12 Teachers
Saturday, September 30, 2000
California State University, Fresno

Teachers from the Central Valley Subject Matter Projects will give presentations focusing on integration and its value in meeting standards in more than one discipline through a single lesson. Technology sessions are also featured. This conference, including a barbecue lunch, is FREE, but space is limited. You must RSVP to 559-278-0429 to reserve a space. Deadline for reservations is this Friday, September 22, 2000.

The conference will be held in the CSUF Education Building, located at the northwest corner of Maple and Shaw Avenues. Parking is free of charge in Lot C (to the east of the Education building).


7:30-8:15 a.m………….Registration and Exhibits
8:30-9:45 a.m………….Session 1
9:45-10:15 a.m………..Exhibits
10:15-11:45 a.m………Session 2
11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m…Lunch and Exhibits
12:45-2:00 p.m………..Session 3
2:00-2:30 p.m………….Exhibits and Raffle
Sponsored by the Teacher Leadership Collaborative of Central California (TLC^3)
California Reading and Literature Project
Central Valley California Arts Project
Central Valley Science Project
San Joaquin Valley History-Social Science Project
San Joaquin Valley Mathematics Project
San Joaquin Valley Writing Project

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 during the regular academic year. 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).