COMET • Vol. 1, No. 03 – 4 February 2000


(1) Additional IMAP Members are Needed for 2001 Math Adoption

Lily Roberts (Calif. Dept. of Education’s Curriculum Frameworks office) reports that approximately ten additional people are needed to serve on the Instructional Materials Advisory Panel (IMAP) for the 2001 mathematics textbook adoption. (No more Content Review Panel CRP members are needed.) Interested individuals should call 916-657-3023 for a faxed application. Completed applications are due by the end of February so that names can go before the Curriculum Commission in March and the State Board of Education in April. If you have any questions, contact Suzanne Rios at 916-657-3693 or Lily at 916-657-3915. (BTW, the list of names of those already approved for membership on an IMAP or CRP will be made public following next week’s State Board meeting.)

(2) “Eastin Refuses to Release Data Behind Peer Rankings” by Lisa Shafer

Source: Contra Costa Times – 3 February 2000

“State Superintendent of Instruction Delaine Eastin has refused to release data used to compile the ‘similar schools rankings’ portion of the week-old Academic Performance Index until the information is ‘cleaned up.'”

“In denying a public-records request for the data, Eastin said its release now would make people angry because the Department of Education might have placed schools in the wrong peer groups. She blamed inaccurate data about student demographics that were supplied by local districts last year”

“The Academic Performance Index assigned each school in California two sets of 1-to-10 ranks. The first number compared schools statewide. The second compared each school to 100 others like it, based on factors including the average education level of parents of its students and how many children receive subsidized lunches.

“State officials said they used a complicated formula with these factors to assign each school to a peer group, but they have not described that formula. Also, much of the demographic data gathered to create the school profiles was taken from surveys filled out by the students on test day” [but] “students as young as 7 and those with parents educated in another country likely don’t have a clue how to complete the parental-education surveys,” [a teacher] said.

“Unlike other portions of the Academic Performance Index, the similar-schools ranking will not be a factor in a $250 million rewards-and-sanctions program for improvement.”


A similar story, “Educators Fault Data Used in State School Ratings” (San Diego Union-Tribune – 2/2/2000), can be found at

(3) “Publisher Picked for Exit Exam” by Kathleen Cairns

(article also includes an update about the California Board of Education)

Source: Capitol Alert (Education Beat) – 28 January 2000

“With less than four months until the first ‘test’ of the high school exit exam, the state Board of Education last week chose American Institute for Research to help develop the instrument that all students must pass to graduate.

“Until last week, it looked as if the state might not get a publisher to help craft the exam, which was part of Gov. Davis’ four-pronged reform package last year.

“The Department of Education invited 44 publishers last October to submit bids, Superintendent Delaine Eastin explained at this month’s board meeting. On November 5, seven publishers notified the department of their intent to bid. But none actually submitted a proposal by the November 29 deadline.

“As a result, the department, which administers testing contracts for the state, went to an ‘informal’ bid process, issuing invitations to five publishers who earlier had indicated interest. Four publishers responded and AIR was chosen from this group.

“Eastin blamed the “ambitious” time line for the lack of response – one year between the time state lawmakers approved the test as part of Gov. Davis’ reform package and the field test. The first actual exam will take place in spring 2001, to give the graduating class of 2004 three years to pass it.

“Getting a publisher is only part of the process of bringing the exit exam on line. An advisory panel is in the process of putting together a blueprint of possible items that could appear on the test. A technical review committee — made up of well-known testing specialists — will compare this blueprint with questions from exams that California already owns — the Golden State exam and CBEST, for example.

“Since the state already ‘owns’ questions from these tests, they could appear on the spring field test, according to Eastin. California can also buy test questions from other states,” she added.

“After March, [Marion] Joseph [see] may be one of only three appointees of former Gov. Pete Wilson remaining on the 11-member [California Board of Education]. Marian Bergeson and Kathryn Dronenburg are the others”

“[Janet] Nicholas, who almost certainly won’t be reappointed, has been a particular thorn in the side of Eastin and the Education Department, because she frequently has gone around official channels to promote her agenda — phonics-based reading and basic math instruction. She has stopped attending meetings because, according to a source, she realizes her term is over. Davis already has four appointees on the board. With three more, Democrats will have control over the direction of board decisions. Eastin seems more comfortable with Davis’ appointees, who treat her as more of an equal than with Wilson appointees, who frequently went out of their way to treat her as a ‘subordinate.’

“A continuing amicable relationship with the board, however, may hinge on her willingness to publicly back Davis’s larger reform efforts. Davis clearly sees the state board, as did Wilson, as the primary channel for implementing his education vision.”

(4) “Clinton’s Education Reforms and the Algebra Mania in California” by Dennis W. Redovich

(Center for the Study of Jobs & Education in Wisconsin)-Opinion piece

“What is the rationale for high stakes testing in mathematics and science for promotion and graduation in public elementary and secondary schools? I ask [this] question of Democratic President Clinton and the Democratic Governor Davis of California who currently are the most prominent advocates of high standards for all and accountability for schools and teachers that require major reforms in curriculum. These include requiring all students to pass a test in the mystical subject of algebra. Major reforms are also advocated in teacher preparation and teacher compensation in order to raise test scores. Why? Is it a contrived manufactured crisis created for political gain?”

“What is the rationale for requiring ‘all’ students to achieve at high levels of math and science proficiency in California or the entire U.S.? Without any research or factual evidence, so-called experts have increasingly shouted that higher mathematical skills are absolutely essential for all to live (exist) in the high-tech world of the future. It is widely insinuated that higher math skills are necessary to be employed in the high-tech, high skill jobs of the future. Unbelievably, it is claimed that most jobs in the 21st Century (starting this year?) will require higher science and math skills. The mania for high stakes testing in math has gotten to the point where reasons are no longer necessary. An academically disadvantaged media has accepted the fabrications above as common knowledge and repeats them without challenge from any source and at any time.”

(5) Larry Woolf recently posted the following letter to the California Science Education Advisory Committee listserv. (It is included here because many COMET readers have noted that they are also interested in science education issues.)

Dear Secretary Hart-

Because of widespread discontent with the CA science standards, I have started a petition drive to revise the CA science standards and science materials adoption process. A large fraction of the science education community is united against the standards and materials adoption process. These standards will lead to scientifically illiterate students

and the flight of science teachers from the profession – exactly the opposite results that the governor desires.

The petition and list of supporters, which includes prominent science educators, professors, teachers, and scientists, are attached below. (I deleted the list to save space.) For additional background information, please see

By the way, the petition has only been circulating for two weeks. I expect a few thousand more signatures by the end of the month.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


Dr. Lawrence D. Woolf

General Atomics



(1) “Math Myopia” by John Allen Paulos (Author of Innumeracy )

Source: Forbes Magazine – 24 January 2000


“An uproar over soft teaching methods shouldn’t blind us to the fact that mathematics does not have to be boring.”

“‘Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision’ is how Lewis Carroll referred to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Although most people resonate with this repugnance toward computation, most would also grant its frequent necessity.”

“This tension underlies the latest skirmish in the simmering Math War. The issue is the proper place of computation and algorithms (step-by-step procedures) in the school curriculum. What, in particular, is their relation to such often neglected skills as understanding graphs, interpreting probability, modeling situations, applying mathematical concepts in other domains or estimating and comparing magnitudes? ”

“Acknowledging that there are glaring weaknesses in some of the new recommended programs, I’m pleased that they stress applications and concepts and do not place an undue emphasis on rote repetition. We should no more be teaching our children to try to compete with $5 calculators than we should be training them to dig ditches with hand shovels.

“In arithmetic the stories and applications should set the stage and provide motivation for understanding the algorithms. The many good people on opposite sides of the Math War should recompute their strategies.”

(2) ==> On 2 February 2000, the US House Subcommittees on Early Childhood, Youth & Families and Post-secondary Education, Training & Lifelong Learning heard testimony on the “Federal role in changing how math is taught in grades K-12.” The hearing was called by individuals concerned about the Dept. of Education’s recent publication, “Exemplary and Promising Mathematics Programs,” which supported reform mathematics programs such as CPM, IMP, MathLand, and Connected Mathematics. On a related note, an article about the October 1999 “Riley letter” (“Open Letter on Mathematics Curricula Ignites Debate”) is in this month’s Notices of the AMS and available for download at

“Education Dept Defends Math Program” by Anjetta McQueen (AP)

The Associated Press – 2 February 2000 (AP news is updated daily at this site, so this URL is not a current source for the article below)

“The Education Department defended its endorsement of 10 school math programs while enduring criticism Wednesday from parents and educators who complained to lawmakers about low test scores and student performance”

“Last year the Education Department designated 10 math programs as ‘exemplary’ or ‘promising’ for school districts seeking to improve lagging math scores. More than 200 mathematicians took out a full-page newspaper ad [Riley letter] condemning the programs and asking Education Secretary Richard Riley to withdraw the designations. The department declined..

“James Milgram, a Stanford University mathematician who led the campaign against the lessons, told lawmakers that in California, where many of the lessons are used, more college freshmen in the California State University system need remedial math courses”

“Kent McGuire, a Riley deputy who oversees research, said the department had an obligation to offer schools guidance on the best lessons available. He defended the expert panel that reviewed the programs.

“We should respect the members of the panel and applaud their good-faith efforts,” McGuire said.

“Many school districts are accepting Core-Plus Math, MathLand and Connected Math and other lessons because they promote reasoning rather than rote memorization, said Judith Sunley, who directs education programs for the National Science Foundation, which studied and supported many of the recommended math lessons.

“McGuire said the department simply was following a 1994 law requiring federal researchers to make the recommendations. By law, the department cannot directly tell the nation’s nearly 16,000 school districts what to teach.

“Republicans who favor a reduced federal role in education hinted Wednesday they would repeal the law, which was enacted by a Democrat-controlled Congress and is up for renewal this year.”


A related story is available at:

(“Experts, Parents Fault Education’s Math Curriculums” – 3 Feb 2000)



The Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMSP)

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMSP) is aimed at increasing the number of low-income African Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Hispanic Americans enrolling in and completing undergraduate and graduate (mathematics, science, engineering, education or library science) degree programs. Nomination guidelines can be accessed by going to the informative GMSP Web site:



(1) “The Inclusive Classroom: Mathematics and Science Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities”

(From the NCSM listserv) “The Inclusive Classroom: Mathematics and Science Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities” is available online in PDF at the NWREL web site at Print copies are available for $7.65 (telephone inquiries: 503-275-9519).

This new publication from the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL) explores the unique educational needs of students with learning disabilities and provides strategies for meaningfully engaging all students in mathematics and science curriculum. Drawing on key principles of inclusion, special education, multicultural education, and standards-based reform, “The Inclusive Classroom” guides K-12 teachers in creating optimal learning environments where diverse learners can thrive. In addition to offering instructional strategies, the book suggests ways to adapt textbooks to make texts and materials more manageable for students and describes a variety of assessments that enable diverse learners to demonstrate their knowledge.

(2)  International Society for Technology in Education Releases Standards

(Not Web-based, but related to instructional technology – from the ASCD News Bulletin)

“‘Our educational system must produce technology-capable kids,’ states a new publication from the International Society for Technology in Education. Published in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, ‘National Educational Technology Standards for Students: Connecting Curriculum and Technology,’ provides extensive guidance on technology integration for K-12 teachers in every content area.”

“With learning activities organized by grade levels, subject areas, and multidisciplinary themes, ‘Connecting Curriculum and Technology’ presents technology foundation standards for all students. Generously illustrated with charts and tables, each activity outline includes performance indicators, references to national content standards, tools and resources, stories and advice from the writers, a summary of what the activity will accomplish, and descriptions of what students will do. ‘Curriculum Examples and Scenarios’ help teachers clarify their aims.

“Most major education associations, including ASCD, collaborated with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in the development of this document. Consisting of 375 spiral-bound pages, ‘Connecting Curriculum and Technology’ is not available on the Web, but can be ordered from ISTE for $29.95, ($26.95 ISTE member price). For more information or to place an order, phone ISTE at 800-336-5191 in the U.S and Canada; 541-302-3777 for international calls.



The Mathematics, Science, and Technology Conference

The Mathematics, Science, and Technology Conference will be held at CSU-Bakersfield on Feb. 25-26. For more information, call 661-665-6123. The San Joaquin Valley Mathematics Project is holding a reunion following the conference on Feb. 26. For more information on the reunion, contact Maria Sanchez-Torres (661-758-4140 or ).

The San Joaquin Valley Mathematics Project’s 2000 Summer Institute

The San Joaquin Valley Mathematics Project’s 2000 Summer Institute will be held on July 9-21. The first week will be residential and held at the Episcopal Conference Center in Oakhurst (ECCO), close to Yosemite National Park. For more information or for an application, contact Lori Hamada at

 “An Evening with Liping Ma” 

Liping Ma, author of “Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics,” will be speaking at the Piccadilly Inn University (near Fresno State) on July 12, 2000. Dinner: 6-7 p.m.; Keynote: 7-9 p.m. Tickets are $35 and are available by contacting Lori Hamada at 559-497-3729 or


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). Because COMET is based at California State University, Fresno, mathematics education opportunities in Central California are also included. If you would like to include an announcement or article in COMET, please send it to for consideration. (Your comments and suggestions are also welcomed!)