COMET • Vol. 1, No. 35 – 4 December 2000


(1) Curriculum Commission Decisions on Mathematics Textbook Submissions

On 29 November 2000, the Curriculum Commission voted on the mathematics programs submitted for adoption consideration. Below are the publisher names, program names, grade level spans, Instructional Materials Advisory Panel (IMAP) decisions, Content Review Panel (CRP) decisions, and Curriculum Commission (CC) decisions. The State [California] Board of Education is expected to make final decisions on approved programs in January 2001.

CSL Associates Success with MathCoach K-5 No Yes Yes
 Harcourt  Harcourt Math 2002 K-6 Yes Yes Yes
Houghton Mifflin Mathematics by Houghton Mifflin K-5 Yes Yes Yes
McDougal Littell Concepts and Skills 6-7 Yes Yes Yes
McDougal Littell Concepts and Skills 8 No Yes Yes
McDougal Littell Structure and Method 6-8 Yes Yes Yes
McGraw-Hill McGraw-Hill Mathematics K-2 Yes Yes Yes
McGraw-Hill McGraw-Hill Mathematics 3-6 No No Yes
Prentice Hall Prentice Hall Pre-Algebra 7 Yes Yes Yes
Prentice Hall Prentice Hall Algebra 8 Yes Yes Yes
Sadlier Progress in Mathematics K-6 Yes Yes Yes
Saxon Saxon Math K-3 K-3 No Yes Yes
Saxon Saxon Math 54, 65, 76
and 87

No – 2

Yes – 2 Yes
Scott Foresman Scott Foresman CA Mathematics K-6 Yes Yes Yes
Carnegie Learning Cognitive Tutor, Algebra  1-8 No No No
Everyday Learning Everyday Mathematics K-3 Yes Yes No
Everyday Learning Everyday Mathematics 4-6 No No No
Everyday Learning Course 2 Impact Mathematics 7 No No No
Everyday Learning Course 3 Impact Mathematics 8 No No No
Holt, Rinehart and Winston
Algebra 1, CA Edition
 8 No No No
JRL Enterprises I Can Learn Mathematics 6 No No No
JRL Enterprises I Can Learn Mathematics 8 No No No
 Riverdeep Destination Math 7 No No No
Saxon Algebra 1/2 and Algebra 1 7-8 No No No
Math Expeditions

(2) “Questions Raised on Graduation Test” by Martha Groves

Source: Los Angeles Times – 1 December 2000

At a meeting Wednesday in Sacramento, the high school exit exam advisory committee discussed whether to drop some multiple-choice items from the 200-question test.

Many schools have complained that it will be tough to crowd the six-hour exam into an already busy spring testing season.

Another issue that came up for lively discussion was when the state should decide what score would represent a passing grade on the exam. The state had planned to determine that level next spring, after the current crop of freshmen take the test on a voluntary basis.

But after hearing from legal experts and statisticians, the panel realized that a more accurate score could be set if the state waited until next year’s 10th-graders completed the exam, which at that point would be mandatory. The test is supposed to be geared to a 10th-grade level.

Waiting until after the 2002 testing, however, would violate the state law that created the exit exam. Under that law, members of the Class of 2004 are supposed to have their first chance to pass the new exam in spring 2001, as freshmen. If the state postpones establishment of the passing mark, that would mean that next spring’s test would amount to a practice test.

Beginning in 2004, students who have not passed the test at some point during their high school years will not get a diploma. In addition to multiple-choice questions, the exam will have two questions that require written answers.

Students will have many chances to pass the test, but each time they would face a substantially new version.

The graduation test is the centerpiece of Gov. Gray Davis’ efforts to boost the lackluster academic performance of the state’s students.

Davis in the past has insisted that the exit exam be rigorous, with a heavy dose of algebra items.

James R. Brown, an advisory committee co-chairman and superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District, said that many panel members favor keeping the test at its current length but tacking on a Saturday or a weekday to the school calendar so that classroom time would not be lost. The state Department of Finance estimated that an additional day of school for one grade statewide would cost $16 million…

The California Department of Education, meanwhile, has floated a suggestion that the test could be winnowed down by dropping some of the toughest algebra questions. More difficult questions could be added in future years, once schools have had time to revamp lesson plans to better teach the more challenging material, said Bob Anderson, a department official.

Brown said the panel will submit all three proposals to the State Board of Education. The board will be under pressure to decide the issue at its meeting next Thursday, to provide the test publisher as much time as possible to make revisions before the March testing period. The test is being developed by American Institutes for Research in Palo Alto.

Independent evaluators and many educators have expressed concern that the state is barreling forward with the high-stakes exam without allowing enough time for students to learn the challenging material required by California’s relatively new academic standards.

Lisa Reed, a math teacher from Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta, told the panel that students at her academically strong high school did not fare well on 21 sample math questions provided by the state Department of Education on its Web site,

The 300 ninth- and 10th-grade geometry students who participated in the trial run, most of whom had already taken algebra, “felt very overwhelmed by it,” she said in an interview Thursday. Only 7% of the students got 70% or more of the items correct.

No provisions have yet been made for how the state would deal with the potentially substantial number of students who do not make the grade each year.

(3) “Report: Expect Failure on Test” by Maria Sacchetti

Source: The Orange County Register – 2 December 2000

A second trial run of the state’s high school exit exam has shown that a significant number of students are still likely to flunk it, according to a preliminary report released this week by the state Department of Education.

On average, students who took the field test this semester answered 44 percent of the math questions and 55 percent of the reading questions correctly, according to the Palo-Alto-based test developer American Institutes for Research. A total of 10,134 students in 10th grade took the test statewide.

The results come just five months after state-hired analysts urged California to delay the test one or two years to give teachers time to prepare students. An earlier field test found the average 10th-grader last year was likely to answer only about half of the questions correctly.

State education officials said they are concerned about struggling students, but they point out that schools have the next four years to prepare them.

No students, starting with this year’s ninth-graders, can graduate without passing the exam, which covers math standards through first-year algebra and reading and writing standards through 10th grade. The first test will be given in March…

The field-test results renew concerns about the exam as state lawmakers prepare to review whether the test will be fair to all students. The Assembly and Senate education committees plan to review issues surrounding the exam after the legislative session starts next month, officials said.

“If we’re going to have an accurate test, it has to reflect what is being taught,” said Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin, D-Duncan Mills, chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee. “If it’s not … then what’s the point?”

At the same time, however, she said she is reluctant to put off the exam. Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature created it last year in hopes that it would propel schools to raise standards in class…

“I thought from the first moment that we were rushing it,” said Sen. Dede Alpert, D-San Diego, the former chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. “At this point, to put it off a year really seems better to me and seems smarter than waiting to get sued”…

For more information about the high school exit exam, see



(1) NCES Report: “The Kindergarten Year”

Source: National Center for Education Statistics – 1 December 2000

Children from all backgrounds significantly improve their reading and math performance during kindergarten and increase their readiness for future schooling, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). And the gains reported in The Kindergarten Year are about the same regardless of the child’s background. Significant gaps remain, however, in more advanced skills between at-risk children and their peers…

The Kindergarten Year provides national data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99, which included a representative sample of 22,000 children, their families, schools and classrooms. The study is the second in a series of planned reports from the longitudinal study, which provides first-time data on children attending public and private kindergartens.

The study found that children increased their specific knowledge and skills in reading from when they first entered kindergarten. After a year of kindergarten, those who could recognize their letters increased from 65 percent to 94 percent; children who could understand the letter-sound relationship at the beginning of words rose from 29 percent to 72 percent; and those who could understand the letter-sound relationship at the end of words increased from 17 percent to 52 percent.

By the end of kindergarten, nearly all children recognize shapes and numbers (99 percent) and a majority understand the relative size and order of objects. Also, almost five times (18 percent) as many children could solve simple addition and subtraction problems at the end of kindergarten as at the beginning.

The Kindergarten Year identifies four risk factors for kindergartners: single-parent households, welfare recipients, mother with less than a high school education, and homes where English is not the primary language. Students with two or more risk factors enter kindergarten with much lower reading and math skills, but by the end of the year have virtually erased the gaps for the most basic skills. At-risk children remain behind in the more advanced skills such as recognizing words by sight or solving simple math problems.

The study found that patterns at the beginning of the school year persist and that by the end of the kindergarten year:

= Older children have higher specific reading and math knowledge and skills than their younger counterparts.

= According to teachers, children whose mothers who have more education are more likely to persist at tasks, seem more eager to learn, and pay closer attention than children whose mothers have less education.

= Teachers also report that kindergartners with fewer risk factors are more likely to accept peer ideas and form friendships, and less likely to argue, fight, or get angry than children with more risk factors.

Future studies will continue to follow the same sample of children through fifth grade, regularly gathering data on their reading and math achievement, social skills, physical development, and school experiences. The study will reveal the extent to which differences that exist when children enter school persist or change over time and how schooling influences progress.

The full text of The Kindergarten Year is available on the NCES Web site at A copy of the report can be ordered by calling toll free 1-877-4ED-PUBS (1-877-433-7827) TTY/TDD 1-877-576-7734; via e-mail at;or through the Internet at

(2) “Teachers Examining Student Work to Guide Curriculum, Instruction” by David J. Hoff

Source: Education Week – 29 November 2000

…The intense focus on students’ work seen at Whittier Elementary is becoming increasingly common as educators seek ways to improve achievement in the standards and testing environment that permeates American schools. Unless schools do a better job of collecting and analyzing the products of learning, teaching experts say, the drive to align classroom instruction with states’ academic standards and testing programs will be incomplete.

For teachers, examples of student work translate the abstract concepts outlined in such standards and provide vivid illustrations of what the end results should look like.

“Teachers know what they’re supposed to teach and what the student [work] should look like after they teach it,” said Gary Heath, the chief of the arts and sciences branch at the Maryland education department. “It changes the mind-set from what teachers do to what students do.”

Likewise, students can see what’s expected of them in ways that scores on a large-scale state assessment don’t show. “Kids have to know: This is the standard. This is what it means. This is what it looks like,” said Sonia C. Hernandez, the president of LAAMP/LEARN Regional School Reform Alliance, a nonprofit organization working to improve Los Angeles schools.

“You can’t talk about performance standards in terms of cut scores [on tests],” added Ms. Hernandez. “It’s got to look real to students and teachers”…

Debates over what students should know and be able to do dominated school policymaking in the 1990s. At the same time, though, teachers and policymakers laid the groundwork to define what students need to do to demonstrate that they reached the standards, says one prominent researcher.

“The ’90s saw two things take hold,” said Lauren B. Resnick, the director of the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. “One of them was high-stakes tests. So was the idea of examining student work against a criterion.”

Several states are integrating examples of students’ work into their standards initiatives.

New York’s curriculum frameworks include examples of how students solved math problems, created artwork, and met the demands of the state’s standards in other subjects…

In California, a consortium of school districts is evaluating student work against the standards set by the state. Illinois teachers are collecting examples of student work that are aligned with the state’s new performance standards. They will be published for educators to study…

Eventually, students learn how to evaluate their own work, said Ms. Resnick…In places where analyzing student work is part of the school culture, she said, students will say things like: “I think this could be better with more details,” or “I think that’s a good topic sentence.”

When that happens, the school is well on its way to reaching standards, according to Michelle Krantz, the associate superintendent for elementary schools for the Frederick County district.

“We have to be able to judge our own performance, and we have to be motivated to improve it,” Ms. Krantz said. “When [students are] out in the real world, there’s not going to be anybody doing it for them.”

(3) “Teacher Subtracts Bias in Math Class” by Sandra Constantine

Source: Union-News / Sunday Republican – 1 December 2000

At 52, Mount Holyoke College psychology lecturer Charlene Morrow is back in the classroom again – this time to study mathematics…

Morrow already has a doctorate in clinical psychology and 20 years of teaching experience. In addition, she and her husband, mathematician James Morrow, co-direct the college’s nationally acclaimed SummerMath program for girls in grades eight through 12.

It was while researching and writing the 1998 book “Notable Women in Mathematics” that Morrow was bitten by the desire to learn more about mathematics. She and her collaborator, Teri Perl, put together 59 short biographies of outstanding women in the field.

Morrow said she was encouraged by their examples to broaden her own horizons. To do that, she secured a $70,000 National Science Foundation Grant under its Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education program.

The grant has allowed her to take six upper-level college mathematics courses since the fall of 1999 and calls on her to develop non-gender biased teaching materials.

Morrow said she believes “unequivocally” that the teaching of mathematics as well as the Scholastic Aptitude test are biased against women. In addition, Morrow said she believes the “confrontational” way mathematics is taught has a negative effect on girls. “I believe in challenging girls in a supportive way,” Morrow said…


(1) “Release of TIMSS-R International and National Data”

Source: Patsy Wang-Iverson (wang@RBS.ORG)

The TIMSS-R (TIMSS-Repeat) international and national data will be released via two press conferences on Tuesday, December 5: the international data release will take place at 10 a.m. EST at Boston College, and the national data release will take place at 11a.m. EST in Washington, DC.

The public is invited to attend the 11a.m. EST press conference, which will take place in the Grand Ballroom (lower level) of the J.W. Marriott Hotel (aka Metro Center Marriott), 1331 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Metro Center stop on the Metro).

(2) Albert Einstein Fellowship: Where Classroom Practice Informs Policy

Source: Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education (via Charlene Chausis) (800-582-0115)

Elementary and secondary science and math teachers are encouraged to apply to spend a year in our nation’s capital as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. The annual program was enacted in 1994 by Congress and funded by the Department of Energy – Office of Science, with participation from NASA and the National Science Foundation. Selected teachers spend up to one year in a Congressional office or a federal agency. Agencies that have participated include: the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Education (ED), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The Fellows provide their educational expertise, years of experience, and personal insights to these offices.

The Triangle Coalition assists the Department of Energy in the administration of the Einstein Fellowship program. The Triangle Coalition, in coordination with the Office of Science, handles the recruitment of teachers, the application process, the selection process, and the placement and orientation of the Fellows. Minimum qualifications include: five years of classroom experience, current full time teaching status, US citizenship, and a letter of support from a current administrator. Selection is based on excellence in K-12 mathematics or science teaching; demonstrated leadership; knowledge of national, state, and local education policies; and communication and interpersonal skills. The application process opens on December 1, 2000 and closes on February 1, 2001. A description of this program and an on-line application can be found at Additional information about the program can be found at