COMET • Vol. 1, No. 04 – 20 February 2000


(1) “Hart Resigns After Year as California’s Education Secretary:

Ex-legislator had told Davis he’d stay that long” by Lynda Gledhill

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 19 February 2000

[Reminder: When URLs go beyond one line, copy/paste the entire URL into your Web browser after you eliminate the <return.]

“Secretary of Education Gary Hart, who was a leading force in the passage of Gov. Gray Davis’ education proposals and his first cabinet appointee, has resigned. Hart, who took the post reluctantly, said in a letter dated Thursday that he is leaving after having seen through the first year of Davis’ education plans.

“You will recall when we first discussed my appointment after the election in 1998, I had some reservations and we agreed that the first year was critical and that I would commit to one year’s service,” Hart wrote in his letter to Davis, which was released yesterday. “With that successful year now well behind us, I want to return to the classroom, as well as spend more time with my family.” Hart’s resignation is effective March 15.

“A former legislator and well-respected education leader, Hart’s departure comes just as Davis’ second round of education reforms-this year focusing on teacher recruitment-is starting to work through the legislative process. Hart was credited for smoothing the way for Davis’ proposals last year, despite friction between the Legislature and Davis.

“He did a terrific job shepherding the governor’s education proposals last year, and this year they will undoubtedly need some shepherding, [Kerry Mazzoni] said. They are as controversial, if not more controversial in some respects

“There are other outstanding people who are very knowledgeable about policy and others who are knowledgeable about politics, [Dede Alpert] said. He combined the two as well as anyone could. Davis said in a prepared statement that he accepted Hart’s leaving reluctantly.

“Gary has been an inspiration to me and to educators in and out of the classroom, Davis said. He was instrumental in formulating the ideas and legislation that were enacted last year.

“Hart will return to California State University at Sacramento, where he currently teaches a class one night a week, said his spokeswoman, Anne Bancroft. Hart, a Santa Barbara Democrat, served in the Legislature for 20 years. He left the Senate five years ago to become co-director of the California State University Institute for Education Reform.”

(2) Governor’s Teacher Professional Development Initiatives On February 14

Bob Polkinghorn (Asst. VP, UC) sent a letter (excerpted below) to the presidents, sponsored projects offices, math department chairs, extensions/continuing education departments, and education deans of the 76 colleges and universities in California that will be eligible to apply for the Governor’s Professional Development Initiatives. The majority of these initiatives are math-related. If you are interested in learning more about how you can be involved in leading one of the mathematics institutes, contact the Mathematics Department at your regional CSU or UC campus, or contact the director of your regional California Mathematics Project site. You may also wish to contact Elizabeth Stage, who is coordinating the mathematics initiatives: 510-987-9509.


Dear Colleague:

As you know, Governor Davis’ recent state budget proposal includes $134.7 million in new funding to improve teacher quality in California. Once these measures have been acted upon by the Legislature, this ambitious effort<the Governor’s Teacher Professional Development Initiatives<will represent the largest and most comprehensive teacher professional development effort in California, and possibly the nation. Further, they will link the resources and expertise of our state’s colleges and universities with those of our K-12 schools and districts in an important new way.

We invite you to join us in making improved teacher quality a reality. With your support we can serve 70,000 teachers during the FY 00-01 academic year.

The Governor intends this effort to be coordinated by the University of California, in full partnership with the California State University, independent colleges and universities, and K-12 schools and districts. It is important that these new and expanded initiatives augment and complement existing school district professional development activities that have similar goals. The proposed budget for this effort includes approximately $44 million to expand on-going professional development programs including

  • $20 million for the expansion of the California Subject Matter
  • Projects, bringing it up to a total of $35 million, which provide subject-specific professional development to K?12 teachers. This augmentation would provide opportunities for an additional 15,000 teachers. In addition, the following new Professional Development Institutes, modeled after the successful Reading Professional Development Institutes, are proposed:
  • $8.2 million for Algebra Professional Development Institutes which will provide instruction for approximately 3,500 algebra teachers and the teachers of the two math courses that precede algebra. Like the Reading Institutes both in terms of intensive focus and stipend support, the Algebra Institutes’ goal is to improve teachers’ content knowledge and to equip them to prepare their students for success in algebra and the High School Exit Exam;
  • $12.5 million for Mathematics Specialist Professional Development Institutes that will be offered to about 5,000 teachers in grades 4?6. They are designed to develop the mathematical knowledge and skills of upper grade elementary school teachers whose schools are willing to assign them to teach mathematics daily to more than one class of students;
  • $16 million for Secondary School Mathematics Professional Development Institutes which will focus on serving approximately 8,000 teachers in specific subject areas (such as geometry, calculus, trigonometry, etc.).

They will emphasize improved student achievement on the STAR examination,

the High School Exit Exam, and academic preparation for college including

Advanced Placement (AP) coursework;

“Of course, these proposals, like all other aspects of the annual state budget, must be enacted by the Legislature before they become law. The Legislature is scheduled to begin its deliberations shortly and should send a final budget to the Governor before the beginning of next fiscal year. However, the importance of the issues addressed by these proposals has led us to conclude that we should do all that we can to prepare ourselves to implement these programs as soon as possible once the budget bill and accompanying legislation have been enacted. To this end, we are asking you for a preliminary expression of your interest in becoming part of this major effort.”

A summary of the governor’s budget can be found at

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

Susan Iida (SJVMP ’91) and Samantha Tate (SJVMP ’95) recently submitted applications to serve on a Math IMAP. According to the State Department of Education, additional applicants are still needed. As reported in the last COMET, interested individuals should call 916-657-3023 for a faxed application. These are due by the end of February. If you have any questions, contact Suzanne Rios at 916-657-3693 or Lily Roberts at 916-657-3915.



(1) “Teachers Object to Plan to Alter Math Standards” by Andreae Downs

Source: The Boston Globe, 6 February 2000

“Many educators around the state, including the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, are alarmed about proposed revisions to the state’s math standards, which they say could hurt progress made in teaching the subject.

“At issue are revisions to the 1995 state standards, or frameworks, which were interpretations of standards from the National Council of Teachers of Math.

“The proposed changes to the math frameworks, scheduled for a vote Feb. 23, would dilute the 1995 standards and shift the emphasis toward previous ways of teaching math, according to critics”

(2) “Math Curriculum Panel Quits to Protest Meddling” by Ed Hayward 

Source: The Boston Herald ? 11 February 2000

“Nine mathematicians charged with redesigning the state guidelines that shape math instruction and MCAS test questions have resigned in protest of what they called Department of Education meddling.

“The math mutiny that took place Wednesday night became the latest in a series of eruptions between school officials and academics over the Department of Education-revised final version of the state’s mathematics curriculum frameworks, which the Board of Education will take up Feb. 22.

“The panel, made up of college professors and math curriculum directors, was appointed a year and a half ago to clarify the 1995 math frameworks and to help teachers better understand the expectations for students. Panel members said the D, under the leadership of Deputy Commissioner Sandra Stotsky, changed the frameworks from a document that helps teachers understand curriculum to one that forces teachers to teach in a specific way.”

The resignation letter, dated 9 February 2000, follows:

Dear Commissioner Driscoll:

On September 17, 1998 when the Mathematics Curriculum Frameworks Revision Panel met for the first time, the members looked forward to carrying out their charge with enthusiasm and energy. Our initial charge was to produce a document that would provide greater clarity to the 1995 Framework, ensure an appropriate developmental sequence of concepts and skills within and across content strands and grade spans, illustrate standards with grade-specific activities and problems, and align with the draft of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. We remained steadfast to that charge despite new directives from the Office of the Commissioner of Education to change the document from a curriculum to an assessment framework. As a consequence of the new directive, many of the exploration and pedagogical aspects of the curriculum that we had developed could no longer be included. The draft that resulted from these deletions was skeletal at best. In addition the panel was informed at its last meeting in September 1999 that D Staff with no expertise in mathematics had made in-house alterations that further changed the direction of the document.

It was this version of the document that was released for public comment on September 28, 1999 and which has provoked considerable controversy. The panel objected to these changes in the document but did not resign in the hope that the public comment process would restore the original focus on curriculum.

Since our last input to the document, changes have been made behind closed doors, without the opportunity for review by our panel. We still have not seen the final document although it will be considered by the Board for approval on February 23, 2000. Based on the public comments we did review, as well as copies of drafts of parts of the in-house revised document that were forwarded to us by others, we no longer have confidence in the quality or integrity of the final version of the Framework being considered for adoption. Thus, we wish to remove ourselves from any responsibility or association with the document. It is with deep regret that we, the Panel, resign and request that our names as authors and contributors be deleted.


Members of the Mathematics Curriculum Framework Revision Panel

Dr. Carole Greenes, Associate Dean and Professor of Mathematics Education, Boston University. Chairman

Maureen Chapman-Fahey, K-12 Director of Mathematics, Medford Public Schools

Dr. Maurice Gilmore, Professor of Mathematics, Northeastern University

Barbara Haig, K-12 Curriculum Chairman and Elementary Mathematics Teacher, Northborough Public Schools

Dr. Deborah Hughes-Hallett, Professor of Mathematics, University of Arizona, Visiting Lecturer Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Dr. Margaret Kenney, Professor of Mathematics, Boston College

Jacqueline Rivers, Math Power, Center of Innovation in Education

Victor Steinbok, Doctoral Candidate in Mathematics Education, Boston University

Giselle Zangari, High School Mathematics Teacher, Boston University Academy


In response to another Boston Globe article,

“Math Panel Resigns in Protest over Curriculum Frameworks” (10 February 2000),

Bill Jacob writes:

Dear Editor,

I served on California’s 1997 Mathematics Framework writing committee. Our experience was remarkably similar to that of the Massachusetts panel. The California Mathematics Standards and Framework drafts were both rewritten behind closed doors just prior to our State Board’s approval. A small group of mathematics professors wrote California’s changes without consultation with people experienced in K-12 education. The changes were substantial, although our State Board tried to claim otherwise. The revisions push rote learning of computational procedures and ignore the key components children’s conceptual development. Like your committee, I asked that my name be removed from the California Math Framework.

I urge the citizens of Massachusetts to demand that their State Board of Education halt the adoption of the proposed Math Framework. Look closely into both the content and the process of the recent changes. Please listen to your teachers. This is in the best interest of Massachusetts’s children.


Bill Jacob

Professor of Mathematics

University of California, Santa Barbara

 (3) “Conflict Over How To Teach Math Flares in Bay State” by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Source: Education Week 16 February 2000

“Massachusetts education officials are calling it simply an effort at clarification. But some educators say the changes being proposed for the state’s 5-year-old mathematics framework represent nothing short of a philosophical shift that propels the state into the middle of a national battle over how the subject should be taught.

“Critics of the draft say the adjustments are a drastic shift-from a curriculum guide designed to assist teachers in their day-to-day lesson planning to an assessment framework that simply outlines what students will be tested on. They also argue that those changes, which would place a greater emphasis on traditional math skills, could undermine efforts over the past few years to align curricula, professional development, and instructional materials with the guidelines adopted in 1995.

“The Massachusetts debate mirrors one taking place nationally over how best to teach math. With the 1989 introduction of standards written by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, curriculum and instruction in many schools began emphasizing a more integrated and hands-on approach over rote computational exercises. Scholars and parents advocating a back-to-basics approach have launched their own campaign in recent years to return to more traditional instructional practices.

(4) “Math Proposal Called Bad for Most Students: Advisers Criticize

Proposal” by Clive McFarlane

Source: Worcester Telegram & Gazette ? 17 February 2000

“The state’s proposed mathematics framework might be good for the top 10 percent of students, but it will greatly reduce the chances of most students mastering the subject, members of the state’s mathematics and science advisory panel said last night.

“The new framework calls for algebra to be taught in the eighth grade. It also calls for separate courses for the classes of Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry. The current framework calls for one class integrating the three subjects. Members of the advisory panel said some of the changes mean that pupils will be introduced to concepts and topics that are completely over their heads.

“One of the biggest concerns is that the document has eliminated nearly everything that deals with pedagogy, how teachers help their pupils develop the required skills. While the original framework had about 91 pages of pedagogy, it was stripped to 31 pages in the proposed framework.

“The panel had presented a draft to the Department of Education in May, but was directed to alter the document considerably, according to Anne Collins, former statewide mathematics coordinator for the department. In November, the department issued a draft of the framework that was significantly different than the one presented by the revision panel, Ms. Collins said.

“She said that latest framework backs away from successful methods of teaching mathematics. This ‘rote, drill and kill’ makes me shudder when I think about all the hours that have gone into training teachers how to teach children understanding,’ she said. None of that is reflected in this document. The document does not reflect comments from the field and it does not teach students how to think.'”

(5) “Students’ Low Scores Provoked Council’s 1989 Standards ” by Andreae Downs

Source: The Boston Globe, 6 February 2000

“The 1989 standards of the National Council of Teachers of Math were based on the premise that in the United States, many kindergarten -through-grade 12 students were not learning math well. Traditional teaching approaches failed to take into account the way many students learned, according to the council.

“If all you have is isolated steps that make no sense to you, you can’t apply them in real life,’ she said. The method of learning a procedure and practicing it until it is memorized blocks people from understanding the math concepts underlying the procedure.1

“The standards did not call for the elimination of the traditional method of teaching math, or for dividing math into different disciplines such as algebra, geometry, and calculus. But they did offer other ways of looking at the same material.

“And, although the standards have received wide acclaim and been endorsed by several national organizations, including the US Department of Education, criticism from the university math community has moved the council to revise them. A draft revision is available on line (, and the final draft is to be released in April.”

(6) “Lawmakers Hear Both Sides In Math Wars'” by Debra Viadero

Source: Education Week, 9 February 2000

“The math wars’ came to Capitol Hill last week during a House hearing on 10 mathematics programs that received the Department of Education’s seal of approval last fall.

“Although the list is purely advisory, the department’s selection of promising’ and exemplary” programs has engendered controversy since federal officials unveiled the choices in October. In November, nearly 200 mathematicians, physicists, and other scholars took out a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post to air their opposition to the choices, which they said neglected essential skills

“At the hearing Feb. 2, held jointly by two subcommittees of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, some lawmakers wondered aloud whether the department had overstepped its bounds by endorsing the programs<a task Congress had ordered it to do in 1994. Federal law prohibits the federal government from dictating curricula, but department officials have for years evaluated programs for their effectiveness.

“‘While I believe there is a limited role for the federal government to influence the choice of a quality math curriculum,’ said Rep. Michael N. Castle, a Republican from Delaware who is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Families, which co-hosted the hearing. I also believe that the federal government must take care not to … use that influence to pressure state and local schools to implement national math standards'”

A related story can be found at Dallas Morning News ? 3 February 2000 (“Government Defends Support of Math Lessons”)

Full transcripts of the 2 February 2000 Congressional hearing on “The Federal Role in K-12 Mathematics Reform” are available at

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 often 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 welcome!)