COMET • Vol. 1, No. 05 – 26 February 2000


(1) “Davis Fills Two Vacancies on School Board” (AP)

Source: Contra Costa Times, 26 February 2000

“A Silicon Valley charter school advocate and an Inglewood school principal are the governor’s newest appointees to the state Board of Education. Reed Hastings, 39, of Santa Cruz and Nancy Ichinaga, 69, of Los Angeles were named by Gov. Gray Davis on Friday.

“Hastings heads Netflix, a movie-related Internet site, and is one of the main backers of Proposition 26 on the March 7 ballot. That initiative, also backed by the California Teachers Association, would make it easier for school districts to get voter approval for local school bonds. Hastings is also a member of the Technology Network, a group of high-tech businesses seeking improvements in the state’s educational system.

“Ichinaga has been principal of Bennett-Kew School in Inglewood since 1974. Her school has mostly poor students, but has been recognized as a high-achieving school since 1982,” the governor’s office said.

“Hastings and Ichinaga fill two of the three vacant positions on the 11-member board, which sets state policy for public schools in areas such as textbooks, the state test and standards. Hastings replaces Yvonne Larson of San Diego, the former board president who has been on the board since 1992. Ichinaga replaces Janet Nicholas of Sonoma, a board member since 1996.”

“The term of the current board president, Robert Trigg, the former superintendent of Elk Grove Unified School District, also expired last month. Davis has not decided whether to reappoint Trigg or replace him, a Davis press aide said.”

(2) “Latino Educator in LA Vows to Go on Hunger Strike Over an LAUSD Board Policy Decision”

Source:“A coalition of national and local organizations that include well respected groups such as The Achievement Council, The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, UCLA’s Center X, and various Latino and African American Organizations will be holding a press conference on March 16th to alert the public about an LAUSD board policy that will have a devastatingly negative impact on over 500,000 Latino and African American students.

“The LAUSD board is poised to make a policy decision that will eliminate a host of mathematics courses for which convincing data exist that show these programs have substantially increased the number of students that are completing the mathematics college-prep courses students need in order to be admitted into college.

“One of the members of the coalition, Guillermo Mendieta, director of Mathematics Standards Initiatives at The Achievement Council, has vowed to go on a hunger strike, starting April 1st (April is mathematics month) which will continue until the Board votes to not eliminate the integrated mathematics courses. When asked about his decision to go on a hunger strike he said:

“After exhausting all other avenues, I will go on a hunger strike on April 1st and stop when the LAUSD board votes to not eliminate the integrated/math reform programs which have resulted in increases in the number of Latino, African American, White and Asian students who complete the mathematics course requirements for college. I hope that by going on a hunger strike, educators, mathematicians and all others who believe that it is wrong and dangerous for a tiny and extremist group such as Mathematically Correct to be allowed to have so much influence on the direction of mathematics education at the local, state and the national level will stand up and make themselves be heard. This group is also moving to control the policies in science education. The time has come for educators to stop being consumers and critics of bad educational policy, we must reclaim our voice and start playing a central part in the policy making process.”

(3) “Teaching to the Test: Pursuit of high SAT-9 scores is changing the way teachers in the area’s public schools educate our children” by Lori Aratani

Source: San Jose Mercury News, 21 February 2000

“Under enormous public pressure to boost their scores on statewide tests, California public schools are leaving nothing to chance. They’re spending thousands to buy computer programs, hire consultants, and purchase workbooks and materials. They’re redesigning spelling tests and math lessons, all in an effort to help students become better test takers.

“It’s the age of school accountability in California. If the threat of state takeover isn’t enough to keep educators on their toes, toss in the embarrassment of posting a score lower than the school next door, and you’ve got angst times 10.”

“California public school students have been taking the Stanford 9 (SAT-9), a nationally used commercial exam, since 1997 and the state has publicized the results. But beginning this year, those scores are more than a matter of school pride. How a school ranks and whether it will receive financial rewards or face state intervention all hinge on test scores under the state’s new accountability program.

“‘The SAT-9 has changed the way we do business,’ said Gerry Chartrand, associate superintendent for educational services in the Campbell Union Elementary School District. “Even though we try to keep a balance and not focus on it entirely, all during the year, we’re looking at it. It’s high on everybody’s list.”

“As well as rethinking the way they teach, some districts are turning to outside consultants. Alum Rock has hired Kaplan to help teachers from struggling schools learn to coach their students for the test.

“‘We’ve always provided some teacher training, but we want to try these outside companies,’ said Richard Reyes, special assistant to the superintendent. “Maybe they know something we don’t. If it works, then it’s worth the investment.” Outside help doesn’t come cheap. Alum Rock will pay Kaplan about $10,000. In East Palo Alto’s Ravenswood district, Knight said her schools are spending as much as $10,000 each to pay for test preparation services. Educators say preparation does make a difference. At Flood Elementary School in Menlo Park, which posted far higher SAT-9 scores than other schools with students from similar economic backgrounds, teachers credit a Kaplan workshop with helping them help their students.

“State officials say that California eventually may have to take another look at the equity issue as well as the question of what sort of preparation is appropriate. Current state laws addressing test preparation issues are murky at best. The California Education Code prohibits schools from offering test preparation programs tied to a specific statewide exam, but nothing prohibits schools from offering generic test strategy programs.

“‘It’s not very definitive,’ conceded Gerry Shelton, a consultant with the state department of education’s assessment division. ‘There are a lot of materials out there specifically aimed at these exams. As the stakes attached to test scores get elevated we’re going to have to be more active in looking at these issues.'”


(4) Update on the Governor1s Professional Development Institutes:

Art Sussman ( writes: “A discussion draft is currently being circulated of the Request for Proposals for the Governor’s Professional Development Institutes for Teachers of Mathematics Grades 4-12. The final RFP is expected to come out very soon. To receive a copy of the final RFP for mathematics, please email

“If you want to see the draft, you may be able to get that from Georgia as well. The draft indicates that a Letter of intent may be due as soon as March 10th and that full proposals may be submitted as early as March 17th. They also plan to decide on funding proposals two weeks after a proposal has been received, and that the application process will remain open until all funds for Institutes are awarded.

“In the draft, host higher education institutions will receive funding that is based on the number of participants. For example, they will receive $650 per participant for an Institute that involves 40 hours of intensive summer work and 80 hours of academic year follow-up. Each of the teacher participants in that Institute would receive $1,000 from the state for participating. Hosting higher education institutions would also receive $100 per participating team-member from participating schools and districts. In the draft, the host is not allowed to charge indirect costs and the host will compensate faculty who provide the professional development. If you are interested in this, please follow-up with Georgia Makris.”



(1) “Four Fellow Educators Elected to the NCTM Board”

Source: .

“In the recent NCTM election, Mary Buck, Sue Eddins, Judith Sowder, and Bert K. Waits were elected to the Board. They will take the seats of retiring Board members Ann Carlyle, Loring (Terry) Coes III, Richard Kopan, and Steven Leinwand at NCTM’s Annual Meeting in April 2000.”

(2) “Board Gives Conditional Approval to Controversial Math Proposal”

by Robin EstrinSource: The Boston Globe, 23 February 2000

“After hearing howls of protest from scores of math teachers, the state Board of Education stopped short Wednesday of granting outright approval to proposed changes in the math curriculum. Instead, the board ‘conditionally endorsed’ the controversial plan.

“More than 100 math teachers from around Massachusetts showed up for the meeting, and speaker after speaker said the revisions would be a step backward in educating students. Not one person spoke in favor of the proposed framework.

“The discussion, which lasted nearly three hours just on the one subject, was punctuated with applause and standing ovations from the crowd, as well as angry shouts from teachers accusing the board of ‘railroading’ and ignoring their views. One man held a bright orange handwritten sign that read: ‘Math for the 21st century, not the 19th century.'”

“Nearly 170 principals and math teachers from around the state signed a letter urging the board to reject the proposal. They argued the changes to the curriculum emphasize a more traditional approach to teaching mathematics that will make the subject less accessible to students. The proposed framework, they say, emphasizes rote memorization over comprehensive understanding.”

“Generations of ‘math phobes’ ran away from the subject because of the way it used to be taught, they said. The current curriculum written in 1995 as a result of the Education Reform Act changed that, according to teachers who now fear a reversal of the educational gains made over the last five years.”

Officials at the Department of Education said the 1995 framework needed clarification outlining exactly what is expected of teachers and students. Math professionals agreed the framework needed improvements. But they said the new draft goes too far in the opposite direction and left too many teachers out of the process.

“We are at a loss to explain why the Board of Education and its commissioners would so deliberately choose to alienate the very people that are on the front line of teaching,” said John D’Auria, principal of Wellesley Middle School and the lead author of the protest letter to the board.

“By granting conditional endorsement with a 7-to-2 vote, the board agreed to let the frameworks be evaluated by math professionals around the state and to compare them against standards to be released in April by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics”

“Many of the teachers said they were pleased with the board’s vote, seeing it as an attempt to listen to their views.”

Specific comments from the meeting are also posted at:

(3) Peter Kickbush

( writes that as of 22 February 2000,”the text and archived webcast of Secretary Riley’s State of American Education Address yesterday are now online, as are… ‘A 5-Year Report Card on American Education,’ and ‘Promising Initiatives to Improve Education in Your Community: A Guide to Selected U.S. Department of Education Grant Programs & Funding Opportunities.'” See

(4) Notice from the National Science Teachers1 Assn. about Eisenhower Funds

“Legislative Alert, February 16, 2000: Your Calls/Emails To the Senate Still Needed!!

“Draft of Senate Title II ESEA Still Contains No Set Aside for Science and Math Teacher Professional Development

“As we reported in the Legislative Alert on February 10, the most recent language in the Senate’s ESEA bill that deals with teacher quality (Title II) contains NO language requiring LEAs or districts to set aside a specific amount of funds for science and math teacher professional development. (Currently, the Eisenhower professional development program guarantees $250 million a year for science and math teacher training; see the NSTA website at, click Legislative Update for more information.)

“NSTA believes that without language authorizing a specific amount or set-aside which clearly outlines how much should be spent on teacher training that science [and math] educators will lose professional development funding.

“Mark up for this bill is tentatively scheduled for March 1. Teacher professional development is still very much an issue with this draft legislation. Teachers need to call or email their Senators with the message: Maintain the federal commitment to science and math education and include the set aside for science and math teacher professional development in Title II of the Senate ESEA. Please take a minute to call, fax or email your Senators offices TODAY with this message. This is very important and your call can make a difference. To contact your representatives by phone:

Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask to be connected to your Senators’ offices. (Please forward any response you receive to NSTA, email



(1) The 2001 Annual Conference of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators

The 2001 Annual Conference of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators will be held in Costa Mesa (Orange County), CA on Jan. 18 – 20, 2001, in conjunction with the Association for the Education of Teachers in Science ( Conference information has been posted on the AMTE Web site at Proposals to speak are due on June 1, 2000.

(2) The Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education 

Kindergarten through University, together with the [California] Assembly Education Committee and the Senate Education Committee, is conducting a hearing to address State Education Governance: the roles of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of Education. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, February 29, 2000, at 3:00 p.m. in Room 4202 of the State Capitol. Details about the

Master Plan is available at

(3) Harcourt Educational Measurement1s Director of Mathematics Test Development

Marilyn Rindfuss, is seeking talented teachers with excellent communication skills to serve as test item writers. Due to tight deadlines and short turn-around times, Harcourt prefers “for S recommendations to be individuals who have recently retired, left teaching to be at home with children, or who have taken medical or personal leave. We want to recruit and train these individuals to write mathematics items (both multiple-choice and open-ended) for all grade levels for use on our tests and related products.” If you are interested in more information, please contact Marilyn at



(1) “Illuminations” by NCTM

NCTM has developed “Illuminations” extended examples designed to help teachers think about how they might apply the ideas of NCTM’s Principles and Standards for School Mathematics in their daily practice:

(2) Articles related to mathematics education

Would you like to receive full articles on issues related to mathematics education? Jerry Becker, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Southern Illinois University, distributes articles almost daily to those on his list. If you are interested in being on this e-mail distribution list, send your request to .

(3) Detailed summary of President Clinton’s request for education

President Clinton1s fiscal year 2001 budget includes a 12.6% increase in spending for education. A detailed summary of his request for education (& related information) can be found at



(1) Mathematics Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment Alignment Series

Do you want to effectively align your mathematics curriculum with the California math content standards and the SAT 9? If so, this Standards Alignment Series is for you! Gr. K-6 series: March 1 and April 4 (all day); Gr. 7-12 series: March 2 and April 5. Contact Lori Hamada for more information (

(2) “Making the Connection-Technology and the Classroom” 

11 March 2000 McLane High School in Fresno, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. $20 advance registration. Contact Dennis Funk at 559-457-3170 for more information.

(3) Math Extravaganza by Linda Braatz-Brown

Linda Braatz-Brown ( of the Ontario-Montclair School District recently coordinated a very successful Math Extravaganza at a local mall. She would enjoy communicating with others interested in coordinating a similar event, and invites you to send her an e-mail message. Below is a portion of the local news coverage:


“Making it All Add Up for Kids, Parents” by Elizabeth Zwerling

Daily Bulletin Online, January 30, 2000$schF?search

“Young mathematicians from throughout the Inland Valley mobbed the Montclair Plaza’s main courtyard Saturday for the fourth annual Mathematics Extravaganza. Teachers and middle school students from the Ontario-Montclair School District staffing the event said they expected more than 1,000 visitors to the eight stations before the day was over”.

“The event is as much for the parents as it is for the children, said Linda Braatz-Brown, an instructional program coordinator for the Ontario-Montclair School District.

“You will never hear adults saying they find reading difficult, but parents often say things like, ‘I’m not good at math.’ This shows them the breadth and … fun of math,” she said, adding that it can give parents ideas for working with their children.”

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!)