COMET • Vol. 10, No. 10 – 6 April 2009


(1) California Educator Nominated by President Obama for National Education Post

Sources: (a) The White House
(b) California Department of Education

On April 1, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Martha J. Kanter as Under Secretary of Education. Dr. Kanter currently serves as Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the country and located in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Prior to her tenure at De Anza College, Dr. Kanter served as Vice President of Instruction and Student Services at San Jose City College where she formerly worked as a teacher and created the school’s first program for students with learning disabilities. She also served as a Director, Dean and subsequently Vice Chancellor for Policy and Research of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in Sacramento. Dr. Kanter earned her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University, a master’s in education from Harvard University, and a doctorate in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco. She currently serves as National Chair of the Community College Advisory Panel of The College Board.

California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell congratulated Dr. Kanter on her impending nomination.  “I am delighted that such a talented Californian has been selected to serve the nation’s schools in this key administration post,” said O’Connell. “[Dr.] Kanter has a long history as a dedicated educator in California’s community college system. Her experience and talent will serve her well in overseeing the policies, programs, and activities related to postsecondary education, vocational and adult education, and federal student aid within the U.S. Department of Education.”


(2) California to Receive More Than $1 Billion in Recovery Funds for Federal Education Programs

Source: California Department of Education

[Also see first story in the National News section below.] Last Wednesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell  announced that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded California an estimated $634 million for students with special needs and $564 million for socioeconomic ally disadvantaged students in the first disbursement of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

“The federal economic stimulus funds will help us educate some of our most vulnerable students–those in need of special education services and those who are socioeconomic ally disadvantaged,” said O’Connell. “I have directed divisions within the California Department of Education to get these education recovery funds out to our schools as quickly as possible in order to save and create jobs as well as improve student achievement.”

The nearly $634 million for special education constitutes half of the ARRA recovery funds for California dedicated to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B program. The funds will be used to help districts during this fiscal year and next. The remaining 50 percent of the IDEA funds will be awarded in the fall. The Obama Administration has made clear that the funding should be used for short-term investments that have the potential for long-term benefits rather than for expenditures that cannot be sustained once the recovery funds are expended.

“I am pleased to note this increase in IDEA funding because the federal government historically has not met its commitment to provide 40 percent of funding needed to serve students with disabilities,” said O’Connell. “The ARRA funding is a welcome increase, and I will work with educators to achieve continued increased funding.”

One possible use of these limited-term IDEA recovery funds include providing intensive district-wide professional development for special education and regular education teachers that focuses on scaling-up, through replication, proven and innovative evidence-based school-wide strategies in reading, math, writing, and science.

The $564 million in ARRA funds allocated to benefit socioeconomic ally disadvantaged students constitutes half of the ARRA recovery funds dedicated to Title I, Part A program expected to go to California. Like the IDEA funds, the remaining 50 percent of the Title I funds are expected to be awarded in the fall. Again, the federal government intends this funding to be used for short-term investments that have the potential for long-term benefits, rather than for expenditures that cannot be sustained once the recovery funds are expended.
Some possible uses of these limited-term Title I recovery funds include the following:
— Providing new opportunities for Title I school-wide programs for secondary school students to use high-quality, online coursework as supplemental learning materials for meeting mathematics and science requirements.
— Establishing a system for identifying and training highly effective teachers to serve as instructional leaders in Title I school-wide programs and modifying the school schedule to allow for collaboration among the instructional staff.
— Developing and expanding longitudinal data systems to drive continuous improvement efforts focused on increased achievement in Title I schools.

Districts are also encouraged to consider using these funds to support and improve preschool and early childhood development programs which are an existing allowable use for Title I.

ARRA was signed into law in February by President Barack Obama. The entire spending and tax package to benefit the nation’s schools includes more than $100 billion for elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education; $4.1 billion for early education and care; and $26 billion in education tax incentives. A total of nearly $8 billion is expected to benefit public education in California. This investment will provide public education and early childhood programs with funds that can be used to avoid teacher layoffs, continue efforts to close achievement gaps, and improve educational opportunities for California’s children and youth.

“President Obama recognizes that investing in education is a key way to rev up America’s economic engine,” O’Connell said. “The severity of our state budget crisis has resulted in billions of dollars in cuts to California schools. This federal funding is vitally needed to help lessen the blow to public education. I am pleased to be working with the Governor, the Legislature, and the education community to get these resources out to schools quickly so the recovery funds can be put to use as they were intended.”

O’Connell is working with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as well as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration and the California Legislative Leadership to make sure California obtains maximum funds for which the state is eligible. For more information on ARRA and how it will benefit California, please visit For a preliminary list of how much ARRA IDEA funds each school districts is expected to receive, please visit  For a preliminary list of how much ARRA Title I funds each school district is expected to receive, please visit  (A final list of exactly how much ARRA funding each school district will receive will take a month to compile.)



(1) $44 Billion in Stimulus Funds Available to Drive Education Reforms and Save Teaching Jobs

Source: U.S. Department of Education

On April 1, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that $44 billion for states and schools is now available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. This funding will lay the foundation for a generation of education reform and help save hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs at risk of state and local budget cuts.

“Given our economic circumstances, it’s critical that money go out quickly but it’s even more important that it be spent wisely,” said Duncan. “The first step toward real and lasting reform that will ensure our students’ competitiveness begins with absolute transparency and accountability in how we invest our dollars, educate our children, evaluate our teachers, and measure our success. We must be much more open and honest about what works in the classroom and what doesn’t.”

Wednesday’s announcement includes the application and guidelines for $32.6 billion under the State Stabilization Fund, representing two-thirds of the total dollars in the Fund. This includes $26.6 billion to save jobs and improve K-12 and higher education and a separate $6 billion in a Government Services Fund to pay for education, public safety or other government services.

Funds in the first round will be released within two weeks of an application’s approval. A second round of stabilization funds will be released later in the year. A third round of funding, the Race to the Top competitive grant program will reward states that have made the most progress on reforms.

The guidelines released today promote comprehensive education reform by receiving commitments from states that they will collect, publish, analyze and act on basic information regarding the quality of classroom teachers, annual student improvements, college readiness, the effectiveness of state standards and assessments, progress on removing charter caps, and interventions in turning around underperforming schools. Specifically, the law requires states to show:
– Improvements in teacher effectiveness and commitments that all schools have highly qualified teachers,
– Progress toward college and career-ready standards and rigorous assessments that will improve both teaching and learning,
– Improvements in achievement in low-performing schools, by providing intensive support and effective interventions in those schools, and
– That they can gather information to improve student learning, teacher performance, and college and career-readiness through enhanced data systems that track progress.

In a letter to governors, Secretary Duncan outlined a set of proposed measurements that states would report on their progress toward the education reforms spelled out in the law. The Department will release these metrics for public comment in the Federal Register in April and then issue a final version.

The guidelines also require states to report the number of jobs saved through Recovery Act funding, the amount of state and local tax increases averted, and how funds are used. It further requires that the bulk of the federal dollars be spent on education.

Part 2 of the State Stabilization Fund Application, available later this year, will allow states to apply for the last third of the stabilization funds, which includes $13.1 billion for education and $2.9 billion designated for the Government Services Fund. Guidelines for Part 2 require states to submit the required data or provide an explanation of why the data is currently unavailable and a plan for collecting the data by 2011.

Finally, $5 billion in competitive grants, the “Race to the Top” fund, will be awarded to states that are most aggressively pursuing reforms. In order to ensure that Recovery Act funds are driving classroom improvements, states competing for Race to the Top funds will be judged on how well they are using the first round of stabilization and Title I funds to advance education reforms.

“Every dollar we spend must advance reforms and improve learning. We are putting real money on the line to challenge every state to push harder and do more for its children,” Duncan said.

In addition to the stabilization funds, $11.4 billion is available immediately under the Title I, IDEA, Vocational Rehabilitation and Independent Living programs. Title I programs serve schools with large concentrations of low-income students. IDEA funds serve students with disabilities. A second round of Title I and IDEA funds will be available later in the year…

“Under the law passed by Congress, the top priority for these dollars is to do right by our schools and our kids. If states play games with these funds, the second round of stabilization funds could be in jeopardy and they could eliminate their state from competitive grant money. This money must be spent in the best interests of children,” Duncan said.


Related press release:

California Receives $6 Million Grant for Teacher Data System”



On Friday, April 3, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced the California Department of Education was awarded a $6 million Statewide Longitudinal Data System Grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institution of Education Sciences.

The California Department of Education is working with the state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing on the California Longitudinal Teacher Integrated Data Education System (CALTIDES) project. The Commission is almost finished assigning Statewide Educator Identifiers to each teacher in the California public school. These identifiers will be used in the proposed CALTIDES program to track teachers and other credentialed administrators over time and link them and their credentials to what they are teaching to help ensure they are appropriately assigned…

The federal Statewide Longitudinal Data System Grant program is designed to help state education agencies develop and implement longitudinal data systems. These systems are intended to enhance the ability of states, districts, schools, and teachers to make data-driven decisions to improve student learning, as well as facilitate research to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps.


(2) Climate Change is the Theme for this Year’s Math Awareness Month

Source: Joint Policy Board for Mathematics
URL: and

Each year the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JPBM)—a collaborative effort of the American Mathematical Society, the American Statistical Association, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics–sponsors Mathematics Awareness Month in April to increase public understanding of and appreciation for mathematics.

History:  Mathematics Awareness Month began in 1986 as Mathematics Awareness Week with a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan, who said in part:
Despite the increasing importance of mathematics to the progress of our economy and society, enrollment in mathematics programs has been declining at all levels of the American educational system. Yet the application of mathematics is indispensable in such diverse fields as medicine, computer sciences, space exploration, the skilled trades, business, defense, and government. To help encourage the study and utilization of mathematics, it is appropriate that all Americans be reminded of the importance of this basic branch of science to our daily lives.

In 1986, activities concentrated on national-level events, such as opening an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution on mathematics and hosting a Capitol Hill reception. Since that time, the focus has shifted to activities at the local, state, and regional levels. Over the years, the general purpose has consistently been to increase the visibility of mathematics as a field of study and to communicate the power and intrigue in mathematics to a larger audience. In 1999, Mathematics Awareness Week became Mathematics Awareness Month.

Activities:  Activities for Mathematics Awareness Month are generally organized by college and university departments, institutional public information offices, student groups, and related associations and interest groups. They have included a wide variety of workshops, competitions, exhibits, festivals, lectures, and symposia. Some years elected officials have issued proclamations for Mathematics Awareness Month, frequently in connection with special meetings and events arranged to observe the month…

Themes:  Each year a national theme is selected and theme materials are developed and distributed. Summaries and results about each year’s activities are collected each spring.

In order to focus efforts and encourage participation, Mathematics Awareness Month packets are sent to AMS, ASA, MAA and SIAM leaders, department chairs, selected high school teachers, public policy representatives, and leaders of related associations. Packets include a color poster and announcement. (The poster can be downloaded from The Web site includes a sample press release that can be customized to specific Mathematics Awareness Month events (see

This year, the theme for Mathematics Awareness Month is Mathematics and Climate.  Calculus, differential equations, numerical analysis, probability, and statistics are just some of the areas of mathematics used to understand the oceans, atmosphere, and polar ice caps, as well as the complex interactions among these vast systems. Indeed, analyzing feedback effects is a crucial component of global climate modeling and often a significant factor in long-term predictions. For example, warmer temperatures cause ice to melt, exposing more land and water, so that more sunlight is absorbed instead of being reflected, in turn leading to more warming.

Mathematics, computer science, and other sciences are inextricably linked, and each is required to begin to solve the fundamental questions about earth’s climate, particularly those concerning global warming. Moreover, math and science are central to the development of both traditional and alternative energy sources, and to the evolution of other strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change.

Resources for this year’s Mathematics Awareness Month program can be found at


(3) Kichoon Yang Named Next NCTM Executive Director

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

Kichoon Yang has been named executive director of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), effective July 1.

“I’m very pleased to make this announcement,” said NCTM President Henry S. Kepner, Jr.  “Dr. Yang brings to the Council a strong background in mathematics and education, and an interest in policy.  He brings to the position a combination of educational leadership, mathematics knowledge, and administrative experience, giving him a perspective that will enrich the Council’s work.  We are pleased that he has accepted this opportunity to lead NCTM’s headquarters in support of the Council’s vision of a better mathematics education for all students.”

Currently, Yang is provost and professor at Northwest Missouri State University, where he has been since 2005.  Before going to Northwest Missouri State, he was dean of the College of Natural Sciences and professor of mathematics at the University of Northern Iowa from 2001 through 2004.  He also was a program director in the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation for three years.  Earlier in his career he served for 12 years on the mathematics faculty at Arkansas State University.  Yang earned a B.S. in mathematics from the University of North Carolina and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis.

Yang will succeed Jim Rubillo, who has been NCTM executive director since 2001.  Rubillo announced his retirement last year and will continue in the position until Yang begins on July 1.

[In a quote from a story at, Dr. Yang said, “It’s an opportunity I’ve been thinking about for some time. I can combine my passion for mathematics education along with my administrative background.”]


(4) Chocolate Drink Could Help You Do the Math

Source: Northumbria University (UK)

Foods rich in cocoa may improve performance on challenging mental tasks like arithmetic, according to researchers at Northumbria University.

The findings were presented as part of a symposium highlighting the potential of plant-based treatments presented on Friday, April 3, at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference 2009 in Brighton (UK).

Crystal Haskell from the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre at Northumbria said: “Foods containing high levels of cocoa flavanols, found in chocolate, have been shown to increase cerebral blood flow, and it has also been proven that consumption of plants that have these properties improves performance on mentally demanding tasks. We wanted to discover whether cocoa flavanols produced the same effect.’’

In the study, 30 healthy adults consumed cocoa drinks on different days containing 520 mg of cocoa flavanols, 993 mg of cocoa flavanols or a control drink. The participants were given a number of mentally demanding tasks to complete, such as counting backwards from 999 in threes.

On the days the participants drank the beverages containing 520 mg or 993 mg of cocoa flavanols, they performed significantly better at the arithmetic task. They also reported being less mentally tired during the task.

Crystal said: “The drink rich in cocoa flavanols significantly improved aspects of cognitive performance and levels of fatigue during this mentally demanding task.”

[For more details, see “How Eating Chocolate Can Help Improve your Maths” at, as well as “How a Cup of Hot Chocolate Could Boost Brain Power and Stave off Fatigue” at]