COMET • Vol. 10, No. 14 – 3 June 2009


(1) California Schools Chief Jack O’Connell, Gov. Schwarzenegger, and State Board of Education Call for Submission of Free Digital Math and Science Textbooks

Source: Office of the Governor; California Department of Education
URL (Gov.): 

Last month, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launched an initiative to make California the first state in the nation to offer schools free, open-source digital textbooks for high school students. The Governor directed his Secretary of Education Glen Thomas to ensure that these resources are available for use in high school math and science classes by fall 2009, a critical first step in helping ensure digital textbooks are widely available to all California students.

“As California’s budget crisis continues, we must find such innovative ways to save money and improve services,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “California was built on innovation and I’m proud of our state’s continued leadership in developing education technology. This first-in-the-nation initiative will reduce education costs, help encourage collaboration among school districts and help ensure every California student has access to a world-class education.”

During yesterday’s Joint Legislative Session Budget Address, the Governor reiterated his support for this cost-saving idea: “I have asked our State Board of Education to make textbooks available in digital formats. We expect the first science and math books to be digital by this fall. If we expand this to more textbooks, schools could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to hire teachers and reduce class sizes” (

At the Governor’s request, Secretary Thomas is working with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and State Board of Education President Ted Mitchell to develop a state approved list of standards-aligned, open-source digital high school math and science textbooks. As part of this process, O’Connell and the State Board of Education announced last Thursday that content developers of digital textbooks may submit materials to the California Learning Resources Network (CLRN) for review.

“To help schools reduce expenses, ” O’Connell said, “we must determine whether free educational materials already found on the Internet are suitable for use by schools, teachers, and students and whether these digital textbooks are aligned to rigorous state standards.”

The mathematics materials must be aligned to the standards in geometry, Algebra II, trigonometry, or calculus. The science materials must be aligned to the standards for physics, chemistry, biology/life sciences, or earth sciences, including the investigation and experimentation strand. The standards for mathematics and science are available at

These materials will be reviewed by California teachers and experts in mathematics and science under the guidance of the California Department of Education (CDE), Office of the Secretary of Education, State Board of Education, and the CLRN. The results of the review will be released on August 10, 2009 in time for the 2009-10 school year.

Content developers of digital materials will have to submit their digital textbooks and their standards maps by June 15, 2009. All submissions must be sent to CLRN at

For questions about the Free Digital Textbook Initiative review process, contact Tom Adams, Director of CDE’s Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division, at 916-319-0881. For questions about electronic materials, contact Cliff Rudnick, Administrator of CDE’s Education Technology Office at 916-323-5072. For questions about submitting digital textbooks for review, please contact Brian Bridges of CLRN at 209-238-1420.


For a related article, visit


(2) “Lawmakers Move to Slash State Agencies [and the Office of the Secretary of Education]” by Kevin Yamamura

Source Sacramento Bee: – 3 June 2009

A legislative budget committee voted unanimously today to eliminate state agencies altogether, taking dead aim at an administrative layer of gubernatorial bureaucracy that oversees most of the state’s departments.

The 10-member panel–six Democrats and four Republicans–also voted to eliminate the Office of the Secretary of Education, which lawmakers said is unnecessary because the state already has an elected Superintendent of Public Instruction and a State Board of Education.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended last month that lawmakers consolidate more than a dozen boards and commissions to save $50 million. Schwarzenegger also began laying off 5,000 rank-and-file state workers. The Legislature’s move Wednesday appeared to be a sharp retort directed at higher-paid administrative appointees who oversee the departments that provide direct state services.

“It sounds like what we’re talking about here is changing the shape of government,” said Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills. “Government should be a pyramid, but it seems to have become more of a rectangle structure. And a lot of times in this kind of budget we always end up cutting people at the bottom. And this is saying, no, we need to cut people at the top and get rid of some of the agencies and make it more of a pyramid structure.”

Under the agencies move, the state would dismantle at least eight offices, from the State and Consumer Services Agency to the Environmental Protection Agency, and eliminate any duplicative administrative positions. The committee did not know how many positions would be eliminated or how much money would be saved and asked the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office to report on how far the Legislature could cut…

Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear…said the governor would not support eliminating the secretary of education unless the Legislature gives the governor more authority over state education policy. The state Superintendent of Public Instruction currently oversees the Department of Education.

“If the Legislature will support moving the Department of Education into the executive branch, we’d be happy to eliminate the secretary of education,” McLear said. “Education takes up 40 percent of the budget. It’s important for the governor to have a role in that issue.”


(1) Forty-Nine States and Territories Join Common Core Standards Initiative

Source: Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association

On Monday, June 1, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released the names of the states and territories that have joined the Common Core State Standards Initiative. These include all states in the U.S. (except Alaska, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas) plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In the twenty-six years since the release of A Nation at Risk, states have made great strides in increasing the academic rigor of education standards. Yet, America’s children still remain behind a number of other nations in terms of academic achievement and preparedness to succeed.

By signing on to the common core state standards initiative, governors and state commissioners of education across the country are committing to joining a state-led process to develop a common core of state standards in English language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. These standards will be research- and evidence-based, internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations, and include rigorous content and skills.

“To maintain America’s competitive edge, we need all of our students to be prepared and ready to compete with students from around the world,” said NGA Vice Chair Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. “Common standards that allow us to internationally benchmark our students’ performance with other top countries have the potential to bring about a real and meaningful transformation of our education system to the benefit of all Americans.”

“As state school chiefs, we have been discussing and building momentum for state-led, voluntary common standards that are both rigorous and internationally benchmarked for the past two years,” stated CCSSO President and Arkansas Commissioner of Education Ken James. “The broad level of commitment we have received from states across the nation for this unprecedented effort is both gratifying and exciting. It also clearly illustrates that this is an idea whose time has arrived.”

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is being jointly led by the NGA Center and CCSSO in partnership with Achieve, Inc., ACT, and the College Board. It builds directly on recent efforts of leading organizations and states that have focused on developing college-and career-ready standards and ensures that these standards can be internationally benchmarked to top-performing countries around the world.

The goal is to have a common core of state standards that states can voluntarily adopt. States may choose to include additional standards beyond the common core as long as the common core represents at least 85 percent of the state’s standards in English language arts and mathematics.

“Measuring our students against international benchmarks is an important step,” said Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine. “Today, we live in a world without borders. It not only matters how Virginia students compare to those in surrounding states–it matters how we compete with countries across the world.”

“Only when we agree about what all high school graduates need to be successful will we be able to tackle the most significant challenge ahead of us: transforming instruction for every child,” said CCSSO President-Elect and Maine Education Commissioner Sue Gendron. “Common standards will provide educators clarity and direction about what all children need to succeed in college and the workplace and allow states to more readily share best practices that dramatically improve teaching and learning. Our graduates and frankly, the future of our economy, cannot wait any longer for our educational practices to give equal opportunity for success to every student.”

The NGA Center and CCSSO are coordinating the process to develop these standards and have created an expert validation committee to provide an independent review of the common core state standards, as well as the grade-by-grade standards. This committee will be composed of nationally and internationally recognized education experts who are neutral to–and independent of–the process. The college and career ready standards are expected to be completed in July 2009. The grade-by-grade standards work is expected to be completed in December 2009.


Information about NGA and CCSSO:

Founded in 1908, the National Governors Association (NGA) is the collective voice of the nation’s governors and one of Washington, D.C.’s most respected public policy organizations. Its members are the governors of the 50 states, three territories and two commonwealths.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.


Related articles:  An Education Week report, “46 States Commit to Common-Standards Push,” provides a clear and comprehensive overview of this topic (including the reasons South Carolina, Missouri, and Texas have not yet signed on). The article is available at  A Washington Post article is also informative: Also see a UPI story at (“Palin: Alaska to Stay Out of National Test”).


(2) Secretary Arne Duncan’s Remarks on Education at the National Press Club

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Secretary Arne Duncan discussed President Obama’s education agenda in a speech at the National Press Club on May 29, 2009. A video of the speech is at the National Press Club’s website:  Below are excerpts from the speech regarding raising standards:

“We want to raise the bar dramatically in terms of higher standards. What we have had as a country, I’m convinced, is what we call a race to the bottom. We have 50 different standards, 50 different goal posts. And due to political pressure, those have been dumbed down. We want to fundamentally reverse that. We want common, career-ready internationally benchmarked standards…

“No Child Left Behind was very tight, very prescriptive on how you got there. As we think about reauthorization, I want to fundamentally flip that on its head…  We’re going to be much tighter on the goals–again, clear, college-ready, career ready, internationally benchmarked standards… but give states and districts more autonomy and chance to innovate, to hit that high bar, hold them accountable for it…

“What is most troubling to me on the standards issue is that far too many states, including the state that I come from, Illinois–I think we are fundamentally lying to children. Let me explain what I mean.

“When children are told they are ‘meeting a state standard,’ the logical assumption for that child or for that parent is to think they are on-track to be successful. But because these standards have been dummied down and lowered so much in so many places, when a child is ‘meeting the state standard’ they are in fact barely able to graduate from high school. And they are absolutely inadequately prepared to go to a competitive university, let alone graduate.

“And so we have to stop lying to children. We have to tell them the truth. We have to be transparent about our data. We have to raise the bar so that every child knows on every step of their educational trajectory what they’re going to do. We have many students who think they are doing well and then they take the ACT or the SAT as a junior or senior, and their scores are devastatingly low, and they’re shocked. There should be no shock there. You should know in fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth grade what your strengths are, what you weaknesses are. And we should be working with teachers and parents, and students should be taking responsibility for their own education to really improve where they have deficiencies, where they have weaknesses…”


(3) “Guiding Principles for Mathematics Curriculum and Assessment”

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

Yesterday (June 2) the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) released “Guiding Principles for Mathematics Curriculum and Assessment” ( to influence ongoing and future development of what could become uniform curriculum expectations or national standards for mathematics education.

NCTM was the first organization to develop content standards and a guiding framework for curriculum development with its 1989 publication of Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, which was updated in 2000 as Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. In 2006, NCTM’s Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics: A Quest for Coherence presented the three most important topics in each grade that students should learn in depth and with understanding for future learning in mathematics. The forthcoming Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making (2009) will address mathematics education in high school. An education based on these Standards publications will prepare students for the true workplace needs of the future: critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork.

“The continuing discussions about common core standards or a national curriculum should be based on the work that has already been done,” said NCTM President Henry S. (Hank) Kepner, Jr. “Since any discussion of true national standards relates to the fundamental issue of local control in education, effective policy should be formed by the best current information on mathematics teaching and learning. The development of any curriculum or standards should take advantage of what has already been carefully crafted by a consensus of mathematics teachers, teacher leaders, mathematics educators, mathematicians, and researchers.”

Visit to view the Guiding Principles.  Excerpts follow below:

A curriculum is more than a collection of activities: It must be coherent, focused on important mathematics, and well articulated across the grades.

Focus and coherence: Mathematics consists of different topical strands, such as algebra and geometry, but the strands are highly interconnected…

Important mathematics: A mathematics curriculum should focus on mathematics content and processes that are important and worth the time and attention of students…

Articulation across grades: Learning mathematics involves accumulating ideas and building successively deeper and more refined understanding…

Any national mathematics curriculum must emphasize depth over breadth and must focus on the essential ideas and processes of mathematics…

Students must learn mathematics with understanding, actively building new knowledge from experience and prior knowledge…

Psychological and educational research on the learning of complex subjects such as mathematics has solidly established the important role of conceptual understanding in the knowledge and activity of persons who are proficient. Being proficient in a complex domain such as mathematics entails being able to use knowledge flexibly, appropriately applying what is learned in one setting to another. The union of factual knowledge, procedural proficiency, and conceptual understanding enhances all three components, making the resulting learning usable in powerful ways.

If a voluntary national mathematics curriculum is developed, the topics studied in that curriculum must be taught and learned in an equitable manner in a setting that ensures that problem solving, reasoning, connections, communication, and conceptual understanding are all developed simultaneously along with procedural fluency…

As stated above, a potential national curriculum must include important mathematics.  Content should include the following key content areas.

Number and Operations with Procedural Fluency

Proficiency with number and operations requires the deep and fundamental understanding of counting numbers, rational numbers (fractions, decimals, and percents), and positive and negative numbers, beginning in the elementary and middle grades. This understanding is extended to other number systems…


Algebra is more than a set of procedures for manipulating symbols. Algebra provides a way to explore, analyze, and represent mathematical concepts and ideas. It can describe relationships that are purely mathematical or ones that arise in real-world phenomena and are modeled by algebraic expressions…

Geometry and Measurement

Geometry is a natural place for the development of students’ reasoning and justification skills, culminating in work with proof in the secondary grades. Geometric modeling and spatial reasoning offer ways to interpret and describe physical environments and can be important tools in problem solving…

Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability

Students should have experience in formulating questions, designing simple surveys and experiments, gathering and representing data, and analyzing and interpreting these data in a variety of ways…


These guiding principles should be integral in the development of any curriculum for mathematics education. Equally important, any curriculum must be linked to assessments based on standards. A curriculum should provide a rich, connected learning experience for students while adding coherence to the standards, and standards must align with the curriculum rather than be separate, long lists of learning expectations. Alignment and coherence of these three elements–curriculum, standards, and assessment–are critically important foundations of mathematics education.


About NCTM:

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has 100,000 members and 230 member Affiliates in the United States and Canada. It is the world’s largest organization dedicated to improving mathematics education for all students from prekindergarten through grade 12.


(4)  Learning Science in Informal Settings” – Live Chat

Source: Education Week

A recent major study showed that informal science learning can play an important role in improving student learning in that subject (see Such out-of-class learning can include trips to zoos or museums and the use of online games and TV shows. Many schools and outside organizations are seeking to capitalize on the fact that those environments spark students’ interest in science learning. Join an interactive online conversation to explore the connection between informal learning and science achievement on Tuesday, June 9, at 10 a.m. PDT.


– Philip Bell–Associate Professor of the learning sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle
– Heidi Schweingruber–Serves on the Board on Science Education at the National Research Council
– Sean Cavanagh, assistant editor at Education Week, will moderate this chat.

Note: No special equipment other than Internet access is needed to participate in this text-based chat. Participants may begin submitting questions 30 minutes before the chat starts.


(5) “Does the National Math Panel’s Report Add Up?”–Transcript of Live Chat

Source: Education Week

The National Math Panel, a White House-commissioned task force, has called for a new, streamlined teaching approach for early-grades math to better prepare students for algebra. The panel’s report calls for more focus on whole numbers, fractions, and geometry, but it also makes broader suggestions about the work that parents, teachers, and others can do to encourage young students’ learning of math. The recommendations made a big splash among educators, but critics say the math strategies outlined by the panel are too narrow.

A transcript of this live online chat with two former National Math Panel members is available at  (click “Replay”)

Guests (two former National Math Panel members):

– Francis M. (Skip) Fennell — Professor of education at McDaniel College.
– Vern Williams — Math teacher at Longfellow Middle School, in Falls Church, VA