COMET • Vol. 10, No. 17 – 6 September 2009


(1) “Leading and Learning in California Schools: Preparing and Supporting Effective School Leaders”–Free Seminar on September 25

Source: PSD News – California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) are sponsoring a free one-day seminar in Sacramento on September 25 for researchers, the policy community, school leaders, and faculty. This seminar will offer research perspectives on effective leadership in educational settings, exploring the implications for policy and future systemic change in California. The seminar will feature Pedro Garcia from the University of Southern California and Susanna Loeb from Stanford University. Other speakers include Richard Rothstein (former education columnist at The New York Times), California’s Secretary of Education Glen Thomas, and Larry Rosenstock (CEO and founding principal of High Tech High in San Diego:, among others. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The registration deadline is September 11. To view a tentative program schedule and to register, visit


(2) Governor Schwarzenegger Highlights Push for “Race to the Top” Education Reforms at Back-to-School Rally

Source: Office of the Governor, State of California
URL (SBX5 1):

[For more on the “Race to the Top” grant program, please see the “National Focus” section below.] On Thursday, September 3, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a back-to-school youth rally hosted by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to emphasize the importance of ensuring all California students have access to a world-class education. In addition to encouraging young people to take an active role in their education, Gov. Schwarzenegger also called on the legislature to act quickly to enact the statutory changes necessary to ensure California will be eligible for Race to the Top funds, a $4.35 billion federal competitive grant program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act designed to support education reform and innovation.

On July 24, President Obama and Secretary Duncan announced federal eligibility and selection criteria for states to compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding, the single largest pool of discretionary funding for education reform in U.S. history. Under current law, California is ineligible to apply.

Building on his commitment to ensure California gets every possible dollar from the federal economic stimulus package, Governor Schwarzenegger recently called a special legislative session and announced a legislative package ( that will ensure California meets Race to the Top eligibility and competitiveness requirements.

After the legislature convened the special session last week, the Governor’s proposed reforms were introduced on August 27 as SBX5 1 (, a bipartisan legislative measure by Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), Senator Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), Senator Elaine Alquist (D-San Jose) and Senator Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad). (See for an article by Senator Romero entitled, “Education’s Race to the Top: A Question of Equality, Civil Rights and Opportunity.”)

U.S. Education Secretary Duncan added, “I am hopeful the education package Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed will garner the support it needs to pass, ultimately removing a legislative barrier that prohibits the state from distinguishing good teachers from bad teachers–a good first step in providing comprehensive reforms that will benefit students throughout California. The larger reform agenda will involve tough decisions that will not only require the political will of the governor but also that of the elected officials, unions, legislators and community leaders.”

Reforms to ensure California is eligible to apply and be highly competitive for Race to the Top funding include the following:

= Linking Student Achievement and Teacher Performance Data — Having linked data will increase transparency around how California’s students, teachers and schools are performing. With this information, the specific needs of students, teachers and schools can be better addressed.

= Measures to Turn Around Struggling Schools — Turning around struggling schools increases the overall quality of our state’s education system.
* Repeal California’s cap on the number of charter schools allowed to operate in the state, which is an unnecessary barrier to innovation.
* Give parents more freedom to choose the school that best serves their children by both authorizing open enrollment for students in the lowest-performing schools so they can attend any school in the state and by removing the cap on “districts of choice” so any student in the state can attend school in a participating district.
* Focus efforts on the bottom 5% of lowest-performing schools, helping ensure all California students can reach the state’s academic standards.

= Measures to Help California Recruit and Retain High-Quality Teachers and Principals:
* Reward teachers who are consistently doing the toughest jobs. Alternative pay schedules highlight effective teaching practices and create incentives to improve our education system.
* Measure student progress to help identify what works in the classroom. Every child is different and looking at both growth measures and overall achievement scores provides a better picture of a student’s progress over time.

= Improving Accountability for Schools — Modifying how the state uses data to measure performance will help track more accurately the progress of students, teachers and schools on an annual basis so that California can make continuous improvement from year to year.

California was the first state in the nation to be federally approved for State Fiscal Stabilization Fund dollars (, additional education funding available through the Recovery Act. To date, more than $2.5 billion has been distributed to California schools, with hundreds of millions of dollars expected in the fall.


(3) Schwarzenegger’s Plan Would Reshape Education in California” by Jason Song and Jason Felch

Source: Los Angeles Times – 21 August 2009

…In recent months, the Obama administration has repeatedly criticized California for failing to take the lead on reform efforts, and has singled out for scorn the state’s ban on linking test scores to teachers’ performance. Federal officials have said that California would be ineligible for [“Race to the Top”] funding if that law wasn’t changed.

But in an interview [on August 19], U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised Schwarzenegger’s moves [(proposed legislation)] as “courageous” and said they could transform the state into a national model for reform.

“This is a very significant step that absolutely has national implications,” Duncan said. “The eyes of the country are going to be on California.”

Several other states, including Illinois and Indiana, have changed their laws or policies to comply with federal guidelines, but Schwarzenegger’s proposal “goes way beyond what other states are doing,” said Baron Rodriguez of the Data Quality Center, which tracks national educational data.

The regular legislative session is scheduled to end Sept. 11, and Schwarzenegger said he wanted lawmakers to finish their work on education by early October to comply with the deadline for the first round of Race to the Top funding this winter.

But lawmakers probably will face heavy resistance from the state’s teacher unions, which criticized Schwarzenegger’s proposal for caving to federal demands.

At the heart of the proposal is an effort to require districts that want a piece of the federal funding to begin evaluating California teachers and schools not just by their students’ achievement of a specific goal, but by their individual improvement year to year. That approach, referred to as “value-added” analysis, measures students against themselves to evaluate the effect a teacher or school has on growth.

“It’s not a hammer or a gotcha,” said Jim Lanich, director of the California State University’s Center to Close the Achievement Gap, who cautioned that other factors besides scores should also be used in evaluation. “It tells us what is working and how we can replicate that.”

But teacher unions have resisted the use of student performance for evaluation, and successfully asked for it to be banned at the state level in 2006 legislation. They are expected to fight Schwarzenegger’s efforts to undo that ban, a key demand of the Obama administration…

Historically, the state has blocked important education reform efforts, said Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform, a New York-based political action committee. But there have never been so many federal dollars at stake.

“Saying no to this proposal means saying no to a big chunk of money,” Williams said. “California is going to be the grand-daddy of fights.”


(4) Don’t Make ‘Race to the Top’ Funding Quest a Race to Reckless Reforms That Hurt Students and Teachers

Source: California Teachers Association – 26 August 2009

A San Jose teacher and a California Teachers Association legislative expert testified at a Capitol hearing on August 26 that making quick and sweeping education law changes just so the state can apply for one-time “Race to the Top” academic funding could hurt students, teachers and schools.

“The proposed eligibility requirements for these federal funds are more of the same one-size-fits-all policies of the failed No Child Left Behind Act, and the final requirements have not yet been adopted,” said CTA President David A. Sanchez. “Teachers want lawmakers to understand that students and educators are more than just a test score. Teachers and parents understand that paying and evaluating teachers on a single test score is shortsighted and detrimental. Lawmakers should not make getting Race to the Top money an excuse for racing to reckless reforms in this state–especially when those reforms strip away local control and replace it with federal mandates.”

KC Walsh, a teacher in San Jose’s Oak Grove Elementary School District, testified that many districts already use current law to make test scores one part of measuring both student and teacher progress. “In my district, we have implemented a plan that works effectively,” she said today at the joint hearing of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance. “After all, few people are more interested in improving student learning and effective teaching than teachers.”

Walsh warned that Race to the Top guidelines spell out a “very narrow definition of teacher effectiveness [that] actually imposes a far lower standard of accountability than our current law. It also fails to support the real conversations that lead to improvement. In fact, the limited definition will force schools to narrow their curricula, neglect already-proficient students, dumb down their standards, and focus solely on test results. And that’s not what we want for our students. Our proven success with locally developed strategies is a good reason for rejecting more top-down federal regulations and mandates.”

Patricia Rucker, a CTA legislative advocate and expert on Race to the Top, cautioned lawmakers that hasty changes made to California’s education laws could undermine programs that have been helping students and schools achieve for 10 years. She called the federal program “inadequate, piecemeal, and unrelated to the instructional work teachers do in their classrooms.” CTA’s concerns and research about Race to the Top are posted at 



(1) “Race to the Top” Update

Source: U.S. Department of Education
URL (Race to the Top):

On July 24, President Obama joined U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan in announcing the draft application for the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” Fund. (View the archived Webcast here: Governors are eligible to apply for the funds, and many are urging changes in state laws (e.g., lifting caps on the growth of charter schools or permitting student achievement data to be used in teacher evaluations) that would ensure their state’s eligibility for the funds.

This largest-ever federal investment in education reform will reward eligible states for past accomplishments and create incentives for future improvement in four critical areas of reform:
1. Adopting rigorous standards and assessments;
2. Recruiting and retaining effective teachers, especially in classrooms where they are needed most;
3. Turning around low-performing schools; and
4. Establishing data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

The second Education Stakeholders Forum, held on August 4, provided detailed information regarding the Race to the Top Fund, the Investing in Innovation Fund, and Part II of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Information from the forum (video, transcripts, presentation files) can be found at

The draft application for the Race to the Top Fund (available online at includes the following funding priorities, among others:

Proposed Priority 1: Absolute Priority–Comprehensive Approach to the Four Education Reform Areas

To meet this priority, the State’s application must comprehensively address each of the four education reform areas specified in the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) to demonstrate that the State and its participating LEAs are taking a systemic approach to education reform. The State’s application must describe how the State and participating LEAs intend to use Race to the Top and other funds to implement comprehensive and coherent policies and practices in the four education reform areas, and how these are designed to increase student achievement, reduce the achievement gap across student subgroups…and increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.

Proposed Priority 2: Competitive Preference Priority–Emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

To meet this priority, the State’s application must describe plans to address the need to (i) offer a rigorous course of study in mathematics, sciences, technology, and engineering; (ii) cooperate with industry experts, museums, universities, research centers, or other STEM-capable community partners to prepare and assist teachers in integrating STEM content across grades and disciplines, in promoting effective and relevant instruction, and in offering applied learning opportunities for students; and (iii) prepare more students for advanced study and careers in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics, including addressing the needs of underrepresented groups and of women and girls in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics…


Race to the Top Executive Summary:


(2) U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Presentation to Superintendents and Leaders of Non-Profit Organizations

Source: America’s Choice

“As the next step following the Race to the Top competition announcement he made with President Barack Obama, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan [briefed] district superintendents and leaders from non-profit organizations on the $650 million ‘Investing in Innovation [‘i3′] Fund’… Secretary Duncan’s presentation [kicked] off the Rigor & Readiness Superintendents’ Symposium Series, convened by ACT, Inc. and America’s Choice, both national leaders in college readiness and school improvement.” A webcast of this August 20 presentation by Secretary Duncan and Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, is available at


(3) Symposium on K-12 Engineering Education to be held on September 8 in Washington, DC

Source: National Academy of Engineering

The findings of a 3-year project, “Understanding and Improving K-12 Engineering Education in the United States,” will be shared at a symposium in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, September 8. A live audio webcast of the morning sessions will be available at from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. PDT. The symposium agenda is available at

The goal of this project, a collaboration between the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council’s Center for Education, through its Board on Science Education, is to provide carefully reasoned guidance to key stakeholders regarding the creation and implementation of K-12 engineering curricula and instructional practices, focusing especially on the connections among science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. Visit to learn more about the objectives of the project. The report can be preordered at

At Tuesday’s symposium, Committee Chair Linda Katehi (Chancellor, University of California, Davis) will provide an overview of the project and of the report after a keynote address by Irwin Jacobs, Co-Founder and retired CEO and Chairman of Qualcomm. Presentations will follow on topics such as “Status of K-12 Engineering in the United States,” “What Kids Can Learn and Do,” and “What is K-12 Engineering Education?” Rollie Otto (UC, Berkeley and former Executive Director of the California Science Project) will lead an overview of issues prior to a question and answer session. The audio webcast will conclude at that point.

Following lunch, responses to the report will provide perspectives from various constituencies: the U.S. Department of Education, K-12 schools, engineering faculty, and Capitol Hill. The first of these presentations will be given by Steve Robinson, recently-appointed Special Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (Robinson has tutored middle school students in math, has a degree in biology from Princeton, was a high school science teacher in Oregon, and served as a member of the biology faculty at the University of Massachusetts after receiving a doctorate from the University of Michigan.) Following a question and answer session, Katehi will provide closing remarks.

See the article below for additional information regarding this and related projects on engineering education.


(4) “Momentum Building on STEM Education” by Laura Devaney

Source: eSchool News

As part of the Obama administration’s emphasis on bringing education into the 21st century, it comes as no surprise that policy makers have trained their focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education as a way to give more students, especially girls and minorities, stronger global skills. And with this increased focus, some education experts say momentum is building for more recognition of the “T” and “E” in STEM–technology and engineering, two subjects often overlooked…

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE), part of the National Research Council, recently completed a report that surveys the extent and nature of efforts to teach engineering to K-12 students in the United States. The report, “Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects,” defines what engineering is, because many people don’t understand much about the career, and also discusses research and evidence on the impact of engineering education on areas such as improved science and math learning and improved technological literacy, said Greg Pearson, an NAE program officer and the study’s leader.

Also covered in the report are what engineering concepts children are able to understand, and at what age, along with a detailed analysis of about 15 curriculum projects identified by the study team, which also examined how those different curricula treat engineering.

“One of the findings is that discussions of STEM tend to be focused on science, sometimes math, rarely both together–usually they’re siloed, and the T and especially the E are really just left out of the discussion in policy, education, and classroom practice,” Pearson said. “Even though we use that acronym, in terms of what’s really happening and what people really mean, engineering is the silent letter.”

Since 1990, NAE estimates that 6 million U.S. students have been exposed to formal engineering in the classroom, along with about 18,000 teachers who have had formal training to teach engineering concepts.

But at the same time, Pearson said, engineering doesn’t have a formal place in the school day the way math and science do, and there are no learning or content standards the way there are for math, science, history, and other subject areas.

The study identifies a handful of countries that offer some kind of formal engineering education prior to college and examines those systems.

“A lot of things are missing, but these efforts are moving ahead,” Pearson said…

“In hearings and reports, we have repeatedly heard that innovation is key to maintaining a high standard of living for all Americans, and that we need more teachers and more graduates in the STEM fields if we want our country to continue to lead in the global economy,” said Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill. “Reform of our STEM education system will require coordination on multiple fronts and across many diverse stakeholders.”

Donald Wink, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s director of undergraduate studies in chemistry and director of graduate studies with the Learning Sciences Research Institute, said K-12 school systems and universities are part of a cycle.

“Students educated in K-12…move on for more specific training in higher education,” he said. “The colleges and universities have the opportunity to educate these students further, in specific disciplines, so those students are able to participate in health science careers. In addition, colleges and universities affect K-12 education by producing teachers….Further, colleges and universities work with existing teachers, both to provide deeper training in current topics in…STEM education and to receive from those teachers a better understanding of the actual issues that matter in K-12 STEM classrooms.”

Schools must implement rigorous and open learning programs to make STEM teaching effective, Wink said, in addition to having the technology appropriate for teaching what is current and relevant in these fields. And teachers should have thorough training as well, because lack of content knowledge or lack of experience with STEM can limit a teacher’s ability to fully educate students…

While women are active participants in some STEM disciplines, other areas show room for improvement. According to the National Science Foundation, although women earned more than half of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2006, they earned only about 20 percent of degrees in engineering, computer science, and physics…

According to 2009 figures from the National Center for Women and Information Technology, just 17 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science test-takers in 2008 were female. Girls represented 51 percent of AP Calculus test-takers and 56 percent of overall AP test-takers.

In early June, Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., introduced the STEM Education Coordination Act of 2009. Co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the bill would ensure that existing STEM education resources are employed efficiently and effectively through greater coordination at the federal level.

The legislation would establish a committee, under the National Science and Technology Council, which would be responsible for coordinating federal STEM education programs and initiatives, including programs under the National Science Foundation and NASA. It also would develop, implement, and update a five-year STEM education achievement plan, including objectives and metrics for assessment, as well as maintaining an inventory of federally sponsored STEM education programs and activities.

The committee would produce an annual report that includes a description of STEM activities and education programs, funding levels for those programs, and progress updates…

The National Science Foundation’s involvement in STEM promotion extends into higher education as well as K-12. NSF’s Innovation through Institutional Integration (I3) program attempts to link institutions’ NSF-funded STEM education projects and to leverage their collective strengths. In 2008, the six I3 institutions were Georgia Tech, Louisiana State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Washington, the University of Florida, and Hawaii’s Kapiolani Community College. I3 promotes increased collaboration within and among institutions and addresses important initiatives, including broader participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields and the integration of research and education…

The University of Colorado at Boulder’s I3 project picks up on recommendations made in the influential report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” to identify three broad goals: transforming STEM education, building a community of education research within science departments, and developing future educators. Toward that end, the university is using I3 funding to build a Center for STEM Education Research and Transformation that integrates STEM education projects across the campus. The center links more than eight traditional departments in three colleges and schools, including the schools of education and engineering and the departments of life sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences. Each department retains its identity, but the center provides an infrastructure for bringing together key ideas and sharing strategies and results. Through various programs, faculty in Boulder’s School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering are partnering with faculty in the School of Education to recruit, prepare, and support the next generation of STEM teachers…[Visit the Web site above for information about other programs.]


Note: Free subscriptions to eSchool News (a monthly publication on issues related to school technology) are available at


(5) Free Webinar on September 10: “Cyberchase Outreach and Class Activities”

Source: National STEM Equity Pipeline
URL (Cyberchase information): 

On Thursday, September 10 at 10 a.m. PDT, a free “Cyberchase Outreach and Class Activities” webinar will be presented by representatives from Cyberchase Outreach, Texas Girls Collaborative Project, and the Austin Children’s Museum. Information will be shared about the following:

* Cyberchase’s free online resources that highlight math in science and engineering
* The traveling museum exhibit, Cyberchase: The Chase is On!, debuting at the Austin Children’s Museum September 19
* Past and future EWEEK and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day events where engineers have used Cyberchase materials with great success.

Explore how Cyberchase materials can be used in the classroom, informal learning situations, afterschool activities, camps and more.

To register, complete the short online form at Once you have registered, you will receive your unique webinar log-in information.


Cyberchase Program Summary (from

Produced by Thirteen/WNET New York in association with Title Entertainment Inc., the Award-winning series CYBERCHASE is the only mathematics series for children on American television. Designed for kids ages 8 to 12 and packed with mystery, humor, and action, each episode delivers positive messages about math by teaching concepts in a fun way that kids can understand…

Each episode takes our heroes on a thrilling adventure driven by a different math concept. From tackling time in ancient Egyptian tombs to cracking codes in creepy caves, kids learn that math is everywhere and fun to use…

Beyond the TV episodes, learning continues through dynamic Web games and print activities that help kids explore their world — and have a blast with math in their homes and neighborhoods! Plus, grown-ups can bring the fun and adventure of CYBERCHASE to classrooms and after-school programs with lesson plans and activity kits.