COMET • Vol. 10, No. 24 – 27 October 2009


(1) State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Announces New Web Tool to Help Education Agencies Close the Achievement Gap

Source: California Department of Education

Last week, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell introduced Signature Practices, a new Web-based searchable database of effective strategies used by California Distinguished Schools to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap. Providing this resource to schools is one of the recommendations made by O’Connell’s California P-16 Council in its Closing the Achievement Gap report (

“Schools that are struggling to close the achievement gap need to know what really works to improve student achievement with different subgroups of students,” O’Connell said. “For the first time this year, each California Distinguished School was asked to submit two Signature Practices that have led to improved student achievement. Now these strategies are posted in an easy-to-search format so schools statewide can find resources and strategies that may fit their particular needs. Distinguished Schools must also serve as a resource to other schools that want to emulate a practice that has proven effective. This system allows educators to share knowledge and provides models on how to apply successful strategies in the classroom.”

The new Web-based tool is a way for the California Distinguished Schools to share their successful practices with other schools. Signature Practices reflects two key recommendations by the Superintendent’s California P-16 Council. One of the recommendations was to use school recognition programs to highlight success in closing the achievement gap. The other recommendation found educators needed reliable and proven resources that were effective in helping students succeed academically, as well as being easy to access, understand, and apply to the classroom. O’Connell formed the California P-16 Council in 2004 to examine ways to improve student achievement and create a comprehensive, integrated system of student learning from preschool through higher education. O’Connell is committed to implementing all 14 of the recommendations in Closing the Achievement Gap.

The Signature Practices now online were submitted by 136 public middle schools and 125 public high schools in California that were selected as 2009 California Distinguished Schools. The Distinguished Schools program identifies and honors those schools that have demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.

“This is a huge leap forward in helping schools help themselves,” added O’Connell. “Our Distinguished Schools awardees will now serve as mentors to help other schools reap the rewards of their success.”

Users of the Signature Practices Web tool may select the type of information they need for any subgroup of students or may access the entire database. To access Signature Practices, please visit To access the Closing the Achievement Gap Web site, visit


(2) New Report: “Keeping California Competitive: The Impact of Math and Science Teachers” by Gail Evans

Contact: Senate Office of Research (SOR) – or (916) 651-1500

The Senate Office of Research (SOR) has just released “Keeping California Competitive: The Impact of Math and Science Teachers.” This Policy Matters report outlines how California’s shortage of mathematics and science teachers could impact the state in the years to come. The report can be downloaded from or via a link from the Web site above.


Could California’s shortage of math and science teachers impact its ability to compete with other states–and even nations–in the coming years? In California, growth in jobs requiring science, math, and technical training will greatly outpace overall job growth, yet forecasts also indicate that the state will have a shortage of educated and skilled workers to fill these jobs. Will such gaps leave California with a workforce unable to meet the needs of the new economy? And how can California address the need for a better-trained workforce?…

California will need 33,000 math and science teachers in the next decade, according to the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning and the California Council on Science and Technology… To put the shortage in perspective, if every student who graduates this year with a math or science degree decided to teach school instead of pursuing other professions, California still would not meet the demand for math and science teachers in the next decade… Production of math credentials trails teacher demand by 16 percent; in science, credentials fall short by 30 percent. Currently, one-third of all middle-school algebra teachers are underprepared…

In the immediate future, California’s distressed economy may help ease the math and science teacher shortage since some teachers are delaying their retirement and more unemployed private industry personnel are pursuing new careers as teachers.

When the state’s fiscal climate improves, some long-term strategies to attract and retain math and science teachers could include the following:

– Provide structured support for teachers, including induction and mentoring programs.

– Address the gap between salaries paid to math and science teachers, and salaries paid by industries that employ math and science college graduates.

– Provide ongoing professional development to teachers that is high-quality and includes more subject matter content and pedagogical skills.

– Increase the math skills of multiple-subject teachers so they are able to help students become more proficient in math and better prepare them to take algebra classes.

– Improve the quality of teacher preparation programs by providing more rigorous course content and pedagogy.

– Streamline pathways between higher education and teacher preparation programs.

– Keep teachers updated on current teaching methodologies by providing advanced training at local industries.

– Help retain teachers by enhancing the working environment in schools, including improving teacher support systems and providing more administrative support.

– Use data systems to monitor the supply and demand of math and science teachers…

– Encourage individuals retiring from private industry careers to start a teaching career, and establish partnerships between schools, industry, and business to encourage second careers in teaching.

– Fund financial aid programs to help attract and retain teachers, such as tuition and fee assistance programs, or offer loan forgiveness terms to postbaccalaureate students seeking a teaching credential if they commit to teaching math and science in low-performing schools for a specified period of time.

Addressing California’s shortage of math and science teachers is an important component in helping to produce a workforce that enables California to be competitive economically in the nation and the world.


More about SOR:

Established in 1969 by the California Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Office of Research (SOR) is a nonpartisan office charged with serving the research needs of the California State Senate and assisting Senate members and committees with the development of effective public policy.

SOR policy consultants work with state senators to help generate problem-solving ideas, gather data, prepare briefing papers, craft legislation, and organize informational hearings. The policy consultants also prepare background information for Senate Rules Committee members to consider as they review the governor’s appointments to state agencies, boards, and commissions.

The office is responsible for tracking emerging state and federal issues and acting as a liaison with think tanks and academic institutions outside the Capitol. Research findings are often shared through published reports written by SOR staff and studies commissioned by SOR (visit the Web site above for links to these pages).



(1) STEM Education Presentations at Last Week’s Meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science Technology (PCAST)

Source: Office of Science and Technology Policy (Executive Office of the President of the United States)
URL (PCAST Meeting Agenda): 
URL (Webcast):

[From] On April 27, 2009, President Obama announced the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST is an advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the Executive Office of the President. PCAST makes policy recommendations in the many areas where understanding of science, technology, and innovation is key to strengthening our economy and forming policy that works for the American people. PCAST is administered by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

[Paragraph adapted from] …The Obama administration has pursued with real zeal an array of approaches to bolstering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education (also known as “STEM ed”)… STEM education was a major topic at last week’s meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which featured a STEM educationpresentation by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The agenda for the two-day PCAST meeting, which was held at the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, DC on October 22-23, can be found at At this site, PowerPoint (PPT) presentation files from the speakers have also been archived, and there is a link to the webcast page: The webcast for each of the meeting’s major agenda items has been archived here, and COMET readers are especially encouraged to view the following webcasts: Federal STEM Education Initiatives, Innovative STEM Education Programs (see speakers below), and STEM Education (presented by Arne Duncan; see next article in COMET).


PCAST Agenda Item: Innovative STEM Education Programs
October 22, 2009
Moderators: Eric Lander, James Gates

Speakers/Affiliations/Presentation Files:

1. Bruce Alberts, Editor in Chief, Science (PPT: “The Challenge of Transforming Science Education in the United States”: Also see “Restoring Science to Science Education”:

2. Linda Katehi, Chancellor, University of California, Davis, and Chair, National Academy of Engineering/National Research Council Committee on Understanding and Improving K-12 Engineering Education in the United States (PPT: “Engineering in K-12 Education”: For a related presentation, also see

3. Larry Rosenstock, Chief Executive Officer, High Tech High

4. Angela Baber, Senior Policy Analyst, STEM Education Division National Governors
Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices (PPT: “NGA Center Innovation Initiative”

5. John Winn, Chief Program Officer, National Math and Science Initiative

6. Carl Wieman, Director, Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative, University of British Columbia; Science Education Initiative, University of Colorado (PPT: “Improving STEM Education”:


(2) Secretary Arne Duncan Addresses the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) about STEM Education

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Last Friday (October 23), U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) on the topic of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Visit to view an archived webcast of his presentation, and go to to read his presentation. Excerpts appear below:

Good Morning. Thank you for inviting me here today. It is an honor to sit here in this room with our nation’s leading scientists and engineers. You’re the experts in your field, the people the president trusts to build an agenda for science and technology and to advise him, me, and my colleagues in the Cabinet.

I have been talking to and listening to many of your colleagues about issues and policies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education–the STEM fields. I have spoken often with the President about our nation’s school children and the pressing needs we have to be competitive in the global economy.

I’ve been on a Listening and Learning tour that has taken me to more than 30 states and scores of schools. I’ve also been talking to principals, teachers, parents, and students themselves.

I heard their voices—their expectations, hopes and dreams for themselves and their kids. They were candid about their fears and frustrations. They did not always understand why some schools struggle while others thrive. They understood profoundly that great teaching and school leadership is the key to a great education for their children.

We continually see evidence that our children aren’t getting that great education. Last summer, we released a special supplement to this year’s Condition of Education comparing kids in the U.S. to students around the world. This analysis looked at information gathered from recent international studies that U.S. students have participated in…

These results [(NAEP and TIMSS)] tell us that we need to both increase our performance in science but also become much more focused on using science to make dramatic improvements in the ways we engage and educate students. We can learn from cognitive science, brain development and motivation theory so we can engage the many different kinds of learners…

To move this work forward, we need to build new curricula and use extended time to make science more interesting and relevant.

We must begin to create a national STEM innovation agenda and network to develop and share effective practices.

We must find new and better ways to help students master STEM inside and outside the classroom. We can start by building on the emerging common math standards, and go from there.

We need school students to think about recycling or the use of wind power so we can help lay the groundwork to make America a leading exporter of clean energy.

We must encourage more state STEM efforts to build the capacity in schools and in districts by linking universities and private industry with the millions of scientists who could support the STEM work and interests of teachers and students…

And we need teachers who have the deep content knowledge of the STEM fields and the passion for teaching our children to prepare them to be the next generation of engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and leaders for technological innovation…

In 2007, then-Senator Obama called for initiatives that would increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in the professions of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “To restore America’s competitiveness, he said, “we must recruit a new generation of science and technology leaders by investing in diversity.”

Most of our scientists and most of our STEM teachers are being recruited from a narrow segment of our population. We must find a way to include the people who represent the sum of our nation’s population. If we can tap into the diversity of America, we can bring fresh ideas and perspectives and perhaps new inventions to our world…

Our Administration is committed to raising standards, upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the use and understanding of science and technology in our classrooms.

We are calling on states to enhance teacher preparation and training, and to attract new and qualified math and science teachers to better engage students and reinvigorate those subjects in our schools.

We support initiatives to pay more to teachers in high-need subjects like science and math, and rewarding excellence by paying teachers and principals who do a great job in the classroom.

The Department’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top is helping…

Under Race to the Top, we have proposed giving a competitive preference to applications that place added emphasis on STEM–those that will offer rigorous courses, partner with industry experts, museums, universities, and research centers, and those that prepare more students for advanced study in STEM fields, including addressing the needs of underrepresented groups and of women and girls.

In addition to Race to the Top, we have $650 million for the Investing in Innovation program. We’re looking for all sorts of ideas… We are encouraging projects and proposals that will find innovative STEM solutions…

I want to reiterate the one issue that is huge–teachers. We know that talent matters tremendously in classrooms and in school leadership. We need more teachers in the STEM subjects. And we need them to be great teachers. They’re the ones who turn standards into compelling experiments and experiences in the classroom. They use data to inform and improve what they do. In low-performing schools, teachers do the day-in and day-out work of raising expectations and ensuring that students meet them.

It’s not enough that STEM graduates envision only becoming physicists, chemists, or engineers. We must bring more of them–especially more of the best of them–into our classrooms as teachers. We need your help to promote teaching as a noble and valued profession and one that can advance the science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. What are the models that work to make sure that science and math teachers have a deep understanding of their subject?

The good news is that many people are beginning to try new ways to attract and retain teachers: signing bonuses, performance pay, incentives to teach in our most challenging schools, and bonuses for raising student achievement.
These are all good strategies–and all worth attempting, so that we learn from the successes, or failures, of these attempts.

Remember. Your colleagues who became teachers have not failed as scientists–they are doing the important work of preparing the next generation of scientists. They are like the parents of young children–planting the first seeds that could germinate a whole new hybrid–a generation of STEM leaders that will help move our economy forward.

It is time that we engage everyone in the scientific community to help move the nation forward. The right STEM strategies have the potential to have an enormous impact.

We have seen it happen before. From turning on the light bulb to landing on the moon or searching on Google, America has been the leader in innovation.

Our young people and our country are up to the challenge. Something must be done – and you as leaders can help us enormously to reach and implement our goals…


(3) Elevating the Teaching Profession: A National Town Hall Meeting with Arne Duncan

Source: U.S. Department of Education
URL (Education News):

“There is nothing more important we can do for this country than to get a great teacher in front of every child,” Secretary Arne Duncan declared at last Tuesday night’s [(October 20)] national town hall for teachers, a special edition of “Education News Parents Can Use,” the U.S. Department of Education’s monthly television program. Duncan hosted a wide-ranging, lively, and sometimes emotional discussion with the teachers in his studio audience–as well as those taking part via the live webcast and hundreds of broadcast, cable, and satellite television stations carrying the program.

He fielded comments and questions from the more than 60 Washington, D.C., area teachers in the studio and answered phone calls and responded to blog entries and videos sent in before the hour-long broadcast. The conversation ranged from ideas for recruiting and retaining excellent teachers (including questions about merit page for teachers in challenging schools and how excellence should be rewarded) to ways to improve the Elementary and Secondary School Act (i.e., NCLB). Duncan reiterated his belief that math and science teachers should receive higher pay.

A Florida middle school educator called to ask about support for teachers to pursue advanced degrees “to better ourselves as teachers in order to meet the needs of our kids.” A Maryland teacher in the studio audience described an innovative effort designed by school administrators and the teachers’ union to mentor new teachers and help them succeed. An ED blog comment suggesting that legislators who work on education laws be required to spend time in the classroom elicited a big round of applause.

Duncan closed the town hall with a word of thanks to all teachers throughout the country. “It is inspiring and humbling to work with them,” he said.

Watch the archived webcast of the program at


Related story:

Teacher Preparation: Reforming the Uncertain Profession–Remarks of Secretary Arne Duncan at Teachers College, Columbia University on October 22, 2009


(4) New Journal: Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics

Source: Miriam Leiva –

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the organization, TODOS: Mathematics for All, the editors of Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics (TEEM) invite you to explore the inaugural issue of our new scholarly publication whose primary goal is to inform teachers and other practitioners about issues related to the mission of TODOS, which is “to advocate for an equitable and high quality mathematics education for all students–in particular, Hispanic/Latino students–by increasing the equity awareness of educators and their ability to foster students’ proficiency in rigorous and coherent mathematics.”

TEEM is a refereed journal that will be published at least once a year by TODOS. The intended audience for this journal includes educators, leaders, administrators, and practitioners at all levels.
A primary aim of the journal is to engage mathematics education topics of excellence and equity simultaneously (rather than in isolation) in a way that connects research to classroom practice.

For TODOS members, free online access to TEEM is provided at For “not-yet-members,” the TODOS website offers online access to a “sample” version which includes two of the eight articles in the debut issue (

If you are interested in submitting an article to or serving as a manuscript referee for TEEM, visit details. Manuscripts may be submitted during November and April. Contact the Editors at with any questions.


Cynthia Anhalt, The University of Arizona
Larry Lesser, The University of Texas at El Paso
Miriam Leiva, University of North Carolina at Charlotte