COMET • Vol. 10, No. 28 – 24 November 2009


State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell and Governor Schwarzenegger Urge Progress on Race to the Top Legislation

Source: California Department of Education; Office of the Governor (CA)
URL (Governor):
URL (Romero):

Last Thursday (November 19), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell joined Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at a news conference held at a Los Angeles elementary school to urge the California State Assembly to accelerate their work on Race to the Top (RttT) bills in order to ensure California’s eligibility to compete for these federal funds.

The RttT competition is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Superintendent O’Connell, Governor Schwarzenegger, and State Board of Education President Ted Mitchell are jointly responsible for developing and submitting California’s Race To The Top Application.

“Developing California’s Race to the Top application is challenging us all to think hard and think differently about how we can close the achievement gap and improve achievement for all students,” O’Connell said. “Because the clock is ticking, it requires a sense of urgency.

“To be competitive in this race, all of the adults involved in our education system, from school leaders and teachers, government officials, and education interest groups, have to agree to make some tough decisions.

“I strongly believe that the four areas of reform required by Race to the Top are the right issues for us to focus on to really make a difference. They include ensuring that all of our students graduate from high school ready for the challenges of the competitive global economy; focusing on effective teaching; turning around schools that have failed to increase achievement in years; and developing information systems that help us make informed decisions to improve teaching and learning. These are areas that California has been working on for years. Now we need to focus all of our energy on accomplishing these goals.

“Some have questioned whether it is worth the effort to build a reform plan just to win one-time federal funds. But the reform plan we are building based on those four reform areas is the right plan to improve public education in California, whether we win the Race to the Top or not.

“This competition is simply pushing us to make these tough decisions sooner, rather than later. And the potential reward is millions of dollars that can help us more quickly make the systemic changes that we need to improve our schools.

“We do not have to have every detail of our reform plan ironed out by the time we submit our Race to the Top application. But to meet the deadline, we must make needed changes in state law so that we are not out of the race before we have even begun. Then, if California wins the funding, it will certainly help our process of thoughtfully considering exactly how the reforms will be implemented at the school and district level.

“I want to win the Race to the Top, ” O’Connell stated. “I know the Governor does as well. If we all stay engaged and work together we can submit a winning application. And, at the end of the race, the real winners will be the students of California.”

The governor urged the Assembly to reconvene and act on the related legislation immediately. “It is important for [the Assembly] to vote on this and to do exactly the same as the Senate has done and to pass this, because our deadline for the application is January 19th. So that means there is not much time, so we must be competitive and this is why it’s important that they pass those laws,” Governor Schwarzenegger said.

The governor continued, “Here is the vision:

– We will focus on the bottom 5 percent of our consistently low-performing schools.

– We will also allow parents more freedom so they can move the kids from a low-performing school if they’re not happy to another school or to another district.

– And we will also reinforce a school district’s authority to go and to reward the teachers. There are a lot of great teachers around and if they consistently show that they are great and they improve the test scores of the kids they should get rewards for that.

– We will also repeal California’s charter school cap. There is no reason why we have a cap on the amount of charter schools we should have.

– We will also increase the accountability by linking student achievement and teacher performance, which is very important.”

On a related note, Senator Gloria Romero, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, responded to the Assembly’s revised timeline for action on RttT:

“It was good to hear that Speaker Bass and Assembly member Brownley have embraced the urgency of the Race to the Top and recognized the short timeline California has to submit a competitive application. I am pleased that they plan to work with me and the bipartisan authors and supporters of SB X5 1, as we make amendments to this legislation that will support an innovative and competitive application for California.

“Working in tandem with the Senate, the Governor’s Office and our education stakeholders, we can bring real and lasting reform to California public education. Together, we can again Stand and Deliver on the promise of a quality education for every child by putting significant reforms into place that will remain long after this race is run.”

For more information on how Race To The Top and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 affect public education in California, please visit

Related Content

Education Reform ( – Information on how ARRA funds can be used to advance education reforms and support efforts to close achievement gaps. Includes information on LEA and state competitive grants.



(1) President Obama Kicks Off Major STEM Initiative: Educate to Innovate

Source: The White House – 23 November 2009
URL (Video): 
URL (Q&A):

Yesterday President Obama launched the “Educate to Innovate” campaign, a nationwide effort to help reach the administration’s goal of moving American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade. The video of the president’s announcement includes a demonstration by students of a robot they designed and built: Following the President’s Announcement, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Dr. John P. Holdren answered questions about the “Educate to Innovate” initiative. To view a video of this session, visit

Speaking to key leaders of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) community and local students, President Obama announced a series of high-powered partnerships involving leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science and engineering societies dedicated to motivating and inspiring young people across America to excel in science and math.

“Reaffirming and strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century,” said President Obama. “That’s why I am committed to making the improvement of STEM education over the next decade a national priority.”

The new partnerships, with accompanying major commitments from philanthropic organizations and individuals, mark a dramatic first wave of responses to the President’s call at the National Academy of Sciences this spring for a national campaign to raise American students “from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math over the next decade.” Each of the commitments–valued together at over $260 million in financial and in-kind support–will apply new and creative methods of generating and maintaining student interest and enthusiasm in science and math, reinvigorating the pipeline of ingenuity and innovation essential to America’s success that has long been at the core of American economic leadership.

Among the initiatives announced by the President are the following:

* Five public-private partnerships that harness the power of media, interactive games, hands-on learning, and 100,000 volunteers to reach more than 10 million students over the next four years, inspiring them to be the next generation of makers, discoverers, and innovators. These partnerships represent a combined commitment of over $260 million in financial and in-kind support.

* A commitment by leaders such as Sally Ride (the first female astronaut), Craig Barrett (former chairman of Intel), Ursula Burns (CEO, Xerox), Glenn Britt (CEO, Time Warner Cable), and Antonio Perez (CEO, Eastman Kodak) to increase the scale, scope, and impact of private-sector and philanthropic support for STEM education. This coalition, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, will recruit private sector leaders to serve as champions for STEM at the state level; mobilize resources to help scale successful STEM innovations; and raise awareness of the importance of STEM among parents and students.

* An annual science fair at the White House, showcasing the student winners of national competitions in areas such as science, technology, and robotics.

President Obama has identified three overarching priorities for STEM education: increasing STEM literacy so all students can think critically in science, math, engineering and technology; improving the quality of math and science teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations; and expanding STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities.

The Obama Administration has already taken bold action in the STEM education arena by directing that the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” school grant program assure a competitive preference to states that commit to improving STEM education. “The Department of Education takes the STEM competitive priority very seriously–and states should as well,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

But while federal leadership is necessary, a real change in STEM education requires the participation of many elements of society, including governors, philanthropists, scientists, engineers, educators, and the private sector. That is why the President’s speech at the National Academy of Sciences challenged all Americans to join the cause of elevating STEM education as a national priority.

“America needs a world-class STEM workforce to address the grand challenges of the 21st century, such as developing clean sources of energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and discovering cures for cancer,” said John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “It is extremely gratifying to see this first and very robust set of responses to the President’s call to action.”

More Details about the Public-Private Partnerships:

Time Warner Cable’s “Connect a Million Minds” Campaign: Time Warner Cable, in partnership with FIRST Robotics and the Coalition for Science After School, is launching a campaign to connect over one million students to highly-engaging after-school STEM activities that already exist in their area. Time Warner Cable will use its media platform, Public Service Announcements, 47,000 employees, and a “” website where over 70,000 parents and community members have already pledged to connect a child to STEM. Time Warner Cable has made a commitment of $100 million over the next five years to support this campaign, and will target 80 percent of its corporate philanthropy to STEM.

Discovery Communications’ “Be the Future” Campaign: Discovery Communications, in partnership with leading research universities and federal agencies, is launching a five-year, $150 million cash and in-kind “Be the Future” campaign. This will create content that reaches more than 99 million homes, including a PSA campaign across Discovery’s 13 U.S. networks, a dedicated commercial-free educational kids block on the Science Channel, and programming on the “grand challenges” of the 21st century such as their landmark Curiosity series. Discovery Education will also create rich, interactive education content that it will deliver at no cost to approximately 60,000 schools, 35 million students, and 1 million educators, and through a partnership with the Siemens Foundation, will create STEM Connect, a national education resource for teachers.

Sesame Street’s Early STEM Literacy Initiative: Celebrating its 40th Anniversary, and with First Lady Michelle Obama appearing on the first episode, Sesame Street, in partnership with PNC Bank, is announcing a major focus on science and math for young children and a $7.5 million investment in the effort. Sesame Street’s new season kicked-off with “My World is Green & Growing,” which will be part of a two-year science initiative designed to increase positive attitudes towards nature, deepen children’s knowledge about the natural world and encourage behavior that shows respect and care for the environment. Twenty of the 26 new episodes will have a focus on STEM; 13 focus on science and seven focus on math. In addition, Sesame Workshop, in partnership with PNC Bank’s Grow Up Great Program, is announcing a new math initiative for preschool children entitled Math is Everywhere.

“National Lab Day,” Bringing Hands-on Learning to Every Student: National Lab Day is a historic grassroots effort, online at, to bring hands-on learning to 10 million students by upgrading science labs, supporting project-based learning, and building communities of support for STEM teachers. The effort is a partnership between science and engineering societies representing more than 2.5 million STEM professionals and almost 4 million educators, with strong financial support from the Hidary Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and industry partners. Collectively, this partnership is committed to working with more than 10,000 teachers and 1 million students within a year, and 100,000 teachers and 10 million students over the next four years.

National STEM Game Design Competitions: The MacArthur Foundation, Sony Computer Entertainment America, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and its partners (the Information Technology Industry Council, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, and Microsoft) are launching a nationwide set of competitions that include the design of the most compelling, freely-available STEM-related videogames for children and youth.

The competitions will include the 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition, a $2 million yearly effort supported by the MacArthur Foundation that advances the most innovative approaches to learning through games, social networks and mobile devices. One of the competitions will be open only to children, to help them develop 21st century knowledge and skills through the challenge of game design. This year Sony will participate in one segment of the competition and encourage the development of new games that build on the existing popular video game Little Big Planet.


Related articles:

(a) “Obama Seeking to Boost Study of Science, Math” by Kate Andersen Brower and Roger Runningen
Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer – 24 November 2009

(b) “Obama to Honor Young Inventors at Science Fair” (AP story)
Source: The Washington Post


(2) Economic Stimulus Act’s Science Spending

Source: American Institute of Physics
URL: – 23 November 2009

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL), Bart Gordon (D-TN), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA) and officials from the university community announced a new web site providing information on how approximately $21 billion provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was awarded for research and development, scientific equipment, and science-related construction. State-by-state data on this spending is now available at

There was significant emphasis on science and technology spending to support the transformation of the nation’s economy in the $790 billion economic stimulus bill enacted in February. The act appropriated $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, $1.6 billion for the DOE Office of Science, $400 million for the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy, $580 million for NIST, $1 billion for NASA, and $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health. Details on this funding in PL 111-5 are available at Additional funding was provided for energy technologies.

The web site was established by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Landgrant Universities, and The Science Coalition. The feature that will be of most interest to many users of the site are state-specific pages providing information on the total amount of stimulus funding, the number of grants awarded, and links to pages maintained by the National Institutes of Health, the DOE Office of Science, and the National Science Foundation detailing specific grants. A map of the United States is the starting point for this data, and can be found at This site also has information on specific awards and other state-specific research news….


(3) “Putting Math Problems in Proper Order: New Tool for Research Mathematics”

Contact: Estelle Basor, Deputy Director, American Institute of Mathematics –

Mathematics is driven by the quest to solve problems, and last Tuesday (November 17) the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) announced a new tool to help attack those questions. Research problems can take decades or centuries to answer, with partial solutions spawning new problems along the way. Keeping track of all the problems is difficult, even for experts. Sometimes the solution needs an idea from another field, and it can take a long time for someone to notice the connection.

To help address these challenges, AIM has developed the AIM Problem Lists. “Old problems need new ideas and the AIM problem lists open up the world of mathematics to a broader audience,” said AIM director Brian Conrey. The problem lists will provide clear statements of problems in the context of related research problems along with expert commentary on possible approaches to a solution. Each problem list provides a snapshot of a specialized area of research.

All versions of the problem lists will be permanently archived through the Harvard IQSS Dataverse Network. “The record of changes to a problem list will provide a moving picture of progress in mathematics research,” said Micah Altman, Senior Research Scientist at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. These records will allow historians to track developments in a way that previously has not been possible.

The release date for the Problem List tool coincided with the worldwide celebration “RH Day” to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Riemann Hypothesis–the most important unsolved problem in mathematics. One of the new problem lists concerns problems related to the Riemann Hypothesis.

The problem lists are designed to grow and change indefinitely, while maintaining a continuity among the different versions. Problems are assigned permanent numbers and permanent web addresses, which will be of significant benefit to the research literature and to online scholarly ventures. The problem lists will be open to editing by anyone, but with an approval system and oversight by expert editors that provide a guarantee of scholarly integrity.

Development of the problem list tool was made possible by the National Science Foundation. The software running the problem lists will be released open source. The problem list tool was designed by David Farmer in collaboration with BKN team members Micah Altman and Nitin Borwankar.

Frequently asked questions:

What is a problem list?

A problem list is an organized and annotated collection of unsolved problems, and previously unsolved problems, in a specialized area of mathematics research. The problem list provides a snapshot of the current state of research in a particular research area, allowing experts to keep track of new developments, and newcomers to gain a perspective on the subject…

Can I contribute to a problem list?

Anyone can add a remark on a problem, either anonymously or by signing up for a free account. Within the next two weeks, a new feature will be enabled that allows anyone to contribute new problems to a list. All contributions are reviewed before appearing in the publicly viewable version of the problem list. Experts in a particular area can be granted permission to bypass this requirement.

Can I propose a new problem list?

Initial efforts will focus on converting existing problem lists to this new easy-to-maintain format. If you are already the maintainer of a problem list and wish to use this new tool, please contact David Farmer at

Can I use the problem list tool to create other kinds of documents?

The problem list tool is designed for the special structure of a problem list. The BKN project is developing other specialized tools, such as one for maintaining annotated bibliographies that is due for release in Spring 2010.

The BKN Project is also developing a general standard for managing structured text, called BibJSON (see which should serve as a foundation for developing more general tools.

For more information about the following topics, please visit these web sites:

* AIM Problem Lists: 
* 150th anniversary of RH celebration:
* Bibliographic Knowledge Network (BKN) project:
* American Institute of Mathematics (AIM):


(4) Free Webinars on 21st Century Skills and Teaching Mathematics to English Learners

Source: SchoolsMovingUpdate – WestEd
URL (Webinars):

SchoolsMovingUp, a WestEd initiative, helps schools and districts address the challenge of raising student achievement. In an interactive Web format, SchoolsMovingUp offers resources to help education professionals make sound decisions and take action in their school reform efforts. [Visit to learn more.]

The Webinars section of the SchoolsMovingUp Web site provides access to upcoming free webinars featuring education experts who share lessons learned, new ideas, and related resources. You can also browse the webinar archive, where you can watch and listen to full Web presentations by leaders in the field.

Visit for details on how to participate in these promising professional development opportunities:

(a) “Assessing 21st Century Skills to Maximize Student Readiness for Higher Education and Careers”
Date and Time: Tuesday, November 24, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, PST

Bernie Trilling, Global Director at Oracle Education Foundation and author of 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, and Robert Anderson, Senior Assessment Specialist at WestEd, will explore the changes implicit in focusing middle and high school education on 21st century skills. They will define 21st century skills and explain their implications for standards, curriculum, instruction, and school design.

(b) “Making Mathematics Accessible for English Learners”
Date and Time: Wednesday, December 2, 10:30 a.m.-noon PST

Cathy Carroll, Senior Research Associate/Project Director in WestEd’s Mathematics, Science, & Technology Program, and John Carr, Senior Research Associate in WestEd’s Evaluation Research Program, will present an integrated approach to teaching mathematics in a mainstream classroom with English learners at different language levels as well as other students with special learning needs.


(5) International Mathematics Education Conference Announcement: “Transformations and Paradigm Shifts in Mathematics Education”

Source: Alan Rogerson –

[From the Conference Chair] The Mathematics Education into the 21st Century Project has just completed its tenth successful international conference in Dresden, Germany, following conferences in Egypt, Jordan, Poland, Australia, Sicily, Czech Republic, Malaysia and the USA. Our project was founded in 1986 and is dedicated to the planning, writing and disseminating of innovative ideas and materials in mathematics, statistics, science, and computer education. The next conference is planned for 10-16 September 2011 in Grahamstown, South Africa. The chairman of the Local Organizing Committee is Professor Marc Schafer of Rhodes University. The conference will open with an evening welcome reception on Sunday, September 10 and will close with lunch on Saturday, September 16.

The title of the conference is “Turning Dreams into Reality: Transformations and Paradigm Shifts in Mathematics Education.” Paper proposals are now invited on all innovative aspects of mathematics, statistics, science, and computer education. Our conferences are renowned for their friendly and productive working atmosphere. They are attended by innovative teachers and mathematics educators from all over the world (e.g., 44 countries were represented at our last conference).

There will be an additional full social program for accompanying persons.

For ALL further conference details, please email Alan Rogerson, Chairman of the International Program Committee, at