COMET • Vol. 10, No. 30 – 12 December 2009


(1) “Romero Bill Halted, Brownley Bill Approved by Assembly–Schwarzenegger Threatens Veto” by Andrew Keller and Jeff Hudson

Source:  EdBrief – 11 December 2009

During two furious days of legislative activity, the Assembly Education Committee blocked Race to the Top (RTTT)-related legislation by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles). Romero’s bill (SBX5 1) was supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, charter school advocates, and others–it was passed by the California Senate in November.

Instead, the Assembly voted 47-25 on Thursday evening (December 10) to approve a competing RTTT-related bill by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), supported by the California Teachers Association (CTA), the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), and others.  The Assembly’s vote sets up negotiations with the Senate…and a confrontation with the Governor, who indicated that he will veto Brownley’s legislation (ABX5 8 ) should it reach his desk.

The marathon began on Wednesday with a six-hour Assembly Education Committee hearing, which included a discussion of four different bills.  The ongoing conflict between charter school groups and the powerful California Teachers Association stole the spotlight as the committee advanced Assemblywoman Julia Brownley’s ABX5 8, and killed Sen. Gloria Romero’s SBX5 1.

Governor Schwarzenegger–who supported the Romero bill–said on Wednesday that “The (Brownley) bill passed by the Assembly Education Committee strips parental choice out of proposed legislation and adds layers of the same failed bureaucracy on charter schools that plague our public schools.  This fails to meet federal Race to the Top guidelines and threatens California’s ability to secure up to $700 million in federal education funding.”

However, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) [said that] “(Brownley’s) Race to the Top legislation was developed explicitly based on the regulations that were released by the Obama Administration and our legislation will put California in the best possible position to be competitive for the federal grant.  The bill was developed through an inclusive and collaborative process that included four informational hearings of the Assembly Education Committee and numerous meetings with a broad range of groups, including organizations in the education coalition, social justice groups, representatives of the business community, and other stakeholders.  It is unfortunate that the governor is focused on the wrong competition.  It’s not about him.  He wants his plan to pass regardless of the merits and regardless of what it would cost our schools. It’s race to the top, not race over a cliff.”

On Thursday afternoon, Schwarzenegger went further in his criticism of Brownley’s bill, saying, “This is Race to the Top–not race to the status quo.  We must make the necessary reforms to improve our schools and make California highly competitive for this federal education funding.  The Assembly bill (by Brownley) is a step backwards and if it reaches my desk, it will be vetoed”…

[In addition to CTA and ACSA,] other supporters of an amended version of Brownley’s ABX5 8 included California State PTA, …California School Boards Association (CSBA), and the California Federation for Teachers (CFT). The California NAACP…preferred Romero’s bill and opposed Brownley’s.

At the heart of the debate surrounding these competing measures are two issues: charter school regulation and parental choice.  Groups in favor of the Brownley bill’s stronger fiscal and performance accountability for charter schools…argue that students deserve a guarantee of quality in both public and charter schools, while groups supporting Romero’s SBX5 1 (such as EdVoice) want to maintain the relative freedom of charters to serve as pedagogical laboratories while allowing greater parental power to “trigger” reforms in schools they deem unacceptable.

Sen. Romero expressed dismay at the Assembly Education Committee’s response to her bill: six ayes (short of the nine needed for approval), five nays, and six silent members. (Two abstained, four were absent and did not respond to a call to come and vote on Romero’s legislation). “This bill was killed by silence,” Romero said. “They basically said ‘continuing the status quo is OK.’ ” Romero was granted the opportunity by Chairwoman Brownley to have the bill reconsidered, but no further hearings are currently scheduled.

Brownley’s bill, by contrast, passed the Assembly Education Committee with ten ayes–only one more than the nine required to advance.

Despite the vociferous debate on both sides, several legislators expressed support for a merging of the two bills.  “I’d like to see the best reforms from both bills combined” said Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana).

One issue brought up consistently throughout the Assembly Education Committee hearing was that of career technical education (CTE).  Both bills, complained legislators, remained silent on the inclusion of career technical education as a path to success… It was not immediately clear if any amendments would be made in response to this issue…

Brownley’s bill (ABX5 8) could find its way to the Senate for discussion as early as next week.

On a less headline-grabbing note, Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) received a passing vote (13-1) from the committee on his SBX5 2 bill, which was later approved in a floor vote by the full Assembly.  Simitian’s bill allows greater access to and use of education data for purposes of research.  His bill expands data access to any non-profit for purposes of research, but stops short of authorizing unlimited access to any organization in response to privacy concerns.  This bill would also ensure that collegiate data is included in the system.


Related Articles:

(a) CTA Urges Passage of Assembly “Race to the Top” Bill

(b) ACSA Supports Assembly Race to the Top Legislation

(c) Vote Set on Brownley’s Bill; Romero’s “Killed by Silence”

(d) Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Assembly Committee’s Failure to Pass SBX5 (December 9) 

(e) Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Race to the Top Legislation ABX5 8 (December 10)



(2) Race to the Top Legislation Included on the Agenda for the State Board of Education’s December 15 Meeting


When the California State Board of Education convenes on December 15 at 1:00 p.m., there will be only three items on the agenda. The second item is Race to the Top Overview Including State Legislation Information,” which is listed as an “information/action” item. When the agenda item was initially posted, both bills (SBX5 1 and ABX5 8) were still active.  Only ABX5 8 has moved out of committee, and the ultimate fate of SBX5 1 is unclear. It is possible that portions of the Senate bill will be incorporated into the Assembly bill to help assure approval by the governor, who has threatened to veto ABX5 8 as it currently stands.

The “Recommendation” section of the agenda item states: “The California Department of Education (CDE) recommends that the State Board of Education (SBE) take action as deemed necessary and appropriate. There is no specific recommendation at this time.”

Under “Summary of Key Issues,” the agenda item includes a synopsis of each bill (SBX5 1 and ABX5 8), as well as the following background: “The Race to the Top Fund, authorized under ARRA, provides $4.35 billion for competitive grants. The initial information on the requirements for applying was released by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on July 29, 2009. The Race to the Top Notice of Proposed Priorities was distributed by ED and public comments were received through August 28, 2009. Over 1,100 individuals and organizations submitted public comment. The notices were published on the Federal Register on November 18, 2009.

“There are two phases to the application process. States that apply in Phase 1 but are not awarded grants may reapply for funding in Phase 2. Phase 1 grantees may not apply for additional funding in Phase 2. [The application deadline for funding in Phase 1 is January 19, 2010. Grant recipients will be announced in April. The application deadline for Phase 2 is June 1, with grant recipients announced in September.] Notices are available at the ED’s Web site at …”

Visit to view a live video stream of the meeting.


(3) Race to the Top Legislation Proposes Development of Mathematics and Language Arts Academic Content Standards, as Well as High-Quality Assessments


Assemblywoman Julia Brownley’s proposed Race to the Top legislation (ABX5 8) includes the following language regarding academic content standards and statewide performance assessments:


The Greene Act requires the [State Superintendent of Public Instruction] to adopt statewide content and performance standards in the core curriculum areas of reading, writing, mathematics, history/social science, and science, as specified. The Greene Act authorizes the state board to modify any proposed content standards or performance standards prior to adoption, and to adopt content and performance standards in individual core curriculum areas as those standards are submitted to the state board.
This bill [(ABX5 8)] would eliminate this authority and instead require the Superintendent to develop a set of academic content standards in language arts and mathematics. The standards would be required to meet specified criteria. The Superintendent, on or before August 2, 2010, would be required to present these standards to the state board, and to present to the Governor, and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature, specified information relating to these standards. The state board, on or before September 1, 2010, would be required to adopt or reject the standards, as specified.
The bill would require the Superintendent to participate in the Common Core State Standards Initiative consortium sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers orany associated or related interstate collaboration to jointly develop common high-quality standards or  assessments aligned with the common set of standards…


SEC. 12.  Section 60604.5 is added to the Education Code, to read:
60604.5.  The Superintendent shall develop recommendations for the reauthorization of the statewide pupil assessment program.
(a) These recommendations shall include, but are not limited to, a plan for transitioning to a system of high-quality assessments, as defined in this chapter, that does all of the following:
(1) Aligns with the standards adopted or revised pursuant to subdivision (a) of Section 60605.8.
(2) Implements and incorporates any common assessments aligned with the common set of standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative consortium or other interstate collaboration in which the state participates…
(5) Allows the comparison from one year to the next of an individual pupil’s scale scores in each content area tested, so as to reflect the growth in that pupil’s actual scores over time…
(8) Incorporates a variety of item types and formats, including, but not limited to, open-ended responses and performance-based tasks.
(9) Generates multiple measures of pupil achievement, which, when combined with other measures, can be used to determine the effectiveness of instruction and the extent of learning.
(10) Includes the assessment of science and mathematics in all grade levels above grade 4.
(11) Assesses a pupil’s understanding of and ability to use the technology necessary for success in the 21st century classroom and workplace.
(12) Provides for both formative and interim assessments, as those terms are defined in this chapter, in order to provide timely feedback for the purposes of continually adjusting instruction to improve learning…


Access the Web site above to read the entire text of this bill.


Related Article:

“Lawmakers Wary of ‘Race to the Top’-Standards Link” by Alyson Klein
Source: Education Week – 8 December 2009



(1) Large Urban School Districts Show Few Gains in Math Achievement from 2007 to 2009

URL (Transcripts from Q&A):

On Tuesday, the results of the 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in mathematics for grades 4 and 8 were released. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics assessment was administered earlier this year by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education to representative samples of between 1,800 and 4,300 4th- and 8th-graders from each of the 18 TUDA districts, all of which were participating on a voluntary basis.

Eleven of the 18 participating districts had also participated in earlier assessments (2003 and 2007). These districts were located in the following large U.S. cities: Atlanta; Austin, TX; Boston; Charlotte, NC; Chicago; Cleveland; the District of Columbia; Houston; Los Angeles; New York City; and San Diego, CA. The seven districts that participated for the first time in 2009 were Baltimore City; Detroit; Fresno, CA; Jefferson County (Louisville), KY; Miami-Dade; Milwaukee; and Philadelphia.

Results were relatively unchanged for 4th- and 8th-graders in most TUDA districts between 2007 and 2009, though eight of the districts that began participating in 2003 have made significant gains in both grades over this six-year period. No district had significantly lower average scores in 2009 than in 2003 or 2007. San Diego was the only district to see significant gains from 2007 to 2009 for both 4th- and 8th-grade students. Five of the 18 districts–Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Houston, and San Diego–scored above the average for large cities (populations of 250,000 or more) at both grade levels in 2009. However, compared with the overall national average, Charlotte was the only TUDA district to score higher at grade 4, and Austin was the only TUDA district to score higher at grade 8.

“The urban school districts that volunteer for this rigorous test should be commended for their willingness to be held to high standards,” said David P. Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP. “The report points to some leaders that have made significant strides in student achievement. While much remains to be done to increase achievement and narrow gaps between groups, we hope to learn more from these cities.”

Launched in 2002, the Trial Urban District Assessment is a joint effort developed by the Governing Board, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education, and the Council of the Great City Schools. The Nation’s Report Card: Trial Urban District Assessment Mathematics 2009 and additional data collected from the 2009 mathematics assessment are available online at  A transcript of the informative question and answer session with Peggy Carr, Associate Commissioner of NCES, is available at



There are large demographic differences between urban districts and the nation as a whole. The urban districts tend to have a much greater percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches (thus greater poverty), as well as a much higher percentage of English language learners (ELL). Further, the percentages of ELL students in Austin, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego were higher than those in other large cities.


(2) Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to Hold Town Hall for Students on December 15

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Two months ago, Secretary Arne Duncan accompanied President Obama to Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., when the President made his nationally televised Back to School speech and challenged students to work hard and graduate. This month, Secretary Duncan will have a chance to check in on Wakefield students and find out how they are responding to the President’s challenge, as they gather for a national town hall for students.

Duncan will host the town hall in a special edition of the Department of Education’s television program, Education News Parents Can Use, live from Public Broadcasting System station WETA on Tuesday, December 15, at 11 a.m. PT. Throughout the hour-long event, he will take comments and questions from the students in the studio audience and around the nation via telephone, email, and video. The show will also feature an update on the Department’s “I Am What I Learn” student video contest (see

Details about the special town hall for students on Education News are at

Students can contribute to the conversation right now by submitting a question or posting answers to one or more of the questions below. As many response as possible will be featured on the December 15 program. Students may also call the show during the live broadcast at (888) 493-9382, between 11:00 and noon PT.

Here are the questions:

* How can students assume responsibility for their own education?
* How can we do a better job of preparing students for college and careers?
* How can we encourage more students to become involved in community service and civic life?
* Who and what are the most important influences on today’s young people?


(3) Gender Gaps at the Top in Math and Science

Source: Education Week – Online Chat

Studies show that on most standardized tests, girls caught up to boys in mathematics and science years ago, yet women remain far outnumbered at the highest professional levels in those fields. In our nation’s universities, for example, men occupy 93 percent of tenure-track positions in mathematically oriented fields. Why? Psychologists Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams, authors of The Mathematics of Sex: How Biology and Society Conspire to Limit Talented Women and Girls, led an in-depth discussion of this topic last month in an online chat sponsored by Education Week. Debra Viadero, an associate editor at Education Week, served as moderator. A transcript of this chat is available at

Brief Excerpt:

[Steve Ceci]   In our book, we examined claims that sex differences in math-based careers are the result of (a) ability differences that favor males in mathematics and spatial ability, (b) biases and barriers that impede women’s progress in these fields, and (c) career/lifestyle preferences that propel women into other fields.

Our general conclusion: The imbalance in math-intensive careers cannot be accounted for by sex differences in mathematical and spatial ability that have been reported between male and females. We concluded this because although the ratio of males-to-females in the top 1% of math aptitude scores is 2:1, there are nowhere near as many as one third of female engineers, physicists, mathematicians, and chemists.

So, it cannot be attributed to math ability differences or else there’d be many more women in these fields. Nor can they be attributed to current biases and barriers, though past cohort discrepancies may be explained in such terms. We concluded this because for the past decade or more women have been hired for tenure-track positions at rates roughly comparable to their proportions in the Ph.D. pool–and more often than not, at rates slightly above their proportions. We concluded that the single biggest factor in women’s underrepresentation in these fields is that women opt out of such careers at a fairly young age.

In surveys of adolescent girls, very few say they desire to be an engineer or physicist, preferring instead to be medical doctors, veterinarians, and lawyers. Although females earn a large portion of baccalaureate degrees in all fields of science, including math-intensive fields (e.g., 46% of mathematics majors are females), disproportionately fewer women enter graduate school in these fields, and fewer of the women who go on to earn Ph.D.s apply for academic jobs. There is no consensus yet as to why fewer women earning Ph.D.s in math-intensive fields apply for tenure track positions, but one reason that women in all fields opt out of academia has to do with a desire for flexibility: women want some job flexibility to raise children, and the timing of childrearing coincides with the most demanding period of an academic career, such as trying to get tenure, or working exorbitant hours to get promoted…


Related Article:

Teaching Girls to Tinker
SourceEducation Week – 11 November 2009


Related Web Site:

STEM Equity Pipeline: Expanding Options for Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math”

Upcoming Free Webinar: “Subtle Micro-Messages Impact the Success of Women and Girls in STEM”
December 14, 2009 – 10 a.m. PT
Visit the Web site above for more information about this and past (archived) webinars.


(4) New Video on The Futures Channel: Science & Sunglasses

Source: The Futures Channel

The Futures Channel was founded in 1999 with the goal of using new media technologies to create a channel between the scientists, engineers, explorers and visionaries who are shaping the future and today’s learners who will one day succeed them.

A new video on the science of sunglasses was recently posted on the Futures Channel Web site (link above). The video explores the relationship between the California-based company, Giro (a worldwide leader in high-performance protective gear and accessories for action sports), and Zeiss. Below is an introduction to the video:

The Zeiss Company was founded in Germany over one hundred fifty years ago when Carl Zeiss began producing some of the first microscopes designed around solid optical theory and physics rather than trial and error.

To this day, Zeiss remains one of the most respected names in optics.  The company has helped define the state-of-the-art in binoculars, camera lenses, medical imaging, and even the optical instruments that power planetariums.

In this new movie, go inside a Zeiss facility in Northern Italy for a rare look at the science and technology behind designing, testing, and manufacturing lenses for high-end performance sunglasses for bicyclists.