COMET • Vol. 11, No. 12 – 15 May 2010


(1) Senate Confirms Five Educators to Serve on California’s Academic Content Standards Commission

Source: Office of Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento)

On May 12, the Senate Rules Committee confirmed the appointment of five California educators to serve on the state’s 21-member Academic Content Standards Commission:

 Eleanor Evans — Social sciences teacher at Samuel F. B. Morse High School (San Diego Unified School District)
 Scott Farrand — Mathematics professor at California State University, Sacramento
 Kathy Harris — Third-grade teacher at Olivet Elementary (Piner-Olivet School District) and a former California Reading and Literature Project regional director
 Matt Perry — Director of Linked Learning for Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) and Principal of Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School (SCUSD)
 Hilda Villarreal Wright — Mathematics academic coach and teacher at Washington Middle School (Bakersfield City School District)

The Speaker of the California State Assembly ( plans to announce his five appointments to the commission by next Thursday. Although the governor has selected the head of the commission, his office hasn’t determined when his 11 appointees will be announced.

The Academic Content Standards Commission was established by SBX5 1, which was signed by the governor in January. At least half of those appointed to this commission must be current K-12 classroom teachers from California public schools. The Commission will be tasked with developing academic content standards in language arts and mathematics. At least 85% of the standards must be the Common Core State Standards (see, which should be released on June 2. Although SBX5 1 legislates that the California State Board of Education shall vote on approving the Commission’s standards on or before August 2, 2010, this deadline may not be feasible. “It is much more important to do it well than to do it quickly,” stated Rick Simpson, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the California State Assembly.


(2) State Senate Education Committee Hearing on California’s Race to the Top Application

URL (video):

On May 12, the State Senate Education Committee and Senate Select Committee on Race to the Top (RTTT) convened a joint informational hearing on the state’s application for Phase 2 of RTTT funding. Senate Education Committee Chair Gloria Romero chaired this meeting, which was titled, “Federal Race to the Top: What we Learned and Where are we Going for Round Two?” An archived webcast of this hearing is available at

Romero emphasized that the policy changes made as a result of Race to the Top will “stay in place,” whether or not the state is successful in the Phase 2 competition, because the goal of the changes is to reform education to support student achievement.

Two panels provided input during the hearing. The first panel consisted of two representatives from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, Jim Soland and Jennifer Kuhn. Soland provided a brief overview of RTTT Phase 1, including details on how California’s application was scored. California’s Phase 1 application received the largest point deductions in the categories of district participation (degree to which districts committed to reforms; percentage of the state’s districts that signed the Memorandum of Understanding–MOU); teacher evaluation; STEM focus; and lack of a timely, appropriately-funded, and well-coordinated state P-20 (preschool-college) longitudinal data system.

Senator Loni Hancock asked why the state received no points for STEM. Soland responded that he believed that STEM was expected to be “a more pervasive theme throughout the application,” one that the judges appeared to have thought was lacking in the initial RTTT application. (Later in the meeting, Bonnie Reiss offered that a team is working to make sure that STEM is indeed infused throughout the current proposal.)

Soland said that on July 26, the finalists for Phase 2 will be announced and invited to Washington, D.C. for an interview. He noted that the required elements for the RTTT application included the creation of an Academic Content Standards Commission, providing alternative pathways, and addressing the needs of low achieving schools.

The second panel consisted of the Governor’s Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Lupita Cortez Alcalá, and Superintendent Mike Hanson of Fresno Unified School District, one of the “Magnificent Six” (Romero’s phrase). As reported in COMET last week (, six California districts (Clovis Unified, Fresno Unified, and Sanger Unified in Fresno County, plus Long Beach Unified, Los Angeles Unified, and San Francisco Unified)– districts which collectively serve over 900,000 students–are providing leadership for and participating in a working group for the Phase 2 application.

Reiss provided an overview of the process and the progress to date. She shared that Governor Schwarzenegger was persuaded to pursue Phase 2 funding by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who urged Schwarzenegger to look at Georgia’s RTTT application, a proposal that included buy-in from a subset of the state’s districts.

When Reiss learned that the vast majority of states that were finalists in the first round of the RTTT competition had received assistance from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation consultants, she also sought the advice of these consultants. The “only shot” California would have for RTTT funding would be to take the approach of Georgia and have superintendents of successful, committed districts put together the application, in conjunction with these consultants and with grant writers, so that is what has been occurring.

Reiss said that a detailed plan would be produced of “how the districts are going to use data to improve student achievement and turn around failing schools,” which is a large component of the RTTT application/evaluation. The plan that the superintendents are putting together is something they plan to implement whether or not their RTTT application is successful. Merit pay isn’t a topic of discussion, although supporting teams at a school site and funding innovative instructional materials like iPads might be part of the plan.

Alcalá supported Reiss’s comments and reiterated the strong support of State Superintendent Jack O’Connell for the approach taken in this application round–and even in a third round if necessary.

Mike Hanson addressed the committee next, describing how the six districts’ leadership teams have been working around the clock to “collect and synthesize” information for the application (due June 1) and holding 2- to 3-hour conference calls every day. He noted that “we need to keep focusing on the outcome [not the process]…improving student achievement for all of our kids.” He noted that “it is our view that California is facing some significant challenges that are unique from the rest of the country in our state’s composition, in the make-up of our students, and the challenges they present.  If we aren’t careful and if we don’t make the moves we need to make in California to produce for California students, then I can almost guarantee you that we will fail the students of America, because California’s current students are the students of the future America…”

Hanson mentioned that the second-round application is a “bottom-up” approach, which is much more successful than a statewide approach. Teacher union support was a challenge for the first RTTT application, but Hanson said that he has experienced “a full and complete partnership with the teacher’s union.” Hanson stated that “the multiple measures [of student growth] piece is very important to us [especially in talks with the teachers union].” Although the CSTs (California Standards Tests) are an accountability measure, interim assessments are “what’s really important to teachers” regarding student achievement.

Hanson stated that recent legislation prompted by RTTT has already made a positive difference for the state’s children, and Reiss noted that all of the participating superintendents have submitted I3 (Investing in Innovation: applications. Romero stated, “It is so reassuring to hear you say that it is making a difference…. This is about changing outcomes for students in California.”

Hancock noted that the use of data is vital in decision-making and that time is needed during the school day to collaborate and focus on data and to support teachers as educational researchers for their own professional growth and the growth of their students. Therefore, money is needed for support services. Hanson responded that “school improvement is largely driven by great teachers and great leaders,” independent of additional monies. He agreed that time to collaborate is vital and it’s important that a school leader be present. A high quality, user-friendly data system that is readily available on a teacher’s desktop is necessary as well.

Romero asked about the process that should be followed if additional districts want to join the current six. Alcalá provided an informational web  Reiss noted that the MOU will go out next week to all of the LEAs (local education agencies). Hanson mentioned that several additional districts are already participating in the working group’s daily conference calls.


(3) Multiple Pathways (Linked Learning) Report Released

Source:  California Department of Education
URL (video):

On May 12, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell released a report and recommendations about expanding a high school transformation approach that links rigorous academic course work, career technical training, work-based learning opportunities and greater student supports. The approach, originally known as Multiple Pathways, is now referred to as Linked Learning.

“Linked Learning is a promising approach to transforming our high schools so students graduate career and college ready and ready to be successful in the global economy of the 21st Century,” O’Connell said. “This report provides a roadmap for policymakers as they consider ways to systemically transform our high schools and significantly improve results for children.”

The report, titled Multiple Pathways to Student Success, Envisioning the New California High School, was written in response to AB 2648 authored in 2008 by speaker-emeritus Karen Bass. The legislation required the California Department of Education (CDE) to explore the feasibility of establishing and expanding the Linked Learning approach in increasing success for California’s high school students. Funding for the report came from the James Irvine Foundation and the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006.

“Multiple Pathways helps keep kids in school–keeps them in the game until they cross their own personal goal line–whether it’s college, a profession, or a good job you can raise a family on,” Bass said. “Multiple Pathways doesn’t just prepare students, it empowers them.”

Students enrolled in a pathways program are more likely to pass the California High School Exit Examination as sophomores, to graduate from high school, and to complete college entrance requirements. Students in these career-themed programs also get hands-on learning experience in real-world learning environments.

“Linked Learning is a way to remove what is now a false and faulty separation between academic rigor and career preparation. Our students need both if they are to succeed,” O’Connell said.

Anne Stanton, Director of the James Irvine Foundation’s Youth program said, “We applaud this report’s bold vision for transforming high schools in California to promote increased student engagement and achievement. We look forward to working with the Department of Education and educators across the state to make high-quality Linked Learning programs available to all interested students.”

Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce Development David Rattray said, “We support the bold and creative recommendations within this report, which answer the challenge of looking at a total transformation of California high schools through the Linked Learning approach. The business community has been and will continue to be engaged in driving reform at school sites helping to guide curriculum and projects and provide students with real-world examples of how they can use what they are learning in the workplace.”

The report includes a number of key recommendations for policymakers and education advocates to consider, including the following:

– Revising the California Education Code to state that the purpose of high school is to educate and prepare all students to be postsecondary and career ready upon high school graduation

– Moving the high school system from a seat-time/course completion system to a system where students progress based upon mastery of identified standards

– Augmenting the accountability system to foster college and career readiness, increasing graduation rates and decreasing the number of dropouts

– Changing the financing of high schools to an enrollment-based system and tie a portion of the funding to student graduation and retaining students in school

– Expanding curriculum and instruction options to support rigor and relevance within the high school system

– Consolidating Career Technical Education into a coherent system

– Improving the conditions to establish and expand Linked Learning programs.

The AB 2648 Executive Summary, the Multiple Pathways report, and other resources are located at



(4) Candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Source: California Secretary of State

By now, most Californians have received voter information guides for the California Statewide Primary Election on June 8. Statements of seven individuals running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction (the position that Jack O’Connell currently holds) can be found on the Web site above.




New Publication Directs Math Education Research Based on Teachers’ Needs

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
URL (press release):
URL (Report):

On May 10, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) released Linking Research and Practice: The NCTM Research Agenda Conference Report to shape research and bring it to classroom and school-level decisions. Education research findings can improve mathematics teaching, learning, and curriculum. However, the research needed by classroom teachers and the research being conducted in mathematics education often differ.

Linking Research and Practice: The NCTM Research Agenda Conference Report presents priorities for mathematics education research based on the needs of mathematics teachers, administrators, and other school- and district-level educators. The publication is intended for researchers, funding agencies, and others who make decisions about mathematics education research. It is organized around ten “research-guiding questions” on issues that include student thinking, assessment, and teacher preparation. The report, which includes reflections on making the connection between those who research mathematics teaching and learning and those who teach and make decisions about teaching mathematics, is available online at

Linking Research and Practice is based on the work of mathematics education researchers, teachers, and other school-level educators who attended a research agenda conference sponsored by the National Science Foundation and developed by NCTM. Fran Arbaugh, associate professor of education at the Pennsylvania State University, presided over the one-week conference of 60 researchers and school-level practitioners. Attendees met in working groups to discuss and determine research topics and issues that are important to school-level practitioners but lack a strong research base.

The work of the conference was based on hundreds of questions previously collected from focus groups of teachers across the country. Conference participants wrote reports of their groups’ work for the final publication. The report was produced by a writing group composed of Fran Arbaugh, Beth Herbel-Eisenmann (Michigan State University), Eric Knuth (University of Wisconsin–Madison), Henry Kranendonk (Milwaukee Public Schools), Nora Ramirez (Arizona State University), and Judith Reed Quander (NCTM).