COMET • Vol. 11, No. 13 – 30 May 2010


(1) Your Input is Requested on Standards Related to the Teaching of Mathematics

Source: Professional Services Division (PSD), California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
URL (Agenda):

At its December 2008 meeting, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) directed that an advisory panel be convened to study the mathematics specialist authorization (current specifications: Agenda Item 5D at the June 2 CCTC meeting will provide an update on the work of the Teaching Mathematics Advisory Panel and introduce three sets of draft standards. The following agenda item document provides the context for each of these sets of standards:

Three different stakeholder surveys related to these standards are now available, and your input is encouraged. The surveys will close on June 13. The information gathered will be provided to theTeaching Mathematics Advisory Panel at its June 15-16, 2010 meeting for discussion, and the standards may be revised as a result of the public input. It is anticipated that the standards will be presented to CCTC for possible action at the Commission’s August meeting.

Below are links to each of the three surveys:

1. Multiple Subject Standard 8-A(a):

2. Mathematics Instructional Certificate:

3. Mathematics Leadership Specialist:


Following are excerpts from Agenda Item 5D regarding each of these standards:

1. Multiple Subject Standard 8-A(a):

“The current standards for multiple subject preparation programs contain one standard that is devoted specifically to the teaching of reading — Program Standard 7A. One result of this emphasis is that teacher preparation programs typically have at least one course that focuses exclusively on developing candidates’ knowledge and skills for teaching reading. In contrast, program standards for preparing candidates’ pedagogical skills in mathematics are found in a standard that also defines the content for subject-specific pedagogical preparation for science, history-social science, the visual and performing arts, physical education, and health.

“The panel determined that the current single standard that includes mathematics along with other content areas does not provide enough specificity to ensure that multiple subject candidates develop the mathematical knowledge for teaching identified by Ball as essential for ensuring that children in K-8 classrooms receive effective instruction in mathematics. To address the need for placing more focus on developing the mathematics knowledge of multiple subject teachers, the panel developed draft language for a mathematics-specific teacher preparation program standard that addresses candidates’ mathematics content knowledge, specialized content knowledge for teaching mathematics, and mathematics pedagogical skills…”

2. Mathematics Instructional Certificate:

A Mathematics Instructional Certificate (MIC) holder would be an individual with expertise in integrating PreK through Pre-Algebra or Algebra… mathematical knowledge, mathematical knowledge for teaching, and pedagogical knowledge. The MIC authorization would be an “add-on” to a preliminary or a clear multiple subject teaching credential. An individual with a single subject mathematics teaching credential could complete the MIC program, but there would be no additional teaching authorization earned. It is anticipated that the MIC holder would play a major role in bridging the existing achievement gap due to his or her expertise in curriculum design, coaching teachers, designing and implementing intensive interventions, and teaching teachers to effectively intervene, accommodate, and differentiate their mathematics instruction to increase student engagement and proficiency in mathematics from Kindergarten through Pre-Algebra/Algebra I.

“The panel proposes that the Mathematics Instruction Certificate have two authorization options that would be distinguished by the level of mathematical content knowledge required of the certificate holder. Holders of the PreK-Pre-Algebra MIC would need to have mastered the PreK- 7 through Algebra I California mathematics content standards and would be authorized to teach the California mathematics content standards for Pre-Kindergarten through Pre-Algebra in any setting. Holders of the PreK through Algebra I MIC would need to have mastered the PreK-7, Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II California content standards and would be authorized to teach the California mathematics content standards for grades PreK through Algebra I in any departmentalized setting. MIC PreK-Pre-Algebra candidates who were not able to initially demonstrate mastery of Geometry and Algebra II standards may be able to do so through subsequent assessments, and thereby move into the MIC PreK-Algebra program.”

3. Mathematics Leadership Specialist:

“The proposed new Mathematics Instructional Leadership (MIL) Specialist Credential option would prepare experienced teachers with skills required to promote more effective teaching and learning of mathematics PreK-12, provide leadership in mathematics instruction for schools, districts, and county offices, and fulfill a need in the field for a cadre of mathematics teacher leaders who have the ability to connect content level and coaching expertise with school, district, and/or county leadership. Individuals must hold a prerequisite Mathematics Instruction Certificate before they would be eligible for the Mathematics Instructional Leadership Specialist credential.

“Programs preparing Mathematics Instructional Leadership Specialist Credential candidates would include advanced preparation and fieldwork in: a) effectively connecting action research and mentoring/coaching skills with theoretical research to bridge the theory and practice divide in mathematics teaching and learning, b) designing and implementing a school and/or district professional development system that involves teachers and administrators in working collaboratively to increase student engagement and learning in mathematics, c) analyzing and using student, school, district, county, state, and college/university data to inform school and district program design to increase the number of students who are college-ready and reverse the pervasive achievement gap, and d) leading a professional community of practice.”



(2) “Valley School Districts Join New Race for Fed Funds: This Time Unions Back Application for Feds’ ‘Race to the Top’ Cash” by Tracy Correa

Source:  The Fresno Bee – 28 May 2010

School district officials from Fresno, Clovis and Sanger–along with their respective teacher unions and a faculty group–are all supporting California’s new application for federal Race to the Top grant funding.

The unified front was displayed Thursday when local officials came together at Fresno Unified’s district offices to rally behind the state’s second attempt at securing federal education reform funds. If successful, California could receive up to $700 million.

The three [Fresno County] districts are part of a group of seven statewide asked by the Governor’s Office to help write the state application after the earlier application failed to win funding. The three districts are also among the [298] education agencies statewide, including charter schools and county offices of education, that signed the agreement committing to reform plans. [See]

“We are very excited to be involved with innovation and reform in schools,” said David Cash, Clovis Unified’s superintendent. Cash was joined by Sanger Unified Superintendent Marcus Johnson and Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson.

The superintendents said they were honored to have such prominent involvement in the state application. In addition to the three Valley districts, superintendents from Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco and Sacramento were involved in shaping the application, which must be submitted to federal education officials by June 1.

The presidents of the Fresno Teachers Association and the Sanger Teachers Association also are supporting the application… They received strong pressure from the California Teachers Association not to sign the agreement. Clovis Unified’s faculty senate also signed the agreement. [Clovis Unified is a nonunion district.]

Teacher unions have been largely against the reform plans, which they fear could cost teaching jobs by blaming classroom instructors for poor student performance.

But Greg Gadams, president of the Fresno Teachers Association, said it was better to be involved in the reforms, because they will take place with or without union support. “We have the ability to be involved in what it’s going to look like,” he said.

Gadams pointed out that he did not sign the state’s earlier application but opted to do so this time after he was offered the opportunity to be more involved.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Gadams said, noting that he became a target for opposing the CTA. “This … is different because it defines what an ineffective teacher is and we get to be part of that discussion.”

The application largely calls for more accountability and a higher level of collaboration between teachers and districts to improve student learning.

Fresno Unified estimates it could receive about $18 million if the state receives funding. Clovis could get $9 million and Sanger $3.8 million.

The superintendents, who worked with a consultant, said the state application has a better chance of being approved this time because of what was learned in the first round.

But Hanson said work on improving school performance will continue, whether or not the state wins federal funding.


(3) L.A. Teachers Union Rejects Contest For Federal School-Reform Grant” by Howard Blume

SourceThe Los Angeles Times – 28 May 2010

The Los Angeles teachers union won’t sign the state’s application for federal Race to the Top school-reform grants, diminishing the state’s chances of claiming up to $700 million in grants tied to specific, but controversial reform strategies.

The grant has the potential to bind the state to future policies that would cost the state more than the one-time dollars would pay for, said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. He added that the extra costs could strain school district finances and ultimately result in damaging budget cuts.

California fell short during the first round of competition for a share of the $4.35 billion in federal grants, but tried again at the urging of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and developed a new strategy. A few school districts would pursue reforms more specific and more aggressive than in the original state submission.

The approach was a calculated gamble because federal evaluators rewarded plans that reached as many students in a state as possible. The two winning states–Tennessee and Delaware–scored high marks for doing so.

A handful of school districts, including Los Angeles Unified and Long Beach Unified, expressed early interest. The number of school systems has since swelled to 123, along with dozens of independently operated charter schools. These school systems represent more than 1.7 million of the state’s 6.3 million students. That’s more students than in all but six other states. Unions in 17 districts also signed on.

But other unions followed the lead of the California Teachers Assn. and nonunion critics in opposing the effort, including the unions representing San Franciso Unified and Long Beach Unified, according to state documents.

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said the money would help pay for reforms that L.A. Unified already was pursuing. These include revamping the teacher evaluation system, making better use of data to improve instruction and turning around struggling schools.

Duffy, however, characterized the required blueprint as vague on key points and overly prescriptive on others.

“We agree we need a new evaluation system, no question about it,” Duffy said. “But this money requires the evaluation system of teachers to be tied to standardized test scores and there’s too much solid evidence to show this is not effective.”

The union’s leadership made the decision not to take part in Race to the Top on behalf of the membership.

The state will formally sign its application Tuesday [June 1]–the federal deadline — at an elementary school in Long Beach. Expected participants include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

“We feel like we’ve put together a strong application that puts together the best thinking of some progressive district leaders,” said education department spokeswoman Hilary McLean. “We’re hopeful the federal government will recognize the innovative ideas we’ve put forth.”



(1) Live Chat: “Scoring Race to the Top: A Look Behind the Curtain”

Source: Education Week
URL (EW article):
URL (NY Times article):
URL (Live Chat):

At noon on Tuesday, June 1, freelance journalist and author Steven Brill will discuss his recent Education Week article looking at inconsistencies and soft spots in the judging process being used to allocate some $4 billion in economic-stimulus grants under the Race to the Top program.

Below is an excerpt from the article upon which Brill’s chat is based (

“In an article I wrote for The New York Times Magazine about Race to the Top…[see below], I only touch briefly on issues related to administering the contest. But readers of Education Week might be interested in more detail of what I discovered in finding, as the article puts it, that “good intentions can’t guarantee perfect execution in a federal bureaucracy.”

“When the federal government gives out billions of dollars in grants, it can’t be done based on the gut feel of some policy wonks, however honest and well-meaning, that this state deserves it and that one doesn’t. So before he left the government last fall, U.S. Department of Education adviser and Race to the Top architect Jon Schnur recruited Joanne Weiss, who has an impressive resumé in both the nonprofit and business sectors running education-related ventures, to create a rigorous process for giving out the money by using vetters who would be screened rigorously for conflicts of interest. Like jurors, they were also instructed, Ms. Weiss told me, “not to consider anything outside the actual four corners of what was submitted in the applications.”

“A review of the vetters’ score sheets and written comments juxtaposed against the applications they judged suggests that their standards were inconsistent, that some were naive about the difference between promises and the capacity to deliver, and that others fell victim to the propensity of many states to misstate the status of their programs and overstate the buy-in they had from key stakeholders, especially the teachers’ unions…”


The New York Times article to which Brill refers above is entitled, “The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand.” It is available online at  An excerpt appears below:

“Jon Schnur, who runs a Manhattan-based school-reform group called New Leaders for New Schools, sits informally at the center of a network of self-styled reformers dedicated to overhauling public education in the United States. They have been building in strength and numbers over the last two decades and now seem to be planted everywhere that counts. They are working in key positions in school districts and charter-school networks, legislating in state capitals, staffing city halls and statehouses for reform-minded mayors and governors, writing papers for policy groups and dispensing grants from billion-dollar philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. …

“Over the last several months, Schnur and the well-positioned fellow travelers on his speed dial have seen the cause of their lives take center stage. Why the sudden shift from long-simmering wonk debate to political front burner? Because there is now a president who, when it comes to school reform, really does seem to be a new kind of Democrat–and because of a clever idea Schnur had last year to package what might otherwise have been just another federal grant program into a media-alluring, if cheesy-sounding, contest called Race to the Top…

“Schnur came up with the name and pushed the overall spin of the contest, and it was clear from conversations with people in the school-reform movement that he is the one person who seems to know everything happening on all fronts, from the White House to legislative chambers in Albany or Sacramento to charter schools in New Orleans…”



(2) Articles Related to the Passing of Martin Gardner

A plethora of news outlets reported on the recent death of Martin Gardner. Most were based on the same AP news release (below), but others were more unique in nature and may be of interest:

– NPR (All Things Considered):
– Scientific American (article reprints):
– Center for Inquiry
– The Washington Post

Excerpt: “Gardner was writing stories and poems for a children’s magazine in the 1950s when he submitted an article about hexaflexagons–pieces of paper folded intricately to resemble, Gardner once said, “a budding flower”–to Scientific American. The editor, Dennis Flanagan, was so taken with the piece that he hired Gardner to produce a regular column on recreational mathematics.

“The resulting monthly feature, ‘Mathematical Games,’ ran from 1956 to 1981. It became one of Scientific American’s most popular items, capturing the imagination of amateur and professional mathematicians and introducing a generation of young readers to the pleasures of problem-solving.

“The sharp-witted column, packed with cultural references, humor and accessible logic puzzles instead of academic jargon, featured the mathematical concepts behind fractals, Chinese tangram puzzles and the art of surrealist M.C. Escher. Widely read around the world, ‘Mathematical Games’ made Gardner–who never took a math class after high school–the beloved grandfather of recreational mathematics and the inspiration for countless young people to consider careers in math and science. [Note: M.C. Escher himself had no formal mathematics training beyond high school and once wrote that he “never got a passing mark in mathematics.”]

“‘Beyond calculus, I am lost,’ [Gardner] once said. ‘That was the secret of my column’s success. It took me so long to understand what I was writing about that I knew how to write in a way most readers would understand.'”


– AP News Release (

Prolific mathematics and science writer Martin Gardner, known for popularizing recreational mathematics and debunking paranormal claims, died on May 22, 2010. He was 95.

Gardner died Saturday after a brief illness at Norman Regional Hospital, said his son James Gardner. He had been living at an assisted living facility in Norman, Okla.

Martin Gardner was born in 1914 in Tulsa, Okla., and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the University of Chicago.

He became a freelance writer, and in the 1950s wrote features and stories for several children’s magazines. His creation of paper-folding puzzles led to his publication in Scientific American magazine, where he wrote his “Mathematical Games” column for 25 years…

Allyn Jackson, deputy editor of Notices, a journal of the American Mathematical Society, wrote in 2005 that Gardner “opened the eyes of the general public to the beauty and fascination of mathematics and inspired many to go on to make the subject their life’s work.” [See to read this in-depth and wide-ranging interview.]

Jackson said Gardner’s “crystalline prose, always enlightening, never pedantic, set a new standard for high quality mathematical popularization.” The mathematics society awarded him its Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition in 1987 for his work on math, particularly his Scientific Americancolumn.

“He was a renaissance man who built new ideas through words, numbers and puzzles,” his son, a professor of special education at the University of Oklahoma, told The Associated Press.

Gardner also became known as a skeptic of the paranormal and wrote columns for Skeptical Inquirer magazine…[See]

Former magician James Randi, now a writer and investigator of paranormal claims, paid tribute to Gardner on his website (, calling his colleague and longtime friend “a very bright spot in my firmament.” [On his website, Randi also writes, “Martin Gardner’s wishes–clearly expressed in his will–called for his immediate cremation and for no funeral service, a request to which his son James has of course acceded. At TAM in Las Vegas ( we will be have a joyous celebration of his career and his accomplishments, but certainly not any somber or sad observance. Martin was a straightforward, no-nonsense guy, and we won’t be wailing and tearing our raiment–though that might bring him back just to scold us…”]

Gardner ended his Scientific American column in 1981 and retired to Hendersonville, N.C. Gardner continued to write, and in 2002 moved to Norman, where his son James lives…

Gardner was preceded in death by his wife, Charlotte. Besides James Gardner, he is survived by another son, Tom, of Asheville, N.C. [and three grandchildren].