COMET • Vol. 11, No. 14 – 13 June 2010


This is the last issue of COMET for the 2009-2010 academic year. Best wishes for an enjoyable summer! 




(1) California Teachers Sean Nank and Mark Fairbank are Honored with Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

URL (White House):
URL (Sean/Math):  
URL (Mark/Science):    

On June 7, President Obama named 103 mathematics and science teachers as recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  Winners of this Presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion. Later this year, they will also receive an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and science agency leaders.

“Science and technology have long been at the core of America’s strength and competitiveness, and the scientists and engineers who have led America on its remarkable path to success share something very precious: science and math teachers who brought these critical subjects to life,” President Obama said on Monday. “Today we honor some of the best of these teachers and thank them for their dedication. They are inspirations not just to their students, but to the Nation and the world.”

California’s award recipients are Sean Nank (for mathematics) and Mark Fairbank (for science).  “Dr. Sean Nank of El Camino High School,…who has taught [primarily algebra and geometry] at ECHS for nine years, was nominated for the award in part for ‘using humor and developing an excellent rapport with students.’ He was also described as ‘maintaining rigor while easing mathematics anxiety in the classroom'” (Oceanside Unified School District News).

“For Fairbank, one of the keystones to instilling success in students is connecting with them by understanding how they learn and putting it to practice through things like Interactive Notepads and direct interactive instruction… Fairbank, a 26-year science teacher [at Paso Robles High School], has taught biology, earth science, chemistry, physics, AP chemistry and AP Physical Science as well as serving as the school’s Math and Science Department Chair…” (


(2) Speaker Pérez Appoints Members to the Academic Content Standards Commission

Source: California State Assembly Democratic Caucus

On June 2, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) announced the appointment of the following individuals to the Academic Content Standards Commission:

– Heather Calahan — Lecturer and Executive Director of the Curtis Center for Mathematics and Teaching at UCLA

– Robert Ellis — 1st grade teacher in the West Contra Costa Unified School District

– Bruce Grip — High school teacher in the Chaffey Joint Union High School District and Vice President of the Southern Section of the California Mathematics Council

– Pat Sabo — Middle school teacher in the Healdsburg Unified School District

– Chuck Weis — Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools and Immediate Past President of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA)

The Academic Content Standards Commission was created by Senate Bill X5 1 (Steinberg). The Commission is charged with developing and presenting to the State Board of Education new content standards in language arts and mathematics. According to the law, at least 85 percent of these new standards are required to be the National Common Core Standards that were also released on June 2 by the interstate collaborative led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

“This is a great day for California’s students and for students nationwide,” said Speaker Pérez.  “These five individuals will each bring expertise, experience, and, most importantly, a passion for the highest quality teaching and learning to the standards development process.  The national standards that will form the core of California’s new standards set new benchmarks for rigor and for deep learning.  They will spur the development of higher quality textbooks, curricula, and assessments and will help California’s students successfully compete with our national and global competitors.”

“Now that the national standards have been released and the Assembly and Senate have made their appointments to the Commission, I look forward to the Governor making his appointments so the Commission may convene and begin its critical task immediately,” Speaker Pérez concluded. (For the names of the Senate’s five appointments to the Commission, see


(3) All 21 Members of California’s Academic Content Standards Commission have Now Been Named — Meetings will be Webcast

Sources: Office of the Governor; California State Board of Education

On June 4, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his 11 appointments to the Academic Content Standards Commission (see below for names). With his announcement, all 21 members of this commission have now been identified. Under current law (Senate Bill X5 1), the Commission has until July 15 to present its recommended academic content standards in mathematics and language arts to the California State Board of Education, which then has until August 2 to adopt or reject the proposed standards. If adopted, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction will present to the Governor and Legislature a schedule and plan for integrating the new standards into the State’s education system.

The announcement and agenda for the Commission’s first meeting on June 17-18 can be viewed at These documents are also posted on the Web site of the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE): In addition to the June meeting, the Commission will meet on July 6-7 and July 14-15; all meetings will be held at the SCOE.  Commission meetings will be webcast. For additional information, contact Project Director Sue Stickel ( or 916-228-2402).

A substantive item on the June meeting agenda ( is Item 12:

Subject:  Review of Fundamental Questions

Do California’s existing standards:
– match the Common Core Standards Initiative in rigor?
– have international benchmarking?
– have applicability to college and career readiness?

Which of California’s Standards:
– incorporate the substance of the Common Core Initiative’s content?
– exceed in substance the Common Core Standards Initiative’s content, are internationally benchmarked, and build toward college and career readiness?

What changes to California’s standards are necessary to incorporate or exceed the substance of the Common Core Initiative’s content at the 85 percent level?


The names and positions of the individuals selected by the Governor to serve on the Academic Content Standards Commission follow below. Detailed biographical profiles of these individuals are available at

Steven Dunlap — Elementary teacher, instructional technology site specialist, and data director site trainer for Riverside Unified School District

Williamson Evers — Research fellow and member of the Koret Task Force on K-12 education for the Hoover Institution at Stanford University

Mark Freathy — Math teacher and math department chair for the Elk Grove Unified School District

Lori Freiermuth — High school math teacher for the Sweetwater Union High School District

Greg Geeting (Commission Chair) — Area 1 trustee for the Sacramento County Board of Education

Jeanne Jelnick — English teacher at University High School (Irvine) and a 2010 Orange County Teacher of the Year

Deborah Keys — Administrator III for Oakland Unified School District

James Lanich — Executive Director of the California State University Center to Close the Achievement Gap

Brian Shay — Mathematics teacher at Canyon Crest Academy High School in the San Dieguito Union High School District and an adjunct mathematics instructor at San Diego Mesa College and Grossmont Community College

Lorena Sweeney — English language development (ELD)/Spanish instructor and ELD advisor for the Capistrano Unified School

Ze’ev Wurman — Software architect for NuPGA


(4) California Submits Phase 2 Race to the Top Application

Source: Office of the Governor
URL (Gov.):

On June 1, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed California’s application for Race to the Top (RttT) Phase 2 funds at Long Beach Unified School District’s Lafayette Elementary School. He was accompanied by all but one of the superintendents of the seven districts that provided leadership in producing the application, as well as by Senate Education Committee Chair Gloria Romero, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, Education Secretary Bonnie Reiss, and State Board of Education Chair Ted Mitchell, among others. Visit to read the speech, statements, and answers to questions posed at the event.

Los Angeles Times article discusses the relative lack of union support for California’s proposal:,0,454034.story

RttT Phase 2 Application and Appendices (downloadable):

List of Participating Local Education Agencies:

List of Stakeholders Supporting RttT Phase 2 Application:
education system.


(5) Romero Sponsors Bill to Fund Test Prep Courses and Reimburse Test Fees for Prospective Mathematics and Science Teachers


In February, Senator Gloria Romero introduced Senate Bill 956, which is making its way through the legislative process.  This bill “directs $5 million of federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds to school districts, county offices of education and charter schools to retrain laid-off teachers to meet subject matter competency to teach science, math and industrial and technical education.  As schools are facing layoffs of some 35,000 teachers, SB 956 proposes to expand teacher retraining opportunities to get teachers back to work and prepare students for productive futures” (

Bill Analysis (Senate):

This bill:

1. Requires the EDD to allocate five-million dollars of the WIA (Workforce Investment Act) state reserve to local workforce investment boards to allocate to school districts, county offices of education, or charter schools [on a competitive basis] to provide intensive test preparation courses for the purpose of retraining laid off and out-of-field teachers to meet subject matter competency requirements for teaching science, mathematics, or industrial and technology education.

2. Specifies preferences for examination courses to be based on the following priorities:

A. First priority shall be for retraining laid-off teachers in order to prepare them for obtaining subject matter credentials in science or mathematics.

B. Second priority shall be for retraining teachers who have been displaced and are currently teaching out of their field of expertise or competency area.

3. Requires school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools that receive funding from a local workforce investment board to reimburse teachers who successfully pass a subject matter competency assessment in the specified areas for fees paid to take the examinations [CSET Subtests] and any fees charged by the Commission.


(6) Reminder: Opportunity for Input on Standards Related to the Teaching of Mathematics Closes Today

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

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 first related to the preparation of all Multiple Subject credential candidates and the latter two related to two types of mathematics specialist credentials. 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.


(7) Opportunity to Participate in “Aim for Algebra” Study

Contact: Michelle Tiu –

California middle and high school mathematics teachers are invited to participate this fall in a study sponsored by WestEd to test the effectiveness of Aim for Algebra, an intervention curriculum linked to the California content standards that targets specific areas of mathematics that most often become barriers to learning algebra.  The curriculum was developed at WestEd by experts in the field of mathematics and mathematics education and is linked to the California content standards.

Eligibility requirements:
* Have at least three full years of experience teaching mathematics
* Hold a mathematics teaching credential
* Will be teaching one of the following courses during the 2010-11 school year: Algebra Intervention, Algebra Readiness, CAHSEE Prep, Pre-Algebra, or a similar course

The study focuses on two topics of mathematics, “Equations and Formulas” and “Rational Numbers.”  Participants in the study will teach one of those two topics using an Aim for Algebra module and will teach the other topic using their own pre-existing curriculum and materials.  Participants will also administer pre-tests and post-tests to their class and return student assessment data to WestEd.

Participants will receive a stipend of $500, as well as an additional Aim for Algebra module. For further information on the study, please visit  Contact Michelle Tiu me at or 650-381-6444 to express interest in the study by June 15.


(8) California Mathematics Council-North Conference Registration Opens

Source: Gretchen Muller, President, CMC-North

Online registration for the 2010 California Mathematics Council-North Mathematics Conference on the Asilomar Conference Grounds is now open. Schools and/or districts or grant recipients with funds that need to be spent by June 30 can use those funds to register for the conference.

The final program is close to being complete and the brochure will be online in late July/early August and mailed in August. Some of the featured speakers include Lucy West, Jo Boaler, Phil Daro, Steve Leinwand and Marcy Cook. Topics include content coaching, common core standards, EL strategies, and differentiation.

Visit to register. Space is limited this year, so early registration is encouraged.

Please check the CMC website for up-to-date information:


(9) “Aceves, Torlakson in Runoff for Schools Chief” by Jill Tucker

SourceSan Francisco Chronicle – 10 June 2010

…Retired district Superintendent Larry Aceves, a dark horse contender in the race for state superintendent of public instruction got more votes than two legislative bigwigs, shocking the education establishment and proving that candidates can still make the cut without a war chest.

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, came in second. The two will face a runoff for the nonpartisan post in November.

State Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, took third and is out of the race along with nine other contenders… If Aceves wins, he would become the state’s first Latino superintendent of public instruction…

Torlakson will continue to have the endorsement of the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, among other labor groups, and presumably the campaign donations that come with them. He has name recognition from 14 years in Sacramento, and a reputation as a bridge builder between Democrats and Republicans as well as business and labor.

Yet Aceves seemed to appeal to voters wanting a middle ground between Torlakson and Romero, who aligned herself with Obama’s Race to the Top initiatives, supporting a new law that allows a majority of parents at low-performing schools to authorize a takeover by a charter or other independent school operator.

“I think the voters are saying, yes, we need change, but it needs to be thoughtful, it needs to be reasonable, and it needs to be long term,” Aceves said.

Aceves went after Republican voters, who were more likely to turn out for a hot gubernatorial GOP primary, said Torlakson’s campaign strategist John Shallman.
“There was an opening with Romero and Tom being established Democrats,” Shallman said Wednesday.

Nonetheless, Aceves’ top finish surprised the education establishment, including the California Teachers Association, which actively opposed Romero.

“Quite a few people did not agree with the policies dictated out of D.C.,” said CTA President David Sanchez, referring to Romero’s support of Race to the Top…

The two candidates are seeking to replace state Superintendent Jack O’Connell, a former state legislator who will be termed out this year. O’Connell endorsed Torlakson.

The job of state schools chief is technically an administrative post with the responsibility to run the California Department of Education and implement state policy. The position comes with a big soapbox and a shoestring budget.


Related Information:

The vote count for all 12 candidates in the California Statewide Primary Election for State Superintendent of Public Instruction is available online at the Secretary of State’s web site:

Aceves received 19.0% of the votes cast in the race; Torlakson received 18.2%, and Gloria Romero received 17.1%. The fourth-place contender, Lydia Gutierrez, received 8.8% of the votes cast.

Romero’ concession statement is posted on her Web site,  In part, Romero said, “The victors in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction were two different wings of the same status-quo education establishment: ACSA’s interests for administrators prevailed alongside CTA’s interests for teachers.  The interests of the reform community, on behalf of parents and kids, lost.”


The following two articles contain more details about the top three candidates:

“Romero’s Superintendent, Education Reform Ambitions Halted” by Rebecca Kimitch
SourceSan Gabriel Valley Tribune – 9 June 2010

“Superintendent Candidates Face Runoff. Now What?” by Corey G. Johnson
Source: California Watch – 11 June 2010




(1) National Governors Association and State Education Chiefs Launch Common State Academic Standards

Contacts: Jodi Omear (NGA), 202-624-5346; Kate Dando (CCSSO), 202-336-7034
URL (Math):
URL (Gov.):

On June 2, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released a set of state-led education standards, the Common Core State Standards, at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, GA. The English-language arts and mathematics standards for grades K-12 were developed in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders including content experts, states, teachers, school administrators and parents.

The release of the standards marks the conclusion of the development of the Common Core State Standards and signals the start of the adoption and implementation process by the states. The year-long process was led by governors and chief state school officers in 48 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia. The final standards were informed by nearly 10,000 public comments and by standards in other top performing countries so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy.

These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school fully prepared for college and careers.

In the coming months, each state will follow its own procedures and processes for adoption of the Common Core State Standards. The NGA Center and CCSSO recognize that meaningful and effective implementation of the Common Core State Standards is critical to achieving these goals. To that end, the two organizations are continuing to work closely with a range of partners on how to best support states and districts as they move from adoption to implementation.

Governor Schwarzenegger stated, “California leads the nation with our rigorous academic standards, and I am committed to ensuring these standards are upheld. The Common Core Standards released today set a high, though minimum, bar for all states to reach in K-12 educational content to help ensure that every student is college and career ready. I created the Academic Content Standards Commission to consider the Common Core Standards and make recommendations for policy changes to ensure all of California’s standards are as rigorous as or more rigorous than those laid out in Common Core…My Administration looks forward to receiving [the] recommendations [of the California Academic Content Standards Commission].”

UC-Berkeley mathematics professor Hung-Hsi Wu stated, “The Common Core mathematics standards succeed in being both mathematically coherent and grade level appropriate. Overall, they are the best standards that I have seen in the past twenty years. If we can design a professional development program of the same caliber to go with these standards, then our nation will be making a substantial first step towards educational excellence in mathematics.”

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, the Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics, and the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators issued a common statement in response to the Common Core State Standards which is available online at  The organizations “support the goal of the CCSS to describe a coherent, focused curriculum that has realistically high expectations and supports an equitable mathematics education for all students.” Further, they “strongly encourage and support both research about the standards themselves (e.g., research on specific learning trajectories and grade placement of specific content) and their implementation, as well as periodic review and revision based on such research.”


(2) “Maryland Endorses Core Standards for Public Schools” by Michael Birnbaum

SourceThe Washington Post– 26 May 2010

Maryland…became one of the first states to endorse academic standards that are part of a movement to unify reading and math instruction across the nation, a move that would affect every public school student in the state and require new teacher training and standardized tests…

The reforms mean that Maryland’s 844,000 students would study the same topics in the same year as peers in other states that sign on to the standards. The changes come alongside others that will tie student performance to teacher evaluations and toughen graduation requirements in math and science — all part of Maryland’s effort to win as much as $250 million in federal Race to the Top education grants…

Kentucky is the only other state that has endorsed the standards. The District and every state except Texas and Alaska signed on to the initial effort last year, but some states have wavered about adopting them. The D.C. school system plans to adopt them this summer. Officials in Virginia have said that their current standards are strong and that they do not expect to change them…


(3) NASA Invites the Public to Picture Their “Face in Space”

Contact: John Yembrick –

NASA is inviting members of the public to send electronic images of their faces into orbit aboard one of the final remaining space shuttle missions.

Visitors to the “Face in Space” website can upload their portrait to fly with the astronauts aboard shuttle Discovery’s STS-133 mission and/or shuttle Endeavour’s STS-134 mission. Participants will receive special certificates from the Internet site once the mission is completed.

“The Space Shuttle Program belongs to the public, and we are excited when we can provide an opportunity for people to share the adventure of our missions,” said Space Shuttle Program Manager John Shannon. “This website will allow you to be a part of history and participate as we complete our final missions.”

To submit a picture, visit   Those without a picture can skip the image upload section, and NASA will fly their name.

Discovery and Endeavour’s missions are the final two flights remaining until the retirement of the space shuttle fleet. They are targeted to launch in September and November, respectively. For more information about the STS-133 and STS-134 missions, visit