COMET • Vol. 11, No. 15 – 2 September 2010



(1) California State Board of Education Approves Adoption of New Academic Content Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts

URL (SBE Agenda):
URL (Math Standards):
URL (ELA Standards):

At its meeting on August 2, the California State Board of Education unanimously approved the recommendation by the California Academic Content Standards Commission (ACSC) to adopt the Academic Content Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and for Mathematics. Each set of standards includes the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the California Specific Standards added by the Commission. (See for the August 17 version of the mathematics standards.) The 12:27 p.m. vote followed two hours of discussion and public comment.

The ACSC was thanked for its hard work, and Sue Stickel (Commission Project Director) was praised for her leadership. After the vote, Board President Ted Mitchell called this “a historic moment for the State of California and, more importantly, for the children of California.” Mitchell noted that “this is the beginning of a process and not the end of one.” Mitchell directed the California Department of Education and Board staff “to create an implementation plan as defined in the legislation and to work with the legislature to launch a curriculum development process that can begin to operationalize these standards.”

In a memorandum included in the Board’s materials, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell wrote, “If the State Board of Education adopts the CCSS, my staff at the California Department of Education will work to develop a timeline and plan for implementing the standards. The implementation plan will address curriculum frameworks, instructional materials, assessments, and accountability measures.”

The agenda for the August 2 Board meeting is posted at  Agenda Item 3 includes links to (a) the ACSC’s recommendation to the Board, (b) the Sacramento County Office of Education Web site ( which contains ACSC meeting agendas and other materials, and (c) Superintendent O’Connell’s recommendation to the Board.

To view a map depicting which states have adopted the CCSS to date, please visit


Related Stories:

(a) “Schools Shift to National Standards” by Diana Lambert

Source: The Sacramento Bee – 3 August 2010

(b) “California Signs on to Education Standards” by Howard Blume

Source: Los Angeles Times – 3 August 2010

(c) Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Announces California Adopts Common Core State Standards

Source: California Department of Education

(2) State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Issues Statement on California’s Loss in Phase 2 of the Federal Race to the Top Competition

Source: California Department of Education

[See related story in the National News section below.] On August 24, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued the following statement after learning that California was not selected as a winner for Phase 2 funding in the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) competition.

“I am deeply disappointed that our application was not chosen as a winner in the Race to the Top competition. However, the loss of the funding may slow, but not defeat, our efforts to improve student achievement in California,” O’Connell said.

“We remain fully committed to continue seeking the strategies and resources demanded to accelerate our efforts to close the achievement gap among different groups of students by creating fundamental and far-reaching reforms.
“Our application focused on the necessary elements to help us meet the needs of our lowest-performing students and help us raise the ceiling for students who are already performing at high levels. These elements included rigorous, internationally benchmarked standards, effective use of data, more emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and the most important ingredient of all–effective and accountable teachers and principals. These are the fundamentals that will improve achievement in the short run and for the long term so that we can create a statewide system of excellence in our public schools. We will continue our efforts in these areas.

“I want to offer my deepest appreciation to the dynamic and diverse team of seven local superintendents who led the bottom-up approach in writing the Phase 2 application and in arguing California’s case before the federal team of reviewers,” O’Connell said. The seven district superintendents are from Clovis, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Sanger, and San Francisco unified school districts.

“I also applaud the more than 302 local educational agencies or LEAs who decided to join us in taking on this bold reform initiative on behalf of California’s children. Their participation in this effort required great amounts of vision, courage, and collaboration. I know they are dedicated educators who will continue to work toward better results for the students they serve.”

California’s RTTT Phase 2 application was rooted in four key areas of reform that call for:
— Refining California’s rigorous state standards by adopting internationally benchmarked common core standards and aligned assessments that better prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
— Recruiting, developing, and retaining effective teachers and principals and ensuring that they are helping students that need them the most;
— Expanding our education data system to better measure student success in college and the workforce; and
— Dramatically improving the state’s persistently lowest-performing schools.

California’s Phase 2 RTTT application also emphasized the critical goal of advancing the state’s students’ understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The plan included an emphasis on building a strong STEM foundation in the kindergarten through eighth grade system, an expansion of support systems, and infrastructure for the future of STEM.

California’s application was one of 19 finalists competing for a portion of the available $3.4 billion to support education reforms. A team consisting of Governor Schwarzenegger’s Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss, Los Angeles Unified School District (USD) Superintendent Ray Cortines, Fresno USD District Superintendent Mike Hanson, Long Beach USD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser, and Chief Deputy Superintendent Geno Flores from the California Department of Education traveled to Washington, DC, to give a presentation on California’s RTTT Application before a team of peer reviewers. (For more information on these team members, see Their presentation is available for download from the state’s RTTT Web site, which also contains a copy of the state’s application and related information (see


Related Stories:


(a) “California Loses Bid for Federal Race to the Top Education Grant” by Howard Blume

Source: Los Angeles Times – 24 August 2010

(b) “Eastern States Dominate in Winning School Grants” by Sam Dillon

Source: The New York Times – 24 August 2010


(3) Los Angeles Unified School Board Endorses New Teacher Evaluation Principles, Including the Use of Value-Added Data as One Measure of Teacher Effectiveness

Source: Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education

This morning, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education adopted a statement authorizing Superintendent Ray Cortines to “expedite negotiations immediately with United Teachers Los Angeles and Associated Administrators of Los Angeles to develop a fair and valid process by which we can employ multiple measure reviews that differentiate between performance levels of our educators, allowing us to better target our support, interventions, and resources, and offering the opportunity to better leverage the amazing teachers and leaders throughout the district who are too often unrecognized.” Cortines plans to initiate discussions with unions next week.

The Board set forth a set of six principles that “form our core beliefs surrounding this work and, as such, must be fully embraced by the eventual agreement [with the unions].” These include “a balanced use of appropriate value-added data,” using the students’ standardized test score gains as one measure of teacher performance. The new teacher ratings must also “include and reflect meaningful parent engagement.” The ratings will be used to inform hiring, leadership, and tenure decisions.

For more details, visit and

Also see the Los Angeles Times series of articles on teacher evaluation entitled, “Grading the Teachers: Value-Added Analysis” at


Related Stories:

(a) “Formula to Grade Teachers’ Skill Gains Acceptance, and Critics” by Sam Dillon

Source: The New York Times – 31 August 2010

“How good is one teacher compared with another?

“A growing number of school districts have adopted a system called value-added modeling to answer that question, provoking battles from Washington to Los Angeles–with some saying it is an effective method for increasing teacher accountability, and others arguing that it can give an inaccurate picture of teachers’ work…”

(b) “Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers”

Source: Economic Policy Institute (EPI)
URL (Report):
URL (PR): and

“In a new EPI report, leading educational testing experts caution against heavy reliance on the use of test scores in teacher evaluation.

“Student test scores are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness, even with the addition of value-added modeling (VAM), a new Economic Policy Institute report by leading testing experts finds. Though VAM methods have allowed for more sophisticated comparisons of teachers than were possible in the past, they are still inaccurate, so test scores should not dominate the information used by school officials in making high- stakes decisions about the evaluation, discipline and compensation of teachers.”



(1) Nine States and the District of Columbia Win Second Round Race to the Top Grants

Source: U.S. Department of Education – 24 August 2010

On August 24, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that 10 applicants won grants in the second phase of the Race to the Top competition. (See the video of his announcement at  Joining Phase 1 winners Delaware and Tennessee, the 10 winning Phase 2 applications in alphabetical order are the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

“We had many more competitive applications than money to fund them in this round,” Duncan said. “We’re very hopeful there will be a Phase 3 of Race to the Top and have requested $1.35 billion dollars in next year’s budget. In the meantime, we will partner with each and every state that applied to help them find ways to carry out the bold reforms they’ve proposed in their applications.”

The 10 winning applicants have adopted rigorous common, college- and career-ready standards in reading and math, created pipelines and incentives to put the most effective teachers in high-need schools, and have implemented alternative pathways to teacher and principal certification.

The Department of Education has posted links to all Phase 2 applications online at  Phase 2 peer reviewers’ comments and scores are also included in the chart. Reviewers’ comments and scores for California are available at  Videos of states’ presentations should be posted by September 10.


(2) U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan Announces Winners of Competition to Improve Student Assessments

Source: U.S. Department of Education – 2 September 2010
URL (Duncan):

In an effort to provide ongoing feedback to teachers during the course of the school year, measure annual student growth, and move beyond narrowly-focused bubble tests, the U.S. Department of Education awarded two groups of states grants to develop a new generation of tests earlier today. The new tests will be aligned to the higher standards that were recently developed by governors and chief state school officers and have been adopted by 36 states. The tests will assess students’ knowledge of mathematics and English language arts from third grade through high school.

The grant requests, totaling approximately $330 million, are part of the Race to the Top competition and will be awarded to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in the amounts of approximately $170 and $160 million respectively.

At the leadership team meeting of Achieve’s American Diploma Project, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan exclaimed, “Today is a great day! I have looked forward to this day for a long time–and so have America’s teachers, parents, students, and school leaders. Today is the day that marks the beginning of the development of a new and much-improved generation of assessments for America’s schoolchildren. Today marks the start of Assessments 2.0.”

“As I travel around the country, the number one complaint I hear from teachers is that state bubble tests pressure teachers to teach to a test that doesn’t measure what really matters,” said Duncan. “Both of these winning applicants are planning to develop assessments that will move us far beyond this and measure real student knowledge and skills.”

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is a coalition of 26 states, including California. The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium is a coalition of 31 states. The assessments will be ready for use by the 2014-15 school year.

“Given that these assessment proposals, designed and developed by the states, were voluntary, it was impressive to see a vast majority of states choose to participate,” said Duncan.

The PARCC coalition will test students’ ability to read complex text, complete research projects, excel at classroom speaking and listening assignments, and work with digital media. PARCC will also replace the one end-of-year high stakes accountability test with a series of assessments throughout the year that will be averaged into one score for accountability purposes, reducing the weight given to a single test administered on a single day, and providing valuable information to students and teachers throughout the year.

The SMARTER coalition will test students using computer adaptive technology that will ask students tailored questions based on their previous answers. SMARTER will continue to use one test at the end of the year for accountability purposes, but will create a series of interim tests used to inform students, parents, and teachers about whether students are on track.

For both consortia, these periodic assessments could replace already existing tests, such as interim assessments that are in common use in many classrooms today. Moreover, both consortia are designing their assessment systems with the substantial involvement of experts and teachers of English learners and students with disabilities to ensure that these students are appropriately assessed.

For more information, access the full press releases at the Web site above.


(3) Link between National and International Assessments (NAEP and TIMSS) Planned for 2011 Study

Source: IES (Institute of Education Sciences) Newsflash

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is initiating a new effort to link national and international assessments so that states can compare their own students’ performance against international benchmarks. The linking study, to be conducted in 2011, is intended to enable NCES to project state-level scores on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

NAEP–also known as the Nation’s Report Card–measures student learning in 50 states, several urban districts including the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions in a way that permits comparisons over time to the nation and among the participating jurisdictions. The next NAEP fourth- and eighth-grade reading and mathematics assessments will be conducted in 2011. The NAEP science assessment will also be conducted at eighth grade in 2011.

TIMSS measures students’ mathematics and science learning in more than 60 countries, enabling nations to compare their progress with that of other countries. Fourth- and eighth-grade students in the United States participate in TIMSS. The next TIMSS will be conducted in 2011. Unlike NAEP, TIMSS does not have an on-going state component.

In the linking study, two representative national samples will be tested on their knowledge of mathematics and science by taking both the NAEP and TIMSS assessments. One sample of 10,000 eighth-graders will take combined test booklets in the winter of 2011 as part of NAEP. The other sample of 7,500 eighth-graders will take combined test booklets in the spring of 2011 as part of TIMSS.

The relationships between the two assessments of mathematics and science that are found in these two samples will permit state-level projections of how the students in the 50 states and the District of Columbia that took NAEP would have performed in eighth-grade mathematics and science on TIMSS, with scores that can be compared to those of other countries. In addition, eight states have agreed to administer TIMSS 2011 to state representative samples to ensure the accuracy of the linking projections. The eight states are: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and North Carolina.

For more information about NAEP, visit
For more information about TIMSS, visit

Both NAEP and TIMSS are administered by the National Center for Education Statistics within the Institute of Education Sciences.


(4) New Report: Curriculum Design, Development, and Implementation in an Era of Common Core State Standards

Source: Barbara Reys — President, Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators
URL (Report):

The adoption of Common Core State Standards by 37 states (and counting) underscores the need for new curriculum development efforts.  A new report prepared by Jere Confrey and Erin Krupa from North Carolina State University, provides a summary of key ideas, recommendations, and action items generated by participants at a conference held in Arlington, Virginia, last month that was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum. A copy of the report and other conference-related files are posted at


(5) What Works Clearinghouse Creates New Topic Area: High School Math

Source: Institute of Education Sciences – Newsflash – 31 August 2010

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) was established in 2002 by the Institute of Education Sciences ( at the U.S. Department of Education to provide educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a central and trusted source of scientific evidence about “what works” in education. Through systematic reviews to identify rigorous research, the WWC [seeks to provide] educators with credible and reliable evidence that they can use to make informed decisions. (See FAQ:

A new topic area, High School Math, will evaluate research on math curricula and interventions for high school students in subjects such as pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and calculus. This information seeks to support educators in making informed decisions about math curricula, products, and classroom strategies. (See

The first report in this new area looks at the research on the combination of Carnegie Learning Curricula and Cognitive Tutor Software. Read the full report and see how the WWC rated the research on this intervention at

More information about the WWC and its research is available on its Web site:


(6) “Study Links Tech to Algebra Achievement” by Ian Quillen

Source: Education Week – 2 September 2010
URL (YouTube):

A summary of findings from a four-year study released today concludes that Algebra I teachers who were trained in and used a program that allowed them to monitor students’ progress on graphing calculators led to significantly improved achievement by their students on a researcher-designed test.

The study, part of Ohio State’s Classroom Connectivity in Mathematics and Science research project (, illustrates a direct link between the implementation of classroom technology and professional development with academic achievement, say the summary’s authors.

The research, conducted from 2005 to 2009, was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education. Texas Instruments supplied classes with the TI-Navigator system, which allows instructors to view students’ work in real time and offer feedback.

“There’s details that we don’t quite understand about how teachers did it,” said Jeremy Roschelle, the director for the Center for Technology in Learning at nonprofit research firm SRI International, and a consultant on the study. “But there’s so much noise out there [about technology] and so few studies out there that have significant results, that it’s very important when one of these comes out.”

Roschelle’s comments indicating a dearth of research surrounding education technology echo those by other experts in the field. Even Karen Cator, the U.S. Department of Education’s ed-tech chief, has stressed the need for more thorough research as one of the major pillars of the National Education Technology Plan ( released this past spring.

The current study included 127 teachers from 28 states and two Canadian provinces in its first year. Roughly half of the 1,760 students enrolled were placed in a treatment group where their teachers received a week of training in the TI-Navigator system before the year began, as well as continuing professional development. The other half were placed in a control group where teachers received neither the program nor the training.

Of the more than 1,200 students who yielded dependable data, those in the treatment group tested about 10 percent better, on average, on an exam created to reflect Algebra I standards in 13 states that accounted for the majority of students studied.

In subsequent years, teachers who taught in the control group the year before were placed into the treatment group, and compared not only against the control group of that year, but also against their own results as the control group the year before. In all but one year, students in the treatment group continued to make statistically significant gains against the control group from that year. Gains by teachers in the treatment group who were part of the control group in a previous year were also consistent.

Through qualitative analysis, researchers also found that teachers using the technology engaged in deeper and more conceptual discussions with their students about math principals than teachers who were not using the technology.

Lead researcher Doug Owens cautioned that the reasons behind the increase in achievement on the test were not completely understood, and that not all of the data had been analyzed. He also stressed that the results should be looked at as linking the combination of technology and professional development to increased achievement, rather than taking either the technology or the professional development by itself as causal factors.

“We consider the treatment to be all of those things,” said Owens, a professor of education at Ohio State. “We have no ways to sort those out.”

For more information on the study, access the video at


Related Item:

Conference Next Week: Mathematics Education–Connecting Research To Practice

Contact: Mike Lutz –
URL (Session):
A conference on connecting research in mathematics education to practice will be held next weekend (September 10-11) on the campus of California State University, Bakersfield. A variety of sessions of interest to teachers of all levels will be available. The conference is an approved T^3 Regional Conference, as there will be a number of sessions demonstrating how technology can be used to teach mathematics concepts effectively. Visit the Web sites above for more information or contact the Conference Chair, Mike Lutz at