COMET • Vol. 11, No. 16 – 11 September 2010


(1) Bakersfield Mathematics Teacher Selected to Attend Siemens STEM Institute in Washington, D.C.


German Robledo, a mathematics teacher from Golden Valley High School in Bakersfield, CA, was among a select group of 50 science and mathematics educators from across the United States who participated in last month’s Siemens STEM Institute in Washington, DC. Marla Utley, a science teacher at Capistrano Valley Christian School, was another California teacher selected to participate in the week-long institute.

The participants spent the week learning from and working with leading scientists, innovators, and government officials, including Dr. John Holdren (Chief Science Advisor to President Obama) and Dr. Kristina M. Johnson (Under Secretary of Energy). At the Institute, the teachers were engaged in discussions and workshops around key topics such as using technology and social media in the classroom to improve student achievement. They also visited the Department of Energy where they were able to observe real-world applications of STEM subject matter.

“Meeting and working with fellow teachers and industry experts at the Siemens STEM Institute was a fantastic experience,” said German. “We may come from different backgrounds and teach in totally diverse environments, but attending the Institute will help us meet our common goal of preparing and encouraging America’s students to lead the way in STEM industries in the future.”

German learned of the Siemens STEM Institute through an article in COMET earlier this year and decided to apply. “It was one of the best professional development activities I have participated in,” he said. “Being in Washington, D.C. was a thrill. The Siemens Foundation and Discovery Communications were great hosts.”

To help facilitate each educator’s professional development once the Institute concludes, participating teachers formed small groups that will continue researching STEM issues throughout the year. German’s project involves collaborating with physics and math classrooms across the U.S. to provide integrated science learning, and the results of the group’s research will be presented at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

“I will continue to work with the 49 other teachers from throughout the nation and with the facilitators from the institute via online collaborative tools and follow-up webinars,” German said.

Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation, said, “I look forward to hearing back from German next year about his project and how his work here at the Institute has impacted his classroom in Bakersfield.”

“I encourage all science, technology, engineering, and math teachers to apply,” German said. “I feel energized and ready to take my students to the next level.”

For more information on the Siemens STEM Institute, please visit about the 2011 Institute will be shared when it’s available.)


(2) Nonprofit Organization Links Teachers with Donors to Fulfill Classroom Requests

URL: is an online charity that seeks to link teachers who have resource needs for their classrooms (e.g., calculators, science kits, digital cameras, laptops, books, etc.) with donors who would like to help fund the purchase of these resources.

Last week, the Claire Giannini Fund contributed over $1.3 million to fund all 2,200 project requests by California teachers! See for the full story.

Teachers simply need to register at, submit a photo of their classroom, and be prepared to submit a project request with a justification. Donors peruse the various project ideas daily and contribute funds to those that they would like to support. Once a project is fully funded, the materials are sent to the teacher’s school.

For more information, visit


(3) Candidates for the Position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction


The June 13 issue of COMET contained information about the results of the California Primary Election on June 8 regarding the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Race ( With the November 2 General Election now less than two months away, readers may want to acquaint themselves with the backgrounds, platforms, and perspectives of the candidates for this office: Larry Aceves (an educational consultant who is a former President of the Association of California School Administrators and who has experience as a kindergarten teacher, principal and superintendent) and Tom Torlakson (a current member of the State Assembly and former State Senator, the founder of the California Task Force on Youth and Workplace Wellness, and a former science teacher).

At EdSource’s 2010 Forum held earlier this year, a moderated discussion was held with Aceves and Torlakson. COMET readers are encouraged to view the hour-long video of this discussion, during which both men describe their concerns about teacher merit pay and Race to the Top; explain why they strongly support multiple career pathways (college and career readiness); discuss school funding (including views on Propositions 13 and 98); describe how they believe K-12, community colleges, and the CSU and UC systems must collaborate more closely; and explain why they believe that Jerry Brown would be a “stronger advocate for public education” than Meg Brown. The video is available at

Visit the candidates’ Web sites for more information about each candidate:

– Larry Aceves:
– Tom Torlakson: 


(4) California Gubernatorial Candidates Announce Education Platforms

URL (Brown): 
URL (Whitman):

The education plans of the two leading candidates for governor of California, Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, are available on the Web sites above. Below are all of the instances where mathematics, science, and/or STEM are mentioned in their plans (page numbers refer to the locations in the PDF documents above):

Jerry Brown

[pp. 6-7] Plan for Education…

6. A More Balanced and Creative School Curriculum

Current federal and state policies encourage much more school time for basic math and language arts at the expense of other vital subjects. California’s public schools need a broader vision of what constitutes an educated person. I will create local and state initiatives to increase school focus on science, history and the humanities–without reducing needed attention to math and English. We also need to experiment with on-line and other instructional approaches that will use the available school time in more efficient ways.
7. Place special emphasis on teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)

– As part of the broader curriculum described above, we need to strengthen STEM teaching and increase the number of STEM graduates. California’s economic growth depends on its continued leadership in innovation, technology, clean energy and other fields that require strong math and science training.
– We should expand curriculum and teaching materials in STEM subjects, including online and virtual programs, enhanced teaching materials, partnerships with high tech companies and hands-on learning opportunities.

Meg Whitman

[p. 16] Recruit the Best and the Brightest With More H-1B Visas

Ensuring that California has a highly skilled workforce is essential to recruiting and retaining businesses in high-growth sectors such as alternative energy, biotech and information technology. There are currently tens of thousands of elite foreign students who are here legally on student visas, studying in American colleges and universities to obtain advanced degrees in math, science, economics and business management.

[p. 32] California is ranked 48th in Reading and 45th in Math scores. Florida, which pioneered the grading of schools, has experienced significant improvement in math and reading test scores among Hispanic students. Meg will institute a system that grades our schools A-F so parents can easily understand how well their children’s school is performing. The grades will be posted online and parents will be given the option of transferring their kids out of failing schools or converting to a charter school.

[p. 33] Utilize Alternative Paths To The Classroom To Attract High-Quality Teachers

California suffers from a lack of math and science teachers who were actually educated in those disciplines. To fill the gap, Meg will create and strengthen alternative pathways to the classroom that allow professionals with math and science backgrounds to receive expedited accreditation to teach in our public schools.


Note: EdSource recently posted an excellent side-by-side description of the gubernatorial candidates’ education platforms at



(1) “Race to Top Winners Embed STEM Projects in Plans” by Erik W. Robelen

Source: Education Week – 9 September 2010

Fueled by funding from the federal Race to the Top competition, winning states plan to pursue a variety of efforts to advance education in the STEM fields, from building a set of “exemplary” high schools in North Carolina to launching a statewide “innovation network” in Tennessee to designing a program in Florida targeting gifted and talented students from rural areas.

The U.S. Department of Education late last month announced the second round of winners in the $4 billion federal competition, for a total of 11 states plus the District of Columbia. The Race to the Top aims to promote what the federal agency calls “comprehensive, coherent, statewide education reform” across four key areas: standards and assessments, teacher quality, data systems, and turning around low-performing schools.

In addition, the department included STEM–science, technology, engineering, and mathematics–education as a “competitive preference priority” in evaluating state applications, with an emphasis on ensuring the topic was integrated throughout the states’ plans.

That competitive priority certainly caught the notice of states. The winning applications contain a range of substantive plans in STEM, from improving instruction and recruiting more teachers to creating new schools and programs to help more students excel in those fields.

A key component of North Carolina’s STEM agenda in its winning Race to the Top application is the establishment of 10 STEM “anchor schools” to provide exemplary curriculum, serve as residency sites for leadership academies and teacher professional development, and be “test-beds for innovation.”

“We are looking at the STEM anchor schools as being critical in developing a statewide network [of STEM-themed schools] and to be the place that will serve as a laboratory,” June Atkinson, the state schools superintendent in North Carolina, said in an interview. “Each will focus on a STEM theme tied to the economic development of a region.”

In Florida, the state will award up to two grants for rural consortia of school districts to develop model high school STEM programs of study for gifted and talented students. The state also plans to expand efforts to train teachers in those subject areas and provide STEM coaches to the lowest-performing schools, as well as design interim assessments in science and math, among other measures…

The Education Department also emphasized that STEM would be evaluated “in the context of the state’s entire application” and that states should address the priority throughout…

Maryland outlined a variety of STEM-related initiatives in its Race to the Top application, from tripling the number of teachers in STEM fields facing shortages and aligning pre-K-12 STEM curriculum with college and workplace expectations to creating a statewide Maryland STEM Innovation Network and offering teachers new professional development through summer academies that will include a STEM strand for elementary, middle, and high school teachers.

Also, the state’s application highlights plans to fashion a new STEM certification for elementary teachers.

“In our application, we made it very clear that STEM was not stand-alone,” said Nancy S. Grasmick, the state superintendent, “that it was very much integrated” across the state’s efforts to improve education…

[Visit the Web site above to read the article in its entirety.]


(2) President Obama’s 2010 Back to School Speech

Source: The White House

As students begin their school year, President Barack Obama will deliver his second annual Back to School speech on Tuesday, September 14 at Julia R. Masterman Middle-High School in Philadelphia, PA at 10:00 a.m. PDT. The President’s Back to School Speech is an opportunity to speak directly to students across the country. Last year, President Obama encouraged students to study hard, stay in school, and take responsibility for their education.

“Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide,” President Obama said to students last year.

President Obama’s speech will be streamed live on the Web site above and on on September 14.


(3) Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Teacher Fellowships

Source: Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF)
URL (Applic.):

If you (or someone you know) have a strong background in mathematics, science, or engineering; have recognized leadership ability; and have a strong desire to become a high school mathematics or science teacher, you may want to consider applying to be a Knowles Teaching Fellow.

[] The financial benefits of the Fellowship are considerable. The Fellowship ensures that teachers of exceptional knowledge and ability have the resources they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond for up to five years. Each Fellow receives tuition support and monthly stipends while working on a teaching credential. Fellows also receive a stipend during the summer months. Funds are provided for professional development and for teaching materials to support student understanding in scientific inquiry or mathematical problem solving. Fellows can apply for leadership grants and are given financial support to apply for National Board certification and for membership in professional organizations.

Applications for the 2011 fellowships will be posted at on September 15, along with the eligibility and selection criteria. The deadline for entries is January 12, 2011. Only online submissions will be considered.