COMET • Vol. 11, No. 24 – 6 November 2010


(1) Middle School Algebra I Teachers Sought to Participant in WestEd Study

Source: Uma Errickson, WestEd – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Program
Contact: Kathleen Lepori, WestEd STEM:; (650) 381-6424

WestEd, a non-profit research, development, and service agency, is conducting a study to test the effectiveness of the “Learning and Teaching Linear Functions” (LTLF) professional development program on teacher practices and student learning.

This is a unique professional opportunity for middle school Algebra I teachers, who will receive a stipend of $1000 (control group) or $2000 (treatment group) for being part of the 2-year study (2011-12 and 2012-13 school years). Participating teachers will receive five days of LTLF professional development in the San Francisco Bay area with all travel expenses paid.

Only 70 middle school Algebra I teachers will be selected to participate in this study, so early registration is important. To apply to participate, please visit the LTLF Web site at and complete the teacher consent form. For more information, please contact the recruitment coordinator, Kathleen Lepori, at or (650) 381-6424.


(2) Documents are Now Available for Monday’s Joint Meeting of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the State Board of Education

Sources: (a) Rhonda Brown, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
(b) Jennifer Johnson, California Department of Education
URL (Agenda): or

Monday afternoon’s joint meeting of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the State Board of Education will be videotaped and the file posted online later in the week. Efforts are being made to arrange a webcast of this meeting, so those interested in viewing the meeting live on November 8 are urged to visit the Current Commission Meetings Web site ( that day. If the meeting is able to be webcast, there will be a link in the “Meeting Video” column.

The first topic on the agenda is a discussion of the implications of the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Timelines for adoption of the state curriculum frameworks and textbooks will be presented, along with implications for teacher preparation.

The following documents are available on the Commission Meetings Web page for the November 8 meeting:

– Meeting agenda:
– Common Core State Standards: Development of an Implementation Plan:
– Teacher Preparation/Evaluation (PPT presentation file):
– Implications of the Adoption of the Common Core Standards on Teacher Preparation (PPT presentation file):

COMET readers may be particularly interested in reading “Common Core State Standards: Development of an Implementation Plan.” Below is a relatively lengthy excerpt from this document (

State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) and the California Department of Education (CDE) are providing the following information to the State Board of Education (SBE) for information at their joint meeting with the Commission on Teacher Credentialing on November 8, 2010…  Because Education Code (EC) Section 60200.7 prohibits the SBE from acting on instructional materials adoptions or procedures related to them, there will be no specific action at this time.

On August 2, 2010, the SBE adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects, and Mathematics in response to the recommendation of the Academic Content Standards Commission (ACSC). The action included the CCSS and specific additional standards that the Commission had deemed necessary to maintain the integrity and rigor of California’s previous state academic standards. The CCSS were developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center).

In the fall of 2009, governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states (including California), two territories, and the District of Columbia, committed to developing a set of standards that would help prepare students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in education and careers after high school. The development of the CCSS was a voluntary state-led effort coordinated by the CCSSO and NGA Center, with stakeholders from nearly every state in the country contributing to their development. The feedback and the review process was integral to the shaping of these new standards, and included educators from kindergarten through grade twelve, postsecondary faculty, curriculum and assessment experts, researchers, national organizations, and community groups. In January 2010, the passage of Senate Bill X5 1 EC included the ACSC. The ACSC was composed of members appointed by the Governor and the Legislature, the majority of whom were current public school elementary or secondary classroom teachers. The ACSC was authorized to make recommendations to the SBE to approve or disapprove the CCSS, and to supplement those standards with up to 15 percent additional standards. The ACSC met four times in June and July 2010, and provided its recommendations to the SBE on August 2, 2010.

CDE staff is working on implementation scenarios for the CCSS that were adopted by the SBE on August 2, 2010. The actual timelines for that implementation will be dependent on actions by the Legislature to authorize and fund implementation-related activities. Noteworthy is that current statute (EC Section 60200.7) restricts the SBE from taking actions related to the development of curriculum frameworks and the adoption of instructional materials through July 1, 2013. To illustrate the effect of the law on implementation plans, there are two timelines, one that assumes legislative action repealing EC Section 60200.7 (Attachment 1) and another that is based upon no change in the law (Attachment 2). The timelines take into account curriculum framework development and instructional materials adoptions, as both activities would be crucial components of any implementation plan. If no legislative action is taken to lift the suspension, the soonest that a framework could be presented to the SBE for action would be 2015 with an instructional materials adoption in 2017. [If legislative action is taken, the target date for the mathematics framework would be May 2013, with an instructional materials adoption in November 2014.]

The California application for the Race to the Top competition included detailed proposals and requests for funding to cover the costs of curriculum framework development, professional development, and other activities in support of the implementation of the Common Core. Since California did not receive federal funding through Race to the Top, those activities will have to be supported by the Legislature through additional appropriations if the implementation is to take place.

In addition to new curriculum and instructional materials, teachers, administrators, and educators will need professional development focusing on the CCSS. Previous initiatives have focused on adopted instructional materials with an emphasis on kindergarten through grade eight. The new initiative will have to be broader and deeper, as the focus must be on teachers and educators at the elementary, middle, and high school levels to meet the needs of their diverse learner population. Lastly, teacher education programs will need to shift their attention to the CCSS.

Another critical component of the implementation of the CCSS is the development of new assessments based on the new standards. California is a participant in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a consortium that is developing assessments based upon the CCSS. PARCC has established a timeline of developing pilot tests by 2011–12 with field testing in 2012–13 and 2013–14 and full implementation by 2014–15.

EC Section 60605.8 (h) requires the SSPI and SBE to present a schedule and an implementation plan to the Governor and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature for integrating the CCSS into the state educational system. Important legislative actions will include allowing the development of curriculum frameworks and adoption of instructional materials, creating and directing professional development programs, and reauthorizing statewide assessment systems.

More immediate action has been taken, as the CDE has created a dedicated Web page that includes Power Point presentations giving an overview of the standards and the new assessment system. The CDE has presented on the CCSS and the PARCC to educators in northern and southern California. The Power Point presentations are available at Additional activities that will be taken include the editing, publication, and posting of the final version of the standards; translating them into Spanish; developing a Web page for responding to Frequently Asked Questions and presentations and other information for teachers, administrators, and parents regarding the potential impacts of the statewide adoption of CCSS; and working with other agencies to prepare for the implementation activities described above. [Information on necessary funding follows.]…

The implementation of the Common Core State Standards provides opportunities and challenges for California. We look forward to beginning this next phase of updating and improving California’s standards-based educational system. [Curriculum framework and instructional materials adoption timelines for are presented in the two attachments.]


(3) Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Congratulates Governor-Elect Jerry Brown and Superintendent of Public Instruction-Elect Tom Torlakson

Source: California Department of Education – 3 November 2010

Last Wednesday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued the following statement regarding the election of Jerry Brown as California’s next Governor and Tom Torlakson as the next State Superintendent of Public Instruction:

“I congratulate Attorney General Jerry Brown on his election as California’s next Governor and Assembly member Tom Torlakson on being elected as the next State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Both of these talented and dedicated public servants are longtime friends. I know that both of them will continue to be passionate champions for students of California in their new roles.

“I look forward to working with both Governor-elect Brown and Superintendent-elect Torlakson during the next few months of transition. I also remain committed to helping each of them in coming years as they work to better California’s future by improving achievement for all students and closing the achievement gap.”



An article in the Los Angeles Times on November 3 ( included the following:

“Torlakson’s campaign was boosted by teachers unions, which spent more on his campaign through independent expenditures than Torlakson raised himself. The California Teachers Association spent more than $2.1 million on Torlakson’s campaign.  School administrators spent more than $1.5 million for [Larry] Aceves, who also received the backing of NetFlix Chief Executive Reed Hastings, a former member of the state Board of Education…

“The superintendent of public instruction, the only nonpartisan statewide elected official, oversees the Education Department. Torlakson will replace Democrat Jack O’Connell, who has held the post since 2002.”




(1) Right Parietal Lobe Stimulation Enhances Mathematics Skills

Source: Current Biology – November 23, 2010

A team of British neuroscientists reported on Thursday that electrical stimulation to a region of the brain implicated in mathematics learning can significantly affect mathematics skills. Study highlights from the article, which was published in the journal Current Biology, include the following:
– Brain stimulation to the parietal cortex can enhance or impair numerical abilities.
– The effects were specific to the polarity of the current.
– The improvement in numerical abilities lasts up to 6 months.
– The brain stimulation affected specifically the material that was recently learned.

The article, “Modulating Neuronal Activity Produces Specific and Long-Lasting Changes in Numerical Competence,” is available in its entirety from

Abstract [without citations]:

Around 20% of the population exhibits moderate to severe numerical disabilities, and a further percentage loses its numerical competence during the lifespan as a result of stroke or degenerative diseases. In this work, we investigated the feasibility of using noninvasive stimulation to the parietal lobe during numerical learning to selectively improve numerical abilities. We used transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), a method that can selectively inhibit or excitate neuronal populations by modulating GABAergic (anodal stimulation) and glutamatergic (cathodal stimulation) activity. We trained subjects for 6 days with artificial numerical symbols, during which we applied concurrent TDCS to the parietal lobes. The polarity of the brain stimulation specifically enhanced or impaired the acquisition of automatic number processing and the mapping of number into space, both important indices of numerical proficiency. The improvement was still present 6 months after the training. Control tasks revealed that the effect of brain stimulation was specific to the representation of artificial numerical symbols. The specificity and longevity of TDCS on numerical abilities establishes TDCS as a realistic tool for intervention in cases of atypical numerical development or loss of numerical abilities because of stroke or degenerative illnesses.


This research sparked a number of news articles, including the following:

(a) “Electric brain stimulation can improve math skills” by Kate Kelland  (Reuters)

(b) “Can electrical brain stimulation really make you better at math–and is it less painful than learning calculus?” by Katherine Harmon (Scientific American)



(2) “NCTM Action on the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics” by J. Michael Shaughnessy

Source: NCTM Summing Up – November 2010

[Message from the President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), J. Michael Shaughnessy] In my September President’s Message, I pointed to forthcoming reports from two NCTM task forces that worked this summer on recommendations to provide assistance for states, districts, teacher leaders, and teachers who will be implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). The NCTM Board of Directors reviewed the task forces’ reports at its October meeting, and I want to share with you more details of their work and recommendations.

The first NCTM task force has developed a report that provides details of how the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics fit with NCTM’s major curriculum and standards publications. This report, Making it Happen: A Guide to Interpreting and Implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, is currently in copy editing at NCTM and is on a fast track to be published within four to six weeks…

The preeminent message in both the NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000) and CCSSM is the importance of nurturing mathematical thinking and reasoning processes in our students. No bulleted list of specific content standards will hold together as a coherent, meaningful whole, or make any significant contribution to our students’ growth in mathematics, without interweaving mathematical “practices.” Mathematics curricula must show students the power of reasoning and sense making as they explore mathematical structures, of communication as they construct viable arguments, and of multiple representations as they engage in mathematical modeling…

The second task force whose work I now report on brought together representatives of NCTM, the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM), the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE), and the Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics (ASSM).  This joint task force had a twofold charge:

1) Generate recommendations for actions and resources that are needed to help teachers with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM).

2) Consider ways that the four national organizations can collaborate in supporting various groups (teachers, teacher leaders and educators, school and district leaders, parents) in implementing the CCSSM and advancing the vision of school mathematics held by the organizations.

This task force developed a set of proactive steps to be taken by NCTM and the other three participating mathematics education organizations with regard to CCSSM. The complete report of the Joint Task Force is on the NCTM Web site at  On the basis of this report, the NCTM Board of Directors and the presidents and boards of NCSM, AMTE, and ASSSM, have identified five priority actions to be undertaken as quickly as possible:

1. Organize and launch a major outreach projectwith two primary foci:  (a) develop and disseminate a core set–a toolkit–of resources that consolidate and highlight key messages of our organizations with regard to CCSSM; and (b) organize and host regional meetings of leadership teams to review the resources and plan local strategies for elevating mathematics teaching and learning.

2. Appoint a Joint Committee of NCTM, NCSM AMTE, and ASSM to serve as a professionally grounded oversight and advisory group that could, over a period of time, suggest needed actions and inform revisions of CCSSM.

3. Convene a group of respected teacher development professionals and scholars to conceptualize and create a professional development system at the school, district, and state levels that connects our organizations’ messages with CCSSM (e.g., the CCSSM Standards of Mathematical Practice and the NCTM Process Standards and the Professional Teaching Standards).

4. Convene an Assessment Working Group to coordinate the field’s best guidance on assessment development and ensure that new student assessments really do address the priorities of the Standards for Mathematical Practice articulated in CCSSM. This includes collaboration with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and SMARTER Balanced Assessment State Consortium.

5. Develop and launch a research agenda focused on implementation of CCSSM that includes systematic study of the implementation of the standards, monitors the impact on instruction and student learning, and informs revisions of CCSSM.

[Also see]

NCTM has begun work on several of these priority activities. PowerPoint resources are being assembled to inform members about CCSSM and related NCTM resources. These will include grade-band-specific PowerPoint presentations for K-grade 3, grades 4-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12, which will soon be on the NCTM Web site. Also underway is initial work on bringing together representatives from several organizations to discuss the viability of an ongoing CCSSM oversight and advisory group. NCTM and three other mathematics education organizations worked together on producing this Joint Task Force report. At a time in the history of mathematics education, when it is important to work closely with other organizations, we are positioned to merge our strengths to promote excellence and equity in mathematics teaching and learning for all students in every school in our nation.