COMET • Vol. 11, No. 08 – 8 April 2010


(1) Alternative Certification of Mathematics and Science Teachers in California

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC)
URL (Agenda):
URL (Item 3D)
URL (Webcast):

An information item of interest to STEM educators is scheduled to be presented at this month’s meeting of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTCC). Excerpts from Agenda Item 3D follow below:

“This agenda item presents information related to the development of the plan to implement SBX5 1…signed by the Governor in January 2010.  SBX5 1 requires the Commission to develop a process by June 1, 2010 that authorizes additional high quality alternative route educator preparation programs in the areas of science, technology, engineering, math, and career technical education, and allows the Commission to establish alternative criteria for approval of entities that are not regionally accredited [(e.g., a school district, county office of education, or a community-based or nongovernmental organization)]… This agenda item provides information on the progress to date of the work of the Committee on Accreditation subcommittee [which is working to develop the necessary process for institutional approval].

“This item is presented in three parts. Part I presents background information on SBX5 1. Part II summarizes the Regional Accreditation process that institutions of higher education must complete to offer educator preparation in California, specifically what is involved in WASC Accreditation, and Part III presents information on the work by the Committee on Accreditation to develop an alternative process for entities that are not regionally accredited but are interested in offering educator preparation programs in California as is required by SBX5 1.”

The full text of this agenda item is available at


(2) “New Force for STEM Education”–California’s STEM Innovation Network (CSINet)by John Fensterwald

SourceThe Educated Guess – 8 April 2010

A gap in the state’s science, technology, engineering and math education has now been filled with the formal launching on Wednesday (April 7) of the California STEM Innovation Network: CSINet (

Based on a successful model in Ohio, CSINet will be a private/public partnership bringing together K-12 and higher education institutions, high tech businesses, nonprofits, museums and foundations to support and fund STEM policies and programs.

Through a STEM council and regional STEM advocates, the organization will set priorities in an area rich with foundation and corporate involvement but lacking cohesiveness. As a result, even in Silicon Valley, some schools have few computers and narrow bandwidth; the state is ranked, by one measure, 47th in the use of technology for instruction; and there’s little exposure in middle and high schools to STEM careers. [See the results of a recent survey by eSchool News:]

CSINet will be directed by Stephanie Couch, who previously led the K-20 CA Ed Tech Collaborative. Couch had expected three dozen STEM leaders at the STEM summit this week; instead 112 participants signed up–a recognition among corporate and nonprofit leaders of STEM education’s vital role in California’s economy and the need for a unified, strong voice to promote it.

Couch said that CSINet’s first task will be to advocate for making science and engineering a priority in the federal reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind. In most states– certainly in many school districts in California–No Child Left Behind’s focus on annual testing in English and math has led to a narrowing of the curriculum, particularly in low-performing districts, with a disappearance of inquiry-based learning.

The growth of career/technical education in high school, with programs in computer arts, green technology and digital media linked to practical applications and apprenticeships, is a bright spot. But Couch said CSINet’s goal is to infuse STEM and its values of critical thinking and problem solving in the K-14 curriculum. The most immediate way to do that, with districts facing severe budget cuts, is through expanding after-school programs like Citizen Schools in the Bay Area, which recruits volunteers from industry to lead students in hands-on learning. [See]

Many corporations fund their own STEM programs in schools. CSINet will conduct an inventory of what’s being offered and encourage programs to learn from one another and orient their efforts to the priorities that CSINet will set.

Cal Poly President Warren Baker; Susan Hackwood, executive director of the California Council on Science and Technology; and Raytheon CEO William  Swanson co-chaired the planning for CSINet. Bechtel, Chevron and the Gates Foundation have pledged to underwrite CSINet. Gates also has supported similar efforts in six other states, including the Ohio STEM Learning Network (, which contributed to that state’s Race to the Top application.

Also on Wednesday, the Assembly Education Committee approved AB 2019, Assemblyman Tom Torlakson’s bill to establish a task force to develop a comprehensive state plan for technology education [(see]. The 15-member task force will make recommendations by September 2012 in the areas of staff training in technology, wireless infrastructure, hardware and software issues, and funding options. Lobbyists for Children Now and the California Teachers Association were among those who endorsed the creation of a statewide plan for technology. Torlakson, who’s running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said that private funding will underwrite the task force’s work.


(3) Assembly Bill on Teacher Leadership Supported by CCTC

URL (Leg.):

During its meeting this month, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) will share its recommendations on various legislative bills. A bill that CCTC supports is AB 2040 (Brownley), which would “require the commission to convene an advisory panel to explore the recognition of leadership roles within the teaching career pathway. The commission would be required to consider the findings of the advisory panel and report to the Governor and the Legislature by January 1, 2012, on recommendations for the recognition of teacher leaders.” Leadership positions recognized would include “master teachers, mentors, induction support providers and fieldwork supervisors, instructional leaders, department chairs, curriculum coordinators, peer coaches, literacy or mathematics coordinators, assessment coordinators, and accreditation coordinators,” among others. Please visit to read the full text of this bill.

CCTC’s description of AB 2040 includes the following:

“The subject of teacher leaders has become an education policy focus in part due to the statewide increase in the use of experienced teachers as mentors, support providers, master teachers, teacher leaders, and providers of professional development services to other teachers. This increased use of the knowledge, skills and abilities of experienced teachers as peer developers and supporters has come in large part as a result of programs such as induction and internships, as well as local efforts to improve teacher quality in order to improve student achievement. Policy makers question whether teachers are appropriately recognized, prepared, and compensated for these types of roles with the existing teaching credential structure.

“Educational Testing Service (ETS) has begun work on developing model teacher leader standards…[and has] recently released the draft national Teacher Leader Standards for field review…

“In the area of new policy development, the Commission considered two information items on teacher leaders at recent meetings. Commission staff is also attending meetings of the ETS-sponsored effort to develop Model Teacher Leader Standards. The Commission will receive another update on Teacher Leaders at a future meeting from the Professional Services Division…
The Commission has already begun to explore the subject of teacher leaders and staff is closely monitoring developments in this area at the national level.”



(4) Your Input on the Teacher Leadership Draft Model Standards is Requested

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

The Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium, representing a broad array of education organizations, state education agencies, teacher leaders, principal leaders, and institutions of higher education across the nation, has recently released for comment a set of draft model standards for teacher leaders.

The purpose of model standards is to stimulate dialogue among stakeholders of the teaching profession about what constitutes the knowledge, skills and competencies that teachers need in order to assume leadership roles in their schools, districts, and the profession.  Model standards are often used in the development of curriculum, professional development, and standards for such entities as school districts, states, professional organizations and institutions of higher education.  These standards are designed to encourage professional discussion of what constitutes the full range of competencies that teacher leaders possess and how this form of leadership can be distinguished from, but work in tandem with, formal administrative leadership roles to support good teaching and promote student learning. Click to provide your feedback by April 30, 2010.


(5) Call for Participants: STAR California Modified Assessment (CMA) Standard Setting Workshop

Source: Daniel Stanley, STAR Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service – (916) 403-2428

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the California Department of Education are seeking knowledgeable, current California algebra teachers to participate in a standard-setting workshop for the California Modified Assessment for Algebra I. The workshop will be held in Sacramento during the week of August 16, 2010. All expenses will be covered by ETS, including reimbursements to districts for substitute teacher costs.

Standard setting determines the cut scores for assigning performance levels to test takers (i.e., advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic). Participants will review test forms and test data to recommend the cut scores. The California Modified Assessment (CMA) is part of the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program and is administered to public school students with disabilities in grades three through eleven.

Teachers with expertise in English Language Arts (grade nine) and Life Science (grade ten) are also invited to participate in standard-setting workshops. Administrators, district or county content/program specialists, and special education and/or university educators are also eligible to apply. Please visit for details regarding eligibility criteria for participation.

For more information, please contact Dan Stanley at 916-403-2428 or


(6) Sixth-grade Teachers Sought to Participate in WestEd AnimalWatch Study

Source: Uma Errickson, WestEd –

WestEd (a non-profit research, development, and service agency) is conducting a study to test the effectiveness of AnimalWatch, which is a Web-based program designed to provide individualized mathematics tutoring for sixth-grade students. AnimalWatch focuses on pre-algebra readiness topics while connecting standards-aligned mathematics content and authentic environmental science material. AnimalWatch includes word problems, basic skills practice, assessments, and feedback for teachers on student progress. Teachers have the flexibility of using AnimalWatch for reinforcing pre-algebra skills, strengthening mathematics concepts, and reviewing for assessments.

During the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years, participating 6th grade teachers will be eligible to receive stipends of at least $600, and their students will receive free access to the AnimalWatch intelligent tutoring system.

For additional program details and participant requirements, visit the AnimalWatch Web site at  The deadline for teacher enrollment is Friday, April 23. If you have any questions, please contact the recruitment coordinator, Kathleen Lepori, at or 650-381-6424.



(1) $350 Million Now Available to Help Consortia of States Create Next Generation of Assessments

Source:  U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has set aside up to $350 million of Race to the Top funds to support consortia of states in developing and implementing a new generation of assessments. The Race to the Top Assessment program is designed to fill an urgent need in the nation’s educational system–the need for valid and instructionally useful assessments that provide accurate information about what students know and can do and that are anchored in standards designed to enable every student to gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college or the workplace by the time he or she graduates from high school.

“States are leading the way in creating new standards designed to ensure that students graduate from high school ready for success in college and careers,” Secretary Duncan said. “To fully realize this vision, states need new assessments that measure a broader range of students’ knowledge and skills.”

Funding will be awarded to consortia of states that create assessments that:
– Measure standards that are rigorous, globally competitive, and consistent across the states in the consortium;
– Provide accurate information about what students know and can do–including both students’ achievement of standards and students’ academic growth from year to year;
– Reflect and support good instructional practice so they inspire great teaching;
– Include all students from the outset–including English learners and students with disabilities; and
– Present data to everyone who needs it–students, parents, teachers, administrators, policymakers–in ways that are clear, useful and actionable.

In addition to funding the development of a new generation of statewide standardized assessments to replace states’ current tests, the Department will award up to $30 million from the $350 million set-aside to fund better assessments for high schools. These “end-of-course” tests will support high school improvement efforts in consortium-member states by promoting broader and more equitable access to rigorous courses and a diverse set of course offerings in both academic and career/technical areas.

“Better tests will show us what kids are learning and what is working in the classroom,” Secretary Duncan said.

To provide expert and public input to its notice, the Department hosted ten meetings in Boston, Atlanta, Denver, and Baltimore/Washington, D.C. to learn and facilitate sharing of information with states and the public. Given the highly technical nature of this work, the body of knowledge that exists about how best to design valid and instructionally useful assessments, and the many promising practices currently employed across this country and in others, the Department solicited a wide range of input from more than 40 assessment practitioners and researchers. Officials from 37 states and Washington, D.C. joined Department leadership and nearly 900 members of the public to hear from assessment experts in general assessment, high school assessment, the role of technology in assessment, assessing students with disabilities, and assessing English learners. The Department also received and reviewed written comments.

Visit to learn more about the Race to the Top Assessment Program.


(2) “Race to Top Rules Aim to Spur Shifts in Testing” by Catherine Gewertz

Source: Education Week – 8 April 2010

Competition opened [on Tuesday] for $350 million in federal money to design new ways of assessing what students learn. Rules for the contest make clear that the government wants to leave behind multiple-choice testing more often in favor of essays, multidisciplinary projects, and other more nuanced measures of achievement.

In the final regulations for the competition, the U.S. Department of Education says it seeks assessments that “more validly measure” students’ knowledge and skills than those that have come to dominate state testing in recent years. It wants tests that show not only what students have learned, but also how that achievement has grown over time and whether they are on track to do well in college. And all that, the regulations say, requires assessments that elicit “complex student demonstrations or applications” of what they’ve learned…

Jack Jennings, whose Washington-based Center on Education Policy has studied the state testing required under the No Child Left Behind Act, said it’s important to get assessment right because so much rides on it.

“We’re relying to a great degree on tests to bring about improvements in schools, but we’ve come to understand that many of these tests are not the best,” he said. “If we are going to put this much weight on assessment, we really have to get much better tests, ones that measure higher-order skills and are more useful to teachers. Unless we get better tests, we should question the basic premise of standards-based reform, which is that you can adequately measure the attainment of standards”…

Six potential assessment consortia took shape late in the winter, as states readied themselves to vie for the federal money. Those six have now merged into three, although more could emerge before the June application deadline.

Leaders of the groups told Education Week that Achieve, a Washington-based organization that works with states to craft standards and accountability systems, is talking with about 30 states, led by Florida, Massachusetts, and Louisiana, about devising a system of summative assessments that would include performance tasks.

The so-called MOSAIC consortium of states, which is focusing on formative assessments, is now working with what’s being called the SMARTER group, which focuses on computer-adaptive testing, and the “balanced assessment” consortium, which is working on a system that will include curriculum-embedded performance tasks scored by teachers. That larger, merged group is being advised by Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond, among others, and led by state chiefs and assessment directors from the states, including Maine, West Virginia, and Oregon. The group currently includes about 40 states, according to Ms. Darling-Hammond. Consortia memberships overlap and are in flux.

Another consortium, including about eight states and headed by the National Center on Education and the Economy, aims to design high school tests modeled on the British “board exams.”


Related Article:

Testing Experts Lay Out Vision for Future Assessments” by Catherine Gewertz
Source: Education Week – 3 March 2010

A group of high-powered policymakers and educators gathered [in Washington, DC earlier this year] to build support for a new vision of educational assessment that is less a snapshot of students’ one-time performance and more like good instruction itself.

Led by Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond, a panel of experts outlined a comprehensive system that includes summative and formative tests of higher-order thinking skills, reflecting a marketplace that they say places increasing value on such skills.

They urged a move away from pages and pages of multiple-choice tests that demand factual recall, and toward the development of a set of deeper, more analytical questions, tasks, and projects that ask students to solve and discuss complex problems…


(3) “Preliminary Review: CCSSO Strategic Initiatives Identified in State Phase 1 Race to the Top Applications”

Source: Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)

“Preliminary Review: CCSSO Strategic Initiatives Identified in State Phase 1 Race to the Top Applications” is a recently-released report that is the result of a partnership between the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Learning Point Associates. The impetus for this work is based upon shared interest in gleaning information from the state Race to the Top proposal narratives that can potentially aid state education agencies (SEA) and CCSSO/LPA staff in understanding and supporting emerging SEA strategy and direction. The information in this report is categorized by CCSSO’s strategic initiatives pertaining to the following: Education Workforce; Information Systems and Research; Next Generation Learners; and Standards, Assessment, and Accountability…

Below is an except from the report that pertains to the Assessment Consortia:

“Essential to the development and adoption of common state standards is the corresponding development of high-quality assessment systems to measure students’ learning of the standards. The Race to the Top applications set explicit expectations for states to work together to develop large-scale assessment systems; however, states also reported state-level supports to assist in the local implementation and transition to the new standards and assessment systems at the local level, such as formative assessment item banks and interim assessments.

“Many states reported that they joined more than one assessment consortium. In fact, on average, each applicant reported signing on to 2.63 consortia. [A table included on page 37 in the report lists the following assessment consortia: SMARTER, MOSAIC, NCEE, Florida, ACHIEVE, and Balanced.]

The entire report can be downloaded from