COMET • Vol. 12, No. 01 – 20 January 2011


Tom Torlakson Succeeds Jack O’Connell as California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction: Transition Team Will be Led by Linda Darling Hammond and David Rattray

URLs: and

Thanking Californians for giving him the opportunity to serve, Tom Torlakson took his oath of office as California’s 27th State Superintendent of Public Instruction on January 3 in a simple ceremony attended by educators, students, and members of his family in the gymnasium of Mount Diablo High School, where he taught science and world history.

“It has been a while since I taught here, but I still call Mount Diablo my school. That’s just how teachers think. It’s never ‘the school’ or ‘the class’ or ‘the student’–it’s ‘my school,’ ‘my class,’ ‘my student,'” Torlakson said.

“That’s the kind of commitment and responsibility every educator places on his or her own shoulders every day. It’s not in the Education Code. It’s not in any contract. It’s just part of being a teacher. Let’s be sure we never take that for granted. Because everything we hope to accomplish rests on the commitment of those who make teaching their life’s work,” he said.

Torlakson acknowledged that he was taking office at a difficult time for public education after years of budget cuts have placed undue hardships on schools across the state.

“We face huge challenges in California,” Torlakson said. “Yet we also have incredible opportunities–to make the investments that restore our state to its rightful place as a leader in public education; to give every child the chance to learn in a safe and healthy school environment; to bring teachers, parents, and advocates together in a thoughtful and productive dialogue that makes learning a priority; to bring 21st century learning to every school; and to hold ourselves accountable for the dollars we spend and the results we achieve.”

Affirming his great belief in teamwork, Torlakson pledged to form partnerships and collaborate with professional educators, Governor Brown, lawmakers, higher education advocates, business, and non-profit and community-based organizations.

Torlakson also called on Californians to work together to support public education and their local schools.

“We need you,” Torlakson said. “We need your ideas, your energy, and your commitment because nothing is more vital than education in changing lives, improving communities, and securing a bright future for our children and our state in this competitive global age.”

Torlakson will be advised by a 50-member Transition Advisory Team led by co-chairs Linda Darling Hammond (Professor of Education, Stanford University) and David Rattray (Senior Vice President of Education & Workforce Development, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; President, UNITE LA).

This bipartisan group of educators, labor, and business leaders will provide strategic advice during Torlakson’s first few months in office as he identifies key issues impacting California students, schools, districts, and the California Department of Education and sets goals to address them. Members of the Transition Advisory Team will join working groups to discuss key issues in more detail.

“I am delighted Linda and David have agreed to lead my Transition Advisory Team during this extremely challenging time, and that so many outstanding teachers and other stakeholders have come forward to be part of this team,” said Torlakson. “I know their comprehensive knowledge of the issues facing our students and schools will be enormously valuable as we work to chart the best course for California’s schools.”

Visit to view a list of the 50 members of the Transition Advisory Team as well as the proposed working group topics.


“Jack O’Connell Leaves Imprint as he Leaves Top California Schools Post” by Sharon Noguchi

Source: The Mercury News

He helped shrink class sizes, cement higher academic standards and close the racial achievement gap.

And when California’s shriveling state budget squeezed schools, Jack O’Connell zoomed around the state to call for more funding while urging schools to stay on target and continue to do more with less.

When he [stepped down] as state superintendent of public instruction, O’Connell [left] a large imprint on California education — but one that’s already eroding as the unprecedented budget crisis dismantles some of his signature reforms.

O’Connell, 59, is retiring after eight years leading California education and 20 years in the Legislature…

“He never retreated from the high standards California had,” said Mike Kirst, professor of education at Stanford University [and recently-elected chair of the State Board of Education]. O’Connell has also been a staunch defender of the high school graduation test in the face of its sometimes vocal critics…

Through what O’Connell calls “the largest disinvestment in public education in memory,” he has remained education’s No. 1 cheerleader. “We have hardworking professional educators who are preparing students for the future. I’m proud test scores are up eight years in a row”…

His myriad speeches drove home serious messages. Early in his second term, O’Connell took on narrowing the achievement gap, saying that doing so is not only an educational imperative, but also a moral, social and economic one…

O’Connell made his mark in other ways, too. In 2000, he teamed up with Silicon Valley tech leaders to push a statewide ballot proposition to lower the threshold for passing school bonds for construction, from 66.7 percent to 55 percent. Proposition 39 passed, and voters have since approved $23 billion in school bonds that would have failed under the two-thirds requirement…

O’Connell said he’s worried about the future of education. He hopes that more decision-making will be returned to the local level. And, he said, it’s imperative to convince the 80 percent of families that don’t have children in public schools to support them. “It’s in our economic best interest to have a well-skilled, well-educated work force.”

He wouldn’t reveal what he’ll do next, but … he indicated that it likely will involve education, his passion. “We cannot afford to fail,” he said. “What’s at stake here is the future of the state, our economy and society.”


Related article:

California Department of Education Closes Out 2010 Noting Record of Accomplishment by State Superintendent Jack O’Connell”



Governor Brown Appoints New State Board of Education Members

URLs:  and

On January 5, Governor Brown announced the following seven appointments to the 11-member California State Board of Education (SBE): Carl Anthony Cohn, Bill Honig, Michael Kirst, Aida Molina, James Ramos, Patricia Ann Rucker, and Trish Boyd Williams. Less than a week later, Bill Honig withdrew his name and was replaced by Ilene Straus.

These members replaced the two Board members whose terms were up after the January 12-13 SBE meeting, as well as five Board members (including former SBE president Ted Mitchell) who were appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger last year but whose appointments had not been confirmed by the Senate. Four current members (Yvonne Chan, Gregory Jones, Jim Aschwanden, and student member Connor Cushman) will continue on the Board.


Very brief bios follow below for Governor Brown’s State Board of Education appointments (all require Senate confirmation). More information is available at and

Dr. Carl Anthony Cohn (Palm Springs) — Professor and Co-Director of the Urban Leadership Program at Claremont Graduate University since 2009; Superintendent of Schools for the San Diego Unified School District from 2005 to 2007 and for the Long Beach Unified School District from 1992 to 2002.

Dr. Michael Kirst (Stanford) — Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, where he has taught since 1969; served on the California State Board of Education under Governor Brown from 1975 to 1982.

Aida Molina (Bakersfield) — Executive Director of Academic Improvement and Accountability for Bakersfield City School District since 2005; Commissioner with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing from 2004 to 2007.

James Ramos (San Bernardino) — Chairman of the San Manuel Band of Indians since 2008; member of the San Bernardino Community College Board of Trustees; member and chairperson of the Native American Heritage Commission.

Patricia Ann Rucker (Elk Grove) — Legislative Advocate for the California Teachers Association; consultant for the California Teachers Association on instruction and professional development from 1997 to 2008.

Dr. Ilene W. Straus (Marina del Rey) — Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services with the Beverly Hills Unified School District; Senior Director of Secondary Education for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in 2006; Chief Educational Officer and Principal of Santa Monica High School from 2002 to 2006.

Trish Boyd Williams (San Jose) — Executive Director for EdSource since 1992.


Governor Brown Addresses State Board of Education at January Meeting

URL (Agenda):

The California State Board of Education (SBE) held its first meeting of the year on January 12-13. At 9:25 a.m. on January 12, outgoing SBE Vice President Ruth Bloom turned the gavel over to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to hold officer elections. Michael Kirst was elected SBE President and presided over the meeting.

Because over half of the members were new, the agenda was heavily modified from an original version (see link to agenda above). The agenda items were completed on January 12, and January 13 was primarily an orientation for new members. The organizational chart of the California Department of Education was reviewed, as was the relationship between the Board and the various parts of the Department.

Governor Jerry Brown dropped in during the orientation and was told by Michael Kirst that “almost all of the people in the room are top State Department staff,” including Superintendent Tom Torlakson. The Governor spent time meeting and talking with all of the members of the SBE who were present. He then spoke to the Board on a wide variety of topics, including educational reform, his choices of SBE members, charter schools, and teachers as role models.

Governor Brown stated, “I really value creativity, innovation, the unusual, the different, the alive, but at the same time, the standards are fundamentally important… Gregory Bateson wrote in his book Mind and Nature, ‘The new only comes out of the random… If you only have rigor, you have death–rigor mortis.  If you only have imagination, you have insanity.’ So you need both rigor and imagination. It’s the interaction of these two that a healthy system–or mind or community–prospers. In a nutshell, that’s my philosophy.”

The governor continued, “I did abolish the Secretary of Education job. That’s because I believe that I’m the Secretary of Education. And I figure you’ve got this Board here and you’ve got the Superintendent, so there’s a lot of minds on the problem. We should be able to figure it out in a streamlined, effective way.”

The governor remarked that he is interested not just in accomplishments but in looking at challenge areas. “Why can’t boys learn math? I think that’s really important and we’ve got to measure that. I got an A in Algebra and a D in Geometry, and I still remember that.”


California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to Consider Adopting Preconditions for Foundational-Level General Science Subject Matter Programs 

URL (Agenda):

On January 27, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) will act on a recommendation to adopt proposed preconditions forFoundational-Level General Science (FLGS) Subject Matter Programs. Results of a field survey will be presented, and a 32-semester-unit program will be proposed.

Excerpt from Agenda Item 2C:

The Preconditions ( for subject matter programs address the required number of units in the approved program and set the breadth, depth and concentrations of the subject matter content areas which must be included in the program. While the number of required units set by the Preconditions varies slightly across the content areas of the subject matter preparation programs, the Commission has required a minimum of 45 semester units in the specified subject for all thirteen content areas…

The holder of a credential authorization in FLGS is authorized to teach: 1) Introductory and general science, introductory life science, and introductory physical science in grades preschool, kindergarten through twelve, and in classes organized primarily for adults; and 2) Integrated science in grades preschool and kindergarten through eight. As with other single subject credentials, an individual may meet the subject matter requirement for FLGS by taking coursework or by passing the two General Science subtests of the California Subject Matter Examinations for Teachers (CSET).


Proposed Foundational-Level General Science Preconditions

The scope of content knowledge assessed by the CSET examination for purposes of establishing FLGS subject matter competency includes all of the science areas (biology, chemistry, geosciences and physics) at the general science level. Passage of this subtest meets the subject matter requirement for the FLGS…

Following Commission direction, staff conducted a field survey to ascertain the level of preparation that science educators deem appropriate for teaching FLGS. Staff presented the results of the field survey in the December 2010 Commission agenda…

Given the responses from the field survey, staff proposes the following Preconditions for Subject Matter programs in Foundational-Level General Science for Commission approval:

To be approved by the Commission, a Subject Matter Program in Foundational-Level General Science must comply with the following preconditions. (1) Each Program of Subject Matter Preparation for the Single Subject Teaching Credential in Foundational-Level General Science shall include (a) a minimum of 32 semester units (or 48 quarter units) of coursework in science as commonly taught in departmentalized science classes in California public schools through grade 9.

(2) The program of study shall include at least 8 semester units (12 quarter units) as defined by the General Science Subject Matter Requirements in each of four science areas: biology, chemistry, geosciences, and physics.


Next Steps

If the Commission adopts the proposed Preconditions for the Foundational-Level General Science Subject Matter Program, staff will begin implementation of the Commission’s action. The steps will include issuance of a Program Sponsor Alert (PSA) to the field and revision by staff of all relevant standards documents. The Commission website will also be updated accordingly. Program sponsors will be allowed to apply for approval of Foundational-Level General Science subject matter programs effective immediately. Programs currently approved for the full science subject matter programs in biology, chemistry, geosciences and physics will be allowed to recommend candidates for the FLGS credential immediately through written statement to the Commission that the program intends to use its approved general science coursework as an approved FLGS subject matter program.



California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to Present Information Item Pertaining to New Mathematics Authorizations at January Meeting


The January 28 meeting agenda for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) includes an information item related to proposed “amendments and additions to Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations pertaining to the Mathematics Instructional Added Authorization and Leadership Specialist Credential.” The full agenda item is available at the URL above and is excerpted below:

Proposed changes include updating the title for the Mathematics Instructional Leadership Specialist Credential; updating the requirements and authorizations for the Mathematics Instructional Leadership Specialist Credential; and adding regulations and authorizations for the Mathematics Instructional Added Authorization.



The Commission directed staff to convene a Teaching Mathematics Advisory Panel (TMAP), which would include representatives from key stakeholder groups, to investigate the need for updating and revising the Mathematics Specialist Credential program standards in light of California K-Algebra I students’ poor performance in learning mathematics… Executive Director Dale Janssen appointed twenty members to the panel following a review of a large number of applications for the panel…

First, the panel proposes creating the Mathematics Instructional Added Authorization (MIAA). [Note: The MIAA was originally called the Mathematics Instructional Certificate (MIC), but CTC is moving away from using the term “certificate,” according to CTC’s Terry Janicki.] In considering what knowledge, skills, and experience a MIAA holder should have, the panel agreed that an individual with this authorization should be required to complete advanced preparation and field experience in both mathematics content and the pedagogy of mathematics above and beyond what is required for the multiple subject teaching credential. In addition, the panel recognized that within the MIAA option, some teachers would have the prerequisite math content mastery to obtain a certificate that would go through but not beyond the level of mathematics typically taught in Kindergarten through Pre-Alegbra, whereas other teachers might possess the math content that would authorize the teaching of mathematics Kindergarten through Algebra I. [Note: Four members of the TMAP are working with Terry Janicki and Pearson to create multiple-choice tests that can be used to assess mathematics subject matter competency required for entrance into an MIAA program.]

Further, the panel proposes revising and renaming the Specialist Instruction Credential in Mathematics to the Mathematics Instructional Leadership (MIL) Specialist Credential. As supported by the panel, this authorization recognizes a higher level of specialized skills that will allow an individual to not only provide support to teachers, but also provide leadership at the K- 12 level with respect to the teaching and learning of mathematics.


Proposed Additions and Amendments

New regulations are proposed to establish the Mathematics Instructional Added Authorization. Regulations for the current Mathematics Specialist Credential are proposed to be updated. For the Mathematics Instructional Added Authorization, the proposed regulations will:

1) add the title of Mathematics Instructional Added Authorization, 2) establish the requirements to earn the two levels of the document, and 3) establish an authorization statement.

For the Mathematics Specialist Credential, the proposed regulations will: 1) change the title to Mathematics Instructional Leadership Specialist Credential, and 2) update the requirements and authorization statement.

[See for the proposed regulation changes and rationale.]


Next Steps

The regulations will return at the next Commission meeting for action to set the public hearing.


“Ignite” Videos Now Posted from NCSM, CMC-S, and CMC-N Conferences

Contact:  Key Curriculum Press

Last year, Key Curriculum Press sponsored popular “Ignite” sessions at three conferences: the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM), California Mathematics Council (CMC)-South, and CMC-North. A description of this unique presentation format can be found on Ignite’s Web site ( “Fast-paced, fun, thought-provoking, social, local, global–Ignite is all of these and more. It’s a high-energy evening of 5-minute talks by people who have an idea–and the guts to get onstage and share it with their hometown crowd…”

The videos from all three sessions sponsored by Key have now been posted online. These 5-minute, 20-slide presentations “tackle today’s most talked-about math topics in a way that’s lively, refreshing, and blink-and-you-miss-it quick.” A list of speakers and topics follows below (with direct links to the Ignite pages for each conference):


NCSM ( in San Diego

–  Patrick Callahan: “A Modest Proposal” (also given at CMC-N)
–  Sherry Fraser: “If You Can Do Math, You Can Do Anything”

–  Nick Jackiw: “The Dynamics of Dynamic Geometry”

–  Brian Lawler: “Mathematics Education after the Standards Era”

–  Steve Leinwand: “DiTCoQuA: An Acronym for Our Times”

–  Dan Meyer: “Math Curriculum Makeover”

–  Nora Ramirez: “Disequilibrium Is a Sign of New Learning”

–  Steve Rasmussen: “Boring and Engaging Are Antonyms”

–  Cathy Seeley: “Walking the Walk”


CMC-South ( in Palm Springs


– Gloria Brown Brooks: 
”The Next New Thing: Basic Mathematics” (also given at CMC-N)

– Peg Cagle: “Messy Problems and Messy Solutions: Curriculum-Proof Teachers vs. Teacher-Proof Curricula”

–  Ivan Cheng: 
”Disneyland, Buses, and Wine: The Secret to Improving Student Achievement”

– Mark Ellis: “Why School Mathematics Makes No Sense”

– Scott Farrand: 
”Understanding Matters!”

– Linda Gojak: 
”Everything You Do in Mathematics… Should Make Sense to You” (also given at CMC-N)

– Michael Serra: 
”How to Teach Math Anxiety” (also at CMC-N)

– Dan Teague: 
”The Residue of Mathematics”


CMC-North ( at Asilomar

–  Gloria Brown Brooks: 
”The Next New Thing: Basic Mathematics” (also given at CMC-N)

–  Phil Daro: 
”Common Core Standards”

–  Tim Erickson: 
”Trusting Data”

–  Scott Farrand: 
”Motivated by Mathematics”

–  Steve Leinwand: “It’s Instruction, Stupid!”

–  Gretchen Muller: “Collaboration, Making a Difference, Community”