COMET • Vol. 12, No. 10 – 3 May 2011


State Board of Education Appoints New Executive Director

Source: Office of Governor Jerry Brown

Last Thursday, Sue Burr of Rancho Murieta was appointed by the State Board of Education to serve as the Executive Director of the Board. In addition to her responsibilities as Executive Director, Burr will also advise Governor Jerry Brown on education policy, legislation, and budget matters; student college readiness; teacher credentialing; early childhood education issues; and school construction.

Burr has served as the Executive Director of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association since 2006, following service as the association’s governmental relations director from 2003 to 2006. Burr also serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors for EdSource ( and serves as President of the Board of Directors for Sacramento Children’s Home.

She was the assistant superintendant for business services with the Elk Grove Unified School District from 2000 to 2003. She served as the Undersecretary of Education under Governor Gray Davis from 1999 to 2000. Burr was the Co-Director of the California State University Institute for Education Reform from 1995 to 1999, a principal consultant for the Senate Education Committee from 1991 to 1994, and a principal consultant for the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1986 to 1991.


Number of Science and Mathematics Credentials Up for 2009-2010

Source: Professional Services Division of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing

Yesterday the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing posted new data on the above Web page concerning the number of mathematics and science credentials recommended during 2009-2010. During that year, the Commission issued about 1,800 credentials in Mathematics and another 1,800 credentials in Science to California-prepared and out-of-state-prepared teachers. Together these two subjects accounted for more than one-third of the total single subject credentials issued (18.6% and 18.7%, respectively).

Of the Mathematics credentials issued in 2009-10, nearly half were in Mathematics and half were in Foundational-level Mathematics, a credential that was established in 2003. By comparison, the distribution was 64% and 36%, respectively, in 2005-06. In spite of the slight decrease in the number of full Mathematics credentials issued in the two years since 2007-2008, there was an overall increase in the total number of Mathematics credentials issued because of the increase in number of Foundational-level Mathematics credentials issued each year (see chart on the above Web page).

Nearly half (48%) of all 2009-2010 science credentials issued were in Biology, with the remainder in Chemistry (19%), Geosciences (12%), and Physics (8%). The Foundational-level General Science credential was added in February 2009, and more than 230 credentials were issued in 2009-10. These credentials accounted for 13% of the total science credentials issued. Though the number of specialized sciences credentials was small, there has been a steady increase in all specialized sciences over the past five years. The largest increases have occurred in total number of chemistry and geosciences credentials issued. Overall, there was a 24% increase in the total number of science credentials issued between 2005-06 and 2009-10.


Revised Foundational-Level Mathematics Preconditions

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

Last week, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing issued a Program Sponsor Alert (PSA 11-08), which presents information on the revised Preconditions for Foundational-Level Mathematics Subject Matter Programs consistent with the recently adopted preconditions for Foundational-Level General Science programs (i.e., reduced the number of required subject matter semester hour units from 45 to 32).  To view this PSA, please visit


Commission Seeks New Executive Director

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) is seeking a new Executive Director, desiring “a highly motivated leader committed to developing California education policy. The ideal candidate will have proven experience with strong administrative, management and leadership skills and an understanding and appreciation of the mission and structure of the Commission.”

The description of the position, which is available for download from, includes a description of CCTC and its responsibilities:

The Commission consists of nineteen members. Fourteen are appointed by the Governor and serve as volunteers for four-year terms. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction or a designee serves as the fifteenth voting member. Four additional nonvoting members are selected from the major segments of California higher education.

CCTC is responsible for establishing, maintaining, and enforcing standards for educator preparation, licensing and discipline. CCTC is also responsible for the accreditation of more than 255 educator preparation institutions.

The Executive Director has three broad roles and responsibilities: Secretary and Advisor to the Commission, Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, and Representative of the Commission…The ideal Executive Director will have demonstrated outstanding leadership skills with a solid record of achievement as an executive. He/she will be broadly knowledgeable of education issues and will possess excellent consensus building, negotiation and communication skills, and will enjoy a reputation for honesty, integrity, strong character, creative strategic thinking, and for working effectively with Commissioners.

Applications will be accepted until 30 June 2011 or until the position is filled. The position will be available on 1 January 2012. (An exemption from the governor’s current hiring freeze is pending.)


NAEP Presentation at the May State Board of Education Meeting; New Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment Planned

Source: California State Board of Education
URL (Agenda)

The first item on the agenda of the 11 May 2011 meeting of the State Board of Education is “Presentation by the NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Commission Regarding the Preparedness of 12th Graders for Postsecondary Education and Job Training.” The State Board of Education (SBE) staff recommends that the SBE review the item and attachments and take action as deemed necessary and appropriate.

Appointed by the National Assessment Governing Board, the purpose of the NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Commission is to increase awareness of the importance of preparing students academically for postsecondary education or training for employment after high school, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)… The Commission’s concepts and methodology will help the State Board of Education (SBE) to think about the design of future curriculum and assessment to prepare students for college and careers.

The following attachments to this agenda item can be downloaded from the SBE Web site above.

Attachment 1:  “Origins of the Preparedness Initiative,” NAEP 12th Grade Preparedness Commission, National Assessment Governing Board (5 Pages).

Attachment 2: “12th Grade NAEP as a Measure of College and Employment Preparedness,” PowerPoint Presentation by David T. Conley, Member, NAEP Technical Panel on 12th Grade Preparedness Research–selected slides (11 Pages).

Attachment 3:  Making New Links 12th Grade and Beyond, Technical Panel on 12th Grade Preparedness Research, Final Report, National Assessment Governing Board, June 2009, pages 17-23. The entire report may be accessed at

Attachment 4:  “NAEP Schedule of Assessments — Approved May 15, 2010” (1 Page).

Related Item:

Attachment 4 contains a schedule of planned NAEP assessments, including a new assessment in 2014:

The first-ever NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment (TELA) is currently under development. The assessment is intended to measure what students know about technology and engineering. (See

The initial assessment, planned for 2014, will be a probe–a smaller-scale, focused assessment on a timely topic that explores a particular question or issue. The initial assessment is likely to be limited to particular grades.

The assessment is based on the NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Framework ( As with all NAEP frameworks, the technology literacy framework was developed under the guidance of the National Assessment Governing Board. The NAEP frameworks provide the theoretical basis for the assessments and describe the types of questions that should be included and how they should be designed and scored.

According to the framework, students will be assessed in three major areas of technology and engineering literacy:

– Technology and Society involves the effects that technology has on society and on the natural world and the ethical questions that arise from those effects.
– Design and Systems covers the nature of technology, the engineering design process by which technologies are developed, and basic principles of dealing with everyday technologies, including maintenance and troubleshooting.
– Information and Communication Technology includes computers and software learning tools, networking systems and protocols, hand-held digital devices, and other technologies for accessing, creating, and communicating information and for facilitating creative expression.

In all three areas of technology and engineering literacy, students are expected to be able to apply particular ways of thinking and reasoning when approaching a problem. These types of thinking and reasoning are referred to as “practices.”

The framework specifies three kinds of practices that students are expected to demonstrate when responding to test questions:

– Understanding Technological Principles focuses on how well students are able to make use of their knowledge about technology.

– Developing Solutions and Achieving Goals refers to students’ systematic use of technological knowledge, tools, and skills to solve problems and achieve goals presented in realistic contexts.

– Communicating and Collaborating concerns how well students are able to use contemporary technologies to communicate for a variety of purposes and in a variety of ways, working individually or in teams, with peers and experts.

The assessment will be completely computer-based. Although many items will be standard multiple-choice questions, other items will be more complex and will allow students to manipulate components of the systems and models that are presented to them.


Two California Schools Win the 21st U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

A high school team from Sacramento and a middle school team from San Ramon won the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl yesterday (May 2) at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. Mira Loma High School defeated Montgomery Blair High School from Maryland in the high school national championship match by correctly answering a chemistry question. Gale Ranch Middle School defeated Shahala Middle School from Vancouver, Washington in the middle school national championship match.

The high school national champion will receive an all-expense-paid trip in July to the International Science School in Sydney, Australia. At the awards ceremony, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu spoke to the more than 500 students and 100 teacher/coaches about the importance of science education to the Nation’s economic and technological future.

“These students represent the great promise and potential of America’s next great generation,” said Secretary Chu. “I have no doubt that the exceptional talent and hard work that earned them the Science Bowl championship will serve them well throughout their lives, as they help our Nation tackle the crucial scientific and engineering challenges we’ll face in the years ahead. America’s future will always be bright when we continue to invest in and support the young minds who will be tomorrow’s innovators, pioneers and leaders. That’s what the science bowl is all about.”

One hundred ten teams from 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands competed in last weekend’s national finals of the 21st annual Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl. Earlier this spring, more than 14,000 students from across the country participated in regional Science Bowls. Sixty-nine high school and 41 middle school regional Science Bowl champion teams received all-expense paid trips to compete in the National Finals in Washington, DC.

DOE created the National Science Bowl in 1991 to encourage students to excel in mathematics and science and to pursue careers in these fields. DOE supports mathematics and science education to help provide a technically trained and diverse workforce for the nation. More than 200,000 students have participated in the National Science Bowl throughout its 21-year history.


President Obama Honors Outstanding Mathematics and Science Teachers

Source: The White House

Last Thursday, President Obama named 85 mathematics and science teachers as recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  The educators will receive their awards in Washington, D.C. later this year. The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is awarded annually to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The winners are selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators following an initial selection process conducted at the state level.

Each year the award alternates between teachers teaching kindergarten through 6th grade and those teaching 7th through 12th grades.  The 2010 awardees named on April 28 teach kindergarten through 6th grade.

Winners of this Presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion. They also receive an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and the Administration.

“The teachers we honor today have demonstrated uncommon skill and devotion in the classroom, nurturing the young minds of tomorrow’s science and math leaders,” said President Obama. “America’s competitiveness rests on the excellence of our citizens in technical fields, and we owe these teachers a debt of gratitude for strengthening America’s prosperity.”

The recipients of the 2010 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching from California are Anne Marie Bergen (science–Oakdale) and Kathleen McCarthy (math–San Leandro).


Information about the PAEMST Award winners from California:

Ann Marie Bergen:

“The Presidential Award acknowledges and honors the power of engaging, minds-on learning that leads students to uncover their own understandings of the world: active learning, meaningful experiences, compassionate teaching, cooperative groups, hands-on lab experiences. It validates my professional life’s work that has been devoted to students, teachers, and parents in my educational community who now see science as important, integral, and imperative for student success. What an incredible honor!”

Anne Marie Bergen’s teaching philosophy, “Active Learning, Meaningful Experiences, Compassionate Teaching,” is her foundation to engage students and teachers actively with the world around them.

Anne Marie discovered the natural connection students have for experiential learning at Foothill Horizons Outdoor School, leading environmental classes for sixth grade students. Her 22 years in Oakdale elementary schools included serving as Gifted and Talented Teacher/Coordinator, Science Mentor, Science Olympiad Coach, and District Science Fair Coordinator. As District Science Teacher, she created a laboratory and field-based science program for 2,000 students and 120 teachers annually. This year, she is on loan as Teacher in Residence, College of Science and Mathematics, California Polytechnic State University (CPSU), San Luis Obispo, improving undergraduate biology courses for elementary teachers.

Her honors include CPSU commencement speaker, Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence, and California Teacher of the Year 2003. Her grants include From River Tap, Salmon Project, and Passport to Science. She is chair of CalTAC, a STEM teaching advisory council.

Anne Marie has a B.S. is in biology from CPSU, multiple subject credentials from Chapman, and an M.A. in educational leadership from St. Mary’s.


Kathleen McCarthy: 

“The Presidential Award celebrates and recognizes effective mathematics teaching. It validates those who go above and beyond the call of duty inside and outside the classroom. I am honored and proud to belong to such an esteemed group of outstanding educators. This award reaffirms my dedication to working with students who have been traditionally underserved in public schools. I am thankful for my colleagues, students, and their families for helping me become the teacher I am today.

Kathleen McCarthy has been a bilingual classroom teacher for the past 8 years. She has taught second grade bilingual classes at Washington Elementary School in the San Leandro Unified School District for the last 6 years, and previously she taught in the Hayward and Oakland Unified School Districts.

Katy’s passion for fostering a linguistically and mathematically rich learning environment is immediately apparent upon entering her classroom. She thrives on the challenges of teaching children whose home language is Spanish. She incorporates her students’ language and culture into engaging mathematical lessons, where manipulatives and realia enhance the fun of learning mathematical concepts. She especially enjoys creating games that reinforce logical and mathematical thinking.

Katy’s dedication to her students and their families is paramount. She has voluntarily tutored struggling students after school, encouraged families to borrow mathematics materials, and conducted home visits to increase parental involvement.

She has served on several committees, including the school site council, principal’s lead team, and biliteracy task force.

Katy has a B.A. in child development from Mills College. She is a certified bilingual elementary teacher and is National Board Certified in English as a new language.


Maryland High School Chemistry Teacher Named 2011 National Teacher of the Year

Source: Council of Chief State School Officers

The Council of Chief State School Officers announced that Michelle Shearer, a high school chemistry teacher in Frederick, Maryland, is the 61st National Teacher of the Year. Shearer and all of the 2011 State Teachers of the Year will be recognized by President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House today.

Shearer currently teaches Advanced Placement Chemistry at Urbana High School in the Frederick County Public Schools system. In her 10 years at Urbana High School, she has taught all levels of Chemistry. Previously, she taught high school chemistry and mathematics at the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick.

“Michelle Shearer’s passion for teaching and dynamic skill set provides a foundation to truly enhance student learning,” said CCSSO Executive Director Gene Wilhoit. “As National Teacher of the Year, Michelle will inspire educators across the country to embrace innovation and prepare their students to live and work in the 21st century.”

“This is a tremendous honor, an incredible opportunity for me to advocate for students, represent teachers, and draw positive attention to our collective efforts in public education,” said Michelle Shearer.

Shearer embraces technological innovation in the classroom, but emphasizes the importance of teacher-student interaction. “Technology and teaching strategies certainly enhance my efforts, but my recognition of the power of human connection seems to have the most profound effect on my students’ achievement, especially those who doubt their ability to succeed in challenging college-level science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses such as Advanced Placement Chemistry,” Shearer said.

Shearer is an advocate for STEM education for all K-12 students and successfully reaches those who have been traditionally underrepresented in scientific fields, including students with special needs and those from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Her teaching methods rely heavily on real-life applications of scientific concepts. “When students feel connected not only to the teacher but to the subject itself,” she says, “they quickly become eager to explore.”

Her methods have a powerful impact on her learners. Derrick Williams, a former student at the Maryland School for the Deaf, says, “Mrs. Shearer has the passion and the drive to ensure that each individual in the classroom has a precise understanding of the content she is teaching and her classes are structurally built for nothing else but success.”

“Michelle believes passionately in her students, and works tirelessly to help each of them to achieve at their highest possible level, making her an outstanding choice for this honor,” said Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. “We are proud to have her represent our State and this profession, and we are grateful to her students for allowing the nation to borrow her for the next year.”

A committee of representatives from 14 national education organizations chose the 2011 National Teacher of the Year from among the 2011 state teachers of the year. State teachers of the year are selected on the basis of nominations by students, teachers, principals, and school district administrators throughout the states. Applications are then submitted to CCSSO, where the national selection committee reviews the data on each state candidate and selects the four finalists. The selection committee then personally interviews each finalist before naming the National Teacher of the Year.