COMET • Vol. 12, No. 11 – 2 June 2011


Webinar Series on K-6 Curriculum in California Focuses on the Common Core State Standards

Source: California Department of Education

Since mid-March, the California Department of Education has produced an informative webinar series designed to provide an overview of the online grade-level curriculum publication, A Look at Kindergarten Through Grade Six in California Public Schools. Each webinar in the series highlights the curriculum across one featured grade level with a special focus on the recently adopted Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics.

The next webinar, which will be focused on the curriculum in 6th grade, will be held on June 9, 3:30-4:30 p.m. PDT. More information about the webinar will be made available on  Past webinars (one per grade level) are archived at  Videos, presentation files, documents, and other useful information can be found on this page.

Each grade-level section in A Look at Kindergarten Through Grade Six in California Public Schools can be downloaded from  Teachers, preservice teachers, teacher educators, and parents will find the information useful.


California Mathematics and Science Partnership Program

Program Contact: Lisa Fassett – 916-323-4963,

The California Department of Education recently posted information on its Web site about the 2011-2012 California Mathematics and Science Partnership (CaMSP) program grant competition (proposal deadline: September 15). Instructions and the applications for Cohort 9 partnerships and for Demonstration Centers are available online at  Additional information about the CaMSP program is available at

Funding Description: The CaMSP program seeks to establish Demonstration Centers to support currently funded and potential CaMSP applicants for up to $250,000. CaMSP will also fund new partnerships for up to $1 million to improve the academic achievement of students in mathematics and science. The focus is to create opportunities for enhanced and ongoing professional development for mathematics teachers (grade three through Algebra 1) and science teachers (grades 3-8).

Required Eligibility Criteria: The essential partnership is between an eligible local educational agency (LEA) and eligible departments of institutions of higher education (IHE). County offices of education, individual schools, additional LEAs, IHEs, or other organizations concerned about mathematics and science education may also participate in the partnership. Only local educational agencies (LEAs) who meet the 40 percent free and reduced lunch criteria may apply as a lead partner for a Demonstration Center or a Cohort 9 partnership.


Proposed Title 5 Regulation Changes for Mathematics Specialist Credentials on Tomorrow’s Commission Agenda as an Action Item

URL (Agenda)

At its meeting today, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) is scheduled to hold a public hearing and take action on a recommendation by CCTC staff to approve proposed amendments and additions to Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations pertaining to the Mathematics Instructional Added Authorization (MIAA) and Mathematics Instructional Leadership Specialist (MILS) Credential.

Proposed changes include updating the title, requirements, and authorizations for the MILS credential and adding regulations and authorizations for the MIAA. Details can be found in Item 2K of the CCTC Agenda: 



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 MIAA, 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 [authorization to teach mathematics in grades K-12 through the level of either (a) Pre-Algebra I or (b) Algebra I, depending upon the level of demonstrated mathematics competency], and
3) establish authorization statements.

For the Mathematics Specialist Credential, the proposed regulations will:
1) change the title to Mathematics Instructional Leadership Specialist Credential,
2) update the requirements and authorization statements, and
3) set a sunset date for the issuance of the ‘current’ Mathematics Specialist Instruction
Credential for out-of-state prepared teachers.

Additional details about the MIAA and MILS credential may be found in the comprehensive handbook located online at


Technical Assistance Meeting on Mathematics Specialist Credentials Provided Information for Interested Teacher Educators

A technical assistance webinar for institutions interested in developing new mathematics specialist programs was held on May 11. Convened and chaired by California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) consultant Terry Janicki, the meeting was attended by 14 individuals, primarily professors from teacher preparation institutions.

The informative meeting provided an opportunity for participants to learn more about and ask questions concerning the MIAA and MILS credentials. Consultant Janicki urged institutions to collaborate on ways to create curricula to meet the standards for the credentials. Janicki noted that a primary goal of the MIAA is to help increase the capability of elementary school teachers, particularly those who teach math all day in grades 5-7, to effectively teach mathematics and to be a resource to other teachers at their school site.

Janicki noted that it will be up to individual institutions to verify the mathematics competency of MIAA program applicants, noting that many will likely elect to give a mathematics diagnostic exam developed for this purpose by Pearson (estimated cost: $60). He mentioned that institutions could give credit not only for coursework, but also for quality professional development experiences (e.g., California Mathematics Project institutes).

Although it’s possible for teachers to enter an MIAA program with relatively little teaching experience, they cannot receive the MIAA until they have had at least three years of classroom teaching experience. There was discussion about the required field experiences (these do not have to be supervised), about the required number of courses (there isn’t a set number; there is just a requirement that the standards be met and assessed), and related topics. There has been discussion between CCTC and school districts to encourage collaboration between districts and institutions of higher education in developing cohorts and programs. Consultant Janicki mentioned that some county offices of education have expressed interest in developing mathematics specialist programs.


Passing Rates on Subject-Matter Examinations for Teachers (CBEST, CSET, etc.)

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

At its meeting today, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is scheduled to present a report on the passing rates of Commission-approved examinations from 2005-2006 to 2009-2010. This report is available online as Agenda Item 5C on the Web site above.

For each examination (e.g., the California Basic Educational Skills Test–CBEST and the California Subject Examinations for Teachers–CSET), the purpose of the examination, its structure, the scoring process, the examination volume, the first-time passing rate, and the cumulative passing rate are included in the report. Also of interest are demographic data about test-takers (e.g., years of college, highest level of mathematics taken in high school, gender, racial group, etc.) and the average test scores of the various demographic groups.


Recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are Honored by President Obama at the White House

Source: National Science Foundation

On May 20, a group of kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers from across the United States topped off a visit to the nation’s capital by meeting with President Obama. The meeting honored teachers who received the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

During their tour of the White House earlier in the day, the educators met briefly with Jill Biden. Both the president and Biden congratulated the teachers and thanked them for their outstanding commitment to the nation’s students.

The teachers’ visit capped a week of professional development and recognition activities, including a number of interactions with senior members of the Administration and members of Congress.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Associate Director for Science Carl Wieman and the National Science Foundation (NSF) hosted an awards ceremony during which the awardees received certificates signed by President Obama. The awardees also met Administrator Charlie Bolden of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Administrator Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency.

During dinner with NSF senior advisor Cora Marrett, awardees heard from Kathryn Sullivan, assistant secretary of the Department of Commerce and deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and S. James Gates Jr., a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

“It was wonderful to have the awardees here with us in Washington,” said Marrett. “They represent the very best in science and mathematics teaching, and they are a great resource to their schools, to each other and to us.”

During their time in Washington, the awardees also had the opportunity to talk with senior education policy staff from the Department of Education, the White House Domestic Policy Council, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

PAEMST is the nation’s highest recognition of kindergarten through 12th-grade mathematics or science teachers for outstanding teaching in the United States. The awards recognize teachers for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.

In addition to a presidential certificate, awardees received a paid trip for two to Washington, D.C., and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion.

Of the elementary teachers selected for the award, there were 44 science teachers and 41 mathematics teachers representing 49 states and three U.S. jurisdictions.

PAEMST applications are reviewed at the state and national levels by selection committees of outstanding scientists, mathematicians, and educators. Nominees are then sent to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for final selection. The awards alternate between elementary (kindergarten through sixth grade) and secondary (seventh through 12th grade) teachers each year.

California’s winners were Kathleen McCarthy from San Leandro (mathematics) and Anne Marie Bergen from Oakdale (science). For more information, visit

Related Articles

“Presidential Awards for STEM Teachers Go Unclaimed” by Jeffrey Mervis

Source: Education Week – 18 May 2011

Eighty-five elementary teachers [received] what many science educators regard as the Nobel Prize of their profession… The winners, from 49 states and three other U.S. jurisdictions, represent 21 fewer teachers than the program is designed to honor, nearly a quarter of the slots.

State coordinators, many of them former awardees, offer several explanations for the shortfall, from the quality of the STEM teaching corps, to the program’s lack of visibility, to the uneven judging of candidates, to the rigorous application itself…

The most obvious reason, experts say, is that there are so few teachers willing to complete the application process.

California, with roughly 200,000 teachers eligible for the 2010 award, had exactly three vying for the title of the state’s best elementary math teacher. (One became a state finalist and was chosen a national winner.)…

The core of the application is an unedited, 30-minute classroom video that serves as a template to demonstrate good teaching. Judges rate the applicants in such areas as mastery of the appropriate content, effective instruction, and use of student assessments, as well as on their leadership outside the classroom. Teachers have 15 pages to narrate the video, analyzing their interactions with students. The application, along with background information and letters of recommendation, is reviewed first by a state panel and then, if a candidate clears that hurdle, a national one…

Some program officials believe low participation rates reflect sagging morale among the nation’s teaching corps. That malaise is fueled by the current round of massive state budget cuts and negative societal attitudes toward the teaching profession, they say.

“It’s tough, with the bad economy and the way people are so down on teachers,” said Diana Herrington, California’s state math coordinator for the competition and a 1999 award winner.

Ms. Herrington says that teachers are discouraged by the increased pressure to help their students pass state-mandated tests and to show improvement each year under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

“Our teachers don’t feel good about what they are being requested to do as teachers,” said Ms. Herrington, a math teacher at Clovis High School in Clovis, Calif., who notes that her smallest class has 39 students. “For most of them, what they are able to do in the classroom isn’t rich enough to deserve a presidential award”…

[To read the complete article, visit the Web site above.]


Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2011


Over 1,500 young scientists from around the world gathered in Los Angeles, on May 9-13 for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. They were selected from 443 affiliate fairs in 65 countries, regions and territories, including the following first-time participants: France, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Macao SAR of the People’s Republic of China. After being selected by their affiliated fair to represent a region, state or country, all finalists won an all-expenses paid trip to the final competition. The finalists were judged in person by hundreds of science, engineering and industry professionals. Each judging professional has a doctorate or equivalent (six years of related professional experience) in one of the 17 scientific disciplines in which the projects can compete.

Matthew Feddersen and Blake Marggraff from Lafayette, California were awarded the top prize at the competition. They received $75,000 and the Gordon E. Moore Award, in honor of the Intel co-founder and retired chairman and CEO, for developing a potentially more effective and less expensive cancer treatment that places tin metal near a tumor before radiation therapy.

Taylor Wilson from Reno, Nevada was named an Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award winner and received $50,000. Taylor developed one of the lowest dose and highest sensitivity interrogation systems for countering nuclear terrorism.

The team of Pornwasu Pongtheerawan, Arada Sungkanit and Tanpitcha Phongchaipaiboon from Thailand also received an Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award. This team determined that a gelatin found in fish scales could be successfully used in modern day fish packaging – an invention that could have positive, long-term effects for the environment.

In addition to the winners mentioned above, more than 400 finalists received awards and prizes for their groundbreaking work. Awards included 17 “Best of Category” winners who each received a $5,000 prize. The Intel Foundation also awarded a $1,000 grant to each winner’s school and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair-affiliated fair that they represent.


New Research Finds 70 Percent of the Nation’s Top High School Science Students are the Children of Immigrants

Source: National Foundation for American Policy

While only 12 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born, 70 percent of the finalists in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search competition ( were the children of immigrants, according to a new study by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), an Arlington, Virginia-based policy research group. Only 12 of the 40 finalists at this year’s competition of the nation’s top high school science students had native-born parents. To read the report, visit

Stuart Anderson, NFAP’s executive director and the author of the study, said he found many immigrant parents place a heavy emphasis on education, particularly in math and science, viewing this as a path to success in America.

To conduct the research, Anderson interviewed both students and parents at the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search finals in March, in Washington, D.C., and later conducted follow up interviews as necessary. Previously known as the Westinghouse talent search or the “Junior Nobel Prize,” more than 95 percent of winners of the Intel Science Talent Search (STS) traditionally have pursued science as a career, with 70 percent earning Ph.D.s or M.D.s. Alumni of the competition “have made extraordinary contributions to science and hold more than 100 of the world’s most distinguished science and math honors, including 7 Nobel Prizes and four National Medals of Science.” More than 1,700 high school seniors entered the contest in 2011 by completing a detailed entry form. In addition, the student submits a research paper that documents his or her findings, including possible laboratory results. The project should display evidence of “research ability, scientific originality, and creative thinking.” The top 40 finalists gathered in Washington, D.C., in March 2011 for the last phase of the competition.

While all of the students were remarkable young people, 28 of the 40 finalists, or 70 percent, had parents who immigrated to America, compared to 12, or 30 percent, whose parents were born in the United States… China and India were the leading country of origins for the immigrant parents of the student finalists. Sixteen of the children had parents born in China, 10 had parents born in India, one student’s parents were born in South Korea, and another was born in Iran…


As a footnote, the recipient of the top award of $100,000 from the Intel Foundation was Evan O’Dorney of Danville, California (see’Dorney.asp). Evan compared continued fraction convergents with iterated linear fraction transformations for his Intel Science Talent Search project in mathematics. He drew upon his fascination with patterns in studying two methods for approximating the square root of a non-square integer. One method (continued fractions) is more accurate, while the other (iterated linear transformation) is faster. He discovered exact conditions under which the iteration method produces the same values as the continued fraction method infinitely often. A student at Venture School in San Ramon, Evan has participated in several math competitions and was a winner in the 2010 USA Mathematical Olympiad. He is also involved in the Berkeley Math Circle, where he instructs his fellow students and serves as a contest coordinator. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics.