COMET • Vol. 12, No. 14 – 31 August 2011


Updates on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium

Contact: California State Board of Education

The second item on the agenda for the September 7 meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE) is “Update on the Activities of the California Department of Education and State Board of Education Regarding Implementation of the Common Core State Standards [(CCSS)] and the Developments of the New Assessment System.” The 6-page (plus appendices) agenda item includes a comprehensive summary of key issues related to the CCSS and can be downloaded from

Among the key issues identified was the following (from page 3):

– Common Core Modifications and Additions: When the SBE adopted the CCSS, its action created two significant challenges for implementation. One was the adoption of a dual set of mathematics standards at grade eight and the other was the omission of the college and career readiness anchor standards.

— Grade 8 Mathematics and Algebra 1 at Grade 8: The adoption of a dual set of mathematics standards at grade eight, CCSS math and ”Algebra 1 at Grade 8” raises a number of concerns. The first is the number of standards. The “Algebra 1 at Grade 8” has 51 standards while the current Algebra 1 standards include 25 standards. Also, California up to this point has consistently defined the content of Algebra 1 regardless of what grade it is taught. Second is that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act requires that every state adopt a single set of content standards and performance standards that apply to all schools and children in the state. California meets this requirement for every subject at every grade except one, grade eight mathematics, as the state has adopted two sets of standards. In addition, the Algebra 1 at Grade 8 standards are specific to California, and therefore will not be part of the assessments being developed nationally by the two assessment consortia.


Included as an attachment to this agenda item and available for download as a PDF file from is a Powerpoint presentation by Tom Adams (Director of the Standards, Curriculum Frameworks & Instructional Resources Division of the California Department of Education–CDE) covering (a) the CCSS for Mathematics and English Language Arts, (b) curriculum framework and instructional materials adoption timelines plus related legislation, and (c) State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s upcoming review of supplemental materials to “bridge the gap between the content in the adopted materials and the CCSS” (planned completion: September/October 2012). This review of supplemental materials is open only to publishers of currently-adopted instructional materials. Since this is not a state adoption, the results will simply be advisory for school districts.

Also included as an appendix to this SBE agenda item and available for download from is a presentation about the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) by Deborah V.H. Sigman, Deputy Superintendent of CDE’s Curriculum, Learning and Accountability Branch. California joined the SBAC as a governing state in June. The SBAC currently consists of 19 governing states and 10 participating states (see

Sigman’s presentation provides a useful overview of the SBAC leadership and implementation plans, as well as descriptions of the assessments. Slide 9 provides some features of the summative assessments:

— Mandatory comprehensive assessment in grades 3-8 and 11 (testing window within the last 12 weeks of the instructional year) that supports accountability and measures growth

— Computer adaptive testing offers efficient and precise measurement and quick results

— Assesses the full range of CCSS in English language arts and mathematics

— Selected response, short constructed response, extended constructed response, technology enhanced, and performance tasks.

Visit the Web sites above for more details and updates about the CCSS and the SBAC.


Free Webinar: Common Core Standards and Math Placement: Lessons Learned, Moving Forward

Contact: WestEd (SchoolsMovingUp)

SchoolsMovingUp at WestEd is offering a free webinar on 14 September 2011 from 10:30 a.m.-noon (PDT) entitled “Common Core Standards and Math Placement: Lessons Learned, Moving Forward.”

How will the adoption of the Common Core State Standards influence expectations and practices for preparing students for higher-level mathematics? 
Join this webinar and learn about California’s current student placement practices and performance in Algebra I, as well as district and state approaches to achieving access to and success in higher-level mathematics. The webinar will explore the challenges facing school systems nationwide that are trying to navigate evolving expectations for mathematics.

Moderator Patti Crotti, Senior Program Associate in the California Comprehensive Center at WestEd, will provide an overview of California’s Algebra Forum online community and resources.
 Presenters Matt Rosin and Mary Perry from EdSource, Jennifer O’Day from the California Collaborative on District Reform and the American Institutes for Research, and Deb Sigman from the California Department of Education will discuss the following:

— New findings from an analysis of longitudinal data on the 7th and 8th grade math and Algebra I CST scores of 70,000 California students.

— Lessons and perspectives from California Collaborative on District Reform districts on student access and success in algebra and higher-level mathematics.

— Implications for the state, especially for 8th grade math, in light of the recent adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

Sponsored by the California Algebra Forum, this webinar is aimed at policymakers, state administrators, and district administrators, as well as mathematics educators. Visit to register for the webinar, or visit the archives at the day after the webinar to view the recorded presentation.


Feedback is Invited on the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium’s Draft Mathematics Content Specifications

Source (a): SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium
Source (b): California Department of Education
URL (a):
URL (b):

On August 29, the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium released draft mathematics content specifications for public comment and review. The document describes the evidence students must exhibit to demonstrate mastery of the college- and career-ready knowledge and skills identified in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The math content specifications include four important outcome statements (claims) about student learning that are derived from the CCSS. When finalized, these four claims, which follow below, will serve as the basis for the SMARTER Balanced system of summative and interim assessments and its formative assessment support for teachers.


1. Students can explain and apply mathematical concepts and carry out mathematical procedures with precision and fluency.

2. Students can frame and solve a range of complex problems in pure and applied mathematics.

3. Students can clearly and precisely construct viable arguments to support their own reasoning and to critique the reasoning of others.

4. Students can analyze complex, real-world scenarios and can use mathematical models to interpret and solve problems.

Feedback on the mathematics content specifications will be accepted through September 19. The content specifications, feedback surveys, and a recorded webinar are available on the Consortium’s website at The second draft of mathematics content specifications is expected to be released on October 10, with feedback due by October 17. The final draft is expected to be available on October 24.

Linda Darling-Hammond, the Consortium’s senior research advisor and professor of education at the Stanford University School of Education, led the development of the math content specifications in collaboration with Hugh Burkhardt, professor at the Shell Centre for Mathematical Education at the University of Nottingham, and Alan Schoenfeld, professor of education and of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley. The SMARTER Balanced Technical Advisory Committee, Consortium work groups, and the lead authors of the Common Core State Standards also contributed to the draft.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson sent the following request to country, district, and school site administrators:


I would like to extend another invitation for you to provide feedback on the draft specifications that will be used to inform test development for the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

In June 2011, Governor Jerry Brown, State Board President Michael Kirst, and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding for California to become a governing state for the SBAC, which brings states together to create an innovative assessment system for mathematics and English-language arts (ELA). Based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), SBAC released draft content specifications in mathematics for public comment and review…

Your voice matters in the development of our new state assessments. Please take advantage of this opportunity to provide feedback on the Mathematics Content Specifications. I also strongly encourage you to share this opportunity with other educators.

The press release, content specifications, user guide, and survey can be found on the SMARTER Balanced Web page at

This is an exciting time for education in California and we look forward to working with you on this request and future opportunities that will arise for your involvement in the implementation of the SBAC assessments as well as the CCSS. If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact Dr. Kristen Brown, Education Research and Evaluation Consultant, Assessment and Accountability Division, by phone at 916-319-0334 or by e-mail at


CAHSEE and STAR Results

Source: California Department of Education

The performance of California’s students on the 2011 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) assessments and the 2010-2011 California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) showed improvement over last year.

Approximately 4.7 million students participated in the 2011 STAR program, with 54% scoring Proficient or Advanced in English-Language Arts and 50% scoring Proficient or Advanced in mathematics, the highest percentage since the program’s inception in 2003. The full results can be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) Standardized Testing and Reporting Web page at

Nearly 95 percent of students from the Class of 2011 met the CAHSEE requirement, and tests administered over the last school year also showed improvement among the state’s African American and Hispanic students. The results are posted on the CDE Web site at


Teacher Preparation Advisory Panel: Application; Stakeholder Survey

Source: PSD News – 26 August 2011 – California Commission on Teacher Credentialing 

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is seeking applications from stakeholders and other interested parties for the Teacher Preparation Advisory Panel. Applicants should have a strong background in teacher preparation, teacher induction, and/or related areas within the Learning to Teach System. The panel’s scope of work includes reviewing the elements of the Learning to Teach System and making recommendations for updates and improvements to better meet the needs of California students and educators. Expectations of panel members include being available to attend panel meetings; reviewing preparatory materials; consulting with other stakeholders in the field and bringing those perspectives to panel discussions; and coming to consensus on policy recommendations to the Commission. The deadline for applications is 3 October 2011. Applications for the Teacher Preparation Advisory Panel are available at: For more information, please download this document:

In preparation for the upcoming Teacher Preparation Advisory Panel, the Commission is seeking input from stakeholders regarding the priorities for the work of the Panel. There are many potential issues that the Panel could address within the limited time frame for the Panel to do its work. The Commission seeks input from the field regarding the perceived importance of these issues to help guide the Panel’s priorities. The Stakeholder Survey can be accessed via the following link: The deadline for completing the Stakeholder Survey is 28 October 2011.


Related Note:

Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown appointed six educators to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (see Among those appointed was Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University. (See COMET article #3 above for another of Darling-Hammond’s recent roles.)


WestEd Seeks Middle School Mathematics Teachers Who Use Connected Mathematics Project to Participate in Study

Contact: Uma Maedke, WestEd:, (650) 381-6425

WestEd, a not-for-profit educational research agency, has received funding from the U.S. Department of Education to conduct a study during Spring 2012 to evaluate how revisions to a widely-used middle school mathematics curriculum, the Connected Mathematics Project (CMP), affect student learning. Participating teachers will receive a local two-day professional development workshop and stipends totaling $800 for their involvement in the study. In order to participate, middle school mathematics teachers must have used the CMP curriculum for at least a year.

To enroll, interested teachers should visit the WestEd website at, download the teacher consent form, and return the form via fax to 650-381-6401. Space is limited, so please apply soon. In addition, please share this information with any public middle school mathematics teacher who might be interested in this opportunity.



New Publication: A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas

Source: National Research Council
URL (Report Brief):

Last month, the National Research Council released A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. The framework identifies the key scientific ideas and practices all students should learn by the end of high school and will serve as the foundation for new K-12 science education standards, replacing those issued more than a decade ago. The development of the new standards will be led by a group of states and coordinated by Achieve, Inc. ( When the standards are finished, states may voluntarily adopt them to guide science education in their public schools.

The 18-member committee that wrote the report sees the need for significant improvements in how science is taught. The new framework is designed to help students gradually deepen their knowledge of core ideas in four disciplinary areas (life sciences; physical sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology and the applications of science) over multiple years of school, rather than acquire shallow knowledge of many topics. It strongly emphasizes the practices of science, e.g., helping students learn to plan and carry out investigations and to engage in argumentation from evidence.

The overarching goal of the framework is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science, the capacity to discuss and think critically about science-related issues, and the skills to pursue careers in science or engineering if they desire.

“Currently, science education in the U.S. lacks a common vision of what students should know and be able to do by the end of high school. Curricula too often emphasize breadth over depth, and students are rarely given the opportunity to experience how science is actually done,” said Helen Quinn, committee chair and professor emerita of physics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford, CA. “The new framework is designed to address and overcome these weaknesses. It builds on what is known to work best in science education, based on research and classroom experience both in the U.S. and around the world. It provides a blueprint that will guide improvements in science education over many years.”

This document can be downloaded free of charge at The National Science Teachers Association hosted a webinar on the new framework. Visit to read more about or view the archived webinar.


Resources for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education


On 29 August 2011, U.S. News announced a new online STEM Education Resource Center (see URL above): “Here, you’ll find the latest news, opinions and thoughts about science, technology, engineering and math education. America lags behind countries such as China, Finland, and South Korea in developing top math and science minds. In 2009, American 15-year-olds ranked 17th in science and 25th in math in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings. Top corporations, non-profit leaders, and politicians have all made STEM a top education policy issue. Here you will find viewpoints from top experts in the field, rankings of top STEM schools, and stories about programs and people that are making a difference. We hope this will become your home base for any and all STEM developments. We welcome community interaction; please send any news or submissions to”

On a related note, a useful collection of state and national resources on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for grades K-12 can be found on the California Department of Education’s web site at