COMET • Vol. 12, No. 05 – 14 March 2011

State Board of Education Hears Presentations about Two Assessment Consortia

URL (Item 2)

The second item on the agenda of last week’s State Board of Education meeting was an overview of and presentations by two state-led national consortia developing assessments based on the Common Core State Standards. The presentation was an important step in providing information about the next generation of grades 3-12 assessments for California.

Details about these two consortia are contained in the agenda item available at An excerpt from this item follows below:

The U.S. Department of Education (ED), using Race to the Top funding, issued a competitive grant for the development of a comprehensive assessment system based on the Common Core Standards that would adhere to the testing requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA requires testing in English-language arts and mathematics in grades three through eight, and once in grades ten through twelve, and science in grades five, eight, and ten. However, the grant does not include the development of a science assessment. The competitive grant encouraged use of technology in these new assessments and required applicants to describe how their proposed assessment systems would include technology.

Two assessment consortia were funded through that process: the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). PARCC was awarded 170 million dollars and SBAC was awarded 160 million dollars. Each consortium was also awarded an additional 15.9 million dollars to help participating states transition to the common core state standards and the common assessments. Both consortia are scheduled to operationalize assessments 2014-15 and include use computer administered assessments.

States have the opportunity to participate in a consortium at varying levels. If a state elects to participate as a Governing State, it is limited to joining only one consortium. If a state acts as a Participating State, it is not limited and may join both consortia. Consortium membership for PARCC is described on pages 3 through 8 of Attachment 1 and on pages 6 and 7 of Attachment 2 for SBAC. Attachment 3 provides a side-by-side comparison of the expectations of governing and participating states. The participation in one or both consortia requires the Governor, SBE president, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU for PARCC is presented in Attachment 1 and the MOU for SBAC is presented in Attachment 2.

In June 2010, California joined PARCC as a Participating State. The participation requires that California administer and use the assessments developed by the consortium to meet the ESEA Title I requirements in the 2014-15 school year.

In addition, the PARCC MOU includes the following clause:

In the event that that the governor or chief state school officer is replaced in a Consortium state, the successor in that office shall affirm in writing to the Governing Board Chair the State’s continued commitment to participation in the Consortium and to the binding commitments made by that official’s predecessor within five (5) months of taking office.

In order for California to continue to participate in PARCC, the SSPI and Governor must indicate their commitment in writing by May 2011.
Both consortia will be presenting the design concepts of their proposals at the March 2011 SBE meeting…


John Fensterwald of “The Educated Guess” provides a description of this agenda item at  Additional information can be found at


Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2011: Mathematical Education of Teachers Workshop at MSRI

Source: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)

Dave Auckly, Sybilla Beckmann, Jim Lewis and William McCallum are coordinating an eighth workshop in the Critical Issues in Mathematics Education (CIME) series at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley on May 11-13. The following reasons were identified as the impetus for the upcoming workshop:

–  The Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS) has launched an initiative to revisit and update its publication, The Mathematical Education of Teachers. [* See note below regarding this.] –  The Common Core State Standards present both a challenge to ensure that the nation’s teachers are prepared to teach to high standards and an opportunity to seek common standards for educating the next generation of teachers.
–  It is appropriate to examine what has been learned from ongoing initiatives and research. For example, NSF and the U.S. Department of Education have both made a substantial and sustained investment in Mathematics and Science Partnerships.
– Now more than ever, there is a need for an active, vibrant, interdisciplinary community that will drive a cycle of improvement in both the teaching of mathematics at all levels (elementary school to collegiate education) and knowledge about mathematics teaching.

The following questions will guide the design of the workshop:

1.  What are some implications of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics for the mathematical education of teachers?
2.  What has been learned about the mathematical education of prospective and current teachers over the past decade?
3.  How can we encourage, develop and sustain an interdisciplinary community of mathematics educators and scholars–including teachers, mathematicians, mathematics educators, and education researchers–in such a way that different communities communicate with and learn from each other, and, in so doing, drive a cycle of improvement in the teaching of mathematics at all levels?

This workshop is designed for mathematicians, mathematics educators, classroom teachers and education researchers who are concerned with improving the teaching of mathematics and, in particular, with the mathematical education of teachers. The workshop will showcase materials and successful teacher education programs, examine the Common Core State Standards and implications of the CCSS, and explore how mathematics education research can improve practice.

The registration deadline is May 13. For a list of those who have already registered for the conference, visit

Visit for more information.


Related Information

The Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences produced The Mathematical Education of Teachers (MET) in 2001. The document can be viewed online at  As noted above, CBMS is working on an updated version of this document: “MET2. Last October, CBMS held a Forum on Content-Based Professional Development for Teachers of Mathematics in Reston, Virginia. MET2 was the topic of one of the breakout sessions:

The information below is from

Focus: “What are the three most important recommendations about the mathematical education of teachers that should be highlighted in MET2?”

…The Mathematical Education of Teachers (MET)…focused on the initial mathematical education of teachers.  We are currently engaged in an effort to update this publication with a target publication date of October 2011, incorporating what we have learned about teacher education over the last decade and extending the scope of the document to include more on the continuing mathematical education of teachers, that is, content-based professional development for teachers of mathematics.  The original MET document offered 11 recommendations to mathematics departments and the general mathematical community about the mathematical education of teachers ( The recommendations fell into three categories: i) curriculum and instruction; ii) cooperation; and iii) mathematicians’ involvement in national policy. Based on your experience and your discussions with colleagues at this forum, we are asking for your thoughts about what is most important to highlight in MET2. We would especially appreciate ideas about the following:
A)   Recommendations to mathematics departments concerning the teaching and learning of mathematics for teaching.
B)  Recommendations concerning relationships among the many groups who are engaged in the initial and/or continuing mathematical education of teachers.
C)   Recommendations concerning policy and engagement in issues connected to K-12 education…


Two Community College Mathematics Instructors Among Those Receiving Hayward Awards for Excellence in Education


At the March 8 meeting of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors, the four recipients of the Hayward Award for Excellence in Education were recognized. Recipients of this award “represent the best of California’s community college educators.” Established in 1989, “Awards have been presented periodically to honor community college faculty members who are selected by their peers for demonstrating the highest level of commitment to their students, colleges, and profession. Award recipients, nominated by their college academic senates and selected by representatives of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, must have a record of outstanding performance of professional activities as well as a record of active participation on campus.”

This year, two of the four educators recognized are math instructors:

– Ian Walton — Mission College
“…The range of Walton’s commitment to his students, college, and profession extends well beyond the formulas and methods he teaches in mathematics. Walton has spent a lifetime in developing new and creative ways of achieving excellence in education–both the education that he himself provides his students as well as the excellence of the community college system as a whole. Walton has been responsible for several creative and engaging ways of teaching mathematics to students who often see the subject as having nothing to do with their everyday lives. Through his efforts, Walton has provided alternative approaches to critical thinking in a class that many students initially do not like…”

– Bruce Yoshiwara –Los Angeles Pierce College
“.. As a professor of mathematics, Yoshiwara is a tireless leader in student success on his campus. He has dedicated himself to making a difference not only in mathematics teaching and learning but also in reaching out throughout his campus to work with other departments to achieve institutional improvement in student success… He is known for being demanding, but always positively and professionally, in his persistent, abiding, enduring, unceasing pursuit of excellence for all of his students. Students at all levels say he is the finest teacher and note his creative, entertaining, and humorous style…”

Please visit for more information about the award winners.


New TIMSS Video Public Use Web Site

Contact: Jim Stigler (

From Jim Stigler (UCLA):  We are pleased to announce that the 53 public use lessons collected as part of the TIMSS video studies [(] are now available for everyone on a new website, Users must register on the site to access the videos, but registration is free. In addition to the 53 full-length videos of eighth-grade mathematics and science lessons from seven countries, the site also provides full English-translation subtitles for each lesson, a searchable transcript, and a set of resources collected with each lesson such as scanned text materials and teacher commentaries. The site also includes a discussion forum where users can share ideas for how they are using the site, and suggest new features that might be added in the future. The site is a project of UCLA and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Funding was provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Please explore the site, and feedback is always welcome!


“Microsoft Releases Math 4.0 Free” by Dian Schaffhauser

Source: THE Journal – 10 March 2011

URL (Math 4.0):

Microsoft has released a new version of its math education software Mathematics 4.0, making it available as a free download for the first time.
Microsoft said the new version of its math program has been downloaded 250,000 times since its quiet January 2011 release.

Microsoft Mathematics 4.0, designed for students in middle school, high school, and early college, is intended to teach users how to solve equations while bolstering their understanding of fundamental math and science concepts. Although the company charged for its last version, this latest edition is free.

The new program works on computers running Windows XP, Vista, and 7, as well as Windows Server 2003 and 2008. The software includes a graphing calculator capable of plotting in 2D and 3D, a formulas and equations library, a triangle solver, a unit conversion tool, and ink handwriting support for tablet or ultra-mobile PC use. One new feature enables a user to create a custom movie where a 3D graphed image shifts among multiple shapes as variables change.

An 18-page step-by-step guide provides basic documentation to use the program’s functions.

Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 is available now. Further information can be found at


Happy Pi Day!

Last week’s issue of COMET included some Web sites dedicated to Pi Day–March 14. is another Web site for Pi Day enthusiasts. The Web contains a number of videos having pi as a main theme. Links to a few of these videos are included below: