COMET • Vol. 12, No. 06 – 29 March 2011


EdSource Forum Video Now Online: “The Future for Public Education in California”

URL (Forum) 
URL (Speakers) 

EdSource is an independent, nonpartisan educational policy organization originally established in 1977. More about EdSource can be found at

The 2011 EdSource Forum on California Education Policy was held on March 18 in Irvine. Presentation videos (presentations, discussions) and presentation slides from the Forum are available via the links below:

Forum Presentations (Video and PPT):


Introduction–Setting the Stage

URL (Video):

California’s Fiscal Crisis and its Impact on K-12 Education and Community Colleges

URL (Video):
URL (PPT-Mac Taylor, California’s Legislative Analyst):

     Just how serious will the state’s fiscal crisis be in 2011-12? How will it impact K–12? Community colleges? How long will it last? What are some of the proposed solutions for education? This session provides an update on the state education budget and federal education funding…

California’s New Common Core K-12 Academic Standards

URL (Video):
URL (PPT-Sue Stickel):
URL (PPT-Deb Sigman):
URL (PPT-Gavin Payne):

     In August 2010, the California State Board of Education (SBE) adopted-with modifications–new academic content standards in English and math based on the Common Core State Standards. How are these new standards different from what’s been in place the past decade? What modifications to the math standards did the SBE make and why? What are the next steps, and how will they affect curriculum and testing? What are districts and schools supposed to be teaching for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years?

“Next Generation Learning and Technology”

URL (Video):
URL (PPT-John Danner, Rocketship):
URL (PPT-Joel Rose, School of One):

     The newest advances in technology and educational software could be a cost-effective way to accelerate student learning and increase teacher productivity. But the most effective educational uses of “next gen” technology may not be what you think they are! This Forum segment featured state and national leaders who are learning about ways to use new technologies to improve student outcomes, and about how that can be built into a school’s budget and master schedule.

“View From the Top: New State Education Policy Leadership”

URL (Video):

     Tom Torlakson was elected this past November as California’s new State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI). He took over the leadership of the California Department of Education at the same time that California had a newly elected Governor (Jerry Brown) who replaced the majority of members on the State Board of Education. What changes can K-12 educators and stakeholders expect in state education policy and priorities? How do these leaders hope to strengthen the state’s public school system in a time of increasingly scarce resources?

Trish Williams Bids Farewell


     EdSource Executive Director Trish Williams will be retiring in June 2011 after leading EdSource for 19 years. Hear her remarks and a special tribute from SSPI Tom Torlakson.


Education Innovators Selected to Present Leading Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Teaching Innovations at California Academy of Sciences This Friday

Source: BusinessWire – 22 March 2011


Twelve students, teachers, nonprofits and other education innovators will present new ways of advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education at the California Academy of Sciences on 1 April 2011 at the inaugural “STEMposium” (, a celebration of excellence in K-12 STEM education innovation presented by nonprofit EnCorps Teachers Program with co-host Citizen Schools.

STEMposium will be Livestreamed at

The twelve STEMposium finalists were selected from more than 130 video submissions to present their innovations for bringing science, technology, engineering and math to life in compelling new ways before a live and digital audience through short, rapid-fire presentations. Five presenters from one of five tracks–Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Integrated STEM–will be awarded prizes valued at up to $5,000 at the STEMposium awards ceremony.

“While there is plenty of cause for alarm about America’s lagging STEM education system, STEMposium is about showcasing the many reasons for optimism,” said Jennifer Anastasoff, President of EnCorps Teachers Program. “By highlighting innovative ways to teach science, technology, engineering and math, STEMposium is serving as a catalyst for teachers and students seeking to enhance STEM education in their classrooms and for policymakers working to bolster STEM education policy nationwide.”

STEMposium will draw 300 attendees including students and teachers and civic, business, philanthropic, nonprofit, education and technology leaders. The event will be Livestreamed at to a national online audience of educators, students, policymakers, business and philanthropic leaders, education thought leaders and media.

The videos of the twelve STEMposium finalist presenters are available at  The videos will be disseminated nationally to help educators, funders and policymakers advance STEM education policy, inspire teachers and students and catalyze innovation in classrooms nationwide.

For more information about STEMposium, visit http://www.stemposiumorg


Advance Notice: Request for Proposals–Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) Program

Source: Rachel Lagomarsino (RLagomarsino@CPEC.CA.Gov), California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC)

The California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) is expected to release its 2011 Improving Teacher Quality Request for Proposals (RFPs) this week. This year’s competition asks for professional development (PD) proposals that help teachers understand and strengthen their content knowledge as preparation for implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CaCCSS-M) or the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (CaCCSS-ELA), each with California additions, that were adopted by the California State Board of Education on 2 August 2010.  The maximum award possible is $250,000.

Funding is expected to be available on 1 October 2011 (subject to change), and implementation beyond planning should begin almost immediately in the 2011-12 school year, regardless of whether or not summer institutes are included in the proposed PD model.  Professional Development activities should conclude by 30 September 2012 to allow enough time for culmination of the evaluation, expected to conclude by December 1, 2012, with the submission of a report.

Grants are awarded to Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) in partnership with high-need school districts to provide high quality teacher PD.  The 2011 RFP requires a County Office of Education (COE) as the fourth mandatory partner to enable IHEs to build on the COEs current work on the California Common Core Standards and vice versa.  County offices of education are currently planning events locally to communicate with school district personnel, principals and teachers about the new California standards. They also plan to offer in-depth professional development for teachers.  Successful ITQ grant proposers partnering with COEs will maximize resources available for PD based on the work already underway by both COEs and IHEs for the benefit of teachers in a time when funding for such endeavors is scarce.

To provide statewide geographical diversity, CPEC hopes to award one or more grants (merit-based) within each of the 11 regions designated by the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) that focus on the CaCCSS-M or the CaCCSS-ELA. The literacy standards in history/social-science, science, and technical subjects are meant to complement rather than supplant content standards in those disciplines. It should be noted that the CaCCSS-ELA proposals can focus on ELA, History/Social Studies, or Science content if the appropriate standards for each grade level incorporate the applicable literacy standards.

To verify whether a potential school district partner qualifies as “high-need” by the federal definition, visit for a list of census eligible districts.

Technical Assistance Workshops for those interested in applying will be held on April 20 & 21. One will be held in the Southern California area and one in the Sacramento area. More information will be included in the RFP.

If you do not intend to be a partner or participant in any proposal being submitted for this initiative, you may apply to be a reader. If you are interested in applying, please email us at so we can add you to the pool of candidates who will receive the Proposal Reader Interest Form by email in April 2011.

For additional information on the Improving Teacher Quality Program, including prior RFPs and FAQ, please visit our website at  If you have specific questions, you may e-mail the ITQ staff at


“‘Value-added’ Teacher Evaluations: L.A. Unified Tackles a Tough Formula” by Teresa Watanabe

Source: Los Angeles Times – 28 March 2011

… Los Angeles school district leaders are poised to plunge ahead with their own confidential “value-added” ratings this spring, saying the approach is far more objective and accurate than any other evaluation tool available.

“We are not questing for perfect,” said L.A. Unified’s incoming Supt. John Deasy. “We are questing for much better.”

As value-added analysis is adopted–if not embraced–across the country, much of the debate has focused on its underlying mathematical formulas and their daunting complexity.

All value-added methods aim to estimate a teacher’s effectiveness in raising students’ standardized test scores. But there is no universal agreement on which formula can most accurately isolate a teacher’s influence from other factors that affect student learning–and different formulas produce different results.

Nor is there widespread agreement about how much the resulting ratings should count. Tensions are all the greater because the stakes for teachers are high as more districts consider using the evolving science as a factor in hiring, firing, promotions, tenure and pay…

In essence, value-added analysis involves looking at each student’s past test scores to predict future scores. The difference between the prediction and students’ actual scores each year is the estimated “value” that the teacher added–or subtracted.

The Times released a value-added analysis of about 6,000 L.A. Unified elementary school teachers in August that was based on district data. Before school ends, L.A. Unified plans to release its own analysis, confidentially providing teachers with their individual value-added scores. For at least the first year, the teachers’ scores will not be used in formal evaluations; whether they are ultimately used is subject to negotiation with the union…

In designing its model, the nation’s second-largest school district has wrestled with myriad questions: whether to tweak the model to account for the students in a class who don’t speak fluent English, for example, or for those who moved from one school to another during the academic year.

Should value-added models take student race and poverty into account, even if it means having lower expectations for some races and higher ones for others?…

Deasy said that after long internal debate, L.A. Unified decided to control for race, ethnicity, mobility, English proficiency and special education status. He noted that they can affect achievement but “don’t determine or predict it”…

In Los Angeles, outgoing United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy said he’s fine with using the method to offer teachers information but opposes including it in performance reviews and other high-stakes decisions.

“It is off the table as far as we’re concerned,” Duffy said. “The more complicated a statistical approach to analyzing human behavior is, the more likely it will rely on generalities that are wildly inaccurate.”

Nathan A. Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers Union, said he sees a role for value-added data as one of many components in teacher evaluations, given what he called reasonable weight, 20% or less, compared to 50% in the District of Columbia. (Virtually no one supports using value-added as a sole measure of performance.)…


First International Summit on the Teaching Profession Held in New York City



On 16-17 March 2011, the International Summit on the Teaching Profession was held in New York City. The first event of its kind, the Summit aimed to engage countries in an intensive discussion about promising practices for recruiting, preparing, developing, supporting, retaining, evaluating, and compensating world-class teachers. The agenda can be found at  Sixteen countries and regions participated in the conference, which was hosted by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

On the final day of the Summit, the U.S. Department of Education released a statement summarizing the Summit’s goals (

The event marked the first time education ministers, teachers and union leaders from around the world convened in the United States to discuss best practices in building a world-class teaching force. Foreign delegations from high performing and rapidly improving educational systems, including Belgium, Brazil, Canada, The People’s Republic of China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Slovenia and the United Kingdom, joined the United States in holding discussion sessions focused on (a) Teacher Recruitment and Preparation; (b) Development, Support, and Retention of Teachers; (c) Teacher Evaluation and Compensation; and (d) Teacher Engagement in Education Reform.

The U.S. Department of Education, together with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Education International (EI), and U.S.-based organizations–National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Asia Society, and WNET–hosted the summit to help spread effective policies and practices to strengthen and elevate the teaching profession in ways that improve educational outcomes for children in all societies. [The Summit served as a prelude to WNET’s sixth annual Celebration of Teaching & Learning, a K-12 professional development conference (see article below).]

“It’s clear that no two countries are the same but that doesn’t mean we don’t face common challenges,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The International Summit on the Teaching Profession is an extraordinary opportunity to broaden our perspective on how to effectively recruit and support teachers. This is an area where we need to move forward with a sense of urgency because building a strong teaching force is critical to having a successful education system.”

A background paper, entitled “Building a High Quality Teaching Force” and composed by the OECD, outlines international analysis, lessons and examples around recruiting, preparing, supporting, developing, evaluating, compensating, and retaining teachers. [COMET readers are encouraged to view the document at]

“This summit underscores that the quality of teaching is key to improving student outcomes – and ultimately our societies’ future,” said Secretary-General of the OECD Angel Gurría. “Teachers must be a central part of any effective solution and provided with the tools to lead change.”

Throughout the summit, common themes emerged around successful practices. Participants voiced shared interest in elevating the professional status of teachers, partnering with teachers in education reform to produce successful outcomes and building collaboration between unions and education leaders to ensure overall progress.

“To achieve a high quality education system, education and union leaders must join together to debate the different roads and draw a consensus around how we achieve our shared goals,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “This summit provides us the opportunity to learn evidence-based strategies from one another to support teachers in ways that strengthen a nation’s entire education system.”

The summit is the first step in building an ongoing international dialogue on improving education. In the following weeks, the Asia Society [(see] will lead host organizations in preparing and publishing for the public a summary paper outlining summit discussions and emerging lessons on how to strengthen the teaching profession.

Visit to watch the Closing Session and remarks on lessons learned from the Summit, followed by closing remarks.

Visit to read reflections on the Summit by a participant who summarized several of the main themes that she noted kept resurfacing (e.g., “Teachers in high performing countries are given an average of 15 hours/week to confer with colleagues, observe others’ classrooms, and participate in professional learning activities.”)

Related Articles

“International Summit Highlights Role 
of Teacher Voice”




Over 10,000 Educators Gather in New York for the Celebration of Teaching & Learning

Source: WNET

Following on the heels of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York City (see article above), WNET hosted the sixth annual Celebration of Teaching & Learning on 18-19 March 2011. Over 10,000 educators from all 50 states were joined by experts, advocates, practitioners and academics to help shape the future of schools. Visit to watch the conference welcome and overview by WNET Vice President and Director of Education.

“This week marks the first time in history that education leaders from across the globe have gathered in the U.S. to share ideas and best practices,” noted Ron Thorpe, Vice President of Education, WNET.  “Over the past five years we have been privileged to host educators from across the U.S. to deliver exceptional professional development.  This year, we’re honored to be involved in this impactful Summit and welcome its participants to the Celebration, providing educators everywhere a forum unique to the education community.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed March 16-19 “New York and WNET Celebrate Teaching & Learning Week, “and on Friday, March 18, the Empire State Building was lit yellow, blue and red to honor the week’s events.
To learn more about the Celebration, including speaker information and a searchable schedule, visit


Mathematics Terms, Symbols, and History; Mathematicians on Postage Stamps


Jeff Miller, a mathematics teacher at Gulf High School in Florida, has created a number of Web sites that may interest COMET readers:

– Images of Mathematicians on Postage Stamps:

– Earliest Known Uses of Some of the Words of Mathematics:

– Earliest Uses of Various Mathematical Symbols:

– Ambiguously Defined Mathematical Terms at the High School Level: