COMET • Vol. 13, No. 11 – 8 October 2012


The California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet) and Upcoming California STEM Summit

Source: Amanda L. Boudria, California STEM Learning Network

URL (Summit)

The California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet) works to catalyze innovation in the teaching and learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in California.  Collaborating with its state and regional partners, CSLNet supports policies and practices that scale innovative STEM teaching and learning, and supports educators in preparing students for success in education, work, and daily life.

CSLNet is currently focusing on three major areas of work:

1. STEM Teacher Pathways – As part of the nationwide movement to recruit and train 100,000 STEM teachers in ten years (; also see, CSLNet is creating and sharing pathways that will bring systemic change to teacher preparation and credentialing through an innovative apprenticeship-style program that directly links K-12 education to the California State University system.  It also uses the established platform of after school programs to offer future teachers up to 3,000 hours of classroom experience teaching STEM subjects.

2. Power of Discovery: STEM^2  (STEM in out-of-school time; – Working with the California Afterschool Network, CSLNet is supporting the creation and implementation of a robust, statewide system made up of cross-sector partnerships that deliver high-quality STEM learning experiences to students during the critical out-of-school time (OST) hours.

3. Regional Networks  CSLNet supports regional STEM networks around the state in building partnerships that engage students, teachers, and community alliances to address regional needs in STEM education, mobilize local communities, and implement innovative and effective strategies.  There are currently eight Regional Networks operating throughout California.

CSLNet will be hosting the third annual California STEM Summit in San Diego on October 15-16: Over 300 STEM leaders and innovators from education, business and industry, non-profits, and governmental agencies will take an in-depth look at the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards–where they are today and how they will change STEM education–as well as discuss how to create stronger pathways into STEM teacher careers and how to address growing STEM workforce needs in California.

The annotated agenda for each day of the Summit is available online:
October 15:
October 16:

A sample of Summit topics follows below:
– Public-Private Partnerships to Support STEM: Engaging Business & Industry
– STEM Teacher Pathways: Preparing STEM Teachers through Real-World Experiences Both In and Out of School Time
– Common Core State Standards and NGSS: Putting Science and Engineering Practices into Teaching Practice
– STEM in Action: What it Looks Like
– Making STEM Work: Creating a STEM-Capable Workforce

For those unable to attend the California STEM Summit, Fora.TV will stream the Summit online at

For more information about the California STEM Learning Network, visit


Legislation Provides Free Access to Digital College Textbooks

SourceSacramento Bee – 27 September 2012

URL (SB 1052)
URL (SB 1053)

On September 27, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to give students access to free online textbooks for common undergraduate courses at California’s public colleges and universities.

Senate Bills 1052 and 1053, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, call for the establishment of an online library of digital textbooks for 50 of the most widely taken lower-division courses at the University of California, California State University and state community colleges. [SB 1053 states, “The California Digital Open Source Library is hereby established, and shall be administered by the California State University, in coordination with the California Community Colleges, for the purpose of housing open source materials while providing an Internet Web-based way for students, faculty, and staff to easily find, adopt, utilize, or modify course materials for little or no cost…”]

The bills…were approved by bipartisan votes in the Legislature. Publishing companies that once objected to the bills eventually removed their opposition, and amendments removed a requirement that publishers provide free copies of textbooks in college libraries.

“The current cost of traditional textbooks is so high, some college students are forced to struggle through a required class without the textbook, forced to drop classes or sometimes even drop out of college altogether,” Steinberg said in a prepared statement. “There’s absolutely no reason a basic biology, statistics or accounting textbook, for example, should cost $200″…


State Board of Education Meeting Includes Updates on the Mathematics Framework (2013), Common Core State Standards, and the Statewide Pupil Assessment System

URL (Agenda)

An archived webcast of the California State Board of Education (SBE) meeting held on September 13 is now available at A preliminary report of Board actions (draft minutes) is available at

The first item on the SBE agenda was “State Board Projects and Priorities,” a collection of topics that included Board liaison reports. Board member Patricia Rucker presented a report about her experience attending the first meeting of the Mathematics Framework work group on September 6-7. She was highly impressed with the group, saying “They came together with a purpose and a goal to create a Framework that would have some different and new meaning for education districts across the state… [Rucker thanked the staff, particularly the facilitator, Sue Stickel.] The staff marshaled a large group of very, very smart people… They put the ‘linear’ in linear thinking, everything has to add up, they are very exacting and concise, and language…they are very precise in expectations. And when it comes to the ideals of consensus, it’s just amazing how wonderfully well they work…” (See 24:24-28:43 in the archived webcast for Rucker’s full comments.)

Agenda Item 2 (Begins at 37:00): “This agenda item is the eighth in a series of regular updates to inform the State Board of Education (SBE) and public regarding Common Core State Standards (CCSS) systems implementation activities.”  Included as attachments to this agenda item were the following useful documents (download at
–  Common Core State Standards Systems Implementation Plan Highlights: July-September 2012
–  Select Common Core State Standards Outreach Activities of the California Department of Education: July-August 2012
– CCSS Implementation Outreach: State Board and Department of Education Activities

California’s Implementation Plan for the Common Core State Standards is located at

Agenda Item 4:  The California Department of Education (CDE) provided an update on the reauthorization of the statewide pupil assessment system. Agendas and presentations at Statewide Assessment Reauthorization Work Group and focus group meetings, as well as at regional public meetings are available on the CDE Reauthorization Web page:

This agenda item, which can be downloaded from,  included the following four attachments:
1 – Digest Regarding Aligning the Assessments to California’s Common Core State Standards
2 – Summary of Discussions from the July 2012 Work Group Meeting
3 – Preliminary Results from the Assessment Reauthorization Survey and Focus Groups (see for a correction to this attachment)
4 – Draft Purpose(s) and Themes Regarding the 16 Areas of Consideration

The fourth attachment included the following information:

The California Department of Education provided numerous opportunities for Californians to offer their input and suggestions regarding the reauthorization of the California assessment system… Data analysis will be finalized once all input is received.

Some preliminary common themes emerged from the multiple stakeholder input opportunities as outlined below:

— The system should include a variety of types of valid assessments (e.g., diagnostic, formative, interim, summative) that can be used for multiple purposes, including measuring growth across years and within a year.

— The system should be equitable and accessible to all students and subgroups; include a variety of item types; include assessments that are aligned to the adopted standards; and consider matrix sampling at various grade levels and content areas.

— In addition, the system should focus on diagnostic assessment and formative assessment practices and tools in the early grades (K–1); diagnostic assessment, formative assessment practices and tools, and interim assessment in grade two; and all four types of assessment in grades three through eleven. Depending on the grade level, the system should include assessment in science, history-social science, English-language arts, and mathematics.

— Ideally, the system would provide teachers access to a robust item bank and interim assessments, timely and accurate results to improve teaching and learning, and ongoing professional development.

— Finally, the system should yield valid and reliable results, including information on student progress toward meeting the standards and being college and career ready.


A PowerPoint file, “Transitioning to the New Assessments,” is available for download from


Instructional Quality Commission Meeting Includes Update on the Work of the Mathematics Framework Committee


The Instructional Quality Commission is an advisory body to the State Board of Education on matters pertaining to curriculum, instructional materials, and academic content standards. At the Commission’s meeting on September 23, the following information item was presented by the Mathematics Subject Matter Committee:

“(Agenda Item 4A)  Update on the Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (Mathematics Framework), 2013 Revision

“The Mathematics Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee (MCFCC) met for the first time on September 6-7, 2012. Several members of the Mathematics Subject Matter Committee attended the meeting… Among the topics discussed at the MCFCC meeting were a proposal for model courses for higher mathematics, a draft technology chapter, and an overview that will serve as an explanation and description of the grade-level and course-level chapters of the Mathematics Framework…”

COMET readers may be interested in viewing the MCFCC Work Plan for the Committee’s meetings. Planned agendas for all six 2-day meetings (through 14 February 2013) are contained in this document:


Change the Equation Introduces STEMworks


From the new STEMworks Web site:  Change the Equation (CTEq) is proud to host [STEMworks, a new] database of programs that deepen young people’s learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The database aims to be a critical resource for funders, program developers and STEM advocates alike. Funders can find programs that maximize the return on their investment. Those who develop STEM learning programs can benchmark their work against successful exemplars. Advocates can point to excellent programs as they make the case for quality.

The programs in this database have to clear a high bar. WestEd, an independent non-profit research, development, and service organization, rigorously reviews all of them against CTEq’s Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy ( and an accompanying Rubric (  Only programs that perform well against the principles are admitted.

STEMworks is itself a work in progress. The programs in this database are by no means the only excellent STEM learning programs in the country. Rather, they are the first in what is a growing list of effective programs. We will continuously improve the content and function of this resource as we review new programs.

CTEq invites all programs interested in being included in the STEMworks database to apply. WestEd is conducting ongoing reviews of the submissions to ensure that effective programs are added to the database on a regular basis. Programs interested in submitting an application for the STEMworks Database should visit


The searchable database contains the following main fields: Program Content Areas (science, technology, engineering, math); Program Types (e.g., Curriculum/Instructional Materials, Hands-on/Project-based, Informal/Out of School); Target Audience; Grade Level; Program Launch Date; Design Principles; and Program Location.

So far, there are 20 programs contained in the database. Among these are the following:
– Engineering is Elementary
– Full Option Science System (FOSS)
– Project Lead the Way
– Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading
– Techbridge


“Obama and Romney Tackle 14 Top Science Questions”

Source: Scientific American – 4 September 2012

“Scientific American partnered with grassroots organization [and more than a dozen leading professional associations] earlier this summer to encourage the…presidential candidates–Barack Obama and Mitt Romney–to answer 14 questions on some of the biggest scientific and technological challenges facing the nation [see].  President Obama and Governor Romney have now answered these [questions and their responses are available at].”

“[Scientific American] editors will grade the candidates’ answers for SA‘s November issue…and needs your help with this project… We will highlight the most thoughtful and constructive comments and consider the best, verifiable information that you give us in our own deliberations and analysis…”

To view the presidential candidates’ responses to the questions and/or to contribute your opinions about their opinions, please visit the website above. The broad topics of the questions include the following:
1. Innovation and the Economy
2. Climate Change
3. Research and the Future
4. Pandemics and Biosecurity
5. STEM Education
6. Energy
7. Food
8. Fresh Water
9. The Internet
10. Ocean Health


“What Number is Halfway Between 1 and 9? 
Is it 5 — or 3?” by Larry Hardesty

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – 5 October 2012

Ask adults from the industrialized world what number is halfway between 1 and 9, and most will say 5. But pose the same question to small children, or people living in some traditional societies, and they’re likely to answer 3.

Cognitive scientists theorize that that’s because it’s actually more natural ( for humans to think logarithmically than linearly: 3^0 is 1, and 3^2 is 9, so logarithmically, the number halfway between them is 3^1, or 3. Neural circuits seem to bear out that theory.

In a paper that appeared online last week in the Journal of Mathematical Psychology (, researchers from MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) use the techniques of information theory ( to demonstrate that, given certain assumptions about the natural environment and the way neural systems work, representing information logarithmically rather than linearly reduces the risk of error…

One of the researchers’ assumptions is that if you were designing a nervous system for humans living in the ancestral environment — with the aim that it accurately represent the world around them — the right type of error to minimize would be relative error, not absolute error. After all, being off by four matters much more if the question is whether there are one or five hungry lions in the tall grass around you than if the question is whether there are 96 or 100 antelope in the herd you’ve just spotted… [Access the full press release for more details.]

“There’s a whole bunch of different animal species,” says Adam Reeves, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, “and a whole bunch of different sensory mechanisms, like hearing and vision, and different aspects of all of them, and then taste, and smell, and so on, all of which follow exactly the same law” — a logarithmic relationship between stimulus intensity and perceived intensity. “Biology is very variable, right? So how come all these organisms come up with the same law? And how come the law is so precise? It’s a major philosophical problem, actually”…