COMET • Vol. 13, No. 02 – 22 February 2012


Mathematics, Science, and Technology Conferences for California Educators

Information is presented below about a variety of mathematics, science, and technology conferences and workshops that will be held in California during 2012:

American Institute of Mathematics (AIM)

One of AIM’s “How to Run a Math Teachers’ Circle” workshops will be held in Palo Alto the week of June 25-29. The workshop is designed for teams of five (two mathematicians, two middle school teachers, and one administrator or other organizer) who would like to start a Math Teachers’ Circle in their area. For more information, visit or download the brochure from The application deadline is March 16.

California Mathematics Council (CMC)

(1) CMC-Central is sponsoring its second annual STEMposium on March 9-10 at CART (Center for Advanced Research and Technology) High School in Clovis (Fresno County; For more details and to register, visit

(2) CMC-North will be accepting proposals through April 30 to speak at its November 30-December 2 conference at Asilomar. For more information, visit
(3) CMC-South will be accepting speaker proposals soon for its November 2-3 conference in Palm Springs. For more information (and to view last year’s conference program), visit

California Mathematics Project (CMP)

The California Mathematics Project’s Supporting Teachers to Increase Retention (CMP STIR) project is sponsoring the Mathematics Teacher Retention Symposium (MTRS): Successes, Challenges, and Lessons Learned on March 22-24 at the LAX Westin. This national symposium will address teacher retention on a national scale and disseminate the findings of the CMP STIR. More information can be found at


California Science Teachers Association (CSTA)

The 2012 California Science Education conference will be held in San Jose on October 19-21. Proposals are being accepted for workshops until March 6. For more details, visit


Computer-User Educators (CUE)

CUE’s Annual Conference will be held on March 15-17 in Palm Springs. Visit for more information.


Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Professional Enhancement Program (PREP) for Higher Education Faculty

(1) The first of MAA’s two PREP workshops that will be held in California this year is “Using Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) in Second-Year Calculus and in Courses for Prospective [Elementary and Secondary] Teachers.” The workshop will be held on June 19-22 in Santa Barbara and will be led by Doug Moore and Bill Jacob. Visit for more information about this workshop. Please email Bill Jacob if you are interested in attending: Travel and registration support is available.

(2) The second of MAA’s PREP workshops located in California is “Teaching that Emphasizes Mathematical Practices for K-8 Teachers.” This workshop will be delivered by Phyllis Chinn and Dale Oliver on July 15-20 in Arcata. Participants will explore the changes represented by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), particularly related to the Standards for Mathematical Practice, and consider how best to integrate CCSS in their classes for future and practicing K-8 teachers. For more information, please visit


California State Board of Education Hears Updates on the CCSS Implementation Plan; Approves Mathematics Framework Timeline and Supplemental Instructional Materials Evaluation Criteria

URL (Agenda)
URL (Actions) 
URL (Video) 

The California State Board of Education (SBE) has posted a preliminary report of actions taken at last month’s SBE meeting: See below for Agenda Items 9-11 (Common Core State Standards; Supplemental Instructional Materials Review; Mathematics Framework Timeline/Application) and a report of actions taken on Items 10-11.

Time markers for the January 12 meeting video (available at are noted on each of the items below for those wishing to view the proceedings:


Item 9 — Update on the Activities of the California Department of Education and State Board of Education Regarding Implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Systems

[Time marker 1:34-2:54 on the meeting video; Agenda Item documents: and
Note: This second document is particularly detailed and informative. See page 35 for an implementation timeline.]

Note: The video of the presentations by Barbara Murchison (CDE) and Fred Tempes (WestEd) and the follow-up Q&A with Peter Birdsall, Sherry Skelly Griffith, Phil Lafontaine, Deb Sigman, and others is highly recommended for those desiring a detailed update of implementation plans for the CCSS. The numerous questions by members of the SBE indicate that there is still concern and lack of understanding about specifics regarding CCSS implementation in California, including how all of the state activities related to the CCSS are coordinated. A CCSS update will also be included on the March 2012 SBE agenda.
Item 10 — Supplemental Instructional Materials Review Aligned to the Common Core State Standards: Evaluation Criteria

[Time marker 2:55-3:20 on the meeting video; Agenda Item document:]
Note: Tom Adams emphasized that this review is not an instructional materials adoption. The results will be advisory; districts are not compelled to purchase the materials, but they will have flexibility regarding which funds that can be used to do so. The review will not include 8th grade mathematics (“starting with the traditional Algebra textbook should be fine at this point”). See and for more details.
Action: A motion that the SBE approve the criteria presented by CDE for the evaluation of supplemental instructional materials passed unanimously.
Item 11 — Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve, 2013 Revision: Approval of the Timeline and Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee (CFCC) Application Form

[Time marker 3:10-3:42 on the meeting video; Agenda Item document:]
Note: Tom Adams provided an overview of the steps of the Mathematics Framework approval process: (Also see and Attachment 1 of In response to Board member Williams’ question regarding curricular materials for CCSS Grade 8 math (not Algebra I), Adams responded that it will take a curricular adoption to provide such materials. Also, the Mathematics Framework “will have to provide guidance to the field as to their options at Grade 8.”
In response to a publisher’s recommendation to compress the 30-month period between framework adoption and instructional materials adoption, Adams said that this might be possible but only if California’s instructional materials criteria (located in the framework) were not too different from those of other states that have adopted the CCSS. A decision will need to be made whether to require that textbooks cover just the CCSS or all of the standards (CCSS plus the California Additions).
Action: A motion that the SBE approve the timeline and application form for the 2013 revision of the Mathematics Framework passed unanimously.


Common Core State Standards Update

Source: California Department of Education – 16 February 2012

Last week’s Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Update from the California Department of Education included the following additions to the CCSS resource page (

Link to Two CCSS Mathematics Resources – Two additional resources for CCSS-Mathematics have been added to the “CCSSO/Multi-State Resources” page ( A link has been added to Inside Mathematics (, a site that features classroom examples of innovative teaching methods and insights into student learning and tools for mathematics instruction. To illustrate the CCSS for Mathematical Practice, links are provided for each individual practice standard correlated to excerpts of mathematics lessons. Another added link is to The Illustrative Mathematics Project ( This project aims to illustrate each of the standards using high-quality reviewed tasks from teacher leaders. The site provides guidance to all stakeholders implementing the CCSS by illustrating the range and types of mathematical work that students will experience and other implementation tools. The Web site continues to be updated, with illustrated standards added on a regular basis. Contributors and advisors to the project include Common Core authors William McCallum, Jason Zimba, and Phil Daro.
[To subscribe to the “CCSS Update,” send a blank message to]

SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Update

Source:  California Department of Education (CDE) – Issue 9 (Week beginning 2/20/2012)

The following two news items are among those included in this week’s issue of the California Department of Education’s SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Update:

– SBAC in the News — Two recent articles highlighted SBAC work:
(a) Governing magazine interviewed Dr. Joe Willhoft (SBAC Chief Executive Director) and Dr. Carissa Miller (Co-Chair SBAC Executive Committee/Deputy Superintendent of the Idaho Department of Education) about the development of next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core:
(b) Linda Darling-Hammond (SBAC Senior Research Advisor/Professor of Education at Stanford University) published an op-ed piece in The Sacramento Bee about the benefits of Smarter Balanced assessments for California, noting that the assessments will “include more written responses from students, plus tasks that require them to engage in research, solve more complex problems and use technology.” Her article can be found at
– New External Website — SBAC launched a new external website at The site showcases the SBAC’s work and provides frequent updates on activities, milestones, and events. Visitors are able to explore an interactive timeline of activities by school year, download new fact sheets and resources, and sign up for a monthly e-newsletter. In addition, new materials are now available on the site.
To subscribe to the SBAC CDE weekly update, register at You can also view past issues on the archive page at

Additional Teaching Authorization Now Possible with National Board Certification

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing – 10 February 2012

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing recently issued Official Correspondence concerning Senate Bill 941, which was signed by Governor Brown last September and became effective this year. The bill allows the Commission to issue an additional subject matter authorization to the holder of a Multiple or Single Subject Teaching Credential if he or she has National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification in the new credential type. For example, the holder of a Multiple Subject Credential may earn a Single Subject Credential in Mathematics based on earning NBPTS certification in Early Adolescence/Mathematics or in Adolescence and Young Adulthood/Mathematics. Details are available at


WestEd Webinar STEM Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

Source: Julie Duffield, WestEd’s SchoolsMovingUp Team
URL (Study):

This morning, WestEd hosted a webinar entitled, “STEM Professional Learning Communities (PLCs): New Research on Design, Implementation and Results.” A video of this 1.5-hour webinar has been archived and is now available for viewing at This Web page also contains a description of the NSF-funded study upon which the webinar is focused (STEM Teachers in Professional Learning Communities), as well as a number of related links.

The document, STEM Teachers in Professional Learning Communities: From Good Teachers to Great Teaching, can be downloaded from the findings of this study were the following:
– Participating in learning teams (i.e., three or more teachers working together over a sustained period of time) can successfully engage STEM teachers in discussions about the mathematics and science that they teach.
– STEM teachers in learning teams (a) had better understanding of mathematics and science and (b) felt more prepared to teach mathematics and science.
– STEM teachers participating in learning teams improved their practice by (a) using more research-based methods for teaching mathematics and science (e.g., using student inquiry as an instructional approach), (b) paying more attention to students’ reasoning and understanding, and (c) using more diverse modes of engaging students in problem solving.
WestEd’s full webinar archive, which includes a number of STEM-related topics, is available at

National Engineers Week


This week marks the 61st annual “National Engineers Week,” designed to celebrate the positive contributions engineers make to society and as a catalyst for outreach to both children and adults. As part of the week-long celebration, tomorrow is designated as “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.” The affiliated Web site ( notes, “More than just one day, Introduce a Girl to Engineering is a national movement that shows girls how creative and collaborative engineering is and how engineers are changing our world.”

For more information about National Engineers Week and related resources, visit Also visit—articles/articles/students/e-week-2012-comes-to-washington-dc to read the article, “E-Week 2012 Comes to Washington, DC.”

Related Articles

Engineers Week 2012 Names Outstanding STEM Teachers at the Inaugural DiscoverE Awards Program

Source: ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) – 22 February 2012

Three STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educators were honored today for their outstanding achievements in helping students discover engineering during the inaugural DiscoverE Educator Awards, part of this year’s activities connected to Engineers Week 2012.

Shella Rivano Condino of Presidio High School, Presidio, Texas; Javaris Powell of Friendship Public Charter School, Washington, D.C., and Derek Sale of Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy, Detroit, Mich., were announced as winners of the 2012 DiscoverE Educators Award during proceedings of the 2012 DiscoverE Summit held today at the Newseum in Washington. D.C.
Engineers Week and ASME, 2012 chair, established the DiscoverE Educator Award Program to identify and celebrate exceptional STEM educators who have had an extraordinary impact on their students and to provide them with a forum to tell their compelling stories. Each winner received a $3,000 cash prize, courtesy of 3M and ASME, and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., during Engineers Week 2012, Feb.19-25…
[Visit the full article to learn how these three middle and high school teachers inspired and empowered their students.]


“The Future of Science Education: STEM and Workforce Readiness”

Sponsor: Dow Chemical Company

Visit the Web site above to view a 30-minute archived video presentation originally shown on February 2. In this video, two dozen presenters promote the use of project-based learning models to “[transform] graduation rates across the board [and foster] engagement and interest in STEM subjects.” In addition to corporate CEOs and executive directors of STEM-related organization, the video features teachers and administrators who are successfully implementing project-based learning in their schools.



“Obama Inspired by Students and Their Science Fair Projects”

Source: Physics Today – 10 February 2012

At the second annual White House Science Fair on February 7, President Obama pledged new measures that will in the coming decade increase by 1 million the number of U.S. degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as train 100,000 new STEM teachers. Addressing more than 100 top-finishing students from more than three dozen science fair competitions across the U.S., the President called for “an all-hands-on-deck approach” to STEM. “Let’s train more teachers. Let’s get more kids studying these subjects. Let’s make sure these fields get the respect and attention they deserve,” he said.

In conjunction with the fair, President Obama announced that his budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 includes $80 million in new funding to support effective STEM teacher preparation programs through the Department of Education. Also for STEM teacher preparation, the president announced the commitment of $22 million by a group of businesses and foundations led by the Carnegie Corp of New York. And he proposed a new $60 million, K-16 education initiative, to be administered jointly by NSF and the U.S. Department of Education, that will develop, validate, and scale up evidence-based approaches to improve learning at K–12 and undergraduate levels.
“You guys inspire me,” President Obama told the high school and middle school students after he toured through the more than 30 exhibits on display. “When you work and study and excel at what you’re doing in math and science, when you compete in something like this, you’re not just trying to win a prize today. You’re getting America in shape to win the future.”
Also see for details about the President’s speech. A few excerpts follow below:
President Obama believes that being an excellent STEM teacher requires deep content knowledge and strong skills in teaching that content. That’s why the President issued a national challenge to prepare 100,000 effective teachers with such skills in math and science over the next decade. Key steps [announced on February 7] to meet that goal include:
• A new $22 million investment from the philanthropic and private sector to complement the Administration’s efforts: After the President issued his call to action to recruit and prepare 100,000 effective STEM teachers, over 115 organizations, led by Carnegie Corporation of New York and Opportunity Equation, came together to form a coalition called “100Kin10” to help reach the President’s goal. Also on February 7, fourteen of those organizations — including Carnegie, Google, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr., Bill & Melinda Gates, Freeport McMoran, and Michael and Susan Dell Foundations– announced a $22 million fund to invest in STEM teacher preparation and support. In addition, other 100Kin10 partners made over 100 individual commitments, such as the following:
– National Math and Science Initiative will prepare 4,000 new STEM teachers from 31 UTeach sites by 2015;
– Teach for America will recruit 11,000 STEM Corps members by 2015 and connect other qualified applicants to additional STEM teaching opportunities;
– Donors Choose will inspire 50,000 citizens to sponsor projects in math and science classrooms over the next two years, delivering $15M in critical classroom resources and helping 600,000 students nationwide;
– Google will share its talent management practices to help find, grow, and retain outstanding STEM teachers by partnering with districts and organizations for comprehensive reform and hosting talent academies with administrators and decision-makers;
– California State University will prepare 1,500 new math and science teachers annually through 2015, half of whom will teach in high-need schools for at least three years and 10% of whom will earn dual certification, addressing the needs of hard-to-staff schools…
A complete list of partners and their commitments is available at

“PCAST Remedy for Undergraduate Science [(Engaged to Excel)] is a Tall Order” by Jeffrey Mervis

Source: ScienceInsider – 8 February 2012

URL (Report)
URL (Report Release Video)

A new report from a presidential panel offers a clear and seemingly simple recipe for improving U.S. undergraduate science, engineering, and math education and attracting more students into those fields: make the introductory courses more interesting by replacing lectures with active learning, give entering students the math skills they will need to take on these courses, and provide more routes into science and engineering for non-traditional students.

But education leaders caution that those recommendations by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) are deceptively challenging and will require overcoming steep obstacles at the thousands of U.S. colleges and universities that educate the next generation of workers.”
Changing the academic culture is hard, and I’m not going to pretend that we’re assured of success. We’re not,” says Hunter Rawlings, former president of Cornell University and now head of the Association of American Universities, a group of 61 research-intensive schools that have recently pledged to improve the first 2 years of instruction on their campuses. On February 7, Rawlings participated in a panel discussion, moderated by Carl Wieman, director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, on the newly released report.
Education reformers say one of their biggest hurdles is an academic culture that prizes research over teaching and that traditionally has been geared more toward weeding out rather than attracting students into majoring in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. In addition, the current system of U.S. higher education, including community colleges and 4-year institutions as well as those offering graduate degrees in STEM fields, is so vast that it is inherently resistant to change. Although reformers can point to piecemeal efforts that have moved the needle at particular schools, those programs typically owe their success to a deep and sustained commitment by a single prominent scientist or campus leader. Scaling up those achievements, however, has proven much more difficult.
The authors of the PCAST report, entitled Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates With Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, claim that their suggestions, if adopted, will lead to “1 million additional college graduates with STEM degrees.” Fewer than 40% of students who begin college planning to major in a STEM field actually earn a STEM degree, the report notes, and simply boosting that retention rate to 50% would get the country three-quarters to the goal. Another important step, says the report, is getting all students ready for STEM coursework. Some 60% of freshmen don’t have the minimum math skills needed to study science and engineering at the college level, it notes.
Jo Handelsman, a Yale University biologist and co-chair of the PCAST working group that produced the report, says it calls for “a national experiment” on the best way to eliminate remedial math courses and bring more students up to college standards. That experiment is needed, she says, because “we don’t know what will make a difference.” In line with that recommendation, the Obama Administration has proposed spending $60 million on research exploring “evidence-based” approaches to improving math instruction from elementary school through college. The money, part of the president’s 2013 budget request that will be submitted to Congress on Monday, would be divided equally between the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. NSF’s Joan Ferrini-Mundy, head of the agency’s education directorate, said the program, if funded, would build upon existing NSF research activities.
Better math preparation is vital to improving undergraduate science, agrees panelist Mary Ann Rankin, founder of a science teacher training program at the University of Texas and now head of the National Math and Science Initiative, which is seeking to replicate that program nationally…
Rankin and others say [that] the relationship between poor instruction and poor student learning is easy to understand. “Most faculty members aren’t taught how to teach,” she says. “Nor are they taught how students learn. As a result, they are very uncomfortable using an inquiry approach, in which they are a guide for students who take responsibility for their own learning”…
James Gates, a physicist at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the report’s other co-chair, says that it’s just as important to help students at 2-year colleges and those seeking technical training as it is to address the challenges at a large research university like his. Some 30% of the current U.S. scientific workforce has attended community college, he notes, a percentage that is expected to rise steadily over the next decade.
The recommendations in the report would cost roughly $75 million a year for 5 years to implement, according to its authors. Gates and Handelsman said that they expect the federal government would foot only a portion of the tab, with the rest coming from companies and private foundations interested in improving STEM education.
On February 7, as part of a science fair he hosted at the White House, President Barack Obama announced that the private sector has committed another $22 million to the administration’s campaign, called “Educate to Innovate,” to improve STEM teaching.

The Mathematical Education of Teachers II (MET2) — Draft Now Ready for Public Comment

Contact: Ronald C. Rosier – Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences;

A draft of The Mathematical Education of Teachers II (MET2) is now available on the CBMS website: The writing team for MET2 is soliciting comments and suggestions on this draft, which is intended as an update of the original MET book published by CBMS in 2001. See the CBMS website ( for details on how to respond. It would be most helpful if the comments were submitted by April 28.

From the draft’s Introduction: “Two critical pillars of a strong PreK-12 education are a well-qualified teacher in every classroom, and a challenging, world-class curriculum. In mathematics, such a curriculum is outlined by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This report offers recommendations for the mathematical preparation and professional development of such teachers…”

Math Reasoning Inventory — Free Online Formative Assessment Tool

Source/Contact: Marilyn Burns

Marilyn Burns has just released her Math Reasoning Inventory (MRI) and launched the related website:

Marilyn writes: “With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’ve been working for two years on this online formative assessment tool, and it’s now available, free of charge, to all teachers. MRI assesses the numerical proficiency of students and asks questions that the Common Core expects all middle school students to answer successfully. A face-to-face interview is the core of MRI, and reasoning is the heart. The tool provides teachers all they need to ask questions and capture students’ responses. Information about the tool and how to sign up for a free account can be found on the MRI website: It’s a robust website that provides information about preparing to use MRI, provides tips for giving MRI interviews, has more than 80 video clips of actual interviews, shows sample MRI reports, explains the reasoning strategies students need to be numerically proficient, and more. And, for an introduction, I posted an article in the Math Solutions Newsletter:”
If you have any feedback for Marilyn, please email her at