COMET • Vol. 14, No. 04 – 1 April 2013



“State Board Eliminates Incentives to Offer Algebra in 8th Grade” by John Fensterwald

Source: EdSource – 13 March 2013

“The State Board of Education voted unanimously [on March 13] to remove state incentives encouraging schools to offer Algebra I in 8th grade. The move was both a vote of confidence in the new Common Core standards for 8th grade, which districts are now beginning to implement, and a retreat from a decade-old policy of pushing universal algebra in 8th grade…” 

Visit the Web site above to read the rest of the EdSource article concerning Item 6 on the State Board of Education’s March 2013 meeting agenda, which is located at


Language of the approved SBE motion to eliminate penalty for General Mathematics CST in Grades 8 and 9: 

As documented in the preliminary report of actions taken at its March meeting (, the State Board of Education (SBE) approved the recommendation by the California Department of Education that the following change to the calculation of the 2012 Base API (Academic Performance Index) be made: “Eliminate the requirement that the performance levels of students in grades eight and nine taking the General Mathematics California Standards Test (CST) be lowered by one or two performance levels, respectively, for inclusion into the API.” 


STEM Learning in Action Conference to be Held on May 10 in Fresno

Contacts: Maria Chiara Simani, Executive Director, California Science Project ( and Jerry Valadez, Director, Central Valley Science Project (

The California Science Project and its partners announce the STEM Learning in Action conference, which will be held in Fresno on 10 May 2013. The conference will showcase successful K-16 STEM education practices featuring exemplary STEM classroom teachers, STEM-focused school models, out-of-school STEM resources, and promising practices for undergraduate STEM preparation. Special attention will be given to how these practices support instruction using Common Core State Standards, the K-12 Science Framework, and Next Generation Science Standards. This transformative experience will weave together theory and practice to motivate, inspire, and engage participants in the process of taking action and improving K-16 STEM education for all students.

Guided by recent reports by the National Research Council and the California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet), conference programming is specifically tailored to support school leaders and practitioners as they strategize how to redesign, establish, and support STEM-focused schools and programs. STEM Learning in Action encourages superintendents, teachers, parents, business and industry leaders, higher education faculty, after school educators, and community members to network and learn how California can engage key stakeholders in this critical dialogue about inclusive STEM education and workforce readiness.

The call for speakers is available online at Presenters accepted to participate will have conference registration covered and will be eligible for travel and lodging support.

For more information, visit or contact Jerry Valadez at


Free Webinar: Innovative Induction and Beginning Teacher Support Programs

Source: Joan Bissell – California State University Chancellor’s Office

On Tuesday, April 9, from 3:30-5:00 p.m. PT, California State University and WestEd will present an interactive webinar with three senior district staff members who will profile Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) and induction programs that have embedded the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), STEM, Linked Learning, and Transitional Kindergarten.

For more information and to register, please visit (Advance questions may be sent to


Call for Manuscripts for Issues in Teacher Education–Special STEM Education Edition

Source: Babette Benken, Professor, CSU Long Beach –

Readers are invited to submit manuscripts for a theme issue of Issues in Teacher Education focusing on STEM education. The editors will entertain articles that present new approaches to and designs for teacher education that place emphasis on STEM education and integration, as well as research that explores the role that STEM education can play within our evolving national curriculum and system of teacher preparation.

Major topics include the following:

– Teacher Preparation Programs
– Elementary Teacher Education
– Secondary Teacher Education
– Field Experiences
– Connections and Partnerships
– TPACK and Technology as a Tool
– Professional Development of Teacher Educators
– Role of STEM

The deadline to submit a manuscript is 1 May 2013, with publication tentatively scheduled for Spring 2014. To submit a manuscript, go to the Issues in Teacher Education website: (Register and create a login; then proceed to the journal page.)

For more details regarding possible topics or manuscript submission processes, please contact Babette Benken at


Call for Subject Matter Program Reviewers; Table of Approved Subject Matter Programs in California

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing 

Rebecca Parker ( reports that the Professional Services Division of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) has received a number of proposals from institutions that wish to sponsor subject matter programs (e.g., Foundational-Level General Science). These proposals need to be reviewed by individuals with expertise in the subject matter area. If you’re interested in conducting a review of submitted subject matter program proposals, please send an email message to Rebecca Parker with your contact information and subject matter content area(s) of expertise. 
CTC has prepared a chart summarizing all of the approved subject matter programs at California institutions (CSU, UC, Private Institutions):

New Recommended Literature List includes Common Core, and College and Career Readiness Materials

Source: California Department of Education

On March 18, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled the new list of “Recommended Literature: Pre-Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve.” The list is a collection of more than 7,800 titles of recommended reading of different genres for children and adolescents. 

The interactive database can be searched by author, title, annotation, illustrator, translator, subject, grade span, and language. The new list updates, replaces, and incorporates three other literature lists for science and mathematics, history/social science, and visual and performing arts. Local school officials and teachers are encouraged to use this list as a resource in designing standards-based instructional programs. 

The new list of selected titles covers a broad range of subjects and grade levels to help students meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English-Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects; CCSS for Mathematics; and the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards. 

The Recommended Literature list was coordinated by the California Department of Education and developed with the assistance of teachers, library consultants from school and public libraries, administrators, curriculum planners, and college professors. 


The Arts: Turning STEM into STEAM

Source: Bob Bullwinkel, Fresno County Office of Education

Bob Bullwinkel, Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts at the Fresno County Office of Education, has created a resource page with links to articles and Web sites related to integrating the Arts into STEM education:


California Joins National Partnership to Teach Students 21st Century Skills

Source: California Department of Education

On March 11, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that the California Department of Education has joined the national Partnership for 21st Century Skills ( network of 18 states, designed to teach every student real-world skills to meet the needs of a competitive global economy. 

“California is part of a growing national movement to teach students the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need for college and careers,” said Torlakson. “Forging a partnership with P21 provides California with additional tools and resources to implement the Common Core State Standards and our newly revised Career Technical Education Standards. This partnership underscores our commitment to prepare every student for the challenges of a changing world.” 

P21 focuses on getting every student ready for an increasingly competitive economy that demands innovation. P21 strives to teach all students what it calls “21st century readiness” skills by integrating the following “4Cs” into all academic core content areas and classes: 

(a) Critical thinking and problem solving 
(b) Communication 
(c) Collaboration 
(d) Creativity and innovation. 

California’s updated Career Technical Education Standards also reflect the “4Cs” by addressing “Career Readiness Practices” that will help schools prepare all students for careers as well as higher education. California has expanded the number of career technical educational courses and has emphasized the integration of career readiness into the academic mainstream as part of Torlakson’s Career Readiness Campaign. Students now have access to multiple career pathways in high tech, computer science, health sciences, construction, the arts, agriculture, and other industries ( 

For more information, visit


U.S. Department of Education Statement Regarding Request for ESEA Flexibility from California’s CORE District Consortium

Source: U.S. Department of Education – 26 March 2013

A notice from the U.S. Department of Education last Tuesday indicates that California’s CORE (California Office to Reform Education) districts–Clovis, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento City, San Francisco, Sanger, and Santa Ana–will be allowed to compete for ESEA flexibility along with states. An excerpt from the Department’s press release follows below: 

Our strong preference and focus in the ESEA flexibility process remains on working with states, including California, if it decides to seek ESEA flexibility for the upcoming school year. 

While California does not currently have an ESEA flexibility application under review, we have received a waiver request from CORE, a unique consortium of California districts. Given that the CORE districts collectively serve 1.2 million students — more than most states — we believe their request merits careful consideration. 

We commend the level of work and collaboration that the CORE districts have invested in their plan to date, and are encouraged by the positive discussion among State Board members regarding CORE’s application. 

Under Section 9401, the Department has the authority to grant district-level waivers, and we will now move CORE’s application into the peer review process. 

In order to receive broad accountability waivers, the CORE districts must meet a high bar, similar to the one the Department has set for states: college- and career-ready expectations for all students; differentiated accountability, including targeting the lowest-performing schools, schools with the largest achievement gaps, and other schools with performance challenges for subgroups; and teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that take into account student growth and are used to help teachers and principals improve their practices. 


Related articles: 

“U.S. Ed Department Agrees to Review 9 Districts’ Plan for NCLB Waiver” by John Fensterwald

Source: EdSource – 27 March 2013

Letter from Tom Torlakson and Michael Kirst Regarding CORE District Waiver Request

Source: California Department of Education – 22 March 2013

This is a joint letter to Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst regarding the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) waiver request. 


Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts Now Available in Spanish — Translation of CCSS for Mathematics is Planned

Source: California Department of Education

The San Diego County Office of Education, Council of Chief State School Officers, and the California Department of Education collaborated to produce “Common Core en Español.” To access the standards, visit Officials also intend to translate the mathematics standards. 

The effort is coordinated by San Diego County’s Silvia C. Dorta-Duque de Reyes, who recently received an “Administrator of the Year” award from the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE). A group of district-level educators and language scholars translated the text, including the “linguistic augmentation” needed to ensure that the new document goes beyond a word-by-word literal translation to communicate concepts meaningfully. 

“California is putting these standards to work as the foundation for remodeling our education system,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. “This translation is important because it sets the stage for equitable assessment and curriculum development.” 


Final Release of Next Generation Science Standards Expected Next Week


The development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is nearing completion, and the final release of the NGSS is anticipated next week (April 8-12). Thousands of comments received during the second public comment period have been reviewed and are being incorporated into the standards.

When the standards are released, they will be available on the NGSS Web site at 


April is Mathematics Awareness Month: K-16 Educators are Invited to Participate in the Energy Challenge


Today (April 1) is the first day of Mathematics Awareness Month (MAM; This year’s theme is the Mathematics of Sustainability, which was selected by MAM’s sponsor, the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics–a collaboration among the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the American Statistical Association (ASA), the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). MAM seeks to promote the importance of mathematics through a series of essays, activities, and a poster highlighting mathematical developments and applications in a particular area. This year’s theme was chosen to coordinate with the Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 initiative (

In honor of MAM, K-16 educators are invited to visit the “Sustainability Counts!” Web site at for model lessons and a description of a showcase event–the Energy Challenge. Teachers who register at will receive MAM posters (up to 5) and a certificate of participation after filling out the Sustainability Counts! survey. Please visit for more details. 


“Number Sense in 1st Grade Plays Role in Later Math Skills” by Lauran Neergaard

Source: The Associated Press via NPR

…University of Missouri researchers tested 180 seventh-graders. Those who lagged behind their peers in a test of core math skills needed to function as adults were the same students who’d had the least number sense or fluency way back when they started first grade.

“The gap they started with, they don’t close it,” says Dr. David Geary, a cognitive psychologist who leads the study that is tracking children from kindergarten to high school in the Columbia, Mo., school system. “They’re not catching up” to the kids who started ahead.

If first grade sounds pretty young to be predicting math ability, well, no one expects tots to be scribbling sums. But this number sense, or what Geary more precisely terms “number system knowledge,” turns out to be a fundamental skill that students continually build on, much more than the simple ability to count.

What’s involved? Understanding that numbers represent different quantities — that three dots is the same as the numeral “3” or the word “three.” Grasping magnitude — that 23 is greater than 17. Getting the concept that numbers can be broken into parts — that 5 is the same as 2 and 3, or 4 and 1. Showing on a number line that the difference between 10 and 12 is the same as the difference between 20 and 22.

Factors such as IQ and attention span didn’t explain why some first-graders did better than others. Now Geary is studying if something that youngsters learn in preschool offers an advantage.

There’s other evidence that math matters early in life. Numerous studies with young babies and a variety of animals show that a related ability — to estimate numbers without counting — is intuitive, sort of hard-wired in the brain, says [Kathy] Mann Koepke, [Director of the Mathematics and Science Cognition and Learning: Development and Disorders Program in the Child Development and Behavior Branch] of NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. That’s the ability that lets you choose the shortest grocery check-out line at a glance, or that guides a bird to the bush with the most berries.

Number system knowledge is more sophisticated, and the Missouri study shows children who start elementary school without those concepts “seem to struggle enormously,” says Mann Koepke, who wasn’t part of that research.

While schools tend to focus on math problems around third grade, and math learning disabilities often are diagnosed by fifth grade, the new findings suggest “the need to intervene is much earlier than we ever used to think,” she adds.

Exactly how to intervene still is being studied, sure to be a topic when NIH brings experts together this spring to assess what’s known about math cognition.

But Geary sees a strong parallel with reading. Scientists have long known that preschoolers who know the names of letters and can better distinguish what sounds those letters make go on to read more easily. So parents today are advised to read to their children from birth, and many youngsters’ books use rhyming to focus on sounds.

Likewise for math, “kids need to know number words” early on, he says.

NIH’s Mann Koepke agrees, and offers some tips…

“[In summary,] we should be talking to our children about magnitude, numbers, distance, shapes as soon as they’re born,” she contends. “More than likely, this is a positive influence on their brain function.”


Note on the researcher who conducted the study above: University of Missouri psychologist David Geary was a key figure in the development of the 1998 Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve. He prepared information on how students learn mathematics, the models for mathematics instruction, and the key standards at each grade level.


Rising Enrollments in Advanced Eighth-Grade Math Courses are Not Significantly Correlated with Achievement Gains on NAEP


On March 18, the Bookings Institution released the “2013 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?” authored by Tom Loveless. The report is available in its entirety for download from (a few excerpts appear below).

The first section of this report presents the latest results from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS), both released in December 2012. U.S. students, for example, showed performance gains in reading, mathematics, and science, but a number of the top countries in the original administration of TIMSS showed declines.

The second section of the report examines the prevalence of tracking and ability grouping. “An analysis of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) documents a resurgence of ability grouping in fourth grade reading and mathematics. Tracking remains persistent in eighth-grade math, with about three-fourths of students in tracked classes.”

The third and final section of the report examines the results of a study that “analyzed variation in state enrollment patterns to test whether rising enrollments in advanced eighth-grade math courses are correlated with achievement gains on NAEP. No evidence was found that they are. States with rising percentages of eighth graders taking Algebra I, Geometry, and other advanced math classes were no more likely to raise their NAEP scores from 2005-2011 than states with declining percentages of eighth graders in those courses.

“A second analysis, again looking at changes in policy and test scores over time, investigated whether boosting the percentage of students in higher level courses is associated with decreases in the mean scores of those courses—suggesting a watering down effect. The evidence is consistent with watering down in all but one course. Negative correlations were found for Algebra I and Pre-Algebra. In those courses, mean achievement gains declined as enrollments increased. Achievement gains in general math courses were positively associated with enrollment changes. All three of these correlations are statistically significant and supportive of the watering down hypothesis.

“Geometry diverges from the other courses. A positive association was found that, although statistically indistinguishable from 0.00, suggests at least a neutral relationship between rising enrollment and changes in NAEP scores. If schools were indiscriminately accelerating students into eighth-grade geometry, one would expect a negative correlation…” 


Related articles: 

Study: Middle School Algebra Push Yields Minimal Performance Gains” by Sarah D. Sparks

Source: Education Week – 27 March 2013

“Algebra, Geometry Classes Vary in Rigor, Says Study” by Sarah D. Sparks 

Source: Education Week – 12 March 2013

The drive to get every student to take so-called college gateway courses has succeeded, a new federal study finds, but students taking Algebra I and Geometry classes are getting considerably less substance than their course titles would suggest…

While nearly all 2005 high school graduates had taken a course called Algebra I at some point, the content of those classes varied tremendously, according to a new analysis by the National Center on Education Statistics…

“It’s not surprising there’s such variation, because there’s not been uniformity among various states with what is meant by rigorous algebra or introductory algebra,’ said J. Michael Shaughnessy, a mathematics professor at Portland State University in Oregon and the immediate past-president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, based in Washington.

“That’s really one of the reasons the [Common Core State Standards] came about. That’s certainly one of the goals put out by the common core, to balance off across states the mathematics experience that students will get,” he said, adding that the NAEP transcript study may provide a baseline from which to compare how algebra and geometry classes evolve in response to the Common Core…


Free Online Book: Common Core State Standards for K-12 Education in America — Your Contributions are Invited

Source: David Moursund

Information Age Education (IAE) recently published a series of ten IAE Newsletters on the Common Core State Standards. These ten newsletters have been integrated into a free online book, Common Core State Standards for K-12 Education in America, which has been augmented by an Appendix: “Goals of Education in the United States.” To download the book, visit (Microsoft Word version) or (PDF version).

This book is an experiment in a new way to put together an edited collection of writings. Chapter 10 of the book (begins on p. 52) contains a brief introduction to a number of topics that are suitable for making into additional chapters (e.g., Students with Special Needs, Information Literacy in the CCSS, Computational Thinking and CCSS, etc.). Potential authors are encouraged to contact David Moursund ( or Robert Sylwester ( about submitting a chapter based on Chapter 10 ideas or other ideas of their own choice. The book will “grow” as new chapters are integrated in.

For other free math education materials from Information Age Education, see To access all of the free Information Age Education materials, visit