COMET • Vol. 14, No. 08 – 3 July 2013


State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Proposes Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — Focus is on Deep Understanding of Science and Engineering Practices

Source: California Department of Education – 28 June 2013
URL (Intro): 

Working to help more students master the science skills they need to thrive in a changing world, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced last Friday (6/28/2013) that he will recommend that the State Board of Education adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

“Science instruction is crucial to California’s future, and these new standards will bring the science being taught in our classrooms up to date,” Torlakson said. “These standards eliminate arbitrary limits on hands-on experimentation and replace long lists of facts to memorize with a deeper focus on understanding the cross-cutting concepts within and across scientific disciplines.” 

Scientific understanding and technology have advanced markedly in the past 15 years when California’s last science standards were adopted. The new standards integrate engineering practices with science practices to help students understand the workings of science and the natural world. They also provide a coherent progression of learning from kindergarten through grade twelve, so students learn step-by-step the knowledge and skills they need for college and careers. 

“The new science standards will help students make connections with other parts of the curriculum, and like our new Common Core State Standards, will provide a chance for all students–no matter where they live or where they happen to go to school–to get the world-class science instruction they deserve,” Torlakson added. 

The number of jobs involving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics has grown three times as fast as other fields–a trend experts believe will continue for the next decade.

A science teacher himself, Torlakson worked to make California among the lead states in the development of the NGSS. The voluntary standards were crafted through an open, transparent, and collaborative process over the past 18 months. California teachers and scientists–along with college professors, business and industry leaders, and education experts–all took part in an 80-member California NGSS review team that thoroughly examined the standards. 

The State Board of Education is expected to begin its discussions of the NGSS next Wednesday at its meeting in Sacramento. The standards are posted on the California Department of Education’s Web site at


Related article:

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Update

Source: California Department of Education – 1 July 2013

The current California Science Standards were adopted almost 15 years ago. Senate Bill 300, chaptered in 2011, requires the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) to present new science standards based on the NGSS to the California State Board of Education (SBE) by 31 July 2013. The SBE has until 30 November 2013 to accept, modify, or reject the proposed new science standards. 

SSPI Tom Torlakson will be recommending the proposed new science standards to the SBE at next week’s SBE meeting (Agenda Item 2 on July 10). This item contains information for the SBE members on the proposed NGSS for California Public Schools, Grades K-12 (see

Background: In fall 2011, Superintendent Torlakson commissioned a State Review Team (SRT) consisting of 80 science experts representing K-12 science teachers, administrators, county science consultants, college and university professors, scientists, science informal centers, and business and industry. Since November 2011, the SRT reviewed five public and private drafts of the NGSS and provided feedback to Achieve and to the California Department of Education. (See for more information on the NGSS; this Web site is hosted by Achieve.)

A Science Expert Panel (SEP), a smaller group representative of the SRT, was convened by Superintendent Torlakson. (The names of SEP members are available on The SEP met three times from April 2013 to June 2013 to review the national NGSS to make preliminary recommendations for field comment, to review feedback from public meetings and the SRT surveys, and make final recommendations for the CA standards to the SSPI. These final recommendations include proposed Learning Progressions for Elementary (K-5), Middle (6-8), and High School (9-12) Science. 


State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Kicks Off California’s Common Core Summer with Mathematics Showcase

Source: California Department of Education – 17 June 2013

With the state budget setting aside $1.25 billion to implement new standards in California’s public schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson kicked off California’s Common Core Summer on June 17 with a daylong seminar to help teachers learn how to instill a deeper understanding of mathematics in their students. 

“For teachers, this is California’s Common Core Summer. They’ve just finished their own school year, but they’re already back in class–because they see the opportunity Common Core presents to prepare students for a successful future,” Torlakson said. “They’re setting aside the one-size-fits all curriculum, recycling the ‘drill and kill’ worksheets, and dumping the multiple choice ‘bubble tests’–replacing them with Common Core mathematics, which focuses on a few key areas at each grade level so students learn the skills they really need, step by step.

“The focus today is on teachers–because the success of Common Core depends on great teaching,” Torlakson said. “We’re remodeling our education system, but the standards are just the blueprints. The real work, the heavy lifting of this remodeling project, will be done by teachers. That’s why we’ve brought some of California’s best teachers here, to learn from each other about putting the Common Core to work in the classroom.” 

Torlakson noted that school districts and county offices of education throughout the state were sponsoring similar training sessions as California makes the transition to the new standards.

The Math Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Showcase allowed participants to learn how to integrate CCSS-Mathematics Content Standards and Mathematical Practices, engage in activities that foster knowledge and the art of teaching, and share strategies for increasing student engagement. Also covered were strategies to support English learners and students with disabilities, and ways to promote college and career readiness.


Related Information: 

New CCSS Mathematics Informational Flyers

Source: California Department of Education (CDE)

Higher Mathematics Informational Flyer: The CDE recently posted a new informational flyer, “California Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics: Higher Mathematics,” which explains the structure of the higher mathematics standards and the pathway options (i.e., Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II or Mathematics I-III). This informational flyer can be downloaded from the CDE CCSS Informational Handouts Web page ( or directly from

New Translations of CCSS Resources: Three informational handouts posted on the CDE CCSS Informational Handouts Web page ( are now available in 19 languages. “The Common Core State Standards and Parents and Guardians” informational handout posted on the Students/Parents Tab of the CDE CCSS Web page is now available in 12 languages with more translations to be added soon (visit 

Duncan Pushes Back on Attacks on Common Core Standards

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


California State Board of Education Agenda for July 10-11 Meeting 

Source: Carol Linderfelt – State Board of Education –

The State Board of Education (SBE) has posted the agenda for its July 10-11 meeting at A live Webcast of the SBE meeting may be viewed at Archived meeting Webcasts are posted to the SBE Web site for public viewing within 3-5 days following each SBE meeting. 

The following agenda items may be of interest to COMET readers:

Item 1 (Action/Info): Update on the Activities of the California Department of Education and State Board of Education Regarding Implementation of Common Core State Standards Systems. 


URL: (“California County Offices of Education: Supporting Common Core Implementation”–Presentation by CISC Chair Judy Flores, CISC Chair-Elect Gary Waddell, and Dave Gordon, CCSESA) 

Item 2 (Action/Info): Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve; Adoption of new Science Content Standards based upon the nationally developed Next Generation Science Standards as required by Education Code 60605.85 (see COMET Item 1 above). 

Item 4 (Info): California Long-term Assessment Plan 


Item 5 (Info): Update on Statewide Assessment Transition and Smarter Balanced Assessment Development Activities

[Note: Also see AB 484: Pupil assessments: California Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress for the 21st Century (CalMAPP21):

Item 10 (Info): Update on the California Department of Education’s Implementation Timeline and Process for Incorporating New Indicators into the Academic Performance Index Consistent with Education Code Sections 52052 through 52052.9 to Modify the Academic Performance Index 


URL (API Questions to Consider):

Note: Recommendations on new indicators for the API may also be submitted to the CDE’s Academic Accountability Unit by e-mail at For questions, contact the Academic Accountability Unit by e-mail at or by phone at 916-319-0863. 

Item 12 (Action/Info): Approval of the Recommendation to the Governor and Legislature on the Development of a Growth Model as Required by Education Code Section 52052.5(d).


…In 2010 the SBE adopted the CCSS which are vertically aligned. A new assessment system aligned to the standards is expected to be fully implemented in 2015. A growth model based on the results of the new vertically aligned assessments will provide a more robust model than the current set of assessments which are not vertically aligned. On April 18, 2013, the CDE consulted with the Technical Design Group (TDG) regarding the implementation of a student growth model. Because the new Smarter Balanced assessments have been designed to support a student-level growth model, the TDG determined that the establishment of a growth model would be more feasible when the Smarter Balanced assessments are fully implemented. On April 23, the PSAA Advisory Committee approved the TDG’s recommendation. 

Item 19 (Action/Info): Supplemental Instructional Materials Review Aligned to the Common Core State Standards: Approval of Category 2 Mathematics Supplemental Instructional Materials 


The following four Category 2 Mathematics Supplemental Instructional Materials are recommended for approval: Discover the Basics (Gr. 3), Explorations in Core Math (Gr. 6-7), Math Links (Gr. 6), and Moving with Math (Gr. K-6). 

Item 20 (Action/Info): 2014 Mathematics Primary Adoption of Instructional Materials: Approval of Non-Instructional Quality Commissioner Facilitators.



100 CEO Leaders in STEM Named by STEMconnector

Source: STEMconnector

STEMconnector®, a national “one-stop-shop” for STEM education and STEM careers, released its official list and cover for its “100 CEO Leaders in STEM” publication at last month’s STEM Solutions Summit in Austin, TX (see The document is also available online at

The publication includes profiles of 100 corporate CEOs, including the CEOs’ views on the future of national competitiveness and the need for a strong STEM workforce. The CEOs center their discussions around technology, innovation, public-private partnerships, women and girls, diversity, global competitiveness, scalability, and best practices. STEMconnector® CEO Edie Fraser states, “We urge all readers to review [this document] and discuss what you learn, understanding the collective action we must all take to ensure America’s youth and workforce are equipped with the STEM skills needed to compete in the market economy…” 

“100 CEO Leaders in STEM” follows STEMconnector’s “100 Women Leaders in STEM 2012” publication. Its objective is to salute and celebrate an active group of CEOs that have contributed to making a difference by pushing the STEM issue throughout their careers, their industries, and their companies. 

One profiled CEO, William H. Swanson of Raytheon, stated, “Science, technology, engineering and math are the foundation of innovation in this era of global competitiveness. Without STEM talent, the U.S. risks mediocrity, which would have unfortunate implications for our economy, industries and national security.” 


Spatial Training Boosts Math Skills

Source: Michigan State University

Michigan State University (MSU) education researchers found that training young children in spatial reasoning can improve their mathematics performance. 

The researchers trained 6- to 8-year-olds in mental rotation, a spatial ability, and found their scores on addition and subtraction problems improved significantly. The mental rotation training involved imagining how two halves of an object would come together to make a whole when the halves have been turned at an angle. 

Past research has found a link between spatial reasoning and math, but the MSU study provides evidence of a causal connection — when children are trained in one ability, improvement is seen in the other. The findings will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Cognition and Development. 

Kelly Mix, professor of educational psychology, said the findings suggest spatial training “primes” the brain to better tackle calculation problems. Mix authored the study with Yi-Ling Cheng, a doctoral student in MSU’s College of Education. 

“What’s shocking is that we saw these improvements in math performance after giving the students just one 20-minute training session in spatial ability,” Mix said. 

Understanding the connection between spatial ability and math, she said, is especially important in the early elementary grades because many studies indicate early intervention is critical for closing achievement gaps in math. 

Spatial ability is important for success in many fields, and some education experts have called for including spatial reasoning in the elementary math curriculum. But there are many forms of spatial ability, and Mix said it’s important to first determine how each may or may not relate to success in mathematics. To that end, Mix is leading a larger study that tests elementary students on different forms of spatial ability and mathematics performance. 

Mix’s research is funded by two grants totaling $2.8 million from the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education (see 


EdWeek Chat on July 12: “Cracking the Code: Schools Make Computer Coding a Powerful Learning Tool”

Source: Education Week

Join Michelle Davis, senior writer for Education Week Digital Directions, on Friday, July 12, from 11 a.m.-noon for an online chat entitled, “Cracking the Code: Schools Make Computer Coding a Powerful Learning Tool.” To receive an email reminder for the chat, visit 

Background: Computer programmers and software engineers are urging that K-12 students be introduced to computer coding–designing and writing source code for computers–earlier in their educational careers, even as early as elementary school. They’re predicting a scarcity of professionals able to code, and teachers are lauding coding as a way to teach everything from math to higher order thinking. Students are being drawn into the field through coding for video games, but are going on to see the use of coding in many different areas.


Related article: 

“Computer Coding Lessons Expanding for K-12 Students” by Michelle R. Davis

Source: Education Week – 11 June 2013

… According to the organization, which seeks to raise awareness about the need for students to learn computer coding, 1.4 million jobs in the computer field, including coding, engineering, and data mining, will be available in the United States by 2020, but there will be only 400,000 college students majoring in computer science. Those jobs come with significantly higher wages than jobs associated with many other college degrees. The starting salary for a 2013 computer science major is about $64,800, a 5% increase over the previous year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, based in Bethlehem, PA, which tracks starting salaries for college graduates. 

But a majority of K-12 schools don’t offer computer science programs, and the number of computer science students in college has fallen, according to, even though coding experiences for K-12 students are important not just from a career perspective, but also from a purely educational perspective, says Mitchel Resnick, a professor of learning research at the MIT Media Lab. The lab has created Scratch (, a free program for students that allows them to create interactive stories, digital games, and animations while learning the basics of computer coding. 

Coding teaches problem-solving, communication, and collaboration, Resnick says. “The ability to code should be one aspect of fluency in the 21st century,” he says. “Everyone should learn to code because it makes you a better learner”… 

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