COMET • Vol. 14, No. 09 – 25 August 2013


State Board of Education to Act on Motion to Adopt New Science Content Standards at September 4 Meeting

URL (Agenda):
URL (Agenda Item 10):

The agenda for the 4 September 2013 meeting of the California State Board of Education (SBE) has been posted at At this meeting (Agenda Item 10), the SBE will act on a recommendation from State Superintendent Tom Torlakson to adopt the “Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve as the new Science Content Standards… Included in the recommendation for adoption are the NGSS Appendices A through M.” Visit for links to these appendices and to view the proposed science standards. 

At the 10 July 2013 SBE meeting (Agenda Item 2:, Phil Lafontaine (Director, Professional Learning Support Division, California Department of Education–CDE) provided a comprehensive overview of the development of the NGSS, including the work by the state’s Science Expert Panel (SEP) which reviewed the NGSS and “made recommendations for new science standards for California. The SEP also reviewed and analyzed the input from three public meetings and recommended learning progressions for middle school science…

“[The SEP] determined that middle school science would be best served through an integrated approach… In an effort to clarify the rationale to the proposed organization of the middle school standards, [Dr. Helen Quinn (chair of the National Research Council committee that developed “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas” and] representatives from WestEd, California Science Project, California Science Teachers Association, and CDE … developed a document on the middle school/grades learning progression. This document explains the organization of the proposed standards by domain [(e.g., life science, earth/space science, physical science, and engineering design)], the integration of the domains by grade level, and the progression through the middle school/grades…” (from SBE 9/4/2013 meeting Agenda Item 10, pp. 2-3). These middle school progressions were the focus of presentations at the July 10 SBE meeting by Helen Quinn and by Kathy DiRanna, Director of the K-12 Alliance at WestEd. For more details, see (particularly the links under “NGSS Middle School”).

To download/view Phil Lafontaine’s presentation file, go to An Accessible Alternative Version (AAV) of the file can be found at Technical difficulties prevented the “I am a Scientist” video from being shown at the meeting as planned, but the video can be viewed at

A public comment period followed the NGSS presentations at the July SBE meeting. Speakers from numerous stakeholder groups (e.g., California Science Teachers Association, California STEM Learning Network, the Science Subcommittee of the Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee, and the Association of California School Administrators) expressed enthusiastic support for the proposed standards (19 out of 21 speakers called for the standards to be approved that day). Action on the proposal from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to adopt the new standards was deferred to the September 4 SBE meeting, however, to allow teachers an opportunity to review, discuss, and provide input on the standards (particularly the middle school progressions, which were posted online in June 2013, after many teachers had left for summer vacation). The video of this agenda item can be viewed by going to and clicking on agenda Item 2.

The NGSS item on the September SBE agenda includes an attachment regarding teaching authorizations that will allow the credential holder to teach NGSS integrated science content in grades 6-8. Those holding credentials in a specialized area of science (e.g., chemistry), for example, will NOT be authorized to teach the integrated courses, while those holding a Single Subject credential in Foundational-Level General Science or a full credential in any of the sciences will be permitted to do so. Download this attachment from

At the September SBE meeting, implementation of the NGSS will also be discussed: “A Strategic Leadership Team will be selected to design the CA NGSS Implementation Plan and review critical issues that could impact effective adoption and implementation of the NGSS. The plan will include a timeline for full implementation as well as a timeline for the development and adoption of the science frameworks and the development of new state and national academic performance assessments…” 

A number of events are being held around the state to introduce teachers and administrators to the NGSS. The Orange County Office of Education hosted a town hall meeting last Thursday (8/22/2013) for teachers and administrators that included the following goals:

    • Learn to read the standards and supporting architecture 
    • Understand the rationale and “storyline” used by the SEP to designate specific performance expectations for Grades 6, 7, and 8, and 
    • Gain awareness of NGSS implementation timeline and statewide assessment. 

On Wednesday, August 28, the California Science Teachers Association and the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) will hold an informational and discussion meeting on the proposed middle school arrangement at the SCOE. For more information and to register for this 2-hour event, go to 

Members of the public who wish to send written comments about the NGSS agenda item to the State Board of Education may do so by emailing by noon on Friday, August 30.

New Credentials Issued in Science Content Areas: 2011-2012 

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing reports that more than 8500 new Single Subject Teaching Credentials were issued in 2011-12. Of these, more than 1500 were issued in science content areas.

More than two-thirds of the science credentials issued were in the four full science content areas. These credentials authorize teaching the specific content that falls within a particular area of science as well as introductory, integrated, and general science courses in grades K-12. Among these full science content area authorizations, Biological Science represented the largest content area of science authorization (39%), followed by Chemistry (14%), Geosciences (10%), and Physics (8%).

More than one-fifth (21%) of the new science content area credentials issued were in Foundational-level General Science, an authorization that was adopted in 2009 in response to the need for more teachers authorized to teach general, integrated, and introductory middle school science courses. Eight percent of the new science content area credentials were issued in one of the more specific and limited specialized science authorizations developed in 2003 to provide additional pathway options for individuals with advanced degrees or knowledge in specific science content areas who were primarily interested in teaching that specific content at the high school level. As mentioned in the COMET article above on the NGSS, this authorization does not authorize teaching introductory or integrated science courses.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Releases 2013 STAR Results 

Source: California Department of Education

On August 8, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the results of the 2013 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) assessments, reporting that scores slipped by a fraction of a percentage point this year as schools dealt with ongoing budget reductions and the transition to the Common Core State Standards. 

Students managed to hold on to the vast majority of gains posted over the last 11 years, with a majority of students statewide continuing to achieve at the proficient or advanced level in mathematics and English-language arts. Only one student in three achieved proficiency in 2003, the year that the STAR tests became fully aligned with the former state content standards. 

“As you would expect for a school system in transition, results varied from grade to grade, subject to subject, and school to school, but the big picture is one of remarkable resilience despite the challenges,” Torlakson said. “While we all want to see California’s progress continue, these results show that in the midst of change and uncertainty, teachers and schools kept their focus on students and learning. That’s a testament to the depth of their commitment to their students and the future of our state.”

Statewide, 51.2% of students posted a score of proficient or above in mathematics, which was slightly lower than last year. In science, 59.1% scored at least proficient, again slightly lower than last year. The percentage of students scoring proficient or above rose slightly for second and fourth graders, as well as for students taking Algebra I. There were declines among third graders, seventh graders, and high school students taking Geometry, Algebra II, and Integrated Mathematics 1. The performance of 5th and 6th graders scoring at least proficient was unchanged from last year, as was the performance of students taking General Mathematics or the Summative High School Mathematics assessment. 

Torlakson noted that with large-scale field testing of new computer-based assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards proposed for the coming school year, this year’s results likely mark the last use of the STAR program statewide.

“As valuable as STAR has been, we’re getting ready to raise the bar in California’s schools,” Torlakson said. “This coming year, many students will have their first chance to try tests that measure their preparation for college and the world of work. That’s a huge challenge for every part of our education system–but one we have to tackle to give every student the opportunity to prepare for a bright future.”

Full results can be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Results Web page (


Related Information:

Smarter Balanced Practice Test Enhancements 


On August 26, 2013, Smarter Balanced is expected to add the following enhancements to its online Practice Tests for mathematics:

– Special forms for math (Spanish glossary, Braille, and text-to-speech for grades 4, 5, 6, and 8)
– Math performance tasks, including performance tasks for special forms (Spanish glossary, Braille, text-to-speech)
– Practice Test for use with Internet Explorer 10

The Practice Tests and supporting documents are available on the Smarter Balanced website at (The Practice Tests will be unavailable for system updates today; access will resume on August 26 at 12:00 a.m.) 

The Practice Test Help Desk can be accessed by phone at (855) 833-1969 or by e-mail at

The California Department of Education (CDE) has developed a letter template for local educational agencies to assist in notifying parents and guardians of the availability of the Smarter Balanced Practice Tests. The notification template can be customized and printed on school or district letterhead. The template is available in English, Spanish, and 17 other languages:

Additional information about Smarter Balanced is available on the CDE Smarter Balanced Web page General questions about the Smarter Balanced assessments should be directed to the CDE Statewide Assessment Transition Office by phone at (916) 445-8517 or by email at


Video from Supt. Tom Torlakson on Assessments Based on the Common Core State Standards in California 

Source: California Department of Education
URL (video):
URL (transcript): 

On August 22, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson released a video on the next steps in the “Transition to Assessments Based on the Common Core State Standards in California.” Links to the video and a transcript appear above. 


2013 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) State Finalists are Named 


Last month, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson nominated five outstanding secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2013 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). 

The math nominees are Marianne Chowning-Dray, an Algebra II and trigonometry teacher at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto; Michelle Rene Katz, an Advanced Placement (AP) calculus teacher at Northridge Academy High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District; and Andrew Walter, a pre-calculus teacher at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in the Stockton Unified School District. 

The science nominees are Amanda Alonzo, a biology teacher at Lynbrook High School in the Fremont Union High School District; and Scott Holloway, a physics teacher at Westlake High School in the Conejo Valley Unified School District. 

“These remarkable teachers and their colleagues around the state play a central role in preparing students for college or career,” Torlakson said. “Science and math education is crucial not only to our students’ futures, but also to California’s future as a leader in innovation and opportunity. All students need a solid foundation in these rapidly expanding fields to succeed in a global economy.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partnered with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program–the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. Each applicant was required to demonstrate a mastery of math or science, appropriate use of instructional methods and strategies, effective use of assessment strategies, lifelong learning, and leadership in education outside the classroom. Each candidate was also required to submit a 45-minute video lesson in support of their application. State finalists were selected by a review panel of their peers who evaluated each candidate’s content knowledge, pedagogical effectiveness, achievement results, and professional involvement. 

Since the program’s inception, 84 California teachers have been named PAEMST recipients. For more information about each of the 2013 finalists, visit Visit the PAEMST Web site ( for additional information about the program. Nominations for elementary (Gr. K-6) math and science teachers will open this fall. (The 2012 national award recipients are expected to be named soon.) 

Related news:

California All-Star Teachers Honored in Sacramento


On August 12, StudentsFirst honored 29 “California All-Star Teachers” with a $200 gift certificate for school supplies, recognition during the California State Assembly’s floor session, and a reception. For more information about the teachers, visit


New Website Launched for Teacher Credentialing Tests

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing launched its new consolidated examinations website on 30 July 2013:

This new website was designed to serve as a one-stop single access point for all Pearson-administered examinations (CBEST, CSET, RICA, etc.) and to provide enhanced service and information for teacher credential candidates and the public. For example, see for summary information about the CSET subtests for the Single Subject Credential in Foundational-Level Mathematics. 

Mathematics Subject Matter Experts Needed for CBEST-Math Redevelopment 

Source: Christine Conlon – Evaluation Systems Group of Pearson

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and CTC’s contractor, the Evaluation Systems group of Pearson, are in the process of redeveloping the mathematics portion of the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). The questions in the mathematics section require examinees to solve mathematics problems that assess the following skills: estimation, measurement, statistical principles, computation, problem solving, and numerical and graphical relationships.

California educators who are licensed and currently teaching mathematics are invited to participate in a one-day Item Review Conference on September 11 in Sacramento. Travel and meal expenses will be covered. Substitute teacher fees will be reimbursed for K-12 educators. 

To learn more about the CBEST program, please visit

To apply to participate, visit

Please contact Christine Conlon for more information: 

Subject Matter Requirements for Teacher Credentialing Programs and Assessments Must Reflect CCSS 

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

A recent Program Sponsor Alert issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing reported that at the June 13-14 Commission meeting, revised Subject Matter Requirements (SMRs) for the CSET: Multiple Subject, Single Subject English, and Single Subject Mathematics examinations were adopted to ensure alignment with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). More information about the adoption of the revised SMRs is available in the June 2013 Commission agenda ( The first administration of the updated CSET will be next fall (2014). 

Alignment matrices reflecting the revised SMRs for Multiple Subject, Single Subject English, and Single Subject Mathematics are now available on the Commission website at All approved subject matter programs for Multiple Subject, Single Subject English, and Single Subject Mathematics must review their programs to ensure alignment with the new CCSS. Updated alignment matrices must be submitted to the Commission by June 2014. 

Obama Administration Approves NCLB Waiver Request for California CORE Districts

URL (EdSource): 

On August 6, the Obama administration approved a consortium of eight California unified school districts (Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento City, San Francisco, Sanger, and Santa Ana) for a one-year district waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in exchange for locally developed plans to prepare all students for college and career, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and leadership. These eight districts submitted a joint request for waivers as part of the California Office to Reform Education (CORE: For more information, visit the websites above. 

STEM Proposals Sought for CaMSP Cohort 10 Projects; Webinar to be Held on September 4 

Contact: Karen Shores: or 916-319-0505

The California Department of Education (CDE) recently announced that the California Mathematics and Science Partnership (CaMSP) program will continue to fund previously awarded partnerships (Cohorts 8 and 9) up to $1 million and will fund new partnerships up to $500,000 to improve the academic achievement of students in mathematics and science through a focus on the integration of STEM disciplines. 

The purpose of the STEM MSP grant program is to support the implementation of professional development models of integrated, multidisciplinary STEM education programs for K-12 teachers, while concurrently building a system of STEM professional development leadership. 

Projects may focus on either mathematics or science, or both mathematics and science, and must integrate technology and/or engineering. Projects must identify a specific grade span (i.e., K–2, 3-5, 6-8, or 9-12) or contiguous grade spans (e.g., K–2 and 3–5, 3–5 and 6–8, or 6–8 and 9–12). Projects must show how they are addressing California’s mathematics and science standards. 

For those interested in applying for a CaMSP grant (Cohort 10), a webinar will be held on 4 September 2013, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. PT via WebEx. Please read the Request for Applications (RFA) located at before the webinar, and send any questions to Lisa Fassett at by September 2. Please contact CDE’s STEM office at 916-323-5847or if you have any questions. The deadline to apply for the CaMSP is 15 October 2013. 

Webinar details: 

Verify that your computer is ready to use WebEx. Visit the test site at (You may have to download and install WebEx.) If you experience issues joining the meeting, contact WebEx support at (866) 229-3239. 

Event registration/address for attendees:

Event number: 661 396 946
Event password: 76361 

Teleconference information: 

Call-in toll number: (650) 479-3207 
Access code: 661 396 946 

Bill Doubling One-Year Cap on Length of Teacher Preparation Programs Awaits the Governor’s Signature 

Source: California Legislative Information

On August 20, Senate Bill 5 (Teacher Credentialing) was enrolled and sent to Governor Brown for his signature. This bill would allow “teacher preparation programs to include up to two years of professional preparation which is double the current cap of one year of professional preparation… Since the cap was put into place in the 1979 Ryan Act, the Legislature has added new requirements for credential programs to prepare all candidates to teach reading, use instructional strategies to help English learners access curriculum, and teach special needs pupils who are not in special day classes. Many argue that as these new requirements are added, the credentialing programs are not able to provide candidates with sufficient theoretical or practical knowledge to be successful. 

“The Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Task Force on Educator Excellence has recommended lifting the cap on credits for preparation in order to support preparation models that will provide candidates with more robust training, particularly to teach culturally and linguistically diverse learners” (from the Senate Rules Committee Analysis prepared for the August 13 hearing). 

Teachers are Invited to Develop Integrated Curriculum at the UCCI Institutes 

Source: Deborah McCaskey (

Teachers working with Linked Learning Health Science pathways are invited to apply to participate in the Fall 2013 University of California Curriculum Integration (UCCI) Institutes, which will have a Health Science and Medical Technology (HSMT) focus. The UCCI Institutes provide schools and academies with a rare opportunity to develop UC-approved college-prep courses for Linked Learning pathways. The Fall 2013 UCCI Institutes will be held November 7-10 at the Bahia Resort in San Diego. Teachers who participate will receive a stipend of $300 for their work, as well as 2.5 Continuing Education Units from UCLA Extension. In addition, districts will be reimbursed for substitute teacher costs up to $250 per teacher who attends the Institutes. 

Apply online at The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. on September 8. Contact Deborah McCaskey at (510) 987-9437 with any questions. 

“Math in the Movies”: A Free Public Talk by Pixar’s Tony DeRose on September 11 in Berkeley 

Source: Anne Pfister”

Tony DeRose from Pixar Animation Studios will give a free presentation on “Math in the Movies” on September 11 from 7:00-8:15 pm. This is the first in the six-part lecture series, Not on the Test: The Pleasures and Uses of Mathematics, co-presented by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and Berkeley City College (BCC) and sponsored by the Simons Foundation. This free event will be held in the BCC Auditorium (2050 Center Street) near the Downtown Berkeley BART station (map: For more information and to RSVP, please go to

Speakers in the Series, Not on the Test: The Pleasures and Uses of Mathematics: 

9/11/13 – Tony DeRose: “Math in the Movies” 

10/9/13 – Keith Devlin: “Video Games for Mathematics” 

11/6/13 – Inez Fung: “Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions” 

2/12/14 – Ge Wang: “Music, Computing, People” 

3/12/14 – Eugenie Scott: “Science Denialism” 

4/9/14 – Krishna Shenoy: “Brain-Computer Interfaces” 

For details about the presentations above, visit COMET is sponsored in part by a grant from the California Mathematics Project.