COMET • Vol. 16, No. 08 – 24 October 2015



State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson Announces California’s Finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST)

Source: California Department of Education

On Tuesday (10/20/2015), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson nominated 10 outstanding secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2015 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These remarkable teachers are dedicated, passionate, knowledgeable, and use innovative teaching methods that help prepare our students to thrive in a world in which technology changes at a breathtaking pace,” Torlakson said. “They are helping to turn our students into problem solvers who can be the innovators and inventors of tomorrow.”

The California Department of Education partnered with the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) and the California Mathematics Council (CMC) to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program–the highest recognition in the nation for a math or science teacher.

The application materials for each finalist will be reviewed by a national selection committee convened by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The committee will recommend finalists from each state or jurisdiction, and the Director of NSF will submit the recommendations to the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Up to 108 awards will be announced by President Obama, and the winners will be flown to Washington, DC, where they will participate in a series of special events and receive a $10,000 award from NSF.

The five mathematics teachers who are state finalists are (a) Katharine Clemmer (El Segundo High School, El Segundo Unified School District (USD)); (b) Clayton Dagler (Luther Burbank High School, Sacramento City USD); (c) Genevieve Esmende (Wangenheim Middle School, San Diego USD); (d) Maria McClain (Deer Valley High School, Antioch USD); and Kathleen McHeffey (Meadowbrook Middle School, Poway USD).

The science teachers who are state finalists are (a) Dean Reese (Tracy High School, Tracy Joint USD); Michael Towne (Citrus Hill High School, Val Verde USD); Jill Grace (Palos Verdes Intermediate School, Palos Verdes Peninsula USD); Jon Paul Ewing (Paso Robles High School, Paso Robles Joint USD); and Brian Grigsby (Shasta High School, Shasta Union High School District). Three of these finalists–Dean, Michael, and Jon Paul–are physics teachers.

PAEMST Nominations for 2016 Awards are Currently Being Accepted
Source: National Science Foundation


The 2016 Awards will honor mathematics and science (including computer science) teachers working in grades K-6. Nominations close on 1 April 2016. Nominate a colleague at Self-nominations are accepted at The deadline to submit an application is 1 May 2016.

Prospective Teachers are Invited to Apply for a Student Volunteer Position at the CMC-North Conference

Source: Sarah E. Ives, CMC-N Volunteers Committee Chair (

Sixty-two preservice teachers are needed to serve as student volunteers at the 2015 California Mathematics Council-North conference, which will be held on December 11-13 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove.

Volunteers will assist during two assigned sessions on Saturday, taking head counts and collecting evaluation forms at these sessions. In return for their service, volunteers will receive (a) free conference registration, (b) a one-year membership in CMC, and (c) vouchers to spend in the exhibit hall.

Please visit to apply. Volunteer selection is made on a first-come, first-served basis according to date of application.

For more information about the CMC-North conference, please visit

“California Classroom Science” Supports K-12 Educators 

Source: California Science Teachers Association
“California Classroom Science” is a free online monthly newsletter published by the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA). The publication contains “news, information, resources, ideas, and activities of current interest to science educators.” The information is also useful for mathematics teachers and other educators seeking to integrate subject matter areas and learn about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

The October 2015 issue is available at Included in this informative issue is an article about the recent California Science Education Conference, which was held in Sacramento on October 2-4. The article includes links to conference session materials, including archived handouts for many of the sessions (see

The issue also includes links to numerous free resources, including many pertaining to the Next Generation Science Standards (see A link to a printable brochure summarizing key elements of the NGSS is available on this page (direct link: An events calendar located at also serves as a useful resource for educators seeking opportunities for professional learning in science.

California High School Exit Exam Bills Signed by Governor Jerry Brown

On August 26, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 725, “which provides that the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) shall not be required as a condition of receiving a diploma of graduation or a condition of graduation from high school for a pupil completing grade 12 in 2015 and who has met all other high school graduation requirements.” This bill was needed because the CAHSEE was last administered in May 2015, leaving 5000 students who still needed to pass the exam as their remaining graduation requirement.

On October 7, the Governor signed SB 172, which suspends the CAHSEE until 2018-19 and requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to convene an advisory committee to make recommendations regarding the continuation of the CAHSEE and alternative pathways to satisfy high school graduation requirements. (Although SB 172 exempted students in the class of 2015 from the exit exam requirement, it would not have taken effect until 1 January 2016.)

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times (, SB 172 will “also allow about 32,000 students who did not pass the exam dating back to 2004 to receive diplomas as long as they completed all other graduation requirements.”

Reacting to the Governor’s signing of SB 172, SPI Tom Torlakson issued the following statement:

“I applaud the governor for signing SB 172, legislation that I sponsored and worked on with author Senator Carol Liu. The high school exit exam is outdated and does not reflect California’s new, more rigorous academic standards that emphasize skills needed to succeed in college and careers in the 21st century.

“I look forward to convening a task force of teachers, parents, students, and education leaders to find a more thoughtful approach to high school graduation requirements that better suits California’s modern education system and higher academic standards, and that supports our ongoing statewide efforts to achieve college and career readiness for all students.”

California State Board of Education to Provide Updates on the CAASPP and Present a Revised Timeline for Approval of a new Science Framework at its November Meeting

URL (Agenda): 

The State Board of Education (SBE) posted the agenda for its November 4-5 meeting yesterday afternoon. Agenda Item 3 ( provides a comprehensive update of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), including information about the Smarter Balanced Assessments (Summative, Interim); the Smarter Balanced Digital Library of Formative Resources (see the recently-posted PPT:; technology; CA NGSS progress; and outreach activities.

In the section on CAASPP results, the agenda item states, “As educators become more familiar with the specific skills students must master to perform well on assessments that require problem-solving, critical thinking and analytical writing, they will increasingly tailor classroom instruction to address these skills. In the process, they will naturally work in greater alignment with California’s goals of career and college readiness for all students.

“LEAs are analyzing their results from the 2015 Smarter Balanced assessments to begin the inherently local process of analyzing student performance and designing strategies for improvement. Summative assessments, in and of themselves, cannot pinpoint what specific instructional changes are needed. However, they do provide a critical starting point for this ongoing process of local inquiry, analysis, and improvement…”

As part of this agenda item, Carolina Cardenas, Director of Academic Outreach and Early Assessment at the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Office, will provide an overview of how CSU campuses will use the CAASPP Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy results to make decisions about student readiness for college-level coursework and whether additional placement testing or participation in the CSU’s Early Start Program would be required. Please visit for more details about the EAP (Early Assessment Program).

Agenda Item 9 presents a revised timeline for the development and adoption of the Science Framework for California Public Schools (Science Framework). In the proposed timeline, the State Board of Education is to approve a new Science Framework in late 2016 (September/November); the original deadline was 31 January 2016. To download this agenda item and the revised timeline, visit


Related articles (CAASPP):

Closing the Achievement Gap – Webinar Recording
Source: EdSource – 20 October 2015


On Monday (10/19/2015), EdSource and Partners for Each and Every Child ( hosted a webinar featuring leading educators and experts who examined strategies for closing the achievement gap in the wake of California’s Smarter Balanced test scores.

Moderated by EdSource Executive Director Louis Freedberg, the panel consisted of Carl Cohn, Linda Darling-Hammond, Christopher Edley, Sean Reardon, Socorro Shiels, and Ryan Smith. (For their positions, visit the EdSource website).

The audio archive and introductory slides are available at

“Educators Try to Come to Terms with Low Math Scores on Smarter Balanced Tests” by Fermin Leal

Source: EdSource -13 October 2015


Opportunity to Provide Input on Draft Teaching Performance Expectations (TPEs)

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing – PSD E-News – 23 October 2015 

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) announced yesterday that a public input session will be held next Wednesday (October 28) in Sacramento to discuss the draft TPEs (Teaching Performance Expectations) so that they can be ready for a validity study. An opportunity for web-based input will also be available for those who cannot attend in person. A comprehensive TPE/CSTP (California Standards for the Teaching Profession) document is posted on the Professional Services Department (PSD) web page: To register to attend the input session, please complete the electronic form located on this webpage:

Brief background: CTC is in the process of revising Teaching Performance Expectations for beginning teachers. For many years, the TPEs have co-existed with the CSTP, addressing the same broad domains of teaching with difference in detail that have proven to be more confusing than helpful to the development of the teaching workforce. This document brings the CSTP and the TPEs together with the intent of creating one set of standards for the teaching profession. These standards are intended to guide preliminary teacher preparation, new teacher induction, and ongoing, career-long teacher development. These standards are also intended to guide development of Teaching Performance Assessments (TPAs).

COMET readers may wish to review the proposed language for the following (

– Teaching Mathematics in a Multiple Subject Assignment (p. 16)

– Teaching Science in a Multiple Subject Assignment (p. 17)

– Teaching Mathematics in a Single Subject Assignment (pp. 20-21)

– Teaching Science in a Single Subject Assignment (p. 22)

Related article: 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson Announces Federal Approval of California’s Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators

Source: California Department of Education

On Thursday (10/22/2015), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that the U.S. Department of Education has approved California’s plan to make sure all students have access to excellent educators.

The California 2015 State Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators highlights initiatives being carried out by the California Department of Education (CDE) under the leadership of Torlakson, the State Board of Education (SBE), and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to improve teacher quality, teaching quality, and instructional leadership.

A key part of the plan, Torlakson said, is California’s new funding system that provides additional resources to low-income students, English learners, foster youth, and districts that have high concentrations of those students.

The plan details a variety of changes California is making to improve teacher preparation, including the following:

– Updating the teaching performance assessments to ensure California teachers are prepared to teach to the most current academic standards.

– Strengthening accreditation standards for programs that prepare new teachers, as well as gathering relevant data to identify which programs are producing well-prepared classroom teachers.

– Revising performance expectations for beginning teachers to include new emphasis on cultural competency and working with special education students.

– Updating standards for induction of new teachers in California to better support new teachers in their classrooms.

The plan also outlines steps being taken to improve administrator preparation, including updating professional standards and assisting preparation programs. The goal is to develop strong leaders who can recruit, retain, and support a high-performing teaching workforce.

As part of the plan, the CDE will convene stakeholders annually to review data and identify opportunities for improvement. Using this information, the CDE will prepare a report on the plan’s progress and present it to the SBE on an annual basis.

Details of the plan can be found on CDE’s Improving Teacher & Principal Quality webpage ( Also visit to download California State Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators.

Commission on Teacher Credentialing Seeks Information on Teaching Methods Courses

Source: PSD (Professional Service Division) E-News for Friday, 16 October 2015 

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is updating its list of teaching methodology courses and invites credential-granting institutions to respond to a survey located at Respondents will identify methodology courses offered across the content areas and indicate whether these courses are open to “ad hoc” (non-matriculated) individuals. The Commission plans to post the results in early December 2015. Last week’s PSD E-News bulletin provided the following information:

The Commission took action in August 2013 to require that a General Education teacher adding an authorization in a new content area unrelated to the current credential content area must complete a methodology course in that new content area (e.g., a Multiple Subject credential holder who wishes to add a Foundational-Level Mathematics credential must take a secondary mathematics teaching methodology course in addition to demonstrating subject matter competency via coursework or passing two CSET subtests).

The purpose of this survey is for the Commission to be able to provide a convenient, one-stop location for interested teachers to find available methodology courses that will meet the pedagogy requirement. The Commission anticipates updating this information annually in the fall.

Funding Opportunity: Specialized Secondary Programs


The California Department of Education recently announced the following funding opportunity: Specialized Secondary Programs (SSP) provides start-up funds for the establishment of new specialized programs in grades 9-12 in California high schools. The programs are expected to develop new standards-based model curriculum that promote an in-depth study of a targeted content area. The Legislature intends for SSP to benefit the state economy by having schools located in close proximity to related industries. Funding is available for planning and implementing new programs.

All California public high schools (including continuation high schools), county offices of education, consortia of LEAs, and direct-funded charter schools are eligible to apply for SSP planning grants (up to $100,000). Grant proposals are due on 4 December 2015. For more information, visit the website above.



“Back to the Future Day” Celebrated on 21 October 2015

This has been a science-rich week! From the White House Astronomy Night on Monday to “Back to the Future Day” on Wednesday to Mole Day yesterday, science seemed to have moved to the front burner of the nation’s attention for a while. Most of the conversations admittedly revolved around how many aspects of the future were accurately envisioned by the screenwriters of Back to the Future Part II, released in November 1989 as a sequel to 1985’s Back to the Future movie staring Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. In the movie, McFly traveled in a DeLorean to 21 October 2015, where he witnessed hoverboards and flying cars. (For how accurate the 2015 predictions were in the movie, see For a message from “Doc Brown,” visit

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) blogged throughout the day, hosting conversations with a variety of innovators. The webpage is filled with Twitter messages, videos, interviews, and a message from Michael J. Fox urging the public’s involvement in combatting neurological illnesses. Visit

In an article posted on, Deputy Director of Policy for the White House OSTP Thomas Kalil announced the release of President Obama’s updated Strategy for American Innovation (available online at

Kalil also wrote, “Many of the innovations that we take for granted — such as smart phones and global communications satellite — were inspired by science fiction. A number of the technologies portrayed in Back to the Future are either here today (flat panel displays, video chats, gesture-based computing) or under development (flying cars, hoverboards). Many technologies and ideas that seem like science fiction today — such as Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility, an Iron Man suit, or Andy Weir’s story about astronauts on Mars — are being actively explored by scientists and engineers….

“Creativity, imagination, and storytelling can help motivate teams to work on hard problems.

“We’re interested in your ideas for using science fiction as a source of inspiration, and for stimulating additional collaborations between writers, artists, scientists and engineers…

“If you have an idea you’d like to share with us, please drop us a line via this web form ( We’d love to hear from you!”

Related article: 

“Back to the Future Day: A Look at our Technology in 2045” by David Gewirtz

Source: DIV-IT – 21 October 2015


National Chemistry Week

Mathematics teachers have Pi Day (3/14), and chemistry teachers have National Mole Day (10/23;, a day recognizing and celebrating Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x 10^23). Yesterday was a high point during National Chemistry Week, celebrated annually during the fourth week in October and promoted by the American Chemical Society (ACS) as an opportunity for community outreach.

Today (10/24/2015), San Diego hosts ChemExpo in celebration of National Chemistry Week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Miramar College. “Local company and organization booths illustrate how chemistry is applied at work and in everyday life. University students hold stage demonstrations and work with high school and middle school students at Hands On Tables” (

The ACS, which is the world’s largest scientific society, also supports “Celebrate Earth Day” each April 22. Teachers can subscribe to newsletters that provide ideas for celebrating Earth Day and National Mole Day (see


Free Instructional Resources for K-12 Chemistry and other Areas of Science

The American Chemical Society promotes excellence in science education and community outreach. The organization’s website includes numerous resources for K-12 teachers, including lesson plans, outreach ideas, links to online workshops and seminars, etc. Visit and explore the links provided on this page. Grades K-8 teachers may want to visit and download the free 468-page book, Inquiry in Action–Investigating Matter Through Inquiry, which is filled with numerous scientific investigations.

A listing of chemistry-related workshops and seminars can be found at The first link will take you to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) chemistry education webinar page.

NSTA partners with scientists, engineers, and educational specialists from professional organizations to produce free, hour-long professional development web seminars designed for teachers of science (all areas and all levels). Links to hundreds of webinars in the NSTA Web Seminar Archives (including related PowerPoint slides such as on the Next Generation Science Standards) are available at

White House Science Day


Following events during “Science Day” at the White House (, President Obama hosted and delivered remarks at the second annual White House Astronomy Night, bringing together students, teachers, scientists, astronauts, and others to spend an evening stargazing on the South Lawn of the White House. Participants also learned about astronomical discoveries and participated in space-related educational activities to help promote the importance of STEM education and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Discovery Education captured the live stream from the Astronomy Night event (President Obama’s message and more); it is available at

A fact sheet distributed by the White House detailed a number of new private sector commitments to support STEM education, including the development of city and regional STEM Ecosystems ( See for details.

Congressional Act Expands STEM Education to Include Computer Science 

URL (Bill):

On October 7, President Obama signed into law the STEM Education Act of 2015 (H.R. 1020), a bipartisan bill introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.). The bill strengthens STEM education efforts and expands the definition of STEM education to include computer science.

Chairman Smith stated, “We must prepare our students for degrees in STEM subjects to ensure that they have the ability to thrive in today’s technology-based economy…The STEM Education Act expands the definition of STEM, encourages students to study these subjects, and trains more teachers.”

Rep. Esty added, “More and more jobs of the 21st century require science, technology, engineering, and math skills. We need to make sure that all of our students have opportunities to thrive in STEM education. This bill strengthens our efforts at the federal level and ensures that critical computer science skills are included among STEM subjects. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House and Senate for their unanimous support, and I am proud to join Chairman Smith in celebrating this new law.”

The STEM Education Act of 2015 directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue to award competitive merit-reviewed grants to support research and development of innovative out-of-school STEM education programs (e.g., museums, science centers, and afterschool programs).

The bill amends the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 to allow the awarding of NSF Master Teaching Fellowships to math and science teachers who possess a bachelor’s degree in their field (currently limited to those with a master’s degree).

The bill also amends the NSF Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship program ( to allow teachers in pursuit of master’s degrees to participate. Computer science is also added as a subject for the scholarship program. The amended Noyce Fellowship Program bill text now states, “the term ‘mathematics and science teacher’ means a science, computer science, technology, engineering, or mathematics teacher at the elementary school or secondary school level.”

Results of the 2015 NAEP Mathematics and Reading Assessments to be Announced on October 28

URL (Webinar registration): 

On October 28 at 7 a.m. PT, the National Assessment Governing Board and the National Center for Education Statistics will report National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics and reading assessment findings for the nation and all 50 states, as well as results for 21 urban school districts participating in NAEP’s Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA).

The report highlights trends in achievement for fourth- and eighth-grade students, segmented by race/ethnicity, gender, and family income level, among other categories. The data include comparisons with results from 2013 and as far back as the early 1990s, when the mathematics and reading assessments were first administered.

To join the live webcast where the results will be announced, visit