COMET • Vol. 17, No. 07 – 16 December 2016



Mathematics and Science Educators Honored with CSTA and CMC Awards at Fall Conference

Three mathematics educators were honored earlier this month at the annual California Mathematics Council (CMC) North conference. The George Polya Memorial Award ( is given to one or more K-12 teachers who have been deemed as outstanding teachers of mathematics over a sustained period of time, have supported CMC activities, have been active participants in CMC, and have high visibility throughout the state of California. This year’s recipients of this award are Tina Shinsato and Natalie Mejia. Tina is a math teacher at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, CA. Read more about Tina here: Natalie Mejia teaches for Lucia Mar Unified School District. She serves as President of the Central Coast Mathematics Council and Chair of the CMC Student Activity Trust.

The Edward Begle Memorial Award ( is given to an educator or educators (college professor, district superintendent, mathematics supervisor, member of the California Department of Education, or any other deserving educator) who have, for a sustained period of time, been supportive of CMC activities, have offered continual encouragement, and have been actively involved in California mathematics. This year’s award recipient is Tom Sallee, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis, a co-founder of College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM), and co-founder of the Northern California Mathematics Project. To read more, visit

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, an Associate Professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Co-Director of the Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education (CESAME), and developer of the STEM Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program ( He was honored at the California Science Education Conference in October. Visit for more information.

Related information

The STEM Teacher and Researcher Program (STAR)


STAR is a nine-week paid summer research experience program for aspiring K-12 STEM teachers from any California State University campus or for Noyce Scholars from across the country. Undergraduates on a teaching path, undergraduates in a STEM field who are seriously considering a career in teaching, graduate students, teaching interns, or credential candidates are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is 30 January 2017. For more information, visit

California State Board of Education Approves New Science Framework

Source: California Department of Education

URL (Draft Science Framework):

On November 3, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that the State Board of Education (SBE) voted to approve a new Science Framework for California’s public schools that will dramatically upgrade and modernize science instruction.

“Science education is undergoing a renaissance that began with the adoption of California’s Next Generation Science Standards in 2013 and advances today with a Science Framework that will guide teaching,” said Torlakson, who began his career as a high school science teacher in the 1970s.

“This framework will help our students become the scientists and technology leaders of the future as well as citizens who are knowledgeable and understanding of the natural world and the environment,” Torlakson said. “It will also help produce the well-educated, innovative workers needed by all of our employers, but especially our high-tech companies, which are some of the most advanced companies humankind has ever seen.”

California becomes the first state in the nation to adopt a Science Framework based on Next Generation Science Standards and is now poised to lead the nation in rolling out a rich, updated, 21st century science curriculum. The Science Framework provides guidance to teachers, administrators, and textbook publishers for the teaching of the Next Generation Science Standards from transitional kindergarten through twelfth grade.

The Science Framework expands and refines discussion of climate change and for the first time includes engineering, environmental literacy, and strategies to support girls and young women in science.

Beyond updated science content, the Science Framework encourages a new teacher-student dynamic with the teacher becoming more of a facilitator, asking questions and encouraging discovery. Students conduct experiments and lead the scientific inquiry.

A prepublication version of the CA Science Framework is expected to be posted in early January 2017, and the publication version is expected to be available by July 2017.

Related information :

Science Pilot Tests: High School Grade Assignments Posted
Source: CAASPP Update – 23 November 2016 

All Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) will administer the pilot versions of the California Science Test (CAST) and California Alternate Assessment (CAA) for Science as part of the 2016-17 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) administration. The pilots will include one assigned high school grade as well as grades 5 and 8. The high school grade assignments (10th, 11th, or 12th) are now available at


California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress: Update on Program Activities

Related to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress System

Source: California State Board of Education – 8 December 2016

Last Thursday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson wrote an informative memo to the State Board of Education describing “the main events and developments related to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System, including the Smarter Balanced Summative and Interim Assessments, the California Science Test (CAST), the California Alternate Assessments (CAAs), and the California Spanish Assessment (CSA).” To download and read this memo, visit the website above.


State Education Leaders Respond to Federal Denial of California’s Request to Waive Administration of Non-NGSS-Aligned State Science Test


On Tuesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst released a joint statement in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s denial of a waiver to allow California to suspend the current state science assessment and instead give a test based on the Next Generation Science Standards:

“We are deeply disappointed by the U.S. Department of Education’s denial of our waiver request. We reject their insistence that we double-test. We believe the denial of this request harms our students, who will be forced to study science based on state standards adopted in 1998 that are outmoded and not designed for the 21st century.

“California plans to move full-speed ahead implementing our new, computer-adaptive science assessment pilot in 2017 based on our new Next Generation Science Standards.

“The standards, our new online test, and our new science curriculum framework, which guides teachers, are all part of an exciting renaissance in science education in California designed to equip our students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century economy and college.”

It isn’t clear what ramifications there might be if the state administers only the pilot science test in the spring if the decision is not reversed.

California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Institute

Source: CAASPP Update – 7 December 2016 

Spaces are available for the 2016-17 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Institute, a two-day professional development opportunity that will provide strategies for using all components of the CAASPP System to improve teaching and learning. The California Department of Education (CDE) and the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) will offer the Institute during January and February in Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Oceanside, Pasadena, Riverside, and Fresno. All Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) are encouraged to send a team of up to four staff to take advantage of this opportunity. Find more information and instructions for registering on the SCOE 2016–17 CAASPP Institute registration webpage:

Quantitative Reasoning Task Force Recommendations Endorsed by CSU Math Chairs and Academic Senate

URL (QRTF Report): 

At the November 2016 meeting of the Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU; comprised of representatives from all 23 CSU campuses), the recommendations of the Quantitative Reasoning Task Force (QRTF) were unanimously endorsed.

In her statement at this meeting, ASCSU Chair Christine Miller reported that “the Council [of CSU Math Department Chairs] passed a resolution endorsing the findings and recommendations of the report and requesting inclusion in its implementation.”

In short, the QRTF’s recommendations are the following:

Recommendation I: Formulate an updated quantitative reasoning definition based on CSU best practices and reflecting national standards.

Recommendation II: Revise CSU quantitative reasoning requirements and adopt equitable, feasible requirements that articulate with the other segments.

Recommendation III: Ensure equitable access and opportunity to all CSU students.

Recommendation IV: Create a CSU ‘Center for Advancement of Instruction in Quantitative Reasoning’

The complete resolution is available at

Christine Mallon serves as CSU Assistant Vice Chancellor, Academic Programs and Faculty Development. She is coordinating the Division of Academic and Student Affairs’ Quantitative Reasoning Initiative management teams and recently wrote the following:

“…In response to 2016 ASCSU resolutions 3244-16/APEP [Rev] (regarding the requirement of a fourth year of high school math or quantitative reasoning for admission to the CSU) and AS-3253-16/APEP (calling for a CSU center for mathematics and quantitative reasoning), the Division of Academic and Student Affairs has developed an organizational structure of five management teams that will be responsible for implementing senate- and administration-endorsed changes that emanate from the Quantitative Reasoning Task Force Report and recommendations. An organization chart illustrating the structure is attached and includes the [Quantitative Reasoning Shared Governance Communication Group].” This chart can be viewed at

Questions and comments on the QRTF Report (available online at or its implementation may be sent to the report’s co-chair Kate Stevenson at

MSRI’s Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2017 Focuses on Classroom Observations through the Lens of Equity

Source: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute


The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley, CA, announces the topic of next year’s interactive 3-day Critical Issues in Mathematics Education (CIME) workshop: Observing for Access, Power, and Participation in Mathematics Classrooms as a Strategy to Improve Mathematics Teaching and Learning.

“The 2017 CIME workshop will focus on observations of mathematics classrooms through the lens of equity. Specifically, we will use observation as a tool for understanding and improving imbalances of access, participation, and power in mathematics teaching and learning. In doing so, we seek to better understand students’ experiences in mathematics classrooms in order to improve academic success, recruitment and retention, and meaningful experiences for historically marginalized populations…”

Visit to learn more about this workshop, which will be held on March 15-17 at MSRI.

To learn more about MSRI, visit to view an informative video.

Related articles:

Equity and Social Justice in Mathematics Education: Developing a Collective Awareness

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)


The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and a collection of affiliate organizations such as the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, TODOS—Mathematics for All, and the California Mathematics Council-Southern Section are collaborating on “A Call for Collective Action to Develop Awareness: Equity and Social Justice in Mathematics Education.”

This joint effort “includes suggested monthly readings, quarterly webinars, and opportunities for in-person discussions at meetings and conferences for the supporting organizations. To raise our collective awareness and understanding, we invite you to participate with educators from around the country and possibly the world.”

The list of readings and activities scheduled through July 2017 can be found at

Information about the latest quarterly webinar, which was held on December 5, is available at

AMTE Position Statement: Equity in Mathematics Teacher Education

Source: Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE)


Call for Manuscripts on STEM Education Equity and Access

Source: Janelle Johnson, Metropolitan State University of Denver

The editors of a volume entitled Discourse on Equity and Access in STEM Education for the Next Generation: Theory and Practice seek to provide the research community with perspectives on practices that effectively engage underrepresented communities in STEM teaching and learning. A 500- to 1000-word letter of intent is due by December 23. For details, please visit the website above.

Teaching Commission Awards Grant Funding to Ease California’s Teacher Shortage

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

During last week’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing meeting, the recipients of three grant competitions to help address California’s current teacher shortage were announced by Michele Perrault, Director of the Administrative Services Division (see for the complete agenda item). Each of these grant programs was funded as part of the 2016-17 California Budget Act, which provided $35 million in funding to support these initiatives. Summaries of the three grant programs appear below:

– California Center on Teaching Careers

This grant was awarded to the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) and provides $5 million in one-time funds to establish the California Center on Teaching Careers to recruit individuals into the teaching profession. The Center will develop and disseminate recruitment publications; provide information on credentialing, teacher preparation programs, and financial aid; create a referral database linked to existing similar databases for teachers seeking employment; and provide outreach to high school and college students as well as to current credentialed teachers. In addition to a strong online presence (e.g., links to EdJoin, virtual kiosks, advising avatars, etc.), TCOE will also establish six collaborating regional centers at county offices of education across the state (Los Angeles, Riverside, Shasta, San Diego, Sonoma and Ventura).

Donna Glassman-Sommer from TCOE addressed the Commission, sharing some of the components of the program. She expressed excitement over developing a website that is being called “A Teaching Life” (e.g., promoting teaching as early as middle school and maintaining a database of retired teachers who might like to serve as mentors to new teachers). She supported the concept of microcredentials (specialized training in a particular area) and developing apps that contain the requirements of teacher preparation programs.

– Integrated Teacher Preparation Program

This grant program recently awarded almost $8 million in one- or two-year grants of up to $250,000 each to colleges and universities across the state to develop new four-year integrated teacher preparation programs (bachelor’s plus credential) or adapt existing five-year integrated programs to a four-year integrated program. A list of recipients can be found here:

An additional $2 million in grant funding will be awarded in a second round of applications. The Request for Proposals and FAQs are available on the Commission’s website: Proposals are due by Thursday, 2 February 2017.

– California Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing Program

This grant program will provide $20 million over the next five years to 25 grant recipients–school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools–to support classified school employees in completing an undergraduate degree and a teacher preparation program. The program will award up to 1,000 grants of $4,000 per participant per year. For a list of grant recipients, visit

Related article:

CSU Garners New Grant Funding to Expand Four-Year Teacher Preparation Programs

Source: California State University – 8 December 2016

​​​The California State University Office of the Chancellor announced that 17 of its 23 campuses have earned Integrated Teacher Education Program Grants to develop four-year teacher preparation programs, with several CSU campuses–including Fresno, Monterey Bay, San Diego, and San Francisco–earning multiple grants.

“As a statewide innovator in teacher preparation, the CSU is uniquely poised to offer these new four-year blended teacher training programs. California’s children and youth deserve highly-qualified teachers committed to student success, and the Integrated Program Grants will enable the university to nearly triple the number of new teachers graduating annually with STEM, Special Education and bilingual credentials,” said Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, assistant vice chancellor of Teacher Education Program and Public School Programs.

Dual Certification for Single Subject and Designated Subjects Career Technical Education Teaching Credentials
Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

Agenda Item 3F at last week’s California Commission on Teacher Credentialing meeting provided “an update on the work surrounding short-term and long-term options for teachers to earn dual certification as Single Subject and Designated Subjects (DS) Career Technical Education (CTE) teaching credentials.”

The California Career Technical Education Incentive Grant (CTEIG) program (2015) and California Career Pathways Trust (CCPT) grants (2014) are two statewide funding opportunities for CTE programs that “have helped increase the need for CTE teachers, as an increasing number of school districts seek to add career pathways. Working to address that teacher need, school districts continually run into challenges when trying to secure more CTE teachers. At least some of the shortage appears to be the result of 1) CTE teachers not being able to work full-time when at small school programs if they do not also have single subject credentials, and 2) single subject teachers not qualifying to teach CTE courses.”

This agenda item details the recommendations of a work group that tackled these challenges. (See the agenda item above for more details.) In summary, the work group recommended the following:

(1a) Allow clear CTE credential holders that hold a bachelor’s degree to earn a Single Subject teaching credential by verifying subject matter competence, satisfying basic skills, completing a TPA (Teacher Performance Assessment), and a subject-matter pedagogy class.

(1b) Allow a CTE teacher who has a job offer as a single subject teacher and has completed all prerequisites to be an intern to begin teaching in that subject area. The teacher could earn the preliminary single subject credential through the Intern Early Completion Option (ECO)…

(2) Create a permit that allows single subject teachers with a minimum of 500 hours of industry experience to teach corresponding CTE courses, while earning 250 hours of industry experience every year. A requirement of the permit would be to complete the CTE Foundations course in the first year teaching on the permit…. [Note: While the work group thought a minimum of 250 hours of industry experience was sufficient, Commission staff raised this to 500 hours, due in part to concerns about qualifications and meeting the 3000-hour target. Many Commissioners and those making public comments supported the 250-hour minimum. Chair Linda Darling-Hammond raised the question of whether the current regulations (including the 3000 hour requirement for industry experience in one area) may be outdated and need to be addressed in light of the rapid development of new industry jobs. “Career Technical Pathways are training people for college and career at the same time….We may have a framework that is very antiquated, so we’re trying to solve this problem of the need to allow Single Subject teachers to be able to teach courses that are blended courses in new occupational fields that CA needs, as well as the kind of thinking about applying high level content to an applied area. That may need a whole different framework…” A study session for Commissioners to discuss this may be offered in the future.]

(3) Waive the Preliminary CTE preparation program for community college faculty. Allow community college CTE instructors to use their years of teaching CTE to adults at the community college level to count towards the two years of experience needed to earn a Clear CTE credential… [A number who spoke expressed some concern over this recommendation.]

(4) Institutions could be encouraged to offer the CTE Foundations course to their current Single Subject credential candidates, which would enable the Single Subject candidates that had the required industry experience to be eligible for their Preliminary CTE credential and understand how CTE fits into the high school curriculum.

Strong support for CTE teacher credential pathways was expressed. Chair Darling-Hammond noted that there is a “pent-up demand for high school teachers to be able to teach CTE classes.”

A video of the discussion of this agenda item is available at (4:47-5:51).

Online Mathematics and Science CSET Reviews and FLM/FLGS Teaching Methodology Courses

The Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI) at Fresno State will offer free, synchronous, online reviews of the content assessed on CSET: Mathematics Subtests I and II starting on Monday, 9 January 2017. In addition, the free, online CSET: Science Subtests I, II, and III (for all areas of science) workshop series will begin on Saturday, January 28.

Prospective or current mathematics and science teachers who need to demonstrate subject matter competency via the CSET to earn a full or foundational-level Single Subject teaching credential should find these interactive workshops very helpful. Following the conclusion of each session, participants will receive a link to the archived webinar so they can review the material later if desired. Reimbursement of CSET fees may also be possible for webinar participants.

Visit for more information and for registration details.

Teachers who are pursuing a Foundational-Level Mathematics (FLM) or Foundational-Level General Science (FLGS) credential and need to take a teaching methodology course may be interested in learning more about the 10-week online methods courses developed by California State University, Fullerton. The cost of each course is $300. The FLGS course begins on January 4, and the FLM course begins on March 21. Contact Maria Grant ( for more information about the FLGS course, and contact Patrice Waller ( for more information about the FLM methods course.

Related article:

Remembering CSU Chancellor Emeritus Charles B. Reed

Source: California State University
URL: and 

A proponent of STEM and teacher education, Chancellor Reed oversaw the development of the Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI) in 2003. “The CSU achieved its goal of doubling the number of math and science teachers it produces – going from 750 in 2003 to 1,502 in 2010.”


Computer Science Education Week

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) is an annual program dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science.

Originally conceived by the Computing in the Core coalition, organizes CSEdWeek as a grassroots campaign supported by 350 partners ( and 100,000 educators worldwide.

CSEdWeek is held in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (9 December 1906).

For Hour of Code lessons and implementation, visit and

Related Information

A Year of Action Supporting Computer Science for All

Source: The White House – 5 December 2016

URL: and 

President Obama kicked off Computer Science Education Week on December 5 with an announcement of new K-12 initiatives in computer science (CS). Two major federal actions are the following:

(i) National Science Foundation (NSF): An investment of $20 million in FY 2017 in support of CS education is planned. These new investments will take place under the Computer Science for All: Researcher Practitioner Partnerships program, building on NSF’s $25 million investment in FY 2016. The program aims to better understand, through research and development, how to provide high-school teachers with the preparation, professional development, and ongoing support that they would need to teach rigorous computer-science courses; and K-8 teachers with the preparation they would need to integrate computer science and computational thinking into their classrooms.

(ii) National Science and Technology Council (NSTC): A CSforAll strategic framework will be developed in the coming year. The NSTC Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (CoSTEM) Federal Coordination in STEM Education Task Force’s (FC-STEM) Computer Science for All Interagency Working Group will develop a strategic framework to guide Federal efforts to support the integration of computer science and computational thinking into K-12 education.

Visit to view many more initiatives, as well as facts about CS and technology jobs (e.g., One recent analysis of 26 million job postings found that nearly half of all the jobs in the top quartile in pay require some computer-science knowledge or coding skills).

NSF’s Computer Science Bits & Bites

The National Science Foundation (NSF) publishes CS Bits & Bytes biweekly to make computer science more accessible to educators and learners. The latest issue encouraged readers to help expand access for all students to computer science in schools by following the conversation #CSEdWeek and #CSforAll on Twitter (@NSF and @NSF_CISE) and Facebook (@US.NSF).

The website ( includes the following information:

Each issue of CS Bits & Bytes highlights innovative computer science research, often at the intersection with other disciplines, and includes profiles of the individuals who do this exciting work, links for further exploration, and interactive activities. [View back issues here:]

To receive CS Bits & Bytes by email, please send a blank email to


“Local Schools Highlight Computer Science” by Traci Newell

Source: Los Altos Town Crier – 14 December 2016


To mark Computer Science Education Week, each of Los Altos High’s 2,040 students took part in Hour of Code lessons during their math classes…

The theme [for the elementary schools was] “Code with a Buddy and Try Something New.”

Each elementary school had its STEM lab open during lunchtime to encourage coding activities with friends. Different grades paired up (second-graders with fifth-graders, for example) to take part in buddy coding activities.

Depending on grade level, students used programs such as Bee-Bot, Kodable, Scratch, ScratchJr and for their lessons.

Sixth-graders learned about the history behind Computer Science Education Week and then worked on coding tutorials of their choice. They were encouraged to share why they like to code and why it is important.

At Loyola School, parents paired up with students for Family Code Night. The school used resources from MV GATE, a nonprofit organization that provides computer science education to schools in Marin.

“It’s a great opportunity for parents and children to be learning together and creating a bond,” said Loyola Principal Kimberly Attell. “Students showing their parents something they are learning is a valuable experience and a great opportunity to make those connections and to learn together.”

The Los Altos Educational Foundation, which funds a majority of the district’s STEM programs, last week sent a letter to parents highlighting the district’s computer science programs and how they equip students with life skills.

“It teaches problem solving, creativity, logic and other skills that apply to all subjects,” the letter stated of the importance of computer science. “It also prepares students to be literate in the digital world – to not just consume technology, but also create it.”

Free NASA Webinars for Teachers


The NASA Educator Professional Development Collaborative at Texas State University provides a variety of free 1-hour webinars throughout the year for K-12 educators. Each activity is aligned with the Common Core State Standards and/or the Next Generation Science Standards. Some of the topics follow below. Visit the website above to see the list of upcoming webinars and more about each.

Don’t Count NASA Out of Your Math Classes: How do I Measure This?

19 December 2016 – 1:00-2:00 pm PT

Exploring Exoplanets Using Math

20 December 2016 – 4:00-5:00 pm PT

Don’t Count NASA Out of Your Math Classes: Mass vs. Weight

3 January 2017 – 3:30-4:30 p.m. PT

Aeronautics–Come Fly With Us: Balloons and Kites for Elementary Educators

4 January 2017 – 1:00-2:00 p.m. PT


TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced

Source: Boston College – 14 December 2016

More than 600,000 students from 60 countries and benchmarking regions participated in TIMSS 2015 (assessment of 4th and 8th graders) and TIMSS Advanced 2015. TIMSS has been administered every four years since 1995, and is sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) in Amsterdam. TIMSS Advanced was conducted in 1995, 2008, and 2015. The results of the 2015 assessments were released on 29 November 2016.

TIMSS 2015 shows achievement trends are up, with more countries registering increases than decreases in both grades and subjects. Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan continue outperforming all participating countries in mathematics at the fourth and eighth grades, maintaining a 20-year edge. Between the top performing countries and the next highest performers there was a pronounced gap of 23 points at the fourth grade and 48 points at the eighth grade.

In fourth grade science, Singapore, Korea, Japan, and the Russian Federation had the highest achievement; and in eighth grade science, the top performers were Singapore, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Slovenia.

TIMSS Advanced monitors students in their final year of secondary school who have taken advanced courses in mathematics and physics. Over the 20 years (1995 to 2005), there were some declines and no improvements in the nine countries assessed. Visit to learn more.

Visit to read highlights from the studies. A few follow below:

– Gender Gaps: The 20-year trends show longstanding differences favoring boys in mathematics and science have been reduced, especially in science and especially at the eighth grade. However, TIMSS Advanced showed that U.S. males outperformed females in advanced mathematics by 30 points (500 and 470) and in physics (455 and 409).

– An early start in education has a lasting effect through the fourth grade. Higher achievement was tied to students who attended at least three years of preprimary programs, and whose parents often engaged with them in early numeracy and literacy activities before beginning primary school.

– Students start out confident in mathematics (77% “confident” or “very confident”: “c/vc”) and science (82% c/vc) at the fourth grade, but that feeling erodes by the eighth grade: 57% c/vc in math and 61% c/vc in science.

For full reports, graphics, and informative videos about the results, visit

Related article:

“International Tests Show Rising, But Mixed, Math and Science Performance” by Sarah D. Sparks

Source: EdWeek – 29 November 2016

PISA Results Released

On 6 December 2016, the results of the 2015 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) were released. PISA is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students.

In 2015 over half a million students, representing 28 million 15-year-olds in 72 countries and economies, took the two-hour test. Students were assessed in science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem solving, and financial literacy.

An informative report, “PISA 2015: PISA Results in Focus,” is available at

The following two documents are available for free download from

Volume I: Excellence and Equity in Education

This volume summarizes student performance in science, reading and mathematics and defines and measures equity in education.

Volume II: Policies and Practices for Successful Schools

This volume examines how student performance is associated with various characteristics of individual schools and school systems, including the resources allocated to education, the learning environment and how school systems select students for different schools, programmes and classes.

Related articles

PISA Day: Global Lessons for the U.S. Education System and Economy


On 7 December 2016, the Alliance for Excellent Education presented sessions on the most recent PISA results, as well as a series of panel discussions on lessons that can be learned and PISA’s impact on the education systems of various countries, including the United States.

Archived videos of the speakers are available at The first video showcases Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). He presents a detailed analysis of the PISA results and lessons learned from high-performing nations. A number of interesting PISA findings are shared by Schleicher in this video. He shows bar graphs comparing U.S. and overall percentages of students who plan to go into a science-related career (much higher percentage in the U.S. compared to the OECD average), as well as the considerable gender differences in the percentage of students who aspire to enter a science/engineering profession (boys > girls) and those who plan to enter a health profession (girls > boys).


 “What the World Can Learn from the Latest PISA Test Results”

Source: The Economist – 10 December 2016


Socio-economic Status is Becoming Less a Predictor of Student Performance in U.S. Schools” by Jordan Yadoo

Source: Bloomberg – 6 December 2016


“More than $25 Million in Breakthrough Prizes Awarded to Mathematicians and Scientists at Silicon Valley Event” by Dennis Overbye, Kenneth Chang, Nicholas St. Fleur, and Denise Grady

Source: New York Times – 4 December 2016

The biggest prize payday in science came around again Sunday evening [December 4] when the Breakthrough Foundation ( handed out more than $25 million in its annual prizes to more than a thousand physicists, life scientists and mathematicians.

This year’s winners include five molecular biologists who won $3 million each for work in genetics and cell biology, one mathematician, a trio of string theorists who split one $3 million physics prize, and another 1,015 physicists working on the LIGO gravitational wave detector split a special $3 million physics prize. In addition, there were six smaller “New Horizons” prizes totaling $600,000 for 10 “early career” researchers, and a pair of high school students won $400,000 apiece for making science videos.

The Breakthrough Foundation was founded by Sergey Brin of Google; Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe; Jack Ma of Alibaba and his wife, Cathy Zhang; Yuri Milner, an internet entrepreneur, and his wife, Julia Milner; and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

It sprang from Mr. Milner’s decision in 2012 to hand out $3 million apiece to nine theoretical physicists, in the belief that physicists are equal to rock stars and deserve to be paid and celebrated like them. Over the years, as more sponsors have joined, the prizes have spread to life sciences and mathematics. The winners each year are chosen by a committee of previous winners.

For the last few years, the awards have been given out in an Oscar-style ceremony held at NASA’s Ames Research Center, with a variety of Hollywood celebrities, who this year include Morgan Freeman, Alicia Keys and Jeremy Irons…

Visit the website above to learn more about the award recipients.

Related article: 

Stars Gather in Silicon Valley to Celebrate Science at 5th Annual “Breakthrough Prize” Ceremony


The ceremony aired life on the National Geographic Channel, and FOX will air a one-hour version of the ceremony on Sunday, December 18, 7-8 p.m. PT.

…Jeremy Irons… [recognized] the accomplishments in the mathematics category.

“I am honored to be presenting this prestigious award,” said Irons. “Playing [Cambridge mathematician] G.H. Hardy in The Man Who Knew Infinity was an eye-opening experience for me, introducing me as it did to the world of pure mathematics. Knowing that the Breakthrough Prize will open more doors in this field is heartwarming”…


“Trump Selects DeVos as Education Secretary” by Caitlin Emma and Michael Stratford

Source: Politico – 23 November 2016


Related article:

Program Encourages Boy Scouts’ STEM Education

Source: WOOD TV (Grand Rapids, MI) – 17 May 2016

A new program aims to prepare West Michigan Boy Scouts for jobs in science and technology.

The local Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday announced its Build Character Today, Lead Tomorrow campaign. Its goal is to provide programs for young people focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and the environment.

More than $ million was raised for the program, which was spearheaded by a number of community leaders including businessman and honorary program chair Dick DeVos.

At Tuesday’s announcement, DeVos talked about the impact scouting had on his life and the importance of getting kids ready for the jobs of the future.

“It’s a challenge, but also an opportunity,” he said. “We want to make sure young people are prepared for those jobs right there at home, stay in Grand Rapids and mature and grow here.”

Also see coverage of the DeVos Family Center for Scouting at

“Can a STEM Program Help Make Boy Scouts Relevant Again?” by Cale Guthrie Weissman

Source: Fast Company – 8 December 2016

…The thesis behind STEM Scouts was to “replicate in the lab environment the things that had been proven and tried in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs,” says Mike Surbaugh, the CEO of the Boy Scouts of America. As he explains it, Boy Scouts is an outdoor activity program that fosters individual leadership skills. This new science-based program would be similarly focused, just in a new environment. The ultimate goal of both program is “developing character and leadership”…

Since its inception over a year ago more than 200 labs have been formed with more that 2,000 kids between grades 3 and 12 participating. Each lab follows a methodology set out by the Boy Scouts every week to perform science experiments. All of the labs are run by volunteers—most are parents or local teachers. Deborah Vasquez, a teacher who leads a STEM Scouts group in southern Texas, says that she does the program because it provides extracurricular STEM programs that the school would otherwise be unable to afford. Most labs have a tuition of about $200 a year, but many of the students Vasquez instructs are able to participate thanks to scholarships.

Most important, says Surbaugh, is that leadership and character building would be the number-one priority for STEM Scouts. He made sure to include that in every lesson plan. “A component of scouting is service,” says McMillan. “That too is incorporated in STEM Scouts.” She pointed to labs whose assignment was to build a game and then go out to children’s hospitals and retirement homes and teach it…


Related article:

Innovative STEM Scouts Pilot Program from Boy Scouts of America Rockets into More Cities Across America

Source: STEM Scouts


“If You Had $45 Billion, What Would You Do to Improve Education?” by Goldie Blumenstyk

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education – 30 November 2016


If ever there was a plum job in the world of education, Jim Shelton has landed it. Seven months ago, Shelton was hired by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to head up its education portfolio.

CZI is the unusual new company created by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to “improve the world for the next generation”… To fund CZI they pledged Facebook stock worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $45 billion. Health and medical projects will no doubt get the biggest share of that money. But Shelton is the guy who will write the checks for all of CZI’s investments and philanthropic donations related to education. That means he’ll have a lot of sway in an organization that is going to become hugely influential…

[Shelton] said learning science will be a high priority for CZI, along with a commitment to operate with “humility,” while also avoiding what he call “analysis paralysis.”

Visit to read the informative interview with Jim Shelton and/or to listen to the Podcast of the interview.


How Much Will the “True Love” Spend on Presents During the 12 Days Of Christmas this Year?


As part of its annual tradition, the PNC Financial Services Group tabulates the “True Cost of Christmas,” which is the total cost of items bestowed by a “true love” who repeats all the verses in “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Purchasing all 364 gifts will require $156,507, up more than $1,000 from last year and more than $56,000 from 1984.

The PNC Christmas Price Index (CPI) website also includes interactive educational tools for students and teachers who want to learn about the stock market… Each year, educators across the country use the PNC CPI to teach middle and high school students about inflation and economic trends.

Teachers who visit the site will have access to a lesson plan from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) ( that explains the PNC CPI, its significance and how to interpret its results. The activities in the lesson plan also help students make predictions about this year’s cost of Christmas. The SIFMA Foundation is dedicated to providing youth of all backgrounds with an understanding of the capital markets. Its most popular program is The Stock Market Game.


“Mothers’ Early Support Boosts Children’s Later Math Achievement”

Source: ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 November 2016 

Young children whose mothers supported them during play, specifically in their labeling of object quantities, had better math achievement at ages 4-½ and 5 years.

“Children’s Early Math Knowledge Related to Later Achievement”

Source: ScienceDaily – 6 December 2016 

In preschool, children’s skills in patterning, comparing quantities, and counting objects were stronger predictors of their math achievement in fifth grade than other skills.

“Thinking about Math in Terms of Literacy, not Levels” (PBS Interview: Diane Briars and Andrew Hacker)

Source: PBS Newshour

“Why are Some STEM Fields More Gender Balanced Than Others?” by Sapna Cheryan, Sianna A Ziegler, Amanda K. Montoya and Lily Jiang

Source: Psychological Bulletin, 10 October 2016
URL: (“Study: Inclusive Environment Key to Closing STEM Gap”)

Position Opening: NSF Director, Division of Research on [STEM] Learning in Formal and Informal Settings

Contact: National Science Foundation

Best STEM Books K-12 ~ 2017

Source: National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)


COMET is sponsored in part by a grant from the California Mathematics Project.

~ To unsubscribe from COMET, send the following message to Unsubscribe COMET

~ To subscribe to COMET, send the following message to Subscribe COMET [followed by your name]


Subscribe COMET Tom Torlakson

COMET is produced by:

Carol Fry Bohlin

    • , Ph.D.
    • Professor, Mathematics Education
    • California State University, Fresno
    • 5005 N. Maple Ave. M/S 2
    • Fresno, CA 93740-8025