COMET • Vol. 2, No. 11 – 26 March 2001


Elementary Education Network Newsletter – Volume 1, Issue 1 – March 2001

Source: Barbara Baseggio, Manager, Elementary Networks Office
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This newsletter is designed to keep you informed of the latest research and practices in elementary and preschool education. Each issue will feature information on best practices. Through this newsletter and other forums, the California Elementary Education Network will provide opportunities for educators to address common issues, share promising practices, and enhance effectiveness.

This issue of the newsletter focuses on assessment issues including the development of standards-based report cards and the California Reading and Literature Project’s Reading RESULTS…This newsletter also presents a summary of the research conducted by Joseph Johnson on high performing, high-poverty schools.

I hope you will find the articles in this newsletter helpful as you work toward improving student achievement. Please visit our Web site at <>, which contains information on implementing standards-based education based on the two new documents that guide our work, First Class: A Guide for Early Primary Education (1999) and Elementary Makes the Grade! (2000).


The first phase of the California Elementary Education Network has been completed with over 40 roll out institutes being held across the state focused on First Class: A Guide for Early Primary Education and Elementary Makes the Grade! …

Other forthcoming Network activities will include regional staff development sessions focused on standards-based instruction in reading and mathematics, professional book clubs, and a statewide conference that will bring together educators to share effective practices in elementary education. We will continue to update our Web site at <> with information on Network activities, best practices, and current research.

Please e-mail us at so that you will automatically receive future newsletters and updates about forthcoming Network activities.



(1) “TIMSS-R Results Debut Via Satellite and SMART Addresses Regional Educational Issues at OAI”

Source: OAI Press Release – 19 March 2001

The National Center for Education Statistics and the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC, will release the disaggregated results for the United States participants of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study – Repeat (TIMSS-R) test results via satellite feed to OAI [and other locations] on Wednesday, April 4, 2001 at 10 a.m. [ET]. Following this national press conference…, the OAI-facilitated SMART (Science and Mathematics Achievement Required for Tomorrow) Consortium will provide an overview of the results for SMART Consortium students, address their plan to improve student (K-12) learning in mathematics and science within its 30 school districts, and answer questions about the TIMSS-R testing in Ohio.

TIMSS-R is a successor to the [1995] TIMSS study…and provides the most recent comparison of mathematics and science achievement for eighth grade students calculated by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) in Amsterdam. Thirty-eight countries, including the U.S., elected to participate in this study that compares mathematics and science performance of their eighth grade students in multiple-choice and free-response formats.

All participating nations were required to draw nationally representative samples of students and schools for the TIMSS-R study. In the U.S., this sample consisted of 221 schools and 9,072 eighth-graders, which ensured a representative sample of eight-grade students in the U.S. Over one thousand eighth grade students from 17 of SMART’s school districts participated in the re-administration of the TIMSS test…

Over the past two years, SMART has initiated several activities to improve student learning in mathematics and science, such as Science & Technology for Children, Connected Math, Investigations, and Cognitive Tutor Algebra. These collaborations promote improvements in mathematics and science instruction by offering teachers standards-based instructional materials and the professional training necessary to integrate technical training with classroom practices…

The SMART Consortium, organized in 1998 and headquartered at OAI, was formed in response to a shared concern about the weaknesses of United States students in mathematics and science reflected in the TIMSS results…

(2) “New Math, Science Formula In Schools” by Luisa Yanez

Source: The Miami Herald – 22 March 2001

For years, improving student performance in reading and writing has been the focus at many school systems, including Miami-Dade’s. In the process, math and science test scores have suffered, educators have found.

In an effort to turn the tide, the Miami-Dade school district is embarking on an ambitious project to revamp the way it teaches the two subjects. District administrators are out to retool curriculum, change textbooks and better prepare classroom teachers.

“It’s a shame that we’ve allowed this to happen,” said Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Roger C. Cuevas, referring to the mediocre performance in those subjects by U.S. students compared to their counterparts in other countries.

At a meeting Wednesday at the Miami City Club in downtown Miami, Cuevas helped unveil a blueprint of how the district will focus on teaching math and science in the future. It will use as a guide the upcoming results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (Repeat). The TIMMS-R test was conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

In the 1998-99 school year, the U.S. Department of Education solicited school districts around the country to give their students the test. Miami-Dade was the only Florida district to sign up…

“We are going to get the scores and it won’t be pretty,” Cuevas said to the small group of school administrators and business leaders at the breakfast. “We want to use the results as a baseline.”

Internationally, U.S. 12th-graders rank near the bottom in math and science proficiency out of the 42 nations whose students were tested in the mid 1990s.

Joseph P. Burke, administrative director of the division of mathematics and science education for the school system, said the answer is clear: Something must be done to change the way the subjects are taught…

Burke said new plan deals largely with changing curriculum. Most U.S. schools try to tackle too many math principles, he said. Even though they may spend more time on homework and classwork than international students, they don’t master the different levels of math as well…

To improve math and science teaching, the district will map out a project to refocus curriculum, reduce the number of topics at each grade level, retain quality teachers and utilize more effective textbooks, Burke said.

Funding for district’s plan comes from a $12 million National Science Foundation grant, along with $2.7 million the school board budgeted for math and science improvements.

(3) “Bush Picks Hickok for No. 3 Post” by Joetta L. Sack

Source: Education Week – 21 March 2001

President Bush plans to nominate Eugene W. Hickok, Pennsylvania’s secretary of education, to be the undersecretary of the Department of Education, the agency’s No. 3 post.

Mr. Hickok is well-known as a founder and the current chairman of the Education Leaders Council, a conservative-leaning group of top state education officials that was formed as an alternative to the Council of Chief State School Officers in 1995. The ELC supports private school choice and greater flexibility for states and districts in spending federal dollars, among other priorities.

In Pennsylvania, Mr. Hickok has instituted programs to create charter schools, raise academic standards, and improve reading skills. Under Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, he unsuccessfully attempted to win adoption of a voucher system for students in failing schools.

“The neat thing that he’ll bring is that he’s an out-of-the-box thinker on education reform,” said Gary M. Huggins, the executive director of the ELC. “He’s recognized as a leader who looks at this differently.”

But he was lambasted by the state teachers’ union. “Secretary Hickok spent much of his six years in pursuit of ‘silver bullet’ approaches such as privatization and vouchers instead of sound, practical reforms,” said Patsy J. Tallarico, the president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a National Education Association affiliate…

Mr. Hickok’s selection had been expected for more than a month, but was not announced by the White House until late last week. The news came one week after news that President Bush tapped William D. Hansen, a lobbyist for student aid lenders, as the deputy secretary, the No. 2 job.

The appointments, which must be confirmed by the Senate, would pair a moderate and conservative in managing day-to-day responsibilities and helping to set department policy, an arrangement that many Washington lobbyists believe was a goal of the Bush administration.

Lindsey Kozberg, a spokeswoman for Secretary of Education Rod Paige, said Mr. Hickok would bring a valuable state perspective to the department and would work to get the president’s education plan passed in Congress.

(4) “Admissions Test Courses Help, but Not So Much, Study Finds” by Gina Kolata

Source: The New York Times – 25 March 2001

A new study by an independent researcher has found that coaching for college admission tests has only a small effect, despite the claims of companies and private tutors who have turned test preparation into a multimillion-dollar industry.

The study’s data, from a national sample of more than 14,000 students, indicated that the average gain from coaching was no more than about 20 points on the 1,600-point SAT test. The study found coaching produced similarly small improvements in English and math for students taking the ACT, a test used by many colleges that do not use the SAT. Coaching actually seemed to have slightly lowered scores on the reading part of the ACT.

The findings support the longstanding contention of the College Board, which sponsors the SAT, that test coaching has little effect. But the study, reported in the current issue of Chance, a magazine of the American Statistical Association, had several flaws. The study did not differentiate between intensive and expensive preparation courses that may last for months, and short, even one- day courses. Officials of major preparation companies said this failing called the results into question.

Also, the study compared students who chose coaching to those who did not, rather than randomly assigning students to one group or another.

Still, some experts on educational testing, like Stephen Klein, a senior research scientist at the Rand Corporation who studies educational testing, called the work “very important” and convincing…

(5) Interview with Lynne Cheney

Source: CNN’s Inside Politics – Aired 12 March 2001 (5:00 p.m. ET)

ANNOUNCER: …More of our interview with Lynne Cheney at the vice president’s residence. Her thoughts on education and pop culture, and results of a new CNN poll on how Americans view her husband’s health problems. Now Judy Woodruff takes you Inside Politics…

WOODRUFF: She is still sitting on corporate boards and there’s her day job, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. She’s written five books and is working on the sixth, on education reform.

(on camera): You are working on a book, though, on education reform, and I believe you’ve described it as thinking about the role that our broader culture has played in preventing true education reform from taking place. Is that accurate? How would you characterize…

CHENEY: Well, it’s a really interesting question. We have had wave after wave of reform. Probably if you could at least think back to 1983 when “A Nation at Risk” was published and called for vast reforms in our schools, many of those calls to reform were exactly on target, exactly what we should be doing. The outcry goes up. People become mobilized. They try to put the reform in place. And it fails, it founders. It doesn’t happen.

So I am trying to deal with the cultural context in which reform tries to occur and understand why it is that even though we know how to fix our schools–in many ways we know what the answers are–we don’t get it done somehow.

WOODRUFF: Can you give you us an advance peek at what some of the answers are?

CHENEY: Well, part of it is a longstanding belief — it’s been in our education establishment at least since the 1930s–that somehow children should be allowed to discover knowledge for themselves, that they should construct their own knowledge. This has surfaced most recently in connection with mathematics instruction, where the idea is that they need to discover how to add for themselves. Rather than being taught how to add, they should construct this knowledge on their own. Well, just as I described it to you, I can see this doubt in your face.

WOODRUFF: Is anybody really saying that?

CHENEY: Yes, they are really saying that. It’s been in textbooks all across this country.This is not the result of common sense, it’s not the result of research. It’s the result of a long-held set of beliefs that dominate the education establishment. And I’m interested in how they got there and how we can perhaps get rid of some of them, and just providing an understanding for how reform fails…



(1) “Riverdeep Interactive Learning to Sponsor 2001 ‘World’s Largest Math Event'” (Press Release)

Source: Business Wire – 15 February 2001

The National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) today announced that Riverdeep(TM) Interactive Learning will sponsor NCTM’s seventh annual “World’s Largest Math Event'” (WLME) on April 27, 2001.

Riverdeep will support this effort with a live Webcast and other online activities including specially designed math lesson plans for teachers to use in classroom interactions with the math event.

“We are pleased to have Riverdeep as sponsor of the World’s Largest Math Event,'” said Lee V. Stiff, NCTM president. “This year’s theme, Math at the Fair, encourages students to work together creatively to solve rich and challenging math problems. A solid foundation in mathematics combined with sensible uses of technology can enhance the experience for students and improve student learning overall.”

The World’s Largest Math Event celebrates mathematics and mathematics teaching and is the highlight of Mathematics Education Month (April). The WLME includes a range of activities targeted to students in all grades. During the April 27 event, more than 100,000 NCTM members will receive materials for their students to participate in math-solving activities. Created in 1995 to celebrate NCTM’s 75th anniversary, the World’s Largest Math Event has grown to an estimated 1 million participants each year.

Last spring, NCTM released “Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.” This update of the 1989 landmark document, “Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics,” reflects the most current thinking and, research about improving school mathematics in the K-12 classroom. Among its major messages, it states that the appropriate use of technology is essential in teaching and learning mathematics…

Riverdeep products feature interactive problem-solving approaches and real-world applications that contribute to the depth of conceptual understanding. Riverdeep also offers extensive online tools, support, and professional development offerings through its Web site,, to help educators integrate technology with curriculum, and to assess and improve student performance. Riverdeep activities are correlated to national and state curriculum standards…

About NCTM

Founded in 1920, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education association, headquartered in Reston, VA, with more than 100,000 members and 250 affiliate organizations located throughout the United States and Canada. NCTM facilitates ongoing dialogue and constructive discussion among all stakeholders about what is best for our nation’s students. The Council is dedicated to improving mathematics teaching and learning from pre-kindergarten through high school and providing a high-quality mathematics education for every child. The Council’s “Principles and Standards” provides guidelines for excellence in mathematics education and issues a call for all students to engage in more challenging mathematics. For more information see

(2) COMPASS Curriculum Showcase

Conference Dates: August 10-12, 2001
Location: Denver, Colorado
Registration Deadline: 1 May 2001

COMPASS (Curricular Options in Mathematics Programs for All Secondary Students), a national implementation center funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is hosting a conference that will showcase 5 Standards-based secondary mathematics curricula:

  • Mathematics: Modeling Our World (ARISE)
  • Contemporary Mathematics in Context (CPMP)
  • Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP)
  • MATH Connections: A Secondary Mathematics Core Curriculum
  • Integrated Mathematics: A Modeling Approach Using Technology (SIMMS)

Each of these programs has been developed over a number of years by teams of (at least) mathematicians, teachers, and mathematics educators, with substantial funding from the NSF. Each has progressed through a rigorous process of design, pilot testing, evaluation and redesign, field-testing in a wide range of schools, and further evaluation and redesign before reaching the commercial market.

The conference is designed for teacher leaders, school district administrators, state education department personnel, and teacher educators who are interested in improving secondary school mathematics opportunities and experiences for students. Sessions should be of particular interest to decision-makers in school districts that are considering adoption of a curriculum that is in line with the vision of mathematics education set forth by the National Council of Teachers of

Mathematics Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000).

Participants will have the opportunity to attend workshops that will feature core curriculum highlights of each program, as well as hands-on activities and other information about each curriculum. Presenters will include experienced high school mathematics teachers and curriculum developers from each of the five NSF-supported comprehensive mathematics programs.

Keynote speakers will offer national perspectives on challenges facing school districts as they seek to improve mathematics education for their high school students. Issues will include the importance of moving in the direction supported by these curriculum programs; measuring success of these approaches; and building capacity for curricular change.

To receive more information or request a registration form, please visit the COMPASS web site at or send an e-mail message to or call 1-800-688-1829.