COMET • Vol. 2, No. 13 – 16 April 2001


“Lozano Leaves State Board of Education”
Source: Los Angeles Times – 14 April 2001

Monica Lozano, president of the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion, quit the State Board of Education this week, citing personal reasons.

Gov. Gray Davis, who appointed Lozano in 1999 to a three-year term, could fill the vacancy at any time, said Greg Geeting, the board’s interim deputy executive director.

Lozano, the only Latino on the board,…is leaving nine months before her term was to end.

Lozano, 43, is the president and chief operating officer of the nation’s leading Spanish-language newspaper and the mother of two children. She also sits on the boards of Walt Disney Co. and Union Bank of America and is a USC trustee.

On the Board of Education, Lozano was the panel’s delegate to California’s Post-secondary Education Commission, and she served as president of the board in 2000…



(1) TIMSS-R Benchmarking

Source: TIMSS Resource Center – 5 April 2001

On April 4, 2001, Boston College released the Benchmarking results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study-Repeat Benchmarking

(TIMSS-R Benchmarking, also known as TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking). The TIMSS 1999 Benchmarking reports for both mathematics and science are now available online.

The TIMSS-R Benchmarking Study, supported by the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Science Foundation, is a collaborative effort between states, districts, and the TIMSS Center at Boston College to assess the comparative international standing of students’ mathematics and science knowledge. Twenty-seven states, districts, and consortia of districts participated in the TIMSS-R Benchmarking Study…

The April 4 release of the TIMSS-R Benchmarking findings follows by four months the release of the international results providing comparisons between the United States and the other 37 participating countries… The TIMSS-R Benchmarking results provide state and local policymakers with rich information on student performance, instructional practices, teacher preparation, students’ classroom experiences, and school policies. Moreover, the TIMSS-R Benchmarking results provide opportunities for educators, parents, policymakers and the public to further reflect on mathematics and science education in the United States…

The Mid-Atlantic Eisenhower Consortium is hosting the upcoming April 23-24, 2001 regional conference in Cherry Hill, NJ: Learn Globally, Teach Locally: Helping All Students Achieve High Standards. This conference represents the first opportunity for the six Mid-Atlantic sites to present their findings jointly to a regional audience. Sites in the Mid-Atlantic region participating in the Benchmarking Study include: Delaware Science Coalition; Montgomery County (MD); Maryland; Jersey City Public Schools (NJ); Pennsylvania; SW Pennsylvania Regional Math and Science Collaborative.

The states and districts (or consortia of districts) participating from other regions include:


Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas

School Districts/Consortia:

Academy School District #20, Colorado Springs, CO
Chicago Public Schools
First in the World Consortium, IL
Fremont/Lincoln/West Side Public Schools, NE
Guilford County, NC
Miami-Dade County Public Schools, FL
Michigan Invitational Group
Naperville Community Unit School District #203, IL
Project SMART Consortium, OH
Rochester City School District, NY

These states and districts completed the TIMSS-R assessments following the same guidelines as those established for the participating countries. The samples drawn for each of these states and districts are representative of the student population in each of these states and districts. The students in the sampled population for the TIMSS-R Benchmarking Study include over one-third of the total population of eighth-grade students in public schools in the United States.

To learn more about both the TIMSS-R Study and the TIMSS-R Benchmarking project, visit the National Center for Education Statistics TIMSS Website at



[See for a related story on the TIMSS-R Benchmarking results, as well as for a chart depicting “how 8th graders in a number of U.S. school districts, consortia, and states stacked up against students throughout the United States and in other nations.”]

(2) “U.S. Eighth-graders’ Rank: Math, 19th; Science, 18th” by Greg Toppo

Source: Contra Costa Times – 5 April 2001

…As a group, U.S. eighth-graders tested just above average, coming in 19th in math and 18th in science… Not all 50 states volunteered for the state-by-state ranking released Wednesday, so broad comparisons between them cannot be made. The average U.S. score, however, is representative of students nationwide.

Education Secretary Rod Paige noted that several American school districts performed as well as their counterparts abroad, but said: “This achievement gap is disappointing and unacceptable.”

“We have islands of excellence but islands of excellence is not what we seek”…

School District No. 203 in Naperville, Ill., west of Chicago, edged out all other competitors in science and came in sixth worldwide in math. The average math scores of Naperville students were just behind those of students in five Asian nations [Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong].

Jodi Wirt, who oversees secondary school curriculum and instruction in Naperville, said early exposure to hands-on science lessons gives their students an edge.

“They’re aware of the scientific process, and they’re constantly asked to explain their reasoning,” she said. “That whole way of teaching students begins very early in our district.”

Wirt also said the district is unusual in requiring most of its students to take algebra by eighth grade. It’s also near five colleges and several research facilities…

The study of 50,000 students is a project of Boston College and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, an independent, international cooperative of national research institutions and government agencies.

Among participating countries, five Asian nations-Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan-scored above all others in math, while Taiwan, Singapore, Hungary, Japan and South Korea were tops in science, scoring just below the Naperville district but comparable to other high-scoring districts in the United States.

Researchers said teachers with a degree in math or science helped raise student achievement in the Asian countries but that in the United States students were more likely to be taught by teachers with degrees in education or “other.”

The report also suggested that students score higher in math when teachers emphasize reasoning and problem solving and score higher in science when teachers emphasize experiments and practical investigations…

(3) “Suburban Pupils Ace Worldwide Test” by Tracy Dell’Angela and Aamer Madhani

Source: Chicago Tribune – 5 April 2001,2669,ART-50964,FF.html

… In Naperville School District 203, pupils scored higher in science than pupils taking the test in any other country… A consortium of the Illinois Math and Science Academy and schools on the North Shore also ranked with the top Asian countries, scoring the fourth highest in science and the seventh highest in math.

The results are part of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, a 1999 test administered in 38 countries to more than 230,000 pupils-including 59,000 U.S. pupils in 1,200 schools across the nation…

The strong performance by some Chicago-area pupils also points to what educators consider a discouraging divide in American schools. Although the country may have some of the highest achievers, it also has some of the lowest. Thus, math and science scores for all U.S. pupils ranked in the middle of the pack when compared with 37 other countries.

“These scores shows that the U.S. has both the best in the world and the worst,” said Michael Martin, co-director of the TIMSS International Study Center at Boston College. “It’s a country of contrasts”…

While the Naperville district and the First in the World consortium on the North Shore took pride in their scores, they recognize they are blessed with resources: well-prepared pupils, highly motivated parents, safe schools, experienced teachers with advanced training, and progressive curriculum strategies that emphasize hands-on learning over rote lectures.

In fact, Naperville was recognized by the study for devoting more class time to experiments and scientific investigations than other participants-about 79 percent of their 8th-grade curriculum, compared with 17 percent for a consortium of Delaware schools.

Mike Wessel, who has taught science at Washington Junior High in Naperville for 17 years, said this fact goes a long way in explaining why his pupils did well. “These pupils are able to take a lot of data and analyze it without being told ‘this is the answer,'” Wessel said. “They can look for the answers themselves”…

William H. Schmidt, executive director of the TIMSS National Research Center, said that, while there exists great disparity among individual districts in the United States, no one state stands out as a world-class performer. Most, in fact, fall in the middle of the international pack.

“Until we find some kind of national leadership in the United States, what we’ll continue to have are these accidental enclaves of excellence.”

(4) “Michigan Cheers Math, Science Test Scores”

Source: Detroit Free Press – 5 April 2001

A randomly selected group of Michigan eighth-graders performed better than similar groups in 12 other states in an international science and math study.

Gov. John Engler and state education officials announced the results of the 1999 Third International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, on Wednesday morning.

Gov. John Engler and state education officials announced the results .on Wednesday morning.

“We lead the nation in these scores,” Engler said. “I think we can conclude from this that our efforts statewide are showing some dividends.”

The Michigan students came from 57 schools, representing urban and rural districts as well as some parochial schools…

The Michigan students performed better than randomly selected groups in Texas, Indiana, Massachusetts and other states, but below the top standards that were set by groups from Singapore, South Korea and Japan….

William Schmidt, distinguished professor at Michigan State University’s college of education…said among the U.S. schools tested, “There are no world-class performers, only indications of hope, and Michigan is one of the biggest hopes”…

Results also were released for a second Michigan group made up of schools that were invited to participate because they met certain criteria. The 21 schools in the Michigan Invitational Group identified themselves as using National Science Foundation materials, having a well-developed curriculum, actively using assessment data and having good communication with parents.

That group-which also represented rural and urban districts but no parochial schools-performed better than the randomly chosen Michigan group… Both Michigan groups scored above the international and U.S. averages for math and science.

Charles Allen of the Michigan Department of Education said the state is pleased with the data. Michigan participated in the study in 1995, but this was the first time that data was released by the state, he said.

Students, teachers and administrators in all the schools were asked to fill out questionnaires. The students also took 90-minute tests with 80 science and math questions developed by the TIMSS research group at Boston College. The mathematics test covered fractions and number sense; measurement; data representation, analysis and probability; geometry, and algebra.

The science test covered earth science; life science; physics; chemistry; environmental and resource issues, and scientific inquiry and the nature of science.

Allen said Michigan should be proud because its data came from a variety of schools. “It’s not a bunch of rich suburban communities,” he said. “They’ve done well, but not because of who their parents were.”

(5) “Why Johnny Can’t Read, Write, Multiply or Divide” by Kate Zernike

Source: The New York Times – 15 April 2001

…Most of the high school graduation tests are actually written to 10th-grade standards, “but most people would be hard-pressed to say this is what a 10th-grade education should look like,” said David T. Conley, a professor of education policy at the University of Oregon. Still, he said, “Even starting

out with low standards, just putting them in place has been a tremendous shock to kids who can’t even do ninth-grade work.”

Most of the 28 states that now have graduation exams actually give them to students in the 10th grade. They do so for fear of lawsuits, since the courts have ruled in several cases that students must be given several chances to pass the test. This means that tests assessing a “high school education” really measure a 10th-grade education. And since the states set fairly low bars for passing, that level more accurately reflects what an eighth grader should have learned.

States are well aware of this. Michael W. Kirst, a professor of education at Stanford and a member of the board that determined that the California exit exam should be given in 10th grade, said the panel was told to set the test to the standards for seventh and eighth grades. In the recent court case charging New York State with shortchanging students in New York City, the state defended itself by arguing that all it had to provide was an eighth-grade education, because that was what was needed to pass the Regents Competency Tests…

The Education Commission of the States, a nonpartisan research group based in Denver, and several universities are pushing a project known as K-16, an effort to ensure that state proficiency tests measure whether students know enough to take college freshman courses. This would make them roughly like the competency tests universities administer to entering classes.

As envisioned, the tests would demonstrate whether students could infer and synthesize – skills those working on the K-16 project say are not required to pass the current crop of graduation exams…

(6) “Update Planned For GED Exam” by Suzanne Pardington

Source: Contra Costa Times – 12 April 2001

High school graduates are expected to know how to solve math problems with a scientific calculator, analyze newspaper graphics, read business reports and write coherent essays. Starting in January, adults taking the GED exam will be held to the same standards.

The high school equivalency exam will be overhauled next year for the fourth time since it was created in 1942 for soldiers returning from World War II, and students are scrambling to pass all five sections of the current test before it becomes obsolete.

“For some students, taking the GED has been a major challenge, and now it’s going to be even more difficult,” said Tim Shaw, principal of West Contra Costa Adult Education. “The bar has been raised”…

“I think some people don’t really understand how significant it is, how much more difficult it may be for them,” said Lynne Nicodemus, vice principal of the Pittsburg Adult Education Center…Nicodemus said she and some of her colleagues from Contra Costa adult schools were surprised by the difficulty of some of the new test questions when they took a sample test.

The test includes more data analysis, statistics and graphics, she said. Students are asked to interpret information from more real-life sources, such as editorial cartoons and tax forms, and relate them to social studies, language arts, math and science skills.

The new test also adds more history, civics, government, space science, environmental and health topics and interpretation of business documents. Some multiple-choice math questions will be eliminated in favor of bubbling in the numbers of the answers on a grid.

“It removes the advantage by taking a guess,” said Nancy Edmunds, associate analyst for the state Department of Education’s GED office.

The threshold for a passing score depends on how well a national sample group of high school seniors does on the test this spring. As on the previous version of the test, GED students will have to perform better than about one-third of high school seniors in the sample group to pass the new test…”There’s always the perception it’s going to be harder,” Edmunds said. “But the purpose of the test is to reflect how well an adult would perform when based on the performance of a high school senior.”

Glen Sparks, principal of Amador Adult and Community Education, said updating the test will prepare students more for the 21st Century. “It’s just going to be a matter of time before all the teachers are trained properly,” he said…

(7) “NCTM and Duke Energy Announce Partnership To Provide High-Tech Professional Development for Math Teachers”

Source: NCTM News Release – 4 April 2001
Also see

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) today announced plans to develop a new high-tech means of delivering professional development to mathematics teachers. In partnership with Duke Energy Corporation of Charlotte, North Carolina, the Council is creating a Web-based system for professional development called Reflections to provide teacher training for classroom teachers.

The NCTM/Duke Energy partnership is a five-year project that will use the World Wide Web to engage teachers in lesson studies. In its first year, Duke Energy is the corporate champion to build algebraic thinking in Kindergarten through 8th-grade students.

According to Lee V. Stiff, president of NCTM, “Recent reports indicate that too many of our students are taught by teachers without adequate preparation in mathematics or a rich understanding of effective teaching practices. This project should provide an innovative and effective way to improve the pedagogy of current and future teachers.”

NCTM is committed to supporting the growth of teachers’ knowledge and effectiveness in the classroom. To develop the mathematics skills of K-12 students, a first step is to promote algebraic thinking among students in the earliest grades at school. “Duke Energy is a natural partner for this project,” said Stiff. “This is a company that has built its success by employing top-flight mathematics knowledge from engineering to finance. The company genuinely understands and cares about the mathematics skills of our nation’s citizens.”

Duke Energy chairman, CEO and president, Rick Priory, says, “Duke Energy is proud to stand alongside every teacher responsible for mathematics instruction. We believe that teachers can leverage the excellent curricula that are in some schools by sharing the best practices of these dedicated professionals around the country. This builds the capacity of each teacher, who, in turn, touches hundreds of students.”

Reflections will provide online video examples of mathematics instruction to help teachers apply in-depth analysis and discussion of these examples to improve their own skills. Online discussions will include lesson-study critiques. Students’ work during the class and their assignments will also be included on the Web site. A professional analysis, through a form of “chat room” on the lesson, will be conducted after each Web-video segment. The teachers’ discussions and analysis will be included as part of the growing content of the Web site.

NCTM expects to establish partnerships with institutes of higher education so that teachers using the newly developed Web-based system will be able to earn college credit toward a master’s degree. A prototype system currently under development would eventually award university credits. Once it is developed, universities throughout the country will be encouraged to implement such systems for earning college credit. The goal is for these systems to be in place, along with the entire Web-based program, by April 2002…