COMET • Vol. 2, No. 19 – 28 May 2001


(1) Los Angeles Unified School District’s Math Adoptions by Local District

Source: Sara Munshin, Specialist, Middle School Mathematics – Los Angeles Unified School District (213-625-6420)

Los Angeles Unified School District is divided into 11 Local Districts (LDs), Local District A through Local District K. The following chart depicts the mathematics programs selected by each of the Local Districts (7th grade is pre-algebra; 8th grade is algebra).

Textbook Code: SF=Scott Foresman California Mathematics; H=Harcourt Math; C/S= McDougal Littell’s Concepts and Skills; S/M= McDougal Littell’s Structure and Method; PH=Prentice Hall

A: H for K-5, C/S for 6-8
B: SF for K-5, C/S for 6-8
C: SF for K-6; PH for 7-8
D: SF for K-5; C/S for 6-8
E: H for K-5; C/S for 6-8
F: H for K-5; C/S for 6-8
G: SF for K-6; PH for 7-8
H: H for K-5; C/S for 6-8
I: H for K-6; PH for 7-8
J: H for K-5; C/S for 6-7; PH for 8
K: SF for K-6; PH for 7; S/M for 8


(2) California Mathematics Council (CMC) Official Position Statement on Assessment – Adopted May, 2001

Source: Jerry Becker- Message posted on 24 May 2001 – NCSM listserv (; CMC Web site:

The California Mathematics Council supports responsible assessment and accountability and calls for ending the use of a single test for high-stakes decisions that result in rewards and sanctions in California.

We oppose the use of a single measure to determine the future of a child, teacher, administrator, or school. A responsible assessment system provides multiple measures of students’ understandings and academic progress for the purpose of improving instruction and informing parents and the community.

The current use of high-stakes tests interferes with children’s learning of mathematics by:

  • Narrowing the curriculum to what is on the test
  • Reducing the amount of time available for instruction
  • Causing teachers to teach to the test rather than for understanding
  • Emphasizing memorization and speed instead of understanding and thinking
  • Creating undue anxiety among students

No single measure should determine whether a child is promoted or graduates. No single measure should determine whether a teacher is retained or is the recipient of monetary compensation. No single measure should be used to judge the educational program of a school or the quality of the staff.

Therefore, the California Mathematics Council calls for an end to the use of a single test to make high-stakes educational decisions about children, teachers, administrators, or schools.

The California Mathematics Council supports the development of multiple assessment methods that are valid and reliable for the purposes for which they are designed and that provide useful information about students’ understanding of mathematical concepts and their ability to solve mathematical problems. Students must be provided with multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency and there must be appropriate accommodations for students with special needs and for English language learners.



(1) Rouge Forum Petition Against High Stakes Standardized Testing


To: The President, Congress, and the Governors of All 50 States

Rouge Forum Petition on the Big Tests

Whereas high stakes standardized tests, an international phenomenon, represent a powerful intrusion into classrooms, often taking up as much as 40% of teacher time,

And whereas the tests pretend that one standard fits all, when one standard does not fit all,

And whereas these tests measure, for the most part, parental income and race, and are therefore instruments which build racism and anti-working class sentiment–against the interest of most teachers and their students,…

And whereas education organizations like the faculty association of the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Council of Teachers of English, the International Reading Association, and the American Educational Research Association have all supported long-term authentic assessment, and opposed high-stakes standardized examinations such as, but not limited to, the SAT 9 in California, the Michigan MEAP, the Texas TAAS, SOL in VA, FCAT in Florida, MCAS in Massachusetts, OPT in Ohio, and the New York Regents Exam,

And whereas there is a rising tide of education-worker resistance to the high-stakes exams, as well as student and educator boycotts:

Be it therefore resolved that we the undersigned sign this petition as an indication of our support for authentic long-term assessment in schools, and our support for popular resistance to the tests, particularly teach-ins, job actions and boycotts – and creative civil strife such as theater, art, songs, demonstrations, sit-ins, and other methods to inform, unleash creativity, and resist.

Sponsored by The Rouge Forum, The Whole Schooling Consortium, E. Wayne Ross, Rich Gibson, Michael Peterson, Sandra Mathison, Susan Ohanian, …


The Undersigned]


(2) “Bill Links Funding to Reading, Math Tests” by Greg Toppo

Source: Detroit Free Press – 24 May 2001

In a boost to President George W. Bush’s domestic agenda, the House approved sweeping education legislation Wednesday that, for the first time, would tie federal aid to improvements in students’ test scores.

The 384-45 House vote gave Bush a major victory on one of his campaign promises.

Omitted from the education package was Bush’s plan for the government to provide vouchers for students to attend private schools. The White House abandoned the idea in order to strike a deal with Democrats on a bill that otherwise tracks Bush’s blueprint for improving schools.

Efforts by conservatives to restore vouchers failed twice Wednesday.

The bill reauthorizes the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides most of the funds for K-12 education. The House version would provide about $24 billion for schools — about $5.4 billion more than 2001.

The legislation would require states to develop and give tests in reading and math to every child in grades three through eight.

Schools unable to sufficiently improve test scores after one year would qualify for extra federal aid, but could be forced to replace some staff. Also, poor students in schools receiving federal Title I funds would have the choice of transferring to another public school.

At schools failing to show enough progress in scores after three consecutive years, disadvantaged students could use their portion of Title I funds for tutoring, summer school or transportation to another public school. Tutoring services could be provided by private schools.

Under the plan, school districts could use up to half of their federal funds without state or federal oversight. Title I funds still would have to be spent for programs to help poor children.


(3) “House Backs Annual Reading, Math Tests” by Juliet Eilperin

Source: Washington Post – 23 May 2001

The House endorsed President Bush’s proposal to require annual reading and math tests for the nation’s schoolchildren yesterday, as almost 90 Democrats joined Republicans in supporting a central tenet of the president’s education plan.

The 255 to 173 vote represented a solid victory for the bipartisan coalition supporting the education legislation and a setback for GOP conservatives who opposed mandated testing.

Bush has argued education reform can succeed only if the government can measure student performance as a basis for penalizing or rewarding individual school districts. Those who oppose requiring states to test students between the third and eighth grades say the policy imposes an unnecessary burden on teachers and administrators.

Conservatives acknowledged that the lopsided vote pointed up how they have failed to dramatically change the massive reform bill. The House hopes to complete work today on the education legislation, which provides new resources to states and local school districts and loosens federal rules in exchange for greater accountability.

“We’ve not been very effective throughout this process,” said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who offered the anti-testing amendment. “This is no way a conservative bill, or a Republican bill from a House perspective”…

While his deputies focused on defending the administration’s testing plan, Bush worked behind the scenes to deflect another conservative attack on the bill. In a private meeting with two dozen House Republicans at the White House Monday, Bush persuaded them not to push a pilot program, called the “Straight A’s” proposal, that would allow several states and school districts to spend federal education funds as they choose.

Democrats threatened to oppose the final bill if the “Straight A’s” amendment was adopted because it could divert money from disadvantaged students…

Rep. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who had planned to offer the Straight A’s amendment today, said in an interview that he decided to withdraw it after Bush persuaded him the GOP stood a better chance of restoring the pilot program in negotiations with the Senate, which has endorsed it. “He is very committed to making sure it’s in the final bill,” said DeMint, who met privately with Bush and Vice President Cheney. “He is persuasive”…


Related article:

House Votes for New Testing to Hold Schools Accountable” by Lizette Alvarez (New York Times – 24 May 2001)


(4) “School Testing Bandwagon Spawns Web Coaching Sites” by Bonnie Rothman Morris

Source: New York Times – 24 May 2001

…The emphasis on increased testing has provoked much debate among educators, parents and politicians, with those in favor saying that schools and teachers need to be accountable, and those against arguing that the emphasis on testing means too much “teaching to the test” at the expense of more meaningful education. Officials with test preparation sites argue that standardized tests are here to stay and that students should be prepared for them in the most effective way–which, they contend, is online.

“There is an increasing pressure to document and insure that teachers are teaching the objectives that students are going to be tested on,” said Steven Hoy, vice president of eduTest (, which, like (, is among the largest online test-preparation companies. Sites like eduTest make it easy for teachers to do just that, Mr. Hoy added. The eduTest site provides practice tests, state and national, to about 1,000 schools nationwide for students in kindergarten through 12th grade…

Taking practice tests online can be done during scheduled computer periods, leaving more time for the everyday curriculum. And since the tests are graded instantly, students and teachers can see immediately how they are progressing in mastering the standards set by the state departments of education.

Another important aspect of online preparation sites is their ability to help determine students’ problem areas. “Homeroom is essentially diagnostic,” said John Katzman, chief executive officer of the Princeton Review, the test preparation company that owns “It offloads from the teacher one of the most difficult burdens she has.” The Web site, which was tested last year in Texas schools, is now being used by 130 schools. Each school pays a $250 licensing fee for access to the test-preparation materials, in addition to $4 to $7 per student…

For the past four years, Steve Dicenzo, the technology coordinator at Houston Elementary School in Visalia, Calif., has been using The real benefit of the practice for the students has been to “lower their anxiety levels,” he said. His school pays $3,000 for eduTest for the school year.

Mr. Dicenzo said he had seen some improvement since the school started using the Web site. When it comes to this year’s test scores, Mr. Dicenzo said, “I feel conservatively we’re going to get a 5 percent gain.”

But doubts remain. “Given 20 choices of what students could be doing with these new tools, is practicing test items something which should be high on the list?” asked Jamie McKenzie, a former school superintendent from Bellingham, Wash., who is now a consultant and speaker on educational technology issues. “I would argue that very few schools have sufficient equipment to provide much access time for students. If access time is scarce, it should be focused more on learning activities that truly grow high-level thinking skills.”


(5) “High Passing Rate on Math Tests a Mistake, Officials Say” by Todd Silberman

Source: [Raleigh] News & Observer – 22 May 2001

Educators across North Carolina had worried that too many students would fail year-end tests and be held back next year. Now they realize too many students have passed.

For days, one school after another has found that as many as 95 percent, even 98 percent, of its students passed year-end tests in math, which nearly 20 percent of the state’s students failed a year ago. And this year’s tests were billed as more difficult.

But state education officials have discovered that the passing rates were exaggerated because of a grading glitch in the new series of math tests…Passing scores for the tests, administered to all students in grades 3 through 8, were set too low, allowing more students than expected to earn scores that are supposed to indicate they are performing at or above grade level.

Lou Fabrizio, who oversees the testing program for the Department of Public Instruction, said his agency erred in setting the scores because it was not able to do enough field testing to determine how difficult the new test would be…


(6) “Engineering a Livelier Way to Study Science” by Mark Clayton

Source: The Christian Science Monitor – 20 February 2001

…In December, Massachusetts became the first state in the US to require engineering in K-12 curriculum.

It might seem strange to require engineering when K-12 students here and across the United States are struggling just to master basic math and science knowledge. But some see it as the perfect catalyst.

Ioannis Miaoulis is dean of the Tufts University School of Engineering in Medford, Mass., and a driving force behind the state initiative. Engineering, he says, melds math, science, social studies, language arts, and other subjects – making information understandable with engaging projects.

“Children spend a lot of time learning how volcanoes work, and little time learning about how a car works – yet they spend a much larger part of their time in car than they do around volcanoes,” he says. “It’s all about relevance.”

Dr. Miaoulis has worked with schools in the area for more than a decade to get engineering into K-12. With the right curriculum and training, teachers in all grades can weave engineering into classwork and reap large benefits, he insists. “Even first-grade teachers can have children design an outdoor house for the pet bunny,” he says.

Already, some are calling Massachusetts a national model for producing a new generation of students who will love math and science because they will see its practical applications. Gone will be the bad-old days (like right now) when US eighth- and 12th-graders score far below other industrialized nations on math and science tests.

Toward that end, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has provided Tufts with funding for the Miaoulis-inspired pilot project.

“What Massachusetts is doing is exciting because this type of development will lead students to have a real-world appreciation for math and science,” says Norman Fortenberry, NSF’s director of undergraduate education.

Right now, no K-12 engineering textbooks exist. Yet even though the curriculum is still under development, state officials felt compelled to take the leap.

The Massachusetts Board of Education voted 7 to 0 to work toward putting engineering in the state curriculum…

“One of the big issues we have is about adding things to a curriculum that right now is way overcrowded,” says George Nelson, who directs Project 2061, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s bid to improve US science education.

“In principle we’re all for what Massachusetts is doing,” Dr. Nelson says. “But … you’ve got to make sure what you are taking out of the curriculum is not as important as what you’re putting in. Otherwise it becomes just another unsupported mandate – and nothing happens.”

One clue to how the problem might be solved lies with Brad George, a former shop teacher who over the past decade has morphed himself into a knowledgeable technology-engineering teacher.

With the help of Miaoulis and Tufts University graduate engineering students who assist in his class at Hale, he’s shaped an engineering curriculum that centers on bridge building, 3-D drawing, robotic Legos, and rocketry.

“This used to be just a woodworking class,” he says. “I still have some teachers and parents call it shop. But what we’re doing here is way beyond that. We’ve integrated science, math, social studies – and made it real for these kids. And because of that, they learn it”…


(7) “State Wants Super Tutors to Help Train Math Aides” by Ed Hayward

Source: Boston Herald – 26 April 2001

With Gov. Jane Swift’s goal of finding 25,000 tutors for high school sophomores who fail the MCAS exam in mind, the Department of Education plans to find 300 “super tutors” who can train volunteers to help kids in math.

Earlier this week, the department put out a request for proposals for an $80,000 contract to design a program that would find retired math teachers, college professors or graduate students with exceptional math skills.

The goal is to create a core group of tutors who can train volunteers in the governor’s initiative. But tutor recruitment has been slow.

“We’re going to train the trainers,” said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. “This group will receive intensive MCAS tutor training this summer, so that by September, they will be available statewide to assist school districts.”

Deputy Commissioner Alan Safran said “super tutors” would receive a $150 honorarium for a 10-hour training session and a $500 stipend to remain on-call for school districts.

Swift’s initial proposal received a chilly response from college officials, but Safran said the department is confident it will be able to use a combination of volunteers and computerized tutorials to help sophomores who fail this spring’s Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams in math and English.

Beginning with the class of 2003, students must pass the English and math sections of MCAS in order to graduate.

“There is a great need and a great reservoir of people who want to help kids,” Safran said.


(8) “Minnesota District Making Math Count for Everyone” by David J. Hoff

Source: Education Week – 18 April 2001

School districts around Minnesota are gearing up for new state standards requiring so much math knowledge that high school students will need at least three years of the subject…

Next year, Roseville High will offer one track that follows their new Core-Plus curriculum, which weaves algebra, geometry, and statistics through various courses. Some parents have complained that the Core-Plus approach, which uses real-life examples to teach math, isn’t rigorous enough for students who want to prepare for college mathematics. So the district will also offer a traditional track that follows the standard progression from algebra to geometry and back to algebra.

A third track still under development will be reserved for sophomores who fail their freshman math course and appear unlikely to improve. This two-year standards-based course will focus on bringing these students up to a level high enough to meet state standards. While that level may be relatively low, it will give them a better understanding of math than would the business math courses such students generally take.

“The thing we do not want to revert back to is what we called ‘baby math,'” said Ellen Blank, the district’s director of teaching and learning…

(9) “The Next Civil Right: Success in Math” by Amelia Newcomb

Source: The Christian Science Monitor – 12 April 2001

… For two decades, African-American children’s access to math education has consumed [Bob Moses’] attention. To this soft-spoken veteran of the civil rights movement, the demands of a high-tech age make math literacy as much an issue today as voting was in the Jim Crow South a half century ago.

The result is the Algebra Project, an effort he started in the 1980s to push a college-preparatory math program for low-income students, particularly minorities. The initiative is organized around lessons he learned almost 40 years ago, when he left his post as a teacher in New York to take part in the dramatic birth of the voting-rights movement in Mississippi. The only difference is that instead of lifting a generation through access to the ballot, Dr. Moses is now using his grass-roots expertise to give young people a seat in the New Economy–through integers and investigation.

“The [educational] system has been set up to keep low-income minorities out,” says Moses, who holds a PhD in math from Harvard University. “If we can figure out how to get children to make the system work for them, this will change the system in ways we may not understand now.”

This week, for the Mississippi students, that means giving up spring break to travel hundreds of miles by bus across the South, preaching the math gospel. The teens are part of the Young People’s Project (YPP), run by Moses’ son Omo. It evolved within the Algebra Project and, at times, acts as a sort of roadshow. Members see themselves as math-literacy workers and seek to demystify the science of numbers, in this case through a blend of rap, civil rights history, and games.

“When you combine music and math, they’re learning from it and doing something they like at the same time,” says Jessie Sims, a ninth-grader who is part of YPP and an aspiring rapper.

At the root of Moses’ initiatives is a simple goal: motivate often-marginalized students to embrace math and encourage their peers to do the same. Moses, who chronicles his efforts in “Radical Equations: Math Literacy and Civil Rights” (Beacon Press), hopes systemic change will flow outward as the needs of those historically at the bottom are addressed…

According to a report of the US Department of Education, 83 percent of students who took algebra I and geometry went on to college, versus 36 percent of those who did not. A study by Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., which looked at the Algebra Project’s impact in that city, found that a significantly higher percentage of Algebra Project students enrolled in college-prep math courses in high school than did their peers citywide…