COMET • Vol. 2, No. 21 – 27 August 2001


(1) Four New Curriculum Commission Members Sought

Source: California State Board of Education – (916) 657-5478
Web Link:

The Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission) consists of 16 public members, 13 of whom are appointed by the State Board of Education (State Board) upon the recommendation of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction or the members of the State Board. The State Board makes its appointments so as to ensure that, at any one time, at least seven of the public members are current classroom teachers, or mentor teachers, or both assigned to teach kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive. In making the remaining appointments to the Curriculum Commission, and in establishing advisory task forces or committees, the State Board considers the role of other representatives of the education community in the development of curriculum and instructional materials, including, but not limited to, school administrators, school governing board members, and parents and guardians who are reflective of California’s diversity.

RESPONSIBILITIES: The Curriculum Commission is responsible for advising the State Board on matters related to curriculum and instruction. The Curriculum Commission (1) develops and recommends curriculum frameworks; (2) develops and recommends criteria for evaluating instructional materials submitted for adoption; (3) evaluates instructional materials that have been submitted by publishers and makes recommendations to adopt or reject each submission; and (4) recommends policies and activities to the State Board, California Department of Education, and local education agencies regarding curriculum and instruction…

TERMS OF OFFICE: The individuals to be appointed to the Curriculum Commission will serve four-year terms of office that commence January 1, 2002, and expire December 31, 2005. By law, individuals are limited to one full term on the Curriculum Commission.

HOW TO APPLY: Complete and submit an Application for Appointment to Advisory Body (download at

*Classroom teachers in particular are encouraged to apply.*


(2) State Board Action on Mathematics Standards-Based Testing in Secondary School

Source: California State Board of Education – Draft minutes, 11-12 July 2001, page 35
Web link:
[It was moved, seconded, and unanimously approved] that the State Board do all of the following:

= Authorize CDE [California Dept. of Education] staff to work with Harcourt Educational Measurement to develop a standards-based General Mathematics Test for students in grades eight and nine who are not enrolled in (or have not already completed) Algebra I or the initial year of a multiple-year integrated higher-order mathematics course;

= Require that all students in grades seven through nine take a standards-based mathematics test beginning with the 2002 administration; and

= Require all students in grades nine through 11 who have completed Algebra II, the third year of a multiple-year integrated higher-order mathematics course, or a yet higher-level mathematics course (e.g., Trigonometry) take the 2002 California High School Mathematics Standards Test (renamed from the 2001 California Grade-11 Mathematics Standards Test).

(The blueprint for the General Mathematics Test for Grades Eight and Nine is to be brought to the State Board for approval at a future meeting.)


(3) Passing Scores for High School Exit Exam Approved

Source: Highlights from the June 2001 State Board of Education Meeting
Web link:

The State Board of Education on June 7 approved passing scores for the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), a key element in the state’s effort to lift expectations for all students and to achieve sustained classroom achievement. The Board adopted the recommendation by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin to establish a passing score of 60 percent correct for English-language arts and 55 percent correct for math. The motion passed by a unanimous vote of members present. The adoption was based, among other things, on a variety of extensive evaluations and recommendations made by panels of reviewers that included parents, educators, and businesspersons. The CAHSEE consists of English-language arts and math tests designed to assess whether high school students have mastered a basic set of skills to participate fully in civic life and to succeed in the workplace. Under current law, starting with the high school class of 2004, students must pass the exit exam — in addition to meeting other criteria — to get a high school diploma… Board Member Don Fisher added that as schools improve, the passing score should be adjusted upward. For more information on the Board’s adoption of passing scores for the CAHSEE, see the Passing Score Q&A at


(4) Joint Letter Regarding Readiness for Algebra I

Source: Highlights from the July 2001 State Board of Education Meeting
Web link:

The Board approved a proposal of the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission to send a joint letter (SBE President/State Superintendent of Public Instruction) to the field regarding student readiness for enrollment in Algebra I or an integrated, higher-order mathematics course. The letter is intended to give guidance on the transition to Algebra I instruction and will be sent after the State Superintendent and the SBE executive director have approved it.


(5) “Poor Results Posted on New State Tests” by Martha Groves

Source: Los Angeles Times – 16 August 2001
Web link:


Fewer than one-third of California public school students achieved proficiency on a key test offering the first glimpse of their ability to meet challenging English standards, the state Education Department reported Wednesday…

But the state’s report card was mixed. On the fourth annual Stanford 9, a test of more basic skills, students continued to rack up respectable gains. That test was given this spring to nearly 4.5 million students in grades two through 11.

The disparities demonstrate that California has made progress in teaching basic reading and math skills but still must strive to bring students up to speed on more exacting state academic standards, implemented in late 1997.

“Overall, scores are up, and that’s good news,” said Delaine Eastin, state superintendent of public instruction, of the Stanford 9 results. “However, the performance on the new [standards] tests reveals that we still have much work to do to achieve world-class results.”

Gov. Gray Davis, who early in his tenure pledged that he would not seek reelection in 2002 if test scores failed to improve, described the Stanford 9 results as “steady, significant improvement for the third straight year.”

“In schools all across the state,” he said, “results and futures are getting brighter. We’ve invested in our children, and our investment is paying dividends”…

On the Stanford 9 basic skills test, students showed gains in reading, although the results in most grades still fell below the national average… In math, solid gains propelled students in several grades to levels well above the national average.

Since the testing program began in 1998, Stanford 9 scores have faced intense scrutiny from teachers, parents and policymakers. They are for now the sole factor in determining rewards that go to schools that show gains and sanctions imposed on poor performers, including possible takeover by the state…

Officials’ emphasis on the standards-based questions marks a turning point for California’s students and its school accountability program. On the basis of their scores, students were grouped into five categories: advanced, proficient (the statewide target), basic, below basic and far below basic.

Under California’s standards, students at every grade level are expected to know much more material and at a higher level than on the basic Stanford 9 exam.

Students this year faced a bevy of questions geared to California’s standards, including math problems based on the courses students were taking rather than on their grade level.

Beginning next year, the state plans to move away from sole reliance on the Stanford 9 by making the standards-based English test a key component of its statewide ranking system, known as the Academic Performance Index. In future years, results on other standards tests in math, sciences and other subjects would also be incorporated, so schools could be sanctioned or given rewards based on these more rigorous standards.

Complicating matters, a legislative and bidding process next year will determine whether California sticks with the current test program or switches to another. Eastin is pushing to use an abbreviated standardized test–perhaps two hours rather than six hours long–to cut down on a testing load that most educators say is excessive…

Students in grades two through eight are tested in reading, spelling, mathematics and language skills. Students in grades nine through 11 are tested in reading, language skills, math, history/social science and science…

The most dramatic improvements overall came in the second, third and fourth grades. Increases were modest in middle schools and barely evident in high schools, and Eastin and Davis agreed that the state must turn its attention to fixing those schools…

The test results are available at The results include breakdowns by category, including ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic status and lack of English fluency.



(1) “Rubillo Named NCTM Executive Director”

Source: NCTM Press Release – 1 August 2001
Web link:

James M. Rubillo has been named executive director of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), effective August 1.

“I’m very pleased to make this announcement,” said NCTM President Lee V. Stiff. “Jim has the ideal combination of skills and experience to lead headquarters in realizing NCTM’s vision of a better mathematics education for all students.”

Before accepting the executive director position, Rubillo was assistant professor of Mathematics at DeSales University in Central Valley, Pa. He is also an adjunct faculty member in the graduate schools of DeSales University and Widener University. In the prior 30 years he served Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pa., in a variety of roles including professor of mathematics and chairperson of the department of mathematics and computer science. He has taught mathematics for 37 years at the high school, community college and university levels.

Rubillo also brings a wealth of executive level administrative experience to the job, including strategic planning, institutional assessment, technology implementation, and large-scale project management. While at Bucks County Community College he was associate dean for information systems and services, executive assistant to the president for planning, assessment, and research, and chief information officer.

“I have a vision of mathematics education in which ‘active listening’ replaces ‘rhetorical wars,’ implementing innovations does not require condemning the past, and adapting to societal change is viewed as an opportunity rather than a threat,” Rubillo said. “In such an environment, NCTM’s primary role is to be an advocate for a full and reasoned dialogue in the areas of curriculum, evaluation, and assessment. The Council must serve as a resource in finding solutions and fostering discussions.”

Rubillo is well known in the mathematics education community as a frequent speaker at local, state, and national mathematics education meetings. His involvement with NCTM includes serving on the Board of Directors as well as on many annual and regional program committees. He served as NCTM’s interim executive director during the 1997-98 academic year…

Rubillo holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from West Chester University in Pennsylvania and a master’s in mathematics from Villanova University.


(2) Education Secretary Rod Paige’s “Back to School, Moving Forward” Tour

Source: Kirk Winters ( – 2 August 2001
Web link:

As part of his “Back to School, Moving Forward” tour, Secretary Paige issued 2 new publications describing how educators & community & business leaders can help make President Bush’s education goals a reality in local schools. The brochures, “What No Child Left Behind Means for America’s Educators” & “What No Child Left Behind Means for America’s Communities,” are at the “Back to School, Moving Forward” website: …

In a foreword to the publications President Bush writes, “Because I believe every child can learn, I intend to ensure that every child does learn. My Administration put forward a plan called ‘No Child Left Behind’ based on four principles: accountability for results; local control and flexibility; expanded parental choice; and effective and successful programs. We are pursuing these principles, because too many of our schools fail to help every child to learn”… Legislation to implement the president’s education reform plan is presently pending in a House-Senate conference committee.


(3) “Standardized Testing” with Bill Evers (transcript)

Source: Washington Post Live Online – 23 August 2001 (noon, EDT)
Web Link:


Are standards of learning tests the answer to improving our nation’s schools? Can these tests truly measure a child’s knowledge? Do these tests overburden teachers?

Bill Evers, Hoover Institution research fellow and education policy adviser to President George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign, [was] online to take questions and comments on standardized testing.

[Questions raised during this online forum included the following:]

What about students who are “bad test-takers” or have learning disabilities that make it difficult for them to succeed on standardized tests? How are standardized tests being adapted for these types of students, if at all?

= How is it possible to attribute Texas gains to the testing system when there were many other reforms enacted during the same period by the state legislature and the state Supreme Court?

= While I agree with the notion that there needs to be a certain amount of accountability in schools, it is also abundantly clear that the president’s education policy is a thinly disguised attempt to undermine public education in favor of private schools. The testing initiative’s exclusive purpose is to punish teachers and schools rather than to help students succeed. Furthermore the attempt to quantify everything is undermining liberal arts education and results in memorization rather than deep understanding of subject matter. Who really needs to be held accountable is parents, not teachers. What is your response to my assertions?

= In general I support standardized testing. It’s an inexpensive and objective way to give some imperfect but useful measure of how our kids and schools are doing. However, I wonder if a mandatory, nationalized testing regimen would lead to a nationalized curriculum. Students in, say, New Jersey correctly receive different social studies training than students in California (in state history). How would you test them? Leave the subject untested? Non-standardize the test by state? Mutely mandate intense state history instruction of each state to each student?

= Are wealthy areas opposed to standardized testing because it will create a direct comparison between rich and poor school districts and create more political pressure to redistribute tax dollars to needy students?

= There is discussion about tying teachers’ salaries to performance of their students on standardized exams. Do you think this is appropriate? Why or why not?

[Evers responds to each of these questions and then concludes:]

Both teachers and students are trying hard to improve, but they don’t always get the best signals about how they are doing from our present system. Standardized tests, if done well, can provide those signals. Teachers, who want to get the most out of their students, will know more about student weaknesses. Students will know how they are doing. Parents will know whether they need to monitor Johnny or Suzie’s homework more closely. We can both have better incentives in our school system and elevate the standing of learning itself in our culture if we make wise use of standardized tests.

(4) “Standardized Testing” with Karen Hartke (transcript)

Source: Washington Post Live Online – 23 August 2001 (2 p.m., EDT)
Web Link:

Karen Hartke from FairTest [was] online to take questions and comments on standardized testing. [She responded to questions that included the following:]

I know a lot of parents who are angry and upset about the way our state test–MCAS–is taking over the schools. Now we’re getting notices that our children who’ve been in honors classes have to go to remedial classes and might not graduate. How can parents get in touch with other parents to do something about this?

= Do you believe the SAT is racist or sexist? If so, how do you explain discrepancies in math scores?

= Standardized tests are fine–in their place. Would you agree they are now being overemphasized at the elementary through high school level?

The test scores in Washington state seem very tied to race and class. The higher percentage of students on free and reduced lunch, the lower the scores. It is true right down the line in Seattle. How typical is this across the country, and how do you understand this phenomenon?

= Is there any evidence anywhere that shows that a higher score on a standardized test translates to a better education? Are higher scoring students more success later in life? The tests are sold here in Washington as testing for learning that is necessary for success, but there is no evidence here to support that claim. Is there evidence anywhere?

= Who is making money from these standardized testing programs? How much are they making? What else could be done with that money? How is that our public schools are making these decisions and then keeping the tests secret, away from any public review?

= Do proponents of standardized testing take into account that different students learn in different ways? In my opinion, schools that operate with this in mind will be the most successful.

(5) “Doctor May Have Beauty’s Number” by Rafe Jones

Source: – August 2001
Web link:

Ever think a number could be beautiful? From the bad luck of 13 to the holiness of 3, people have long ascribed mystical and abstract properties to numbers. One number in particular has been associated with beauty for nearly 2,000 years, and it’s not a number you can count to: the so-called “golden section” is an irrational number approximately equal to 0.618. Dr. Stephen Marquardt, a former plastic surgeon, has used the golden section and some of its relatives to make a mask that he claims is the most beautiful shape a human face can have.

An irrational number is one whose digits never fall into an infinitely repeating pattern. The golden section begins with the digits 0.6180339887, and mathematicians have shown no block of digits ever repeats infinitely; this makes it impossible to state the golden section’s exact value.

This mysterious number has a horde of related quantities and shapes, many of which have long-standing associations with beauty. Among them is the “golden ratio,” which is the ratio of 1 to the golden section–about the same as 1.618-to-1. This ratio can be used to build so-called golden shapes; for instance, a golden rectangle is one whose ratio of width to height is the golden ratio. These rectangles have been considered beautiful by many artists, and they have made appearances in some of history’s most renowned works of art. Using the golden ratio one can also make golden triangles, pentagons and decagons. Dr. Marquardt has tapped this golden tradition in making his mask — he’s used a golden ratio-based arrangement of 40 golden decagons of six different sizes, carefully aligned with the face’s various features.

According to Dr. Marquardt, beauty is a mechanism to ensure humans recognize and are attracted to other humans. “Other animals recognize members of their own species and have a tremendous reaction when they do,” he says, noting dogs’ common reaction to other dogs. He adds that humans are highly visual creatures, so we use sight as our primary means of recognition. The most beautiful faces, he claims, are the ones that are the most easily recognizable as human. “Beauty is really just humanness,” he says.

Dr. Marquardt theorizes that we discern whether a face is obviously human by unconsciously comparing it to an ideal face that lurks in the unreachable recesses of the psyche. Since we have no direct access to this ideal “most human” face, we can’t say precisely what it is; however, Dr. Marquardt claims he has captured the ideal face in his beauty mask. He says, “The mask radiates, it advertises and screams: ‘human, human, human’ “…Dr. Marquardt has conducted a study that indicates a broad preference among many cultural groups for faces that closely correspond to his mask…



(1) Education Conferences

A month-by-month listing of state and national conferences (including CMC sectional conferences) through December 2002 is available on the California Department of Education Web site at

(2) Mathematics Education Web Sites

A collection of web sites for K-12 mathematics teachers and university instructors is available at