COMET • Vol. 2, No. 30 – 29 October 2001


(1) “Schools Chief Delaine Eastin Releases Professional Development Task Force Report” (Press Release)

Source:  California Department of Education – 23 October 2001


Providing high-quality teachers for all students should be the highest priority in California today, according to a task force report released today by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. “The report, Learning…Teaching…Leading…, is a system-wide blueprint for training educators,” said Eastin. “It focuses on how California can ensure that every child will have well-prepared and capable teachers and school administrators in the near future. The shortage of trained teachers in this state is nothing less than a crisis. We should take bold steps to increase the number of fully qualified educators.”

Eastin convened a Professional Development Task Force to look at the entire learning-to-teach system in California and to examine new initiatives that focus on teacher and administrator quality. She called upon a distinguished group of educators and leaders to envision a comprehensive, aligned, and integrated statewide system that would develop and sustain a high-quality teaching and administrator workforce. Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education, Stanford University, and Lionel R. Meno, Dean of the School of Education, California State University, San Diego, were the co-chairs of the task force.

“Clearly, it will do no good to have instituted rigorous academic standards if we do not have skilled educators who can successfully impart this knowledge to our students,” said Eastin. “Access to high-quality teaching–teaching that is centered on the childrens’ needs and based on a deep understanding of the subject area–is the foundation of our democratic society. It is at the core of our successful economy and it is essential to equality and justice in America.”

“California is committed to having all students perform at high levels of achievement. Providing each student with a high quality teacher and each school with a highly capable leader are essential to accomplishing that goal,” said Meno.

“Research has demonstrated that teacher quality is the single most important determinant of student learning. For that reason, assuring that all teachers have access to knowledge about how to teach all students well is the most important area of educational policy today,” said Darling-Hammond.

By studying what works in California, as well as what works in other states, the Professional Development Task Force members have researched what constitutes a coherent system and suggested ways to create such a system in California. They made 10 specific recommendations that are divided into 3 sections:

= Make teaching and school administration attractive careers.

* Increase salaries for teachers and administrators.

* Strengthen multiple pathways into teaching and school leadership. Actively recruit high school students, college students, paraprofessionals, and mid-career entrants.

* Enable schools that serve high-need students to attract and keep well-qualified teachers and administrators.

* Eliminate emergency permits and waivers within five years.

= Provide teachers and school leaders with the skills they need to improve student learning.

* Enhance the capacity of colleges and schools to prepare teachers well in high-need fields.

* Build a statewide infrastructure for career-long professional development that supports educator learning and school improvement.

* Ensure that high-quality professional development reaches teachers and administrators in high-need communities.

* Improve the preparation, induction, and ongoing support of school leaders so they are able to lead schools that successfully support student learning.

= Create the conditions that allow teachers and school leaders to succeed.

* Reconfigure site leadership to enable the principal to serve as an instructional leader and to support the development of teacher leaders who can coach and mentor others.

* Redesign schools so that they can focus on student and teacher learning. Add and recognize time to enable collaborative teacher planning and inquiry.

[Eastin stated,] “I urge policymakers, educators, parents, students, and community members to embrace and support these task force recommendations…

(2) “California Urged to Pay Teachers More”by Nanette Asimov

Source:  San Francisco Chronicle– 23 October 2001


…The 85-page report [Learning… Teaching… Leading…] notes that during the 2000-01 school year, 1 in 7 teachers–42,427 of them–had no credential or the wrong credential for the class they were teaching. It describes the system that makes California’s poorest minority students seven times more likely to be stuck with the least experienced, though perhaps best intentioned, teachers…

Leading the wish list of the task force is the evergreen, salaries. Adjusted for the cost-of-living, a beginning engineer makes $47,112 in California, the report says, while a new teacher earns $26,225…

“We’re on the right track,” [State Secretary for Education Kerry] Mazzoni said. She blamed the teacher shortage not on what the state might be doing wrong, but on a popular program in which thousands of schools lowered class sizes in elementary grades four years ago….


Factors Affecting Student Achievement–The new report on California schools cites a study of 900 Texas school districts that showed family background and teachers’ experience had the greatest influence on improved reading and math scores.

= Home and family factors (parent education, income, language background, race and location)–49%

= Class size–8%

= Teacher qualifications (licensing examination scores and experience)–43%

Source: California Department of Education

(3) “For Better Learning”(Letter to the Editor) by Kerry Mazzoni

Source: San Francisco Chronicle – 26 October 2001


…[California Governor Gray] Davis has done more than any other governor in the nation to focus on the need to recruit qualified teachers into the state’s neediest classrooms.

We are well aware that a good teacher is the most important indicator of student success. That’s why this administration has fashioned a $270 million-a-year menu of recruitment incentives.

Davis has also raised beginning teacher salaries by 21 percent, to $34,000, and provided more discretionary money to school districts–much of it used for salary increases–than any previous governor. He has made enormous contributions to professional development, funding an intensive full week of university-based instruction with follow-up in the classrooms for 70,000 teachers.

Under Davis’ leadership, California’s multifaceted recruitment and training efforts are taking hold to meet the demand for qualified teachers in all classrooms.


Related information:

See “A Profile of California’s Teachers in 1999-2000,” posted at


(1) “National Summit on the Mathematical Education of Teachers: Meeting the Demand for High Quality Mathematics Education in America”

Source: Mathematical Association of America


The Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, which guided the development of The Mathematical Education of Teachers (MET), will launch METwith a National Summit on the Mathematical Education of Teachers [on November 2 and 3 in Tysons Corner, Virginia]. The National Summit is intended to stimulate the mathematics community to make the mathematical education of teachers a national and local priority for the decade. It will engage college and university mathematics faculty in the hard work of beginning to implement the vision of the mathematical education of teachers presented in MET. This National Summit is supported by grants from the ExxonMobil Foundation and the National Science Foundation…

The National Summit will be a working conference to introduce faculty and department chairs to the MET document, to offer them good examples of existing efforts to improve the mathematical education of teachers, and to engage them in beginning widespread local efforts to implement and spread the vision of the MET...

The Mathematical Education of Teachersdocument is directed primarily at mathematicians and math educators–those who actually teach mathematics to future teachers. It urges mathematicians to recognize their role and responsibility in the education of future teachers and it focuses on issues of mathematical content and the teaching of mathematics.

Two general themes guide MET:

1) the intellectual substance in school mathematics, and

2) the special nature of mathematical knowledge needed for teaching.

Mathematics education research over the past decade has highlighted the substantial mathematical understanding that is needed to teach well even basic topics like whole number arithmetic. In particular, the work of Deborah Ball and Liping Ma has helped persuade mathematicians that teaching and learning basic mathematics involves very complex cognitive demands for students and for teachers. MET describes how the mathematical knowledge needed for teaching is quite different from that required, for example, by a future engineer, physicist, or economist, and it provides a practical guide for mathematics departments and mathematics faculty in developing courses which will give future teachers a deep understanding of the mathematics they will teach.

Recommendations–five concerning the mathematics curriculum and instruction for future teachers, three on the need for cooperation among different parties involved in educating teachers, and three advocating policies that support high quality mathematics–appear early in the document, followed by three short content chapters which give a brief introduction to the mathematics needed by teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. These beginning chapters argue forcefully to all faculty that the education of teachers of mathematics should be an important part of the mission of most mathematics departments. Three longer content chapters then give detailed discussions of the mathematics needed by teachers at each of the three levels. These chapters provide a substantial resource for faculty who teach courses for future teachers or who assume a leadership role in designing and offering their department’s courses for future teachers….

The full text of MET is available on-line at and may be downloaded in HTML, PDF, or DVI format.

(2) “Piano Lab Boosts Math, Science Skills” by Janet Sugameli

Source:  The Detroit News– 29 October 2001


It is music to students’ ears and a way to boost their math and science test scores.

The piano lab in Armada Elementary replaces traditional music instruction in hopes of improving the math and science skills, as well as the motor skills, of the nearly 900 students who take the class weekly.

All first-grade through fifth-grade students in the district take 45 minutes of piano instruction each week in a 28-keyboard lab. Even the kindergarten students take 25 minutes weekly.

“In light of recent research that shows students benefit academically from exposure to instrumental music at an early age, I decided to institute the piano lab experience for our elementary students,” Supt. Arnold Kummerow said. “The cost of the piano lab is actually 50 percent of the computer lab and yet provides additional benefits.”

Parent Kathleen Gilbertson saw her daughter’s interest peek in the piano and in academics when she started taking piano lessons at school. “It really improved her math,” Gilbertson said.

Kummerow, who formerly was a fine arts consultant for the Michigan Department of Education, said it is difficult to gauge the improvement after just two years of the program. He notes, however, that it already is drawing out the students’ creativity…

“Research has proven what parents have always known: that piano lessons benefit their children,” David said. “Research has shown that piano lessons develop the area of the brain that deals with math and science.”

Kummerow is currently working on developing a tool to determine the level of math and science improvement as the result of the piano instruction.

Armada music instructor Gwen Springer modeled the program after the one at Evola Music. She has a master console equipped with a headset and can listen to students individually or as a group. Students listen to their own work with a headset. Springer tries to focus students’ interest on composing their own songs, as well as introducing them to the basics of music… For one assignment, students are asked to compose music to accompany the words of children’s books…

The number of students in concert band and orchestra at the middle and high school levels has nearly doubled. Students begin orchestra in fourth grade and concert band in fifth grade, if they choose.

Armada Later Elementary Principal Diana Sasina said many of the students might have never experienced piano instruction if it weren’t for the piano lab. “This also gives them a totally different form of expression,” she said.  Although she recognizes that only a few students will wind up playing the piano for a significant time after they finish the program, she believes they will be able to use the skills they learned in other parts of their lives…

(3) “SAT II Tests Said to Be Better at Predicting Freshman Grades than SAT” by Dana Mulhauser

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education – 26 October 2001


The SAT II is a better predictor of freshman success than the standard SAT, according to a study of undergraduates at the University of California. The study was conducted by the office of Richard C. Atkinson, the university’s president, who has proposed making the SAT an optional part of the university’s admission process.

The study examined the freshman-year grade-point averages of the nearly 78,000 students who entered the University of California system from 1996 to 1999.

“If the prediction of student ‘success’ as measured by freshman grades is the raison d’être for the use of standardized tests in college admissions, as the College Board and others have emphasized in the overwhelming majority of validity studies, then the SAT II is unquestionably superior to the SAT on this standard, according to the UC data,” a report on the study says…

The university’s study found that the SAT II better predicted freshman-year grades than did either the traditional SAT or high-school grade-point averages. Scores on the SAT II are also less dependent on students’ economic background than are scores on the SAT, according to the study.

“These data suggest that the SAT II achievement tests are not only a better predictor, but also a fairer test for use in college admissions, insofar as they are demonstrably less sensitive than the SAT to differences in socioeconomic and other background factors,” the report says.

The university’s Academic Senate is considering Mr. Atkinson’s proposal to make the SAT optional. Under the proposal, SAT II tests would remain mandatory.

While the SAT measures a student’s overall aptitude, the SAT II tests measure knowledge in particular subject areas. Students who take the SAT II usually do so in two or three subject areas, such as science, mathematics, and a foreign language.

Critics contend that, because the SAT II includes foreign-language tests, it unduly benefits Latino and Asian-American students, many of whom are native speakers of languages other than English. The study found, however, that a reliance on SAT II tests instead of the SAT in admissions would result in little variance from predicted outcomes for students from any racial or ethnic group.

The text of the report is available online, at

(4) “UC study finds SAT I exams less useful than SAT II” by Tanya Schevitz

Source: San Francisco Chronicle – 26 October 2001


…Currently, all students applying to UC have to take the SAT I and three SAT II tests…

The SAT II can be used to predict 16 percent of first-year grades, and adding the high school GPA to that jumps the number up to 22.2 percent, the study found. But adding the SAT I to that combination has a negligible effect, increasing it just 0.1 percent to 22.3.

According to the report, the SAT I by itself predicts only 13.3 percent of freshman grades. Taken in combination with high school grades, it rises to 20. 8 percent…

(5) “The SAT’s Greatest Test” by Ben Gose and Jeffrey Selingo

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education – 26 October 2001


…Today’s critics have opened an assault on the use of what is essentially an IQ test to measure students’ ability to learn. The outcome of the debate will affect how colleges with competitive admissions pick students, how racially diverse those students will be, and how high-school students prepare for college.

The College Board has for years tried to distance the SAT from its roots in IQ tests, but the perception remains that the most widely administered college-entrance examination measures intelligence, not a mastery of learning. Many education leaders–most notably, Richard C. Atkinson, president of the University of California system–say that legacy creates perverse incentives, as students waste time and money “prepping” for the SAT’s idiosyncratic questions, such as the analogies section of the verbal exam…Last February, Mr. Atkinson stunned college leaders by calling on his nine-campus, 170,000-student system to become the first public university with competitive admissions to drop the requirement that applicants take the SAT…Mr. Atkinson’s announcement “was by far the most important single anti-SAT effort ever in the history of the test,” says Nicholas Lemann, author of The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy(Farrar, Straus & Giroux), a recent book about the SAT.

In the 1940s, the University of California was the first major public system to require the test. “That was the key to making the SAT the dominant test,” says Robert A. Schaeffer, public-education director at the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, also known as FairTest. “If you follow that historical analogy, you’ll find that the key to ending the dominance of the SAT also lies in California.”

Other threats also loom. Thirteen top colleges, including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, are participating in a study to determine if state exams already given to high-school students may one day replace the SAT in college admissions. And recent court decisions and referendums may lead many colleges seeking a diverse student body to lower the weight they place on the SAT–or to ignore it altogether…

First administered in 1926, the SAT was designed to measure aptitude, or innate mental ability. It became widely used in the 1940s and 1950s, thanks in large part to James B. Conant, president of Harvard, who believed that subject-based achievement tests favored privileged students, whose families could afford to send them to boarding schools. The SAT, with its multiple-choice questions and systematic scoring, was seen as the great equalizer, a test that would allow the country’s future leaders to be tapped based on intelligence rather than family connections. “The new elite’s essential quality, the factor that would make its power deserved where the old elite’s had been merely inherited, would be brains,” Mr. Lemann writes in The Big Test.

Today, the enthusiasm for intelligence tests has plummeted, and most colleges claim to put more emphasis on high-school grades than on either the SAT or its primary competitor, the ACT.

Still, the SAT, whose two parts, verbal and mathematics, are each scored on a 200-to-800-point scale, has no shortage of fans. “The test is the one unchanging benchmark that can differentiate between those students who get B’s at a tough school and those who coast with A’s from an easy school,” says John Maguire, an admissions consultant and former admissions director at Boston College…

Bill Wetzel, a freshman at New York University, says the SAT made some courses during his junior and senior years at New Jersey’s Red Bank Regional High School downright boring. “I noticed the difference between some classes, where the teachers and the students were trying to get the highest scores possible, and classes that emphasized curiosity and real critical thinking,” he says.

Mr. Wetzel, founder of a group called Students Against Testing, notes somewhat sheepishly that his 1420 score helped land him at NYU, although he says that if he had to do it all over again he would attend an SAT-optional college. Now, he hopes to organize creative protests against the SAT and other standardized tests…

Mr. Atkinson believes that his proposal, which would require students to take three SAT II tests (in writing, math, and a subject of each student’s choice), would help students better understand the relevance of their high-school courses. There are more than a dozen SAT II exams, each covering a different subject area.

Some educators want to go even further, by using state examinations rather than the SAT. Every state requires its high-school students to undergo some form of statewide assessment, either at the end of their course work in core subjects or as a requirement for graduation. Advocates say the tests could provide a good snapshot of a student’s readiness for college…Thirteen research universities are sponsoring a study that aims to help states design better tests by agreeing on a set of skills needed by freshmen at their institutions. In addition, the project will create a database of current state tests, so that colleges can compare scores on tests in different states if they choose to use them in admissions decisions…

“By having curriculum-based tests, we can relate [students’ scores to] the quality of instruction in schools,” says Patrick Hayashi, associate president of the University of California system…

The College Board’s efforts to deal with its other problem–the perception that the SAT has no link to the curriculum–can best be described as modest. For years, it reacted mainly with semantics. In 1994, it changed the name “Scholastic Aptitude Test” to “Scholastic Assessment Test,” to suggest a measurement of educational accomplishment rather than innate ability. A few years later, it shortened the name to just “SAT.”

College Board officials insist that the test has responded to changes in the curriculum over time. They note that they began permitting calculators on the math exam in 1994, to reflect the practice of many schools…

(6) “Teachers’ Race Linked to Students’ Scores” by Debra Viadero


Source:  Education Week– 19 September 2001

Both black and white children score higher on mathematics and reading tests when their teachers are the same race as they are, a study of 6,000 Tennessee schoolchildren suggests.

“Teachers, Race and Student Achievement in a Randomized Experiment,” is available from The National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc. “I think most people in education have felt strongly that racial dynamics in the classroom are important,” said Thomas S. Dee, the study’s author. “But the few studies that have tried to find evidence of test-score effects haven’t found that”…

The findings come at a time when minority teachers are at a premium in the nation’s schools. Minority children make up 40 percent of elementary and secondary enrollment nationwide, while minority teachers account for 13.5 percent of the teaching force, reports the National Center for Education Statistics. And that gap is expected to grow along with the minority population.

Thomas S. Dee, a professor at Swathmore College, studied the effect on students of having a teacher of the same race…

What he found was that students who had a teacher of their own race for at least one of the four years of the study tended on average to score 3 to 4 percentile points higher on standardized tests of reading and math than peers who had teachers of different races. That kind of an edge is sizable, and only slightly smaller than the advantage that being in smaller classes gave the children who participated in the STAR study, according to Mr. Dee.

The race effects were particularly strong among poor children, children with inexperienced teachers, and children attending segregated schools–especially for African-American children. Whether or not a teacher had a graduate degree, however, seemed to have no influence on the size of the gains.

The report concludes that the edge students got from having a teacher who shares their race seems to be cumulative, building for every year a student has a same-race teacher.

Any race-linked test-score differences disappeared, though, when students were assigned to smaller classes…

Mr. Dee said he was particularly worried that his report might be used to justify school segregation, since the findings appeared to apply to both black and white children to varying degrees. One fear is that the parents of white, middle-class children might demand teachers who share their own race.

“All these findings suggest is that race in the classroom appears to matter,” he said. “But we still don’t understand the nature of that dynamic.”

Mr. Dee was unable to pinpoint, for example, whether students fared better simply because they saw their teachers as role models or because teachers, in some way, might treat students differently.

But the study does discount one other potential explanation for the test-score differential: the idea that predominantly black schools manage to attract and retain high-quality black teachers but only low-quality white teachers.

“If black teachers were simply better than white teachers on average,” the study concludes, “we would have instead expected to find that all students gained from exposure to them.”