COMET • Vol. 2, No. 36 – 12 December 2001


(1) “Dyslexic to Get Help on Exit Exam” by Erika Hayasaki

Source:  Los Angeles Times – 6 December 2001


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The state Board of Education adopted a policy Wednesday that will allow certain students with dyslexia or other learning disorders to use calculators or readers while taking California’s new high school exit exam.

Thousands of learning-disabled students who use calculators or aides to read material in their regular classes would be eligible to take the test with these modifications.

To collect their diplomas, these students must pass the test and establish that they are meeting high school standards. The school district must obtain a waiver, or special permission, from the state on behalf of each student to allow the exception to test rules. Under California law, all students must pass the exit exam to graduate, beginning with the class of 2004…

“No one will be waived from taking the test,” said John Mockler, executive director of the state Board of Education. “We’re saying, ‘Hey, if it is clear you can’t [pass the test] for a physical reason, we’ll give you the modifications and we will give you a high school diploma.”

But disabilities advocates–who filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Education earlier this year seeking accommodations for disabled students–say they are not satisfied with the board’s actions.

Sidney Wolinsky, an attorney for the Disability Rights Advocates, an Oakland-based nonprofit, said the “accommodations” policies should allow disabled students to use calculators or readers without forcing students, families and districts to subsequently go through the hassle of receiving waivers from the state.

He added that the state should create an alternative method to assess disabled students’ skills. He said many students are being tested on material that has not yet been taught under their special education plan.

“Even if you gave all the accommodations in the world, and even if you had an alternative assessment, this test would not be fair,” he said, “because it is not aligned with the curriculum for all students–especially for disabled students”…

Wolinsky said the recent decisions can’t continue to use a “one-size-fits-all test.” Advocates plan to file a federal lawsuit by the end of the month to stop the administration of the test in March, he said.

(2) “State Board of Education – November Highlights”

Source:  California State Board of Education – 20 November 2001


= Student Performance Standards (Levels) Approved for California Standards Tests

The Board unanimously approved “performance standards” or student achievement levels for the California Standards Tests in 2002 and thereafter. The California Standards Tests are aligned to the state’s academic content standards, which lay out what students should know and be able to do at each grade level in English-language arts, mathematics, history-social science, and science.

In August, the STAR reports for the first time included results by student performance standards, but only for English-language arts standards tests. Student performance was measured at one of five standards (levels): advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic. (Proficient or above is the state’s desired performance standard or level for all students).

The Board has now approved the same five performance standards for all subjects in 2002, allowing the state to report student achievement for the mathematics, history-social science, and science standards-based tests next year, in addition to the English language arts exam.

The Board’s action contained the following key specific provisions:

(1) Continue in 2002 and beyond the five performance standards for English-language arts that were used in 2001;

(2) Approve the use of the same five performance standards in 2002 and beyond for mathematics, history-social science, and science (the Board, however, did not approve performance standards for integrated mathematics and science courses because of the insufficiency of information on which to base them);…

(4) In 2002 and beyond, determine that the objective of California’s educational system is for all students to achieve at or above the proficient performance standard.

= State Board Moves to Designation Process to Select New Contractor for

STAR Program

The State Board continues to refine the state’s student testing program into a streamlined system of assessment aligned to California’s rigorous academic content standards. At its November meeting, the Board unanimously directed CDE staff to prepare a single “Invitation to Submit” covering all parts of the STAR Program (including the norm-referenced and California Standards Tests), using a designation process…

=  SB 233 • Following extensive discussion, the Board postponed action until December on the proposed schedule for the implementation of Senate Bill 233, as well as a proposed Board policy to guide implementation of the key legislation.

SB 233, legislation sponsored by Gov. Davis and authored by State Sen. Dede Alpert, D-Coronado, reauthorizes the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program. Generally speaking, SB 233 moves toward a standards-based assessment system while decreasing reliance on nationally norm referenced tests, and eliminating redundant tests where possible. For instance, where standards-based tests duplicate Golden State Exams, the Golden State Exams will be reduced and used to augment the California Standards Tests in specific subject areas…

(3) “Study Finds High-School GPA Outweighs SAT I Scores in Predicting Minority Students’ College Success”

Source:  La Prensa San Diego – 30 November 2001


High-school grades are far more reliable than SAT I scores in predicting how well minority students will do in college, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis…

The researchers–examining the college performance of 1,274 minority students who entered UC Davis as freshmen from 1988 through 1994–found that high-school preparation was associated with persistence and performance from basic science classes all the way through to graduation.

“In fact, high-school GPA is the single most important predictor of all positive academic outcomes we measured,” said Villarejo, who directs the National Institutes of Health Initiative for Minority Student Development at UC Davis…

In a study with implications for university admission procedures, Villarejo and Barlow found that higher SAT scores did correlate with students’ success in basic math and chemistry, as well as their chances of graduating with at least a B-average — the minimum required for most graduate and professional programs.

However, high-school GPA far outweighed SAT scores in predicting the students’ chances of success in college. Moreover, the study found that a program of academic enrichment and personal support…can largely compensate for poor high-school preparation.

“For this population of minority and disadvantaged students at UC Davis, SAT I scores are of no predictive value if we are interested in merely getting students through to graduation, with any GPA in any major,” Villarejo said. “Rather, high-school GPA provides the best indicator of whether a student will graduate”…


(1) “Congress Reaches Compromise on Education Bill” by Adam Clymer with Lizette Alvarez

Source:  The New York Times – 12 December 2001


House and Senate conferees agreed today on final details of President Bush’s education bill, giving Mr. Bush his first domestic legislative victory since Democrats took over the Senate and giving poor children, especially in big cities, a major increase in federal aid.

Today’s action represents a significant new direction in federal education policy; it will result in the first major change in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act since it was rammed through Congress by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.

The measure, expected to be passed by the House and Senate this week, seeks to redirect the focus of federal education aid to public schools with large numbers of poor children…

Other major provisions of the bill require annual testing of all children in grades three through eight in reading and math, as well as granting parents the right to transfer their children out of failing schools to other public schools or get federal aid for private tutoring. In addition, the bill gives states greater flexibility to move money among different federal programs and provides more money for teacher training, bilingual education, after-school programs and technology…

Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Work Force. He said the annual testing required in the bill would “empower parents, voters and taxpayers in each state with the data generated by those tests; failure would no longer be hidden from parents’ view, and poor results would no longer be subsidized by taxpayer funds”…

The conference lasted five months and moved by fits and starts, as Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Senate committee that deals with education, stalled action until the additional spending he regarded as a minimum had been assured. Today he said still more money would be needed.

“With these reforms, now we can take what is a national priority and elevate this further in the national dialogue and gain the kind of funding this requires,” Mr. Kennedy said…

Krista Kafer, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, called the measure a “mixed bag.” She said there were “small steps to reform,” especially provisions that make schools with low test scores accountable to the public. But she said the provisions for transferring from a failing school were inadequate because they did not include private schools.

(2) “Statistics, a Tool for Life, is Getting Short Shrift” by Richard Rothstein

Source:  The New York Times – 28 November 2001


Many educators want all high school seniors prepared for calculus. That means taking algebra in the eighth grade and covering geometry, intermediate algebra and trigonometry by the junior year. This leaves too little room for study of statistics and probability.

Yet students need grounding in data analysis. The push for universal calculus has relied on a false belief that colleges and future jobs would demand it. Yet while calculus is important for college students who major in science and for the scientific literacy of others, only a few jobs, mostly in technical fields, actually use it.

Nationwide, educators who recognize this imbalance are trying to get more statistics into the math curriculum…

Clifford Konold, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, counted data displays in The New York Times. Dr. Konold found that in 1972 there were four graphs or tables in 10 consecutive weekday editions of The Times, excluding the sports and business sections. There were 8 in 1982 and 44 in 1992. Next year, he could find more than 100.

Interpreting these requires not only different skills from conventional mathematics, but a different way of thinking. Geometry and calculus concern proof. Statistics describe uncertainty. This change in orientation makes it hard to expand statistics instruction. Math teachers often resist placing it in the regular course of study because, despite having math degrees, they do not know how to teach statistics. Parents and counselors also balk, wanting no time taken from calculus…

If the trend [toward placing more emphasis on statistics] continues nationwide, this newspaper could someday report that an apparently alarming cluster of cancer cases has arisen in an innocuous normal distribution, and students will be able to explain to their parents what that means.

(3) “Learning Network and National Science Teachers Association Partner to Bring Online Resources to Teachers”

Source:  National Science Teachers Association – 29 November 2001


Learning Network [], the Internet’s largest educational website for parents, teachers, and students, and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the world’s largest science teacher organization, today announced a strategic partnership to provide teachers of science with timely activities and lesson plans to enhance science instruction.

The organizations are combining their vast resources and Internet capabilities to produce a monthly e-mail newsletter called Science Monthly. The theme-based newsletter is geared for K-12 educators and provides timely activities, lesson plans, and resources for quality science instruction…

NSTA is culling lessons plans and activities from the rich archives of its award-winning journals, including Science & ChildrenScience Scope, and The Science Teacher, as well as from books created by NSTA Press, the publishing arm of the Association. These activities, along with a host of others provided by Learning Network, provide the content for the newsletter.

“Our partnership with NSTA will allow us to offer free science lesson plans and student activities and provide an online store that offers the best science kits, teaching resources, and other learning games that help kids understand and appreciate the world of science,” said Rob Lippincott, SVP and General Manager of Learning Network for K12. “NSTA’s outstanding content and resources will add another layer to our teacher website TeacherVision’s strong educational foundation.” Now reaching more than 5,000 Learning Network subscribers, Science Monthly prides itself on being a timely source of information for teachers.

“Our goal is to put lesson plans in the hands of teachers at the time that will help them the most,” said Gerry Wheeler, NSTA Executive Director. “Our editorial calendar was developed carefully to make the newsletter useful, relevant, and meaningful to what teachers are teaching and when they are teaching it”…

Science Monthly will also be published during the summer months, giving teachers an opportunity to plan special projects before the school year begins. For example, June’s theme will be community partnerships, which will give teachers ideas for building relationships in the community during the summer that can support classroom instruction once the school year begins.

Science Monthly is e-mailed on the third Wednesday of every month. It is available free to teachers of science who sign up online at Science Monthly is also archived on the Learning Network’s Teacher Channel,…

(4) “First U.S. Web Page Went Up 10 years Ago” by Janet Kornblum

Source:  USA Today – 11 December 2001


It’s hard to imagine what might have happened with the Web if Paul Kunz had skipped a meeting in Switzerland 10 years ago.

Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of the first U.S. Web page, created by Kunz, a physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). He says that if World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee hadn’t insisted on the meeting, the Web wouldn’t have taken off when it did — maybe not at all.

Kunz had heard about Berners-Lee’s Web project, but frankly, ”I wasn’t very interested,” he says. After all, the Internet and e-mail were already standard among scientists. The Web made it possible to graphically link to documents on other computers, but it was hard to imagine the implications.

Kunz, who was meeting with various scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, grudgingly agreed to a 3 p.m. meeting.  By 6, Kunz was sold on the Web. The two scientists linked a computer near Geneva to one at SLAC. It was the first time that the Web was on the Internet.

Kunz went home and created what was to become the first Web page on a U.S. computer; it gave scientists easy access to SLAC’s database of physics papers.

The page went up at 4 p.m. on Dec. 12, 1991. A month later at a conference in France, Berners-Lee clicked over to Kunz’s Web page and searched the database. The scientists were sold.

“It was a very dramatic moment,” Kunz says. “I realized without that last piece in the demo people would have forgotten about the Web before they got home.” Instead, they went home and told all their colleagues. Then they started creating their own pages, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Kunz, who turns 61 this month, is reflective. He knows Berners-Lee might have found another way to sell his invention, but he also might have given up. “He had already spent about a year trying to get CERN people interested with little success,” Kunz says. “In hindsight, it seems what I did was very important. It might be that it saved the Web.”

(5) “The 30-Year Path of E-Mail” by Katie Hafner

Source: The New York Times – 6 December 2001


…Thirty years ago, give or take a month or two, Ray Tomlinson, an unassuming computer scientist at Bolt, Beranek & Newman, an engineering firm in Cambridge, Mass., sat down at his computer and wrote a relatively simple computer program that enabled electronic messages to travel from one computer to another.

Since then, e-mail has become such a fixture in so many people’s lives, it is hard to imagine life without it. According to the International Data Corporation, some 9.8 billion electronic messages are sent each day…

David Walden, an engineer who worked at Bolt, Beranek & Newman (BBN) with Mr. Tomlinson in the 1970’s, recalled a turning point of sorts for him. “I remember when I realized that I could apologize in writing for a problem and thus make the situation better,” he said, “and the person I was working with couldn’t see me and thus couldn’t read my body language, that I didn’t really feel contrite,” he said…

Mr. Tomlinson’s clever little hack was not the very beginning of e-mail. It already existed in the 1960’s, when computer scientists sent e-mail within time-sharing systems — one computer with multiple terminals.

But Mr. Tomlinson, who is now a principal engineer at BBN Technologies, was the one who made it possible to send e-mail from one machine to another over a computer network. While he was well known for his programs, he became better known for a simple decision he made while writing them.

He needed a way to denote the separation between the name of the user from the name of the machine the user was on. His eye lighted on the @ symbol. Unaware that he was creating an icon for the wired world, that is what he chose. And equally unaware that his first message would someday be the object of historical scrutiny, Mr. Tomlinson said he made no mental note of what he first tapped out on the keyboard.

Through the 1970’s, the use of network mail, as it was called back then, grew not exponentially, but as gradually as the Internet itself. The Internet started as a tool for research into computer networks, and e-mail was its counterpart to the interoffice memo. In fact, correspondence over the government-sponsored Internet, and its forerunner, the Arpanet, was to be restricted to official network business…

By the early 1970’s, three-quarters of all traffic on the Arpanet was e-mail. And as the medium grew, some turned their attention to making it more practical. For example, sending e-mail was simple, but trying to read or respond to it was a huge annoyance. Text poured onto the screen in a stream, with nothing separating one incoming message from another. And there was no reply function.

Lawrence Roberts, who was then a manager at the Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Information Processing Techniques Office, solved that problem after his boss began complaining about the volume of e-mail piling up in his In box. In 1972, Dr. Roberts produced the first e-mail manager, called RD, which included a filing system, as well as a Delete function.

Further improvements to network mail were made by John Vittal, who in the 1970’s was a young programmer at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute. Mr. Vittal spent many hours working on the program, which he called MSG, in his spare time. It included not just a Delete command but also an Answer feature, enabling a recipient to reply to a message easily. His program eventually became the de facto standard of the Arpanet.

More and more, the functionality of e-mail took on features of conventional correspondence. Two of Mr. Vittal’s creations were the cc and bcc features…

E-mail’s wider potential did not go unnoticed. The General Accounting Office predicted in 1981 that electronic mail would sharply reduce the volume of conventional mail and would cut postal employment by two-thirds by 2000. (..E-mail and other competition notwithstanding, the volume of letters doubled in the last two decades, and the postal work force grew by 20 percent.)

As the use of computers in offices grew, various commercial e-mail services, none connected directly to the Internet, indeed cropped up. But all of them failed…MCI Mail, introduced in 1983, did not catch on. Nor did the Postal Service succeed with its version — E-Com, for Electronic Computer-Originated Mail, introduced in 1982 and abandoned in 1985…

But finally, with the advent of the World Wide Web and the opening of the Internet to commercial traffic, the network itself became widely accessible to the public at large in the mid-1990’s. By then, online services were routinely providing home users with an Internet-based e-mail account. And not coincidentally, that was the period when America Online, most spectacularly, begin to take off.

By 1996, 300 million pieces of e-mail were sent on the average day, and roughly 100 million people worldwide were using the medium, according to estimates by the International Data Corporation…