COMET • Vol. 2, No. 07 – 26 February 2001


(1) Mathematics Professional Development Institutes

Source: Elizabeth Stage, Director of Mathematics and Science Professional Development, University of California Office of the President
The amended RFP for the Mathematics Professional Development Institutes is posted at

The purpose of the Mathematics Professional Development Institutes is to help teachers develop what Liping Ma calls “a profound understanding of fundamental mathematics”… The goal…[is to deepen] teachers’ content knowledge of mathematics so that they are better able to provide comprehensive mathematics instruction that is consistent with the California Academic Content Standards and the 1999 Mathematics Framework and will increase student performance on state-mandated assessments…The [Institutes] must present this content in such a way that teachers develop deep understanding of this subject matter by making the connections among the content addressed within the mathematics being studied and between the mathematics being studied and the courses that teachers teach…Connections to [newly-adopted mathematics]] instructional materials should include the content and the program’s instructional design, strategies for making the program accessible to all learners, particularly English language learners, and assessment and intervention strategies. As teachers gain experience with the new materials, discussions of student work and mathematical thinking should continue and deepen teachers’ understanding of the mathematics and teaching mathematics effectively to all students.

For Institutes serving teachers with a single adoption, this treatment must be a central feature of the intensive session. For Institutes serving teachers with multiple adoptions, this treatment may be more successfully accomplished in the academic year follow-up with teams arranged by the materials they are using. For Institutes serving teachers whose districts have not yet selected or purchased new, standards-based instructional materials or at the high school level, where materials are not adopted by the State Board, the Institute should include a component on evaluating materials in light of the California Academic Content Standards in Mathematics.

The statewide office of the Mathematics Professional Development Institutes will work with the publishers of the adopted materials to provide support to Institutes and will conduct meetings where site leaders can become familiar with the materials…

There are four Mathematics Professional Development Institutes, best distinguished by the teachers they are meant to serve:

Elementary Mathematics Institutes:

There are two options at the elementary level: Instructional Materials Based K-6 and Upper Elementary 4-6. Instructional Materials Based programs are intended for schools that will be implementing newly adopted materials in 2001-2002. The Upper Elementary program is intended for teachers whose schools are willing to assign them to impact the mathematics learning of more students than in a single classroom. The mechanism for accomplishing this goal (co-planning, swapping classes for a unit, team teaching, semi-departmentalization, specialization, etc.) is left to the school to design. The idea is that some teachers will learn more mathematics and that their increased understanding will be shared beyond a single classroom.

Algebra Institutes:

For teachers in grades 6-12 who teach the content of algebra and the coursework that prepares students for algebra, regardless of the titles of the courses or the grade levels of the students who are taking these courses. Teachers may be grouped according to the grade levels of the students they teach, for example middle school, high school.

Algebra Academies:

For teachers who teach the content of algebra and the coursework that prepares students for algebra, regardless of the titles of the courses, who are teaching students in grades 7 and 8 in a summer school or an intervention program as defined by SB1688 of the Statutes of 2000 and engage in professional development in conjunction with that summer school or intervention teaching. (See Appendix D for more information.)

High School Mathematics Institutes:

For teachers in grades 9-12 who teach the full spectrum of high school courses ranging from preparing for the High School Exit Exam through AP Mathematics. These institutes should be planned to serve the needs indicated by school districts. A single institution can propose to serve more than one of the identified needs in multiple institutes. There is a focus on applications from teams of teachers and administrators and on newly adopted instructional materials…

For new proposals, a decision on funding will be made by April 2, 2000, for every full and complete proposal received by March 16, 2001. The process will remain open until all funds for the Institutes are awarded. For proposals received after March 16th, a decision will be made within three weeks of the receipt of the proposal.

For more information, contact Charles Jackson at 510-987-9321.

(2) State Grants to Prepare Teachers of Mathematics (AB 496)

 Source: Sam W. Swofford, Executive Director, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

The California Mathematics Initiative for Teaching was enacted through the provisions of Assembly Bill 496 (Lempert, Chapter 545, Statutes of 1998) which was sponsored by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing… The legislation was an outgrowth of a report issued by the Commission in October 1997 entitled Recruitment and Preparation of Teachers for Mathematics Instruction: Issues of Quantity and Quality in California in which the Commission documented the existing shortage, growing demand, and declining new supply of fully qualified and credentialed mathematics teachers… Local education agencies (LEAs), which include school districts, consortia of school districts, and county superintendents of schools, may apply for a grant by submitting to the Commission a proposal which includes a plan to increase the number of teachers who are qualified and certified to teach mathematics. The Commission will determine the number and amount of grants to fund based on the availability of funds and the relative quality of the proposals received…

Program funds are considered a forgivable loan to the eligible participant. In return for financial assistance in obtaining coursework leading to a credential, supplementary authorization or concentration, participants must agree in writing that once they have completed a credential, supplementary authorization or concentration, that they will teach mathematics in a public school under the jurisdiction of the grant recipient for a period of one year for every increment of $2,500 in financial assistance received…

Proposals are due by 1 March 2001. See for more information.

(3) Annual Summary of the Governor’s K-12 Education Budget for 2001-02

Source: Smita Patel, EdSource Online Coordinator (650-857-9604)


The governor’s proposed budget amounts to over $50 billion from all state, local, and federal sources. A report of how the money is designated is available online at


For more information and background on school funding in California, please see EdSource’s Education Issues section on School Finance:


(4) “State Senate Votes to Delay School Exit Test” by Robert Salladay

Source: San Francisco Chronicle – 21 February 2001

The state Senate voted yesterday to delay California’s high school exit test, citing worries that students may not know enough algebra to pass the exam.

Public high school students, beginning with the class graduating in 2004, must pass an English and math test to get a diploma. Students are allowed to take the two-part test in ninth grade, and again each year until they pass.

But a bill approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate would delay the test requirement a year, applying it for the first time to the class of 2005 — students who are now in eighth grade. The one-year delay, which was added by lawmakers in committee, has neither the approval of Gov. Gray Davis nor the bill’s author.

The Democratic governor made the exit exam the centerpiece of his school reforms. Davis is now working with lawmakers to amend the bill — which is headed to the Assembly — to keep the original timetable. “Gov. Davis believes that students will be prepared to take the high school exit as a condition of graduation in 2004,” said Davis spokeswoman Hilary McLean.

“The start date was negotiated pretty thoroughly when the bill was passed in 1999,” McLean said. “And since then, the governor has been providing schools, districts and teachers with the tools needed to prepare students for this test.”

There is general support for not allowing ninth-graders to take the test, however. Other states that have instituted exit exams have faced class-action lawsuits from parents and civil-rights groups under the argument that students weren’t given adequate notice and weren’t being taught subjects for which they were tested.

Lawmakers are sympathetic. “How many of you could pass an algebra test if it were given to you today?” state Sen. Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach, asked her colleagues yesterday, getting only a few raised hands in response.

Delaying the test for ninth-graders gives students more time to prepare, and most lawmakers think that could neutralize any lawsuits. But the Senate Education Committee, led by Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, went a step further last month and decided to delay the entire requirement until 2005.

Sen. Jack O’Connell, D-San Luis Obispo, author of the original testing measure and the update this year, said he doesn’t approve of the one-year delay but admitted some lawmakers have a good point. New algebra standards have just been put into place, he noted, and there is always a time lag between the approval of new education standards and what actually gets taught in the classroom.

“Our schools are doing a very good job of preparing students for graduation, ” O’Connell said. “That said, I understand the desire to simply delay this . . . to withstand a potential legal challenge.”

The Legislature is facing a deadline on the matter. Current ninth-graders who volunteered to take the exit exam are scheduled to do so next month. They belong to the class of 2004 and are thus the first to be legally entitled to attempt the test.

If Davis vetoes the bill as written, then the test taken next month counts, and ninth-graders who pass it are on their way to graduation. If the Legislature changes the law after March, then next month’s exam won’t count, and those who pass this year will have to be retested later.

(5) “Algebra a Sore Subject for Students, Teachers Alike” by Larry Slonaker

Source: San Jose Mercury News – 26 February 2001

…Large numbers of students — especially those from low-income households — find algebra daunting. Many of them enter high school without the solid pre-algebra background of more affluent students.

The main rationale for requiring more math is that it’s a key to getting into college and prepares students for the high-tech job market.

In a bid to push more poor and minority students into higher education, the College Board in the mid-1990s sponsored a project called Equity 2000. East Side Union and six other urban school districts across the country began requiring ninth-graders to take Algebra I.

A study by the Washington, D.C.-based organization later showed that more freshmen than ever were taking Algebra I in those districts, and large numbers were passing. But the study also revealed a rapidly growing percentage was failing the class.

In the East Side district, the number of students who failed first-year algebra jumped from 7 percent in 1995 to 33 percent in 1999. And the percentage of Latino students failing the course increased from 11 percent to 44 percent.

At San Jose Unified, which also participated in the algebra program, the percentage of failing students went from 2 percent in 1995 to 23 percent in 1998, the last year for which figures were available.

East Side officials concede the failure rate is high. But they also note it’s roughly equivalent to the failure rate for all math courses — including remedial math — recorded in the early ’90s. The key, said Superintendent Joe Coto, is that today so many more students are taking tough math classes. “We’re committed to raising the bar.”

Some teachers predict the percentage of F’s would inevitably increase in Algebra II, a class that most students find much tougher. “You’re just setting them up to fail,” said Jack Hamner, who teaches algebra to Oak Grove High School sophomores who flunked it in their first year. “They’re already set up to fail this class”…

Perhaps the most difficult obstacle for the algebra movement is finding qualified teachers. Of the district’s 160 math teachers, one-third are not fully credentialed. Statewide, the figure is about 17 percent…

Still, algebra today is the express train of public policy, and a lot of politicians and school administrators are on board. In the fall, Davis signed a bill that makes Algebra I a graduation requirement in all public schools, beginning this year. Then in January, he announced his plan for a $30 million “Algebra Initiative,” which would help schools to attract and retain algebra teachers.

“Private-sector jobs are requiring high-level thinking skills, and algebra is one of those courses that employers say their employees need,” said Kerry Mazzoni, the governor’s education secretary…

The schools have tried various methods to support those struggling students. “We use a lot of safety nets,” said Ray Miailovich, a longtime Piedmont Hills High School teacher whose job now is to help teachers with math instruction. For instance, every school has after-school tutoring, Miailovich said.

There’s plenty of money for the programs, but finding teachers to staff them is difficult, he said. Then, when the district does find tutors, it’s always a challenge to get the kids to attend. “You can’t force them there.”

The thought of ladling Algebra II atop the problems associated with the first algebra requirement concerns Miailovich. “It’s like, `Boy, we just got this going — give us a chance.’ ”

In past years, Algebra II was mainly for the “real top kids. It’s a tough class.” To make it a districtwide requirement might require some tinkering, he added. “Not watered-down, but it may not be high-powered algebra as we knew it.”

Schaupp believes the watering-down may already have happened. “I fear that very much,” she said, because teachers often are reluctant to fail every student who can’t learn the material.

The district now offers some students the option of taking a college prep “integrated” math curriculum, in which various math disciplines are combined.

San Jose Unified, which already requires three years of math, also has an integrated math program. But some have derided integrated math as a way around the more difficult aspects of algebra and geometry.

If the algebra at East Side schools has been watered down, a lot of students haven’t noticed. “This pretending like everybody is a college prep student . . . why this big lie?” asked Darlene Hoff, the guardian of Mark Steagall, who dropped Schaupp’s class after weeks of struggle. “Don’t overload them and make them feel like failures’…

(6) “Excellence Award Recognizes SLV Teacher” by Donna Jones

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel – 22 February 2001

San Lorenzo Valley High School veteran Sandie Gilliam has taught for 25 years, written textbooks, mentored other teachers and served on numerous state and local committees.

Now she’s being recognized for her work with a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

“I spend all of my spare time trying to do a top-notch job,” Gilliam said. “This is really a wonderful recognition for my career, which is more than a job to me.”

The award is the nation’s highest honor for math and science teachers at the kindergarten through 12th-grade level. The award program was established by the White House in 1983 and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation…

Gilliam is to go to Washington, D.C., in March to pick up the award and consult with colleagues and federal legislators. The National Science Foundation picks up the tab for the trip and provides each recipient’s school with a $7,500 grant to promote math and science education.

Gilliam started her teaching career in 1975 and has taught at San Lorenzo Valley since 1982. She led the effort to implement an innovative but controversial math program in the 1994-95 school year.

The Interactive Math Program, a problem-solving approach combining various strands of math in each year’s study, was expected to replace more traditional math courses such as algebra and geometry at the school. But in 1999 parents revolted, demanding traditional courses be offered along with the newer program.

Gilliam said the award represents a vindication of her efforts. “I am so deep into math in all its parts that when parents criticized the unfamiliar methods, it hurt,” she said.

The traditional courses are offered along with the newer approach, which is supported by the National Science Foundation.

The presidential award is the second national recognition Gilliam has received this school year. In December, she was one of 12 county teachers who earned a national teaching credential after finishing a comprehensive evaluation of her work. The credential came with a $10,000 bonus from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonprofit group founded in 1987.

Gilliam is a mentor teacher in the district and also has worked to improve math instruction throughout the state as the lead evaluator for the Mathematics Renaissance reform initiative funded by the National Science Foundation and the state Department of Education. She is also the chairwoman of business outreach for the California Mathematics Council.



(1) “Most Colleges Are Expected to Continue to Use the SAT” by Jacques Steinberg

Source: New York Times – 24 February 2001

As the University of California weighs a recommendation by its president to drop the SAT’s as an admissions requirement, the vast majority of the nation’s highly selective institutions, as well as other large public universities, are expected to rely on the tests for the foreseeable future.

The proposal last Friday by the president of the California system, which has such flagship campuses as Berkeley and U.C.L.A. and gives out one of every 50 American bachelor’s degrees yearly, has added fresh fuel to the decades-old debate within admissions offices over the merits of the SAT’s. But interviews in recent days with administrators from half a dozen other colleges and universities suggest that there may be no other institution that will immediately follow California’s lead.

“I’m not ready to throw out the SAT,” said Jack Blackburn, the dean of undergraduate admissions at the University of Virginia since 1985. “I think it’s a very good test. It’s been given to millions of people. If used properly, it provides a good piece of information about an applicant.

“I think the bad stories come from places that don’t know how to use it.”

All of the university officials interviewed, from Harvard to Stanford, and from the University of Michigan to the University of Texas at San Antonio, said they continued to regard the SAT’s as the best instrument available for establishing a common national yardstick…

At the same time they echoed the concerns of the president of the California system, Dr. Richard C. Atkinson, about the tests’ shortcomings and about the ways that the SAT’s have come to dominate the lives of so many American teenagers, who often view them as nothing less than a barometer of their own potential.

All of the officials acknowledged that the scores on the SAT I, an aptitude test (the SAT II’s is an achievement text tied more closely to course work), and the ACT, a similar standardized exam, often reveal more about students’ family lives, socio-economic station and school quality than about their prospects for succeeding in four years of college and beyond. But over all they said they planned to continue to consult the SAT scores.

“It’s the only standard factor in every student’s application,” said Robin Mamlet, the dean of admission and financial aid at Stanford University since September. “But we’re also aware that students from different kinds of backgrounds score very differently.”

Ms. Mamlet added: “One of the things Atkinson’s saying is that they’re going to move to a more holistic approach. But most of the nation’s really selective institutions have mastered giving a holistic approach to their admissions, while still using the SAT. It’s not a dichotomy”…

Related articles:

“‘Disturbing’ Evidence” – Text from UC President Richard Atkinson’s Speech, Given Sunday [February 18] in Washington, D.C.

“Texas Colleges Weigh Move to Scrap SAT” by Matt Flores

UC Chief Shows Boldness in Rejecting SAT” by Kenneth Weiss

(2) “Guaranteed-Loan Lobbyist Is Likely Nominee for No. 2 Spot in Education Department” by Stephen Burb

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education – 16 February 2001

The Bush administration is expected to nominate William D. Hansen for the No. 2 position at the Education Department.

Mr. Hansen, who oversaw the presidential transition at the department, is executive director of the Education Finance Council, which lobbies on behalf of nonprofit lenders in the guaranteed-student-loan program. During former President George Bush’s administration, Mr. Hansen served as the department’s assistant secretary for management and budget and chief financial officer.

Republican sources say Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige wants Mr. Hansen as deputy secretary, in part, because he has the Washington experience that Mr. Paige lacks. Mr. Paige was previously superintendent of schools in Houston. Many college lobbyists say that Mr. Hansen understands the importance of the federal student-aid programs, and that they would be happy to see him in the job…

According to Republican sources, the Bush administration is also likely to nominate Eugene W. Hickok Jr., the education secretary of Pennsylvania, for the No. 3 position at the department, the undersecretary of education… Mr. Hickok, a former political-science professor at Dickinson College, has pushed for more accountability in public higher education in Pennsylvania.  He also has helped pump up the state’s financial-aid program for public and private college students.

Related article: 

“In Pennsylvania, a Powerful Crusader Pushes Universities to Change Their Ways” by Jeffrey Selingo

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education – 19 May 2000

…With a shoot-from-the-hip style reminiscent of his distant relative — the U.S. marshal Wild Bill Hickok — Eugene Hickok has pursued an aggressive agenda that has defied what many consider the most entrenched public-education establishment in the country…

Philosophy on Education: Mr. Hickok is known as anti-establishment. For example, as a faculty member at Dickinson, he argued that colleges need to “rethink the notion of tenure.” So last year, after two consecutive leaves of absence from the college, he decided to give up his tenured position there to stay on as education secretary. He is also a founding member of the Education Leaders Council, a group of “reform-minded education chiefs” in eight states that has pushed for more rigorous standards, private-school vouchers, and charter schools. He wants to start a similar group for higher-education leaders…




MATHCOUNTS is a national math coaching and competition program that promotes middle school mathematics achievement through grassroots involvement in every U.S. state and territory. 2001 state competitions will be held March 3 through March 25. Winners of these state competitions earn the opportunity to participate in the 2001 MATHCOUNTS National Competition, to be held on Friday, May 11, in Washington, D.C. For a listing of state competition dates and contacts, see