COMET • Vol. 3, No. 15 – 16 April 2002


(1) “Can California Re-Create Great Schools?” (Opinion)

Source:  The Mercury News – 28 March 2002


California schools are used to being tinkered with and tweaked, pushed here then pulled there. Sacramento has unleashed a storm of mandates, reducing primary-grade class sizes, imposing high-school exit exams, changing math and reading curricula, requiring summer school–all in the name of reform.

Is there a method to this madness?

Not yet, but one is being developed, and soon will be ready for public scrutiny and comment. The Legislature drew upon some of the best minds in education to draft a vision for California public schools. Among suggestions listed by the Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education-Kindergarten through University, ideas range from the obvious to the innovative, from cost-free to pie in the sky.

Among them:

* Creating universal preschools.

* Making kindergarten mandatory and full day.

* Ensuring high school graduates are literate in two languages, competent in mathematics and prepared for a university, community college or vocational certificate program.

* Providing clean and safe schools.

* Equalizing funding among school districts.

* Authorizing local sales tax increases for education, to be imposed by a 55 percent vote.

* Replacing multiple state bureaucracies with one pyramid headed by the governor and the secretary of education [currently Kerry Mazzoni]

The goals are ambitious, expensive and, in some cases, not politically realistic. Together, they form a blueprint for re-creating the pre-eminent public school system California once had. A master plan for guiding reform and directing improvement is long overdue. A draft is expected to be released in May.

What no plan can answer, though, are the underlying questions: how good a public school system does the public want, and how much are Californians willing to pay for it? For answers to those questions, no amount of know-how will substitute for political leadership.

Follow-up: Information about the joint committee is available on its web site, Town hall meetings will be scheduled in May and June on the draft master plan.

Editor’s Note: Final reports from the Working Groups can be found at the following web site:

(2) “Report of the Student Learning Working Group” (Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education – Kindergarten through University)–Executive Summary

Source:  Jeannie Oakes and Sonia Hernandez, Committee Co-Chairs


In 1960, California took a bold step by developing a master plan wherein every qualified and interested California resident was guaranteed tuition-free access to higher education. In 2000, the Legislature set an even more ambitious goal: Extend the reach and promise of the master plan by bringing the State’s schools, colleges, and universities into a more cohesive, learner-focused system–from kindergarten, through all levels of the University experience, and beyond–that guarantees a quality education to all Californians.

A Master Plan that accomplishes this ambitious goal must make student learning the focal point of policy decisions about a host of complex issues, including standards, assessment, teacher education, college admissions policies, governance, funding streams and institutional turf issues, to name just a few. Only with a focus on learning can we create a system that enables all Californians to develop knowledge, understandings, skills and dispositions necessary to sustain a democratic society and a desired quality of life.

The sobering reality of California’s education system is that too few schools can provide the conditions whereby the state can reasonably and fairly ask students to learn to the highest standards. However, if Californians embrace the learning goals we set forth in Recommendation 1 as promises to be kept rather than demands to be enforced, the education system can emerge from a surreal world in which resources are substantially out of line with needs and requirements. The learning goals we outline here must guide new standards for educational resources, conditions, and opportunities. We must be vigilant that these goals are not adopted simply as obstacles that students must overcome.

The Student Learning Working Group (SLWG) offers ten sets of recommendations for how California’s new Master Plan should restructure the State’s schools and universities into a coherent, integrated K-university educational system that is equitable, well-resourced

and of the highest quality. These recommendations link to all of the elements of the education system that have been the focus of the six other Working Groups. The recommendations of the other groups, we believe, should be weighed in light of their contribution to achieving the goals we outline here.

In the more than 40 years since the first Master Plan, we have learned a great deal about the policies and practices our recommendations require. The task now is to develop the political will to act on what we know and to make the long-term investment that is required. This asks quite a lot of Californians. Yet, the imperative cannot be denied or misunderstood: California’s public schools must provide all children with the learning experiences they require to develop the knowledge and problem solving abilities that are essential for productive and meaningful lives, work, and participation in democratic society.

First Principles: California’s PreK-University Master Plan must result in education policies that ensure quality and choice for all students, and enable equitable results.

We recommend that the legislature set standards and ensure the resources, conditions and opportunities so that all PreK-12 students participate in a rich and comprehensive program of instruction and receive the learning supports that enable them to attain four fundamental learning goals: 1) oral proficiency and full literacy in two languages; 2) high level competency in mathematics; 3) deep knowledge in other academic areas; and 4) preparation for successful entry into four-year university, community college transfer programs, or community college vocational certificate programs, without the need for remedial or developmental courses…

(3) Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education-Kindergarten through University

Source: California State Senate


Welcome from Senator Dede Alpert:

As Chair of the Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education-Kindergarten through University, I welcome your interest in our activities and your input on education issues.

The joint committee has been charged with developing a new education master plan for California’s next generation of students that will build on our state’s existing Master Plan for Higher Education, expanding that framework to include K-12 education and the many interfaces between K-12 and postsecondary education…

Please follow this website to remain current on the activities of the joint committee and its working groups:  to review agendas and other documents released by the committee; to access historical documents related to the master plan and other education policy-making guidelines; to review materials presented by witnesses; to communicate your opinions and concerns to the committee; and to link to the websites of some of the other entities that are engaged in issues related to the work of the committee.

You may reach us by e-mail at or by telephone, fax or letter as described below.  You are also invited to provide extensive comment on an array of issues via e-testimony.


Legislative Office Building

1020 N Street, Room 560

Sacramento, CA 95814

Telephone: 916-324-4983

Fax: 916-445-4855

(4) California State Board of Education (SBE) Agenda for 24 April 2002 (including public hearings for mathematics performance standards/levels for mathematics)


Public Session Agenda for April 24, 2002 (9:00 a.m.–Resources Building Auditorium, 1416 Ninth Street, First Floor, Sacramento, California)

…Public notice is hereby given that special presentations for informational purposes may take place during this session.

ITEM 1 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program: Designation of New Nationally Normed Test and Contractor. (Information, Action)

ITEM 2 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program: Including, but not limited to, Three-Year Plan for the Development of California’s Assessment System. (Information, Action)

* * * * PUBLIC HEARING * * * *

The following public hearing will begin at 3:00 p.m., or thereafter as the business of the State Board of Education permits.

ITEM 3 Regional Public Hearing: Proposed Performance Standards (Levels) for the General Mathematics Standards Test and Integrated Mathematics Standards Tests.

* * * * END OF PUBLIC HEARING * * * *

ITEM 4 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program: Approval of Performance Standards (Levels) for the California General Mathematics Standards Test. (Information, Action)

ITEM 5 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program: Approval of Performance Standards (Levels) for the California 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Year Integrated Mathematics Standards Tests. (Information, Action)

ITEM 6 California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE): Including, but not limited to, Update and Status. (Information, Action)

ITEM 7 Report of the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission. (Information, Action)

ITEM 8 Implementation of the Mathematics and Reading Professional Development Program (AB 466, Strom-Martin). (Information, Action)

ITEM 9 The Academic Performance Index (API): A Six-Year Plan for Development (2001-2006). (Information)


…For more information concerning this agenda, please contact Richard W. Brandsma, Executive Director of the California State Board of Education, or Deborah Franklin, Education Policy Consultant, at 721 Capitol Mall, Room 558, P.O. Box 944272, Sacramento, CA 94244-2720; telephone (916) 657-5478; fax (916) 653-7016. To be added to the speaker’s list, please fax or mail your written request to the above-referenced address/fax number.



(1) “Mathematical Proficiency for All Students: Toward a Strategic Research and Development Program in Mathematics Education” (RAND)

Source: Susie Hakansson, Executive Director of the California Mathematics Project


The RAND Mathematics Study Group has been charged to write “Mathematical Proficiency for All Students: Toward a Strategic Research and Development Program in Mathematics Education.”  The draft of the report has been posted for public review.  The impetus for this project includes (1) widespread criticism of educational research (e.g., lack of strategic connections between interventions and research, disconnected from problems of practice, uneven use of disciplinary expertise) and (2) enduring problems of mathematics education (e.g., lack of mathematical proficiency among students, increased quantitative demands, achievement gap).

The overarching goal in the program of research is to achieve mathematical proficiency for all students (report addresses equity where student achievement is not predictable by race, class, language, gender, etc.).  The three areas of focus are

(1) The teaching and learning of algebra for mathematical proficiency.

(2) The teaching and learning of mathematical practices.

(3) The knowledge of mathematics needed for teaching, the knowledge of students as learners of mathematics, and ways to deploy such knowledge in practice.

To download a copy of this report and make comments, go to the following website:

A similar report for reading is in completed form and can also be retrieved at the above website.

Editor’s note: The 5 February 2002 issue of COMET included information about RAND’s Mathematics Education Study Panel; see /cmp/comet/2002/02_05_2002.html#B1

(2) “Scientific Research in Education” (NRC Report)

Source: Weekly News Bulletin – 4/11/2002 – AACTE Education Policy Clearinghouse


The Committee on Scientific Principles for Education Research, part of the Center for Education at the National Research Council (NRC), has released a new report, “Scientific Research in Education.” This publication is the result of the Committee’s charge from the NRC to “review and synthesize recent literature on the science and practice of scientific educational research and consider how to support high quality science in a federal education research agency.” Six guiding principles underlying all scientific inquiry are identified and discussed in the context of their application to education. Six design principles for fostering science in a federal education agency are also identified.

[Editor’s Note: The entire report can be read at the above website. Links to this and other Center for Education publications such as Adding it Up can be found at ]

(3) “Math Students Learn Online” by Gina Buccino

Source: The Cincinnati Enquirer – 26 February 2002


Calculus students at Little Miami High School are counting on WeBWork–a new program offered through 30 universities nationally–to give them an early jump on college math.

WeBWork is a software package being used by the high school for the first time this year. The program, offered through Ohio State University, allows students to tackle college calculus problems via the Internet.

The program is not part of the grade that students receive in their calculus class. But it does help students who plan to take the Advanced Placement test in May. Students who earn a 3 or higher, out of a possible 5, can receive college credit.

Little Miami calculus instructor Rick Lovins chooses calculus problems from a database and contacts Ohio State University via e-mail, where instructors will create an assignment for a student. Students are then given a timeframe to complete the assignment.

Students can work on their problems over the Internet anytime and get instant feedback on whether the answer is right or wrong. Students can submit their answers as often as they like, without penalty.

Mr. Lovinssets a day aside during the week to answer a student’s questions, or they can also e-mail him questions. “It’s difficult for them, but they like the challenge,” said Mr. Lovins, who has taught at the high school for three years. “It gives them an idea on the type of math problems students will tackle in college.”

WeBWork was developed by the University of Rochester in New York in 1995. In Ohio, Cleveland State University, the University of Akron and Ohio State offer the program…

[Editor’s Note: The URL for the WeBWorK website is A listing of current users can be found at]

(4) “Boys Choir of Harlem Sings Praises of Algebra Software” by Carmen J. Lee

Source:  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 2 February 2002


Imagine trying to master algebra when you’re in a room with 44 other youngsters of varying ages, your teacher is hundreds of miles away and you have to sing before thousands of people at the end of the day.

You’d probably appreciate anything that would make understanding your school work easier and more fun.

And you’d only have to look at the faces of Boys Choir of Harlem members eagerly huddled over laptop computers to conclude the software they’re using may be the answer…

Cognitive Tutor was developed in Pittsburgh during the 1980s. It’s a marriage of a software program created by John Anderson, a computer science and psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and a math curriculum developed by then-Langley High School math teacher Bill Hadley, who is now Carnegie Learning’s chief academic officer and interim president.

The program involves having students applying math concepts to real world problems. It includes Algebra I, Algebra II and geometry. More than 600 schools in 40 states use Cognitive Tutor, including 150 in Western Pennsylvania.

But the latest wave for the program has been its use with laptop computers that students can take home or on trips. So far, only about half a dozen schools in the country, including Quaker Valley High School and the Choir Academy of Harlem, where the Boys Choir members are enrolled, are taking full advantage of using the program with laptops.

Carnegie Learning officials would like to see Cognitive Learning laptop use expand. They even donated four laptops to the Boys Choir yesterday so that more boys have access to the equipment.

The Choir Academy, which has 567 boys and girls in grades 4 to 12, has been using Cognitive Learning in the classroom for several years. But it’s only been in the past few months that choir members have been able to work with the program on the road, said Boys Choir founder and president Walter J. Turnbull.

Boy and girl choir members travel for a weekend to two weeks to perform, and they are expected to do school work three to four hours every day, Turnbull said. So being able to do the Cognitive Learning program on laptops has been beneficial.

The Choir Academy, which started with its elementary and middle school grades 15 years ago, has a high school graduation rate that ranges between 90 percent and 95 percent, and 98 percent of the graduates are accepted into college.

Turnbull thanked Carnegie Learning and Carnegie Mellon officials yesterday for developing a program that helps choir members, who have 125 concerts a year, keep up in school…