COMET • Vol. 3, No. 17 – 30 April 2002


(1) State Board of Education (SBE):  Actions Taken at 24 April 2002 Meeting

Source: California State Board of Education (Questions: Greg Geeting, 916-657-5478)

= Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program

The SBE approved the designation of the California Achievement Test (produced by ETS) as the nationally-normed test to be used in the STAR program for the next 3 years. However, the Board set forth a number of conditions (e.g., contract development, budget, timeline, staffing, reporting procedures, and possible options to provide that the STAR program complies with the No Child Left Behind Act) with which ETS must comply by the June 2002 Board meeting or risk having this designation rescinded.

= STAR: Approval of Performance Standards (Levels)

The SBE approved that the following actions be taken with respect to performance standards (levels) for (a) the California General Mathematics Standards Test and (b) the California Integrated Mathematics Standards Tests:

* Approve the use of the same five performance standards (level) designations used in the other standards-aligned mathematics tests.

* Approve the proposed “cut scores” (minimum number and percentage of correct responses) on (a) the California General Mathematics Standards Test and (b) the California Integrated Mathematics Standards Tests that determine the performance standards (levels), recognizing that, for use in reporting in 2002 and beyond, the cut scores will be converted to scaled scores that comparably reflect student achievement.

= AB 466 (Strom-Martin)

The SBE approved the staff recommendations to give the State Board’s concurrence for the University of California’s CPDIs (California Professional Development Institutes) to provide professional development in mathematics in kindergarten through third grade (expanding the earlier grades 4-12 provision), provided the criteria set forth in a memorandum dated April 15, 2002, from Elizabeth K. Stage to the State Board of Education regarding such concurrence are met, and provided the University of California provides quarterly reports by grade level on the numbers of teachers, schools, and districts served under the State Board’s authorization.

(2) “Students, Teachers, Parents Protest ‘High-Stakes’ SAT-9 Standardized Test” by David Scharfenberg

Source:  Berkeley Daily Planet – 30 April 2002

URL: Link to article from

With SAT-9 testing set to begin in Berkeley elementary schools this week, a small group of parents, activists and students gathered outside Rosa Parks School to protest the exam and spread the word about a provision in state law allowing parents to opt their children out of the test.

“What if they gave an unfair, discriminating test and nobody came?,” asked Aaron Reaven, an organizer for the California Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education, which opposes “high stakes” standardized testing.

Under state law, teachers and districts can inform parents of their right to opt out, but cannot encourage parents to do so. Deb Palmer, an English Language Learners resource teacher at Rosa Parks who spoke at the protest, said this provision in the law has intimidated other teachers…

Over 300 teachers have signed a petition, drawn up by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, opposing the SAT-9. The teachers ran the petition as an advertisement in the Daily Planet last week.

Palmer said the prominence of the test and the financial awards attached to it encourage instructors to “teach to the test” rather than focus on important curriculum areas.

“We certainly don’t support that,” said Les Axelrod, an education research and evaluation consultant for the California Department of Education in Sacramento. “We think the way to prepare kids for the test is to design a good instructional program that’s aligned to the state standards.

“In practice, I know that’s not happening,” Axelrod acknowledged. But he said it’s up to districts and individual teachers to avoid teaching to the test…

Axelrod said spending on testing and awards, which approached $1 billion out of a roughly $53 billion education budget last year, was “money well-spent.”

Shirley Issel, President of the Board of Education, said there are problems with the current testing regimen, but argued that standardized testing is a valuable tool. “The standards movement is the best hope we have for educational equity,” Issel said, arguing that tests hold educators accountable.

School board members Terry Doran and Ted Schultz also argued that tests can be useful, but raised concern about the monetary awards attached to test results, arguing that they can be divisive.

This year, according to Bill Padia, director of the policy and evaluation division for the Department of Education, the state gave $100 million to teachers and $350 million to schools with high-scoring students. The state plans to distribute another $212 million in Governor’s Performance Awards to high-scoring schools in the coming week, but the legislature is holding the money pending an examination of the troubled state budget.

Next year, Padia said, the $100 million in teacher awards will likely be cut because of the budget deficit and the $350 million, always planned as a one-time expenditure, will not be re-allocated.

A bill in the state Assembly [AB 2347], authored by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, would eliminate the awards system and scrap the SAT-9 in favor of a new test, to be developed largely by teachers. The bill narrowly passed through the Assembly Education Committee last week. [See /cmp/comet/2002/04_26_2002.html#A3]


(1) Education Department to Hold Five Regional Meetings to Discuss No Child Left Behind Proposed Rules [Title I Regulations] (Press Release)

Source:  U.S. Dept. of Education – 19 April 2002  (Contact:: Susan Wilhelm – 202-260-0826)


As part of his efforts to work in partnership with state and local leaders on the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige today announced that the department will host five regional meetings to educate the public about the critical need for challenging content standards and high-quality assessments in K-12 education, and to give the public an opportunity to comment on new rules for standards, assessments and academic progress under the new law.

“For No Child Left Behind to work, we need the input, energy, enthusiasm and expectations of entire communities. We’re working to engage the public like never before to help us implement this historic law,” Paige said. “This new law is all about improving student achievement and accountability for results–and we won’t know how we’re doing unless we have challenging standards and tests that measure student progress. As we travel to these communities, we look forward to hearing from parents, educators, policy makers and those who will be most affected by the new law”…

Under the new law, which President Bush signed in January, states and school districts will develop strong systems of accountability based upon student performance. The new law also gives states and school districts increased local control and flexibility, removing federal red tape and bureaucracy and putting decision making in the hands of those at the local and state levels.

Parents of children from disadvantaged backgrounds will have options under the new law to participate in public school choice programs or obtain supplemental services such as tutoring. Also, teachers around the country will be encouraged to use teaching methods based upon scientific research that show they have been proven to work.

The U.S. Department of Education asked for recommendations from the public on Title I standards and assessments in a Jan. 18 Federal Register notice, and also through sessions held to negotiate new rules that will help clarify the law. In the course of negotiated rulemaking, a committee of 24 educators, school administrators and parents met near Washington, D.C. for five days in mid-March to review and revise draft regulations developed by the department. Their work will be available for public comment soon after publication in the Federal Register and will also serve as the basis of discussions at the regional meetings.

The meetings will include public comment as well as presentations by policymakers and experts in standards and assessments. At each meeting, those who served as negotiators will talk about that process and the use of standards and assessments in various communities. A list of negotiators is available at The meetings will include discussions about standards, their quality and connecting them to instruction, and assessments, covering various types, alignment with standards, and inclusion of all children.

Locations for the meetings (all run 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) are as follows:

May 6 – Cincinnati – The Holiday Inn Cincinnati Airport [859-371-2233]

May 7 – Atlanta – Sheraton Atlanta [404-659-6500]

May 13 – San Diego – The Westgate Hotel [619-238-1818]

May 16 – Little Rock – Doubletree Hotel [501-372-4371]

TBA – New York City area

The public will be able to register to attend and may now view the current draft of the rules at:

(2) “Vermont May Spurn Federal Education Money to Protest Testing”

Source:  The Salt Lake Tribune – 19 April 2002

URL: (now archived)

Rebelling against new school-testing demands, Vermont’s governor says he wants his state to consider rejecting $26 million in federal education money to escape the requirements attached to it.

The testing component is a key part of President Bush’s education law, which Gov. Howard Dean called “a terribly flawed bill.” He also said provisions on school prayer and access to student information overstep the limits of federal oversight.

Dean, a Democrat who is considering a run for the presidency in 2004, said Vermont as developed its own comprehensive testing system, which it would have to rebuild to comply with federal requirements. Under Bush’s plan, schools receiving federal money must test all students in grades three through eight in reading and math.

“It’s going to be incredibly expensive and require us to do our work all over again,” Dean said. “I don’t think the people who wrote this bill had much consideration for the taxpayers, because this is going to cost people all across this nation.”

Education Department spokesman Dan Langan said he knew of no other states that have said they might refuse federal funds to opt out of Bush’s plan, one of the most comprehensive overhauls of elementary and secondary education in the past 30 years.

About 100,000 students attend public school in Vermont, making its enrollment smaller than many big-city school districts, but complaints similar to Dean’s have been made by many critics since Congress approved the bill in December.

(3) “Remarks of Secretary Paige–The Education Writers Association 2002 Annual Seminar” (Press Release)

Source:  U.S. Dept. of Education – 27 April 2002  (Contact: Dan Langan – 202-401-1576)


… Despite nearly $200 billion in federal spending since 1965, we had little to show for it. The President and I believe that the most sacred duty of government is to educate its children. They are our future. Yet national report cards in recent years have shown we are destroying that future–one child at a time.

Here’s just a snapshot:

* 2 out of 3 fourth graders who can’t read at grade level

* 7 out of 10 inner-city and rural fourth graders who can’t read at all

* 2 out of 3 low-income 8th graders who can’t multiply or divide 2-digit numbers

* Nearly a third of college freshmen need remedial classes before they can handle entry level courses

* And America’s 12th graders rank near the bottom in math and science achievement among their counterparts in other industrialized nations

These are more than just statistics. They are a grim picture of the human toll of decades of inaction. And they speak of an education system that is failing too many African-American, Hispanic, and low-income children in our nation’s classrooms. President Bush vowed to close that achievement gap between rich and poor students. And he promised to do it by changing the way America educates our children…

The No Child Left Behind law…recognizes that just throwing money at a problem won’t make it go away. To solve the problem, you must first create a framework for change. And our new education reforms provide that framework by:

ONE–Insisting accountability and measuring for results–because you cannot solve a problem until you identify it.

TWO–The new reforms provide local control and flexibility–because local people know best what works for their schools and their children.

THREE –The new reforms empower parents, because it allows them to take a lead in their children’s education with information and options; and

FINALLY–The new reforms insist on research-based teaching methods–because science tells us what works when it comes to helping children learn. The basics work. Reading programs that include phonics and phonemic awareness work. Regular testing works. Some methods are tried and true, and we must use them.

Now the challenge is for local districts to implement these reforms–and create a rich learning environment where young minds can flourish… And we are providing significant resources…

A poll out just this week from Public Education Network and Education Week magazine shows Americans are more concerned about education than the war against terrorism. Those surveyed showed strong opposition to cuts in education funding even if it means painful cutbacks in other areas. The numbers also show Americans standing shoulder to shoulder with the President on his key education priorities–including 73 percent who support annual testing.

Moms and dads all over America want the best for their children. This poll makes clear that they understand that the only way to know if teachers are teaching and their children are learning is to measure for results.

I understand the Governor of Vermont wants to turn down $25 million in federal funding for his state because he would rather not test…Maybe they’ve got some special fertilizer in their forests up there in Vermont. But it seems to me that’s a lot of money–and a lot of children’s dreams–to throw away because you don’t want to make your public schools accountable to the public…

Last year, President Bush’s budget provided the Department of Education with the highest percentage budget increase of any other domestic agency. His proposed budget this year calls for even higher levels of funding for education. If Congress approves his budget, funding for Education will have double the budget it had in 1994. The big difference is that now the taxpayers will know what they’re getting for their money. Now they will know if their children are learning or if schools are failing their mission.

One of the strongest indicators of how well a child will learn is how well the teacher knows the subject…And the President’s proposed budget (FY 2003) provides $4 billion dollars overall for teacher recruitment, training, and staff development. The President’s budget also proposes expanding funding for programs that recruit new science, math, and special education teachers by forgiving part of their college loans–in exchange for a commitment to teach in high need schools for at least five years.

Our brand new education reforms ask a lot of America’s teachers–and we owe them something in return. We owe them our respect for the professionals they are. We owe them our support. And we owe them the training and tools to succeed.

And they can succeed. I think about Superintendent David Gordon of the Elk Grove Unified School district in California. He got tired of sending under-prepared teachers into classrooms of under-achieving students. So he came up with his own solution–and you know what? Even though he raised the bar for achievement for both students and teachers–and even though a teacher shortage loomed–Elk Grove schools began filling its classrooms with top-quality and well-trained people who were up to the challenge of the rigorous curriculum. And student achievement soared–especially in the highest-need schools.

Superintendent Gordon worked with a university that was willing to “think outside the box.” And together they created a fast-track teacher credential program called the Teacher Education Institute, or TEI. TEI sets high standards for prospective teachers and then trains them to meet those high standards. Teacher candidates are taught by some of the most capable veteran teachers. And they get intensive hands-on classroom experience.

Before, the Elk Grove Unified School District lagged behind the state average in the number of high school graduates who go to college. Now, the number of college-bound students has more than doubled–from 14.8 percent to 27 percent…

We can never get back the years that were wasted on an education system that has failed so many boys and girls. But we can re-direct the future of that system– and thanks to the No Child Left Behind reforms, we are on our way to creating great schools worthy of a great nation…

(4) Education Department, Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy to Collaborate on New Initiative (Press Release)

Source:  U.S. Dept. of Education – 24 April 2002  (Contact: Valerie Reyna – 202-219-1385)


The U.S. Department of Education today announced that it will work with the Council for Excellence in Government’s Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy on a new initiative to explore how the department can most effectively advance evidence-based approaches to federal education policy.

This initiative is designed to help the department achieve the goal of transforming education into an evidence-based field as outlined in the department’s recently released strategic plan. The initiative will also help advance the key principle in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: that federal funds should support programs and strategies that are based on scientifically based research.

“The success of federal education programs depends ultimately on the ability to evaluate which programs are working as intended and which are not. With rigorous evidence on effectiveness we can begin to focus our resources on programs that work,” said Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, assistant secretary for educational research and improvement. “The coalition has brought together representatives from various disciplines and areas of policy to provide an independent analysis of how the department can use its authority strategically and effectively to embed the collection and use of evidence in all of its programs. This is a very important initiative, and I look forward to working with the coalition.”

The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy is sponsored by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Council for Excellence in Government. Its mission is to promote government policymaking based on rigorous evidence of program effectiveness. This coalition initiative will specifically address how the department can most effectively use its statutory and policy authority to (1) promote rigorous evaluation of education programs and strategies, and (2) ensure that program funds support research-proven educational activities. The initiative will draw on successful precedents for evidence-based approaches from medicine and welfare policy, where rigorous evaluation has played a prominent role in policy and funding decisions.

More information on the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy and its activities can be found at

(5) “Mathematics and Homeland Security” by Keith Devlin

Source:  MAA Online – April 2002


During the 1950s and 60s, the United States poured millions of dollars into mathematics research as part of the national effort to fight (or at least to avoid losing) the Cold War. This came on the heels of the crucial, and successful, role mathematicians played during the Second World War.

Today the United States finds itself in a new war, an international War on Terror. Since the opening salvo in this new war was launched on the continental USA, and because the next attack could likewise take place in America, Homeland Security is a high priority in the new struggle. And once again, the US is looking to the mathematical community to assist in the conflict.

As part of the mathematical profession’s initial response, …on April 26-27 the National Academies’ Board on Mathematical Sciences and their Applications (BMSA) is holding a two-day, invitational workshop on The Mathematical Sciences’ Role in Homeland Security, hosted by the National Research Council in Washington, D.C. The aim is to bring together leading experts in the various areas of mathematics that are likely to be required in fighting international terrorist organizations, with a view to setting a national research agenda to aid the country in combating this new kind of warfare.

Mixing with mathematicians from universities, industry, and national laboratories at the workshop will be senior representatives from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), the Directorate of Defense Research and Engineering, and of course the Office of Homeland Security.

The topics to be discussed fall into five general (and overlapping) areas: Data Mining and Pattern Recognition, Detection and Epidemiology of BioTerrorist Attacks, Voice and Image Recognition, Communications and Computer Security, and Data Integration/Fusion.

Many if not all of these areas are unfamiliar to most mathematicians, and they are quite different from the kinds of mathematics that were required to fight wars in the past, hot or cold. Statistical and computational techniques figure heavily in this new kind of strategic mathematics…

The Washington workshop is not going to provide answers to any of the pressing questions that need to be answered. That is not the purpose. As with the war on terrorism itself, we are in the early days of what will certainly be a long haul. The workshop is intended merely to draw up a roadmap of where we want to go and how we might get there.

Much of the work that has to be done will not be “hard, elegant” mathematics of the kind that many mathematicians (myself included) view as a thing of beauty. (Although history tells us that there is a high probability that this effort will lead to such mathematics as an unintended side-effect.) Consequently, there are likely to be few public rewards or accolades for those who choose to engage in such projects. But it is work that can only be done by mathematicians. Such was the case with the part played by mathematicians in previous conflicts…

[Editor’s Note: The agenda for the above meeting can be found at the following website:]