COMET • Vol. 3, No. 18 – 7 May 2002


(1) “The California Master Plan for Education:  A Public Online Dialogue”

Source:  Laurie Maak, Information Renaissance (510-527-6474 or )


Educators, parents, students, and other interested Californians are invited to participate in a moderated online public discussion [on June 3-14, 2002] about California’s draft Master Plan for Kindergarten-Postsecondary Education.  The Plan is intended to chart the course for the state’s education over the next two decades.

The purpose of the discussion is to provide public input to the Joint Legislative Committee that is developing the Plan. A final version of the plan is expected to be completed by August 2002.

Panels of experts and members of the Joint Committee will discuss the draft Plan with interested citizens throughout California. Because this will be a Web-based discussion, you can participate at your convenience. Among the topics that we will discuss:

* Aspects of the plan that address student learning, uses of technology, professional development, workforce preparation, school readiness, financing, facilities, and governance.

* The extent to which the Plan has the potential to achieve its goals of creating a cohesive system and assuring that every student has success at every level of education.

* How well the Plan addresses the goals of access, achievement, accountability and affordability.

Discussion summaries will provide an overview of the main points covered each day. Daily feedback surveys will capture the viewpoints of participants.

The Web site will include searchable copies of the draft Master Plan, Working Group reports, and related documents.

To learn more about the Dialogue and to register to participate, visit the Web site at

(2) “Teachers Battle for Book Choice” by Mark Sappenfield

Source: The Christian Science Monitor – 2 May 2002


…From statewide tests to the adoption of highly scripted curriculums, recent reforms have dramatically reshaped the world of education. But too often…these changes have been implemented with little or no input from teachers. The result is the beginning of a teacher backlash, centered on the question of who should choose the materials and methods to educate America’s children.

Two bills under consideration in Maryland and California seek to expand teachers’ rights in collective bargaining, allowing them to discuss issues such as curriculum and textbook choice, in a forum now used only to negotiate working conditions.

It’s an unprecedented step that, to some, seems little more than a union power grab, fraught with the danger that academic decisions could be held hostage to a contentious process. To others, it is a way of making sure those closest to the children have a voice in the education revolution.

Both sides agree that it’s a sign of growing teacher frustration, and could well be copied in other states. “If successful …, it could easily spread, and probably will,” says Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Its success will depend largely on how it’s perceived by parents and the broader public. Much of the current momentum for reform has come at the expense of teachers and their unions, cast as offering the same old solution–the call for money–while the crisis of failing schools deepened.

So, as Americans embraced new ideas, teachers’ prerogatives shrank. Statewide tests demanded that they teach certain material. Curriculum reforms mandated that they teach from specific books, according to specific methods. Now, these new bargaining bills seek to reclaim some of that ground–not as opponents, but, rather, as partners of reform…

In Maryland, the collective-bargaining bill passed both houses of the legislature, and the governor has said he’ll sign it. In California, the governor came out against the bill, making passage more doubtful.

Yet experts say any state with a Democratic tilt could be open to such a bill.

(3) “Teachers’ Feud With Governor Deepens” by Greg Lucas

Source:  San Francisco Chronicle – 2 May 2002


Gov. Gray Davis’ opposition to a bill to expand collective bargaining issues for teachers came two months after the powerful union behind the bill rejected the governor’s request for $1 million in campaign contributions, officials from the labor group said.

Davis’ top political adviser said there is “never a connection between contributions and policy.” Davis simply does not want issues such as how textbooks and curriculum are selected placed in the contentious process of bargaining pay raises and job conditions, the adviser said.

The teachers union has an ambitious legislative agenda that would drive a stake through the heart of the education policy changes Davis has championed over the past three years.

A California Teachers Association spokesman said Davis asked for the $1 million on Valentine’s Day but won’t say their refusal to give was the reason for the Democratic governor’s opposition…

The union has two major bills before the Legislature. One would broaden bargaining to give teachers more power in deciding what curriculum a district uses and which textbooks districts purchase.

The other would overhaul the state’s testing system and repeal two of Davis’ programs that give more money to schools and teachers whose pupils’ test scores improve.

The union decided to push the bills because they say their members’ main gripe is the tests pupils must take and the weight given the results in determining cash rewards or sanctions.

“Teachers hate the testing, the Academic Performance Index scores, the comparisons, the bonus awards, and it was his idea,” Johnson [(CFA President)] said. “We made a major effort for him in 1998, and we feel betrayed”…

Davis sees it differently… “The governor’s education reforms were not designed to please any one particular constituency group in the field of education,” [said Garry South, Davis’ top political adviser].  “They were designed to help our kids learn.”

After Davis’ $1 million request, union officials said they met with the governor several times over the past two months to search for a compromise on the bills.

Davis told them he could not sign the testing bill because it would undercut his school accountability program. And despite Davis’ opposition, the union is pushing the collective bargaining bill in the Legislature…



(1)  “Yale Study Reinforces Theory That Babies Count”

Contact:  Jacqueline Weaver (203-432-8555; -29 April 2002


Babies who look longer at certain objects are counting, not just looking at new shapes and textures, according to a study by Yale University researchers.

Karen Wynn and Paul Bloom, professors of psychology, said their study was intended to address the debate about whether infants are counting when they look at objects, or whether they are simply responding to color, size and other variables.

“We report here a study showing that 5-month-olds can determine the number of collective entities, moving groups of items, when non-numerical perceptual factors such as contour length, area, density and others are strictly controlled,” Wynn said in the study published this month in the journal Cognition. “This suggests both that infants can represent number per se, and that their grasp of number is not limited to the domain of objects.”

To substantiate her theory that infants are capable of distinguishing between different numbers of objects, and of performing simple arithmetical operations, Wynn’s research group tested the infants in two phases. The 24 infants, ranging in age from four months to five months of age, were tested while seated before a computer screen.

During the first phase, known as the habitation phase, Wynn and Bloom repeatedly presented half the babies with two groups of three objects each and half with four groups of three objects each. The objects were red, filled-in circles about the size of a dime.

In the second phase, all of the infants were presented with two kinds of test trials: trials depicting two collections of four objects each, and trials depicting four collections of two objects each.

Wynn and Bloom predicted that those infants habituated to two collections would look longer at four collections during the second phase, while those habituated to four collections would look longer at two collections during the second phase. An analysis of the infants’ looking times revealed this pattern of preferences.

“What we found was the infants looked significantly longer on trials showing a new number of groups than what they had been exposed to in the habituation phase,” she said. “We concluded from this that babies were sensitive to the number of groups in the display, which means they were definitely responding to the number of groups, not the total amount of area or contour length.”

Wynn said the study, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is intended to answer questions about the foundation of human mathematical knowledge.

“If we have a good understanding of what the initial mental machinery is that gives us our toehold into the realm of number, then we will be in a better position to, for example, develop educational curricula that build on those foundations in a coherent way,” she said. “It will also tell us if we are trying to teach kids material that conflicts with those foundations.”

(2) “The Math Wars: Back to the Old Basics or Forward to New Basics?” (Web broadcast) – Frank Lester

Source:  Indiana University Office of External Relations


Frank Lester, Martha Lea & Bill Armstrong Chair in Teacher Education and Professor of Mathematics Education, will discuss the controversy [on Friday, May 10, 8-9 p.m. EST]. Think math is cut and dry, without any controversy? Think again! Currently there is a war raging about the school math curriculum. On one side there are those who advocate for a curriculum that emphasizes a traditional curriculum: a curriculum that focuses on mastery of what have traditionally been called basic skills. On the other side are those who argue for a math curriculum that stresses conceptual understanding and a new, different set of basics. The war has been raging now for more than 5 years, with California, and more recently New York, major battlefields. This discussion will provide an overview of both sides of the war in an effort to help viewers understand why the controversy has become so intense.

…If you have any questions, please contact us at or toll free at 877-856-8005.

… The Web audience is invited to participate by e-mailing questions that will then be answered during the live broadcast. All programs will be archived and accessible for future viewing. Web Broadcasts require RealPlayer…

(3) TE-MAT (Teacher Education Materials)


The TE-MAT (Teacher Education Materials) Project was funded through a National Science Foundation grant to Horizon Research, Inc. to develop an online resource to support professional development providers as they work to enhance the capacity of pre-service and in-service teachers to provide high-quality K-12 mathematics/science education.

In this database you will find:

*  A Conceptual Framework

This framework highlights key elements critical to the design and implementation of effective professional development programs, with numerous links to relevant reviews of materials and practitioner essays.

Reviews of Materials

This searchable collection of reviews is the heart of the database, intended to help K-12 mathematics and science professional development providers more readily select materials appropriate for their program goals…

(4) “Public School Student, Staff, and Graduate Counts by State:  School Year 2000-01” by Beth Aronstamm Young

Source:  U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics – 26 April 2002


This publication provides data on the number of students enrolled in elementary and secondary public schools in 2000-01 by grade and race/ethnicity. It also includes the number of staff members paid to teach, supervise and provide support services, and the number of students who graduated from high school in 1999-2000.

[The report can be downloaded at  Excerpts appear below.]

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)…fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report full and complete statistics on the condition of education in the United States; conduct and publish reports and specialized analyses of the meaning and significance of such statistics; assist state and local education agencies in improving their statistical systems; and review and report on education activities in foreign countries.

NCES activities are designed to address high priority education data needs; provide consistent, reliable, complete, and accurate indicators of education status and trends; and report timely, useful, and high quality data to the U.S. Department of Education, the Congress, the states, other education policymakers, practitioners, data users, and the general public…

In the 2000–01 school year, there were 47.2 million students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia… California had the most public elementary and secondary school students (6.1 million), followed by Texas (4.1 million) and New York (2.9 million). Thirteen states had over 1 million public elementary and secondary students in the 2000–01 school year. The District of Columbia (68,925), Wyoming (89,940), and Vermont (102,049) had the fewest students. Nine states and the District of Columbia had fewer than 200,000 public elementary and secondary students in the 2000–2001 school year.

The 47.2 million students enrolled in the 2000–01 school year represents a 14.6 percent increase in the number of students being served in the public elementary and secondary school system since the 1990–91 school year… Between the 1990–91 and 2000–01 school years,  Nevada had the largest percentage increase (69.2 percent) in the number of students…

About 3.0 million full-time-equivalent teachers provided instruction in public elementary and secondary schools in the 2000–01 school year… Only seven states had over 100,000 teachers. Two of these, California and Texas, had over one-quarter of a million teachers each…

In the 2000–01 school year, racial/ethnic data were reported for 47.0 of the 47.2 million students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia… White, non-Hispanic students made up the majority of students (61.2 percent4) followed by Black, non-Hispanic and Hispanic students (17.2 and 16.3 percent, respectively)… Asian/Pacific Islander students made up 4.1 percent of the public school population and American Indian/Alaska Native students made up 1.2 percent.

In six states (California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas) and the District of Columbia, 50 percent or more of students were non-white. Black, non-Hispanic students made up more than 50 percent of all students in the District of Columbia and Mississippi. New Mexico reported 50.2 percent of its students as Hispanic, and Hawaii reported 72.3 percent of its student body as Asian/Pacific Islander. On the other hand, five states (Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and West Virginia reported that over 90 percent of their students were White, non-Hispanic…

(5) “Apple’s New eMac Sports 17-inch Screen” by Ian Fried

Source:  The New York Times – 29 April 2002


Aiming to boost its fortunes in the education market, Apple Computer … unveil[ed] the eMac, an all-in-one computer similar to the original iMac, but built around a 17-inch flat-screen monitor.

The all-white desktop, which will be sold only to teachers [including university professors], schools and college students, features a 700MHz G4 processor, a 40GB hard drive and 128MB of memory. A model with a tray-loading CD-ROM drive will sell for $999, while a similar model that can burn CDs and play DVD movies will sell for $1,199, again only in the education market… Apple will start taking orders for the eMac on its Web site [] this week and start shipping in late May or early June… Also, Apple plans to introduce two new PowerBooks that are faster, have an improved screen and better graphics…

Apple has been looking to regain the top spot in the education market, which Dell Computer currently leads. Apple, though, has a historically strong presence in the market as well as a substantial installed base… Apple is tied with Acer as the ninth-largest computer company worldwide. In the United States, the company saw its market share rise to 3.7 percent, from 3.4 percent the year before. In 1997, Apple held 4.1 percent of the U.S. market and 6.7 percent in 1996…