COMET • Vol. 3, No. 23 – 30 August 2002


(1) Sixty Mathematics Test Questions from 2001 and 2002 CAHSEE Released

Source: California Department of Education


[The Standards and Assessment Division of the California Department of Education has just released a sample of CAHSEE test items.] The 60 released mathematics [items] are multiple-choice questions from the previous administrations of the CAHSEE in March and May of 2001 and 2002. They are clustered according to the six strands on the CAHSEE mathematics blueprint: Number Sense; Statistics, Data Analysis, and Probability; Algebra and Functions; Measurement and Geometry; Algebra I; and Mathematical Reasoning.

These released questions are a representative sample but do not reflect a full form of the examination. The California content standard and answer key for each item can be found at the end of the cluster of questions for each strand…

Commencing with the 2003-04 school year, every graduating senior must have passed the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) in order to receive a high school diploma from a California public school. During the 2002-03 school year, students in grade10 and those students in grade 11 who have not yet passed one or both parts of the CAHSEE must take the test. In spring 2003, all students in grade 10 will be required to take the CAHSEE for the first time. For those who do not pass, there will be multiple opportunities to retake the exam.

The State Board of Education determines both grade level and specific content to be assessed on the CAHSEE. The test blueprints, or specifications, for the CAHSEE indicate which content standards are to be tested and the number of items per standard. More detailed information [(e.g., CAHSEE updates, the ETS’s CAHSEE website, exam blueprints and administration dates, accommodations, and FAQs)] is available on the CAHSEE website:

(2) “SAT Participation Is Up, But Scores Are Down

Source: Los Angeles Times – 27 August 2002


…California test takers hit an all-time high, with 52 percent of graduating seniors taking the test. Participation among minority students also increased, with 8 percent more black students and nearly 19 percent more Hispanic students taking the test this year compared to 1998.

“This is a clear indication that our efforts to raise expectations for all students are taking hold in California schools,” said Gov. Gray Davis…

The average verbal score of the roughly 180,000 students who took the test in California fell by two points to 496. Girls’ verbal scores dropped by one point to 492, while boys’ scores dropped from 504 to 501.

Scores stayed the same in the math section, with an average of 517, which is a point above the national average. Girls in California scored an average of 500 and the boys scored 538…

Earlier this year, University of California President Richard C. Atkinson proposed dropping the SAT from the UC system admissions. The College Board, however, decided to revise the test, adding a writing section and changing both math and verbal sections. The new test is set to be introduced in March 2005.

Hanan Eisenman, a spokesman for the University of California Office of the President, said UC officials are looking forward to the addition of a writing section, which they think is one of the best predictors for how students will do in college…

Schools that received the most individual SAT reports were UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley.

(3) 2002 STAR Results:  Eastin Announces Continued Gains in California Student Achievement (Press Release – 29 August 2002)

Source: Communications Office, California Department of Education


Test results for the 2002 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program show gains for the fourth straight year in student achievement in English-language arts and mathematics.

“Scores continue to climb across the board. California’s schools are making great efforts to meet the challenges of improving student achievement, and the results are gratifying,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. “In addition, this year’s STAR results include standards-based scores for mathematics, science, and history-social science. That means our system of standards-based tests is virtually complete.”

Scores on the California Standards Tests (CSTs) for English-language arts also show that student performance is improving compared to 2001. Scores in the middle and high school grades grew as much as 5 percent.

“Significantly, the percent of students performing at the lowest levels decreased in grades 2 through 5. This shows that our low-achieving students are moving up in the elementary grades where the biggest reform efforts have taken place,” Eastin said.

Scores on the Stanford Achievement Test, Ninth Edition, Form T (SAT-9) for 2002 generally improved compared to 2001. Reading scores improved in grades 2 through 6, with more than 54 percent of all students scoring above the 50th percentile in grade 2. Student reading scores in the middle and upper grades were essentially flat. In mathematics, SAT-9 scores were higher in every grade, with 3 and 4 point increases common in elementary school. Three elementary grades showed more than 60 percent of students scoring above the 50th percentile. Increases in middle and high schools were more modest, but consistent.

Results of the 2002 STAR program, including data by school, district, county, and state, are available through the California Department of Education Web site:

In spring 2002, 4.7 million California public school students in grades 2 through 11 took part in the fifth year of testing for the state’s STAR program. Students in grades 2 through 8 took the reading, mathematics, language arts, and spelling sections of the SAT-9. In grades 9, 10, and 11, students did not take spelling but took tests in science and history-social science.

The percentage of enrolled students participating in the CSTs increased significantly. Students taking the standards tests for secondary math courses increased 14 percent for algebra I, 12 percent for geometry, and 14 percent for algebra II. Increased participation rates in higher-level science courses also were seen.

“I am particularly pleased that more students are taking rigorous college preparation courses in these two important subject areas,” Eastin said. “This is one more indicator that standards-based reform is taking hold.”

The 2002 STAR results include first-year data for standards-based tests in mathematics in grades 2 through 11, and science and history-social science in grades 9 through 11. Results of these tests were reported according to performance levels achieved. The five performance levels are advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic. The state has established the proficient level as the goal for all students.

The baseline data show that about 30 percent of students scored at the proficient level or higher. While this may seem, at first glance, somewhat disappointing, it reflects the state’s rigorous standards and high expectations for student performance, and sets the baseline for comparing student performance on state standards in future years.

English Learners, whose first language is Spanish and who were enrolled in a California public school less than 12 months when testing began, also were required to take the Spanish Assessment of Basic Education, Second Edition (SABE/2), published by CTB/McGraw-Hill. This was in addition to the CSTs and the SAT-9.

The Governor and the Legislature reauthorized the STAR program to continue through 2005. The program will continue to feature three components: the CSTs, based on state-adopted academic standards; the norm-referenced test (NRT), to provide national comparisons; and the SABE/2 for newly enrolled students whose first language is Spanish. In 2003, the California Achievement Test, Sixth Edition Survey (CAT6 Survey), published by CTB/McGraw-Hill, will replace the SAT-9 as the NRT.

The standards-based scores will all be included in the 2002-03 Academic Performance Index (API), California’s index of school achievement, which is scheduled for release in October. California’s CSTs in mathematics and history-social science will become a part of the calculation for the base API for 2002, and part of the API growth calculation in 2003. The performance-level results for the CSTs in English-language arts now will serve as part of the calculation for overall growth in school achievement in 2002. The inclusion of standards-based scores in the API points to an important shift in the state’s accountability system; the use of the CSTs moves school accountability away from reliance on norm-referenced test results…

For additional information, please contact the California Department of Education’s Standards and Assessment Division at (916) 657-3011.

(4) “Bill Seeks to Lighten Kids’ Load” by Jessica Garrison, Joe Mathews, and David Pierson

Source:  Los Angeles Times – 27 August 2002


To avoid creating a generation of hunchbacks, California legislators are weighing a bill that is intended to make textbooks lighter and reduce schoolchildren’s backpack burden.

Whether algebra books should be reduced from five pounds to three and American history to a slimmer two, the bill’s backers don’t say. They would leave those details to the State Board of Education…

“It doesn’t make a ton of sense,” says Greg Vallone, principal of Monroe High School in North Hills. “I’ve been under the impression that textbooks weigh what they weigh because someone who understands curriculum has determined how much must be in them. How would you change that?”

Easily, countered [Assemblyman Rod Pacheco (R-Riverside), one of the bill’s sponsors]. “One simple way is to take the textbook you have now and split it in two,” he said, with one for the first semester and the other for the second part of the year. The weight regulations, he said, would not “affect content or substance at all.” And paperback books would help too, he said.

Last year, Pacheco sponsored a bill that would have required school districts to study the link between excessive backpack weight and injuries. That bill was vetoed by Gov. Gray Davis, who said there was not enough documentation to support the idea and that the issue could be addressed locally.

This year, Pacheco, along with state Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) and Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Los Feliz), is trying again. Armed with statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission that say thousands of children each year land in emergency rooms because of injuries from heavy backpacks, they want the State Board of Education to set maximum weight standards for textbooks by January 2004.

The bill, backed by the California Medical Assn., is currently on the Senate floor and, if it passes there, will go back to the Assembly for concurrence. The governor has not yet taken a position, said spokesman Russ Lopez.

A similar bill is being debated in the New Jersey Legislature. Its sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Peter Barnes, said he wants to alert parents to the terrible dangers of heavy backpacks…


(1) “SAT Math Scores Hit 30-Year High”



SAT math scores among college-bound students this year hit their highest level in more than three decades, according to a College Board report, which noted that the math gender gap is closing as females’ scores rise closer to those of males.

The average SAT math score rose two points from last year to 516, continuing a 10-year trend upward. That’s the highest level in 32 years and it represents a 15 point gain over the last 10 years, College Board officials said.

Girls’ average math scores hit a 35-year high of 500. Still, the gap has not been closed–the average score for male test-takers is 534. The board attributed the two-point hike to female college-bound seniors taking more rigorous math and science classes. The percentage of girls taking precalculus, for example, has risen from 31 to 44 over the last decade…

Other trends among SAT takers include:

* 46 percent of this year’s high school graduates took the SAT, the highest percentage ever.

* 35 percent of minority students took the SAT, an all-time high.

* 37 percent of SAT takers will be first-generation college students.

* Suburban students continue to have scores about 30 points higher than students from rural areas and large cities.

The College Board, which administers the SAT, attributed the math increase to greater participation among students in advanced math classes.

“This year’s scores confirm that the efforts that have been made to improve math education in the United States are paying off,” College Board President Gaston Caperton said in a prepared statement.

(2)  “SAT Scores Hold Steady; Test’s Owner Announces Steps to Encourage Better Writing Skills” by Jeffrey R. Young

Source:  Chronicle of Higher Education – 28 August 2002

URL: (subscription required)

…This year’s SAT-takers were “the most diverse group we’ve ever had,” Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, said at a news conference here… The group was also the largest ever, with 1,327,831 seniors taking the test…

Among racial and ethnic groups, gaps among SAT test-takers remained this year. The average math scores, by group, were: white, 533 (up 2 from last year); African-American, 427 (up 1); American Indian, 483 (up 4); Asian-American 569 (up 3); Hispanic and Latino, 464 (down 1); Mexican-American, 457 (down 1); and Puerto Rican, 451 (unchanged)…

Suburban students scored far better than those living in other areas, with average scores of 523 for verbal and 536 for math…

(3) “Better at Sums Than at Summarizing: The SAT Gap” by Richard Rothstein

Source:  New York Times – 28 August 2002


Over the last decade, average SAT scores have risen, but more on the mathematics test than on the verbal. The College Board announced yesterday that math scores grew, from 501 in 1992 to 516 this year, and verbal scores rose, from 500 to 504.

These very small changes are not a fluke. They are mirrored elsewhere. On the other college entrance exam, the ACT, math scores grew at about the same rate as on the SAT, while language and reading scores were nearly unchanged from 1992.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, given to a sample of 12th graders, scores also improved in the 1990’s in math but not in reading. The pattern also holds on standardized tests like the Iowa Test of Educational Development, which many high schools use to measure achievement.

Nobody really knows why we seem to make more progress in math than reading. But one likely cause is that students learn math mostly in school, while literacy also comes from habits at home. Even if reading instruction improves, scores would suffer if students did less out-of-school reading or had a less literate home environment…

It is also quite likely that high school instruction has improved more in math than in English. The National Science Foundation has spent more than $1 billion since 1990 to train math and science teachers. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has pressed for more mathematical reasoning and less memorizing of facts and formulas. The SAT, and to a lesser extent the ACT, reflect this new emphasis, as does the main National Assessment.

Although many high school students take more and better math courses today, fewer do so in English. The emphasis in reading has been on teaching phonics in elementary school, not on improving how high school students interpret literature, a skill that means a lot on tests like the SAT…

(4) “U. S. Department of Education Awards Contract For ‘What Works Clearinghouse'” (Press Release – 7 August 2002)

Source: U.S. Department of Education Office of Public Affairs


The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a five-year, $18.5 million contract to a special joint venture to develop a national What Works Clearinghouse, which will summarize evidence on the effectiveness of different programs, products, and strategies intended to enhance academic achievement and other important educational outcomes.

The clearinghouse will help provide education decision-makers with the information they need to make choices guided by the best available scientific research. The use of research-proven strategies based on sound scientific evidence is one of the key principles of No Child Left Behind. “By providing educators with ready access to the best available scientific research evidence, the clearinghouse will be an important resource for enhancing the quality of local decision-making and improving program effectiveness,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. “And it will help transform education into an evidence-based field.”

The What Works Clearinghouse will provide the following easily accessible and searchable online databases:

* An educational interventions registry that identifies potentially replicable programs, products, and practices that are claimed to enhance important student outcomes, and synthesizes the scientific evidence related to their effectiveness.

* An evaluation studies registry, which is linked electronically to the educational interventions registry, and contains information about the studies constituting the evidence of the effectiveness of the program, products, and practices reported.

* An approaches and policies registry that contains evidence-based research reviews of broader educational approaches and policies.

* A test instruments registry that contains scientifically rigorous reviews of test instruments used for assessing educational effectiveness.

* An evaluator registry that identifies evaluators and evaluation entities that have indicated their willingness and ability to conduct quality evaluations of education interventions.

The contract was awarded to Campbell Collaboration of Philadelphia and the American Institutes for Research of Washington, D.C., along with their subcontractors, Aspen Systems of Rockville Md., Caliber Associates of Fairfax, Va., and the Education Quality Institute of Washington, D.C. The Campbell Collaboration-American Institutes for Research Joint Venture was established specifically to develop and maintain the clearinghouse, and brings together nationally recognized leaders in the field of rigorous reviews of scientific evidence.

Robert Boruch, principal investigator for the clearinghouse, chairs the Steering Group of the Campbell Collaboration, an international consortium of social science researchers who conduct systematic reviews of randomized and some non-randomized trials on the effectiveness of interventions in education and other social sectors. He is also University Trustee Chair Professor of the Graduate School of Education, the Statistics Department at the Wharton School, and the Fels Center for Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

Boruch’s work on the design of randomized field trials for planning and evaluating social and educational programs has received recognition from the American Educational Research Association (Research Review Award), the Policy Studies Organization (Donald Campbell Award), and the American Evaluation Association (Gunnar and Alva Myrdal Award).

Rebecca Herman, project director for the clearinghouse, is a principal research Analyst at the American Institutes for Research, and lead author of An Educator’s Guide to Schoolwide Reform, the premier review of scientifically based evidence on the effectiveness of prominent school reform models. She has also served as Principal Investigator for the National Longitudinal Evaluation of Comprehensive School Reform, the largest federal government investment in studying whole-school reform efforts and their impact on student achievement.



(1) The Math Forum’s Problems of the Week for Grades 3-12


(2) “CNN Student News” Teacher Resources (News-Related Lesson Plans and More)