COMET • Vol. 3, No. 30 – 18 October 2002


(1) Superintendent Eastin Reports Most Schools Demonstrated Academic Growth in 2001-02 School Year (Press Release)

Source: California Department of Education – 17 October 2002


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin today released 2001-02 Academic Performance Index (API) growth reports for more than 6,400 California public schools. Results of the third reporting cycle for the API show that more than half of these schools met their academic performance targets.

“The API provides a tool for establishing academic growth targets for schools throughout the state and for monitoring each school’s performance annually,” Eastin said. “This year’s results again underscore the steady progress of our schools in improving academic performance.”

While 53 percent of schools met their growth targets, almost 70 percent improved their APIs from 2001. [See]

The 2001-2002 API growth reports are available on the California Department of Education’s Web site at:

The API is the cornerstone of the statewide accountability system for California public schools, established through the Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA) in 1999. The API is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1000. The 2001 results established the current baseline and academic growth targets for each school’s academic performance. A school’s annual growth target is set at 5 percent of the difference between the school’s base API and the statewide performance target of 800.

Results of the Stanford 9 test and the California Standards Test for English-language arts (ELA), given in spring 2001 and spring 2002 as part of the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program, were used to calculate each school’s 2001-02 API growth results. The same information is included for each numerically significant ethnic and socio-economically disadvantaged subgroup at the school. This is the first year that results from the ELA standards test were used in the growth calculations. Additional California Standards Tests will be incorporated in the next API reporting cycle.

To meet its API growth target, a school must meet its 5 percent schoolwide target and each numerically significant student subgroup at the school must improve at least 80 percent of the schoolwide target. This year 53 percent of schools met both the school wide and subgroup targets, which represents a slight decrease from 2001, when 57 percent of schools met targets.

“In the first year of the API, we experienced tremendous growth,” Eastin said. “The steady and substantial gains of the last two years are more what we should expect over the long haul.”

Eastin pointed to the addition of the ELA standards test as a possible factor in the overall decrease in the percentage of schools meeting targets this year over last year. “As more standards tests are included in the API calculations, greater emphasis is given to their results. These tests are aligned to rigorous state-adopted academic content standards that are considered the toughest in the nation. It is not inconceivable that schools will find it harder to meet targets next year, as we add standards tests in mathematics to the API, as well as the California High School Exit Exam and the history/social science standards tests at the high school level”…

In addition to establishing the API and annual growth targets for schools, the PSAA calls for cash awards based on API growth, as well as assistance for schools not meeting their targets. Funding for the API-based awards was not included in the state budget for 2002-03; however, eligible schools may receive cash awards if funding becomes available.

This year marks the first time that the API will be used to identify schools for potential state-imposed sanctions. A school that entered the Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program (II/USP) in 1999 and failed to demonstrate significant growth during the last two school years now is subject to a range of potential state sanctions as provided by law…

About 2,323 schools did not receive 2001-02 growth APIs for a variety of reasons. More than half of these were alternative schools, special education centers, and very small schools. Also, just as in past years, some school districts still are correcting demographic information through the STAR program. As a result, 2001-02 growth APIs for about 760 schools will not be available until December.

For more information on:

* The API, contact the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Educational Planning & Information Center at (916) 319-0863.

* The awards programs, contact the CDE Awards Unit at (916) 319-0866.

* The II/USP, contact the CDE School Improvement Division at (916) 319-0830.

* The Public Schools Accountability Act, contact the CDE Policy and Evaluation Division at (916) 319-0869.

(2) “Education Awards Plan Suspended” by Duke Helfand

Source: Los Angeles Times – 18 October 2002


The Davis administration has suspended its much-touted education awards program for this academic year, apparently stiffing more than 2,300 high-performing campuses and their teachers out of millions of dollars in bonus money.

Administration officials acknowledged Thursday that the state’s budget crisis has made it impossible to fund the awards — a key element of the state’s accountability program — which have slowly been scaled back as economic woes have worsened…

Gov. Gray Davis originally envisioned the bonuses as an annual incentive for schools and teachers to improve student performance. Previously, schools earned tens of thousands in extra cash, and individual teachers reaped bonuses of up to $25,000. Since the awards programs were launched in 2000, the state has paid out nearly $822 million.

But the budget crisis forced the state to scale back the ambitious–if controversial–awards. Davis had proposed $207 million in school and teacher awards this year but in negotiations with the Legislature agreed to cut the funds to preserve other important education programs, said Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for the governor. No replacement funds have been found…

Davis, who is seeking reelection next month, will provide schools with certificates honoring their progress, McLean said. “The governor is every bit as proud of schools that have made significant gains as he has been each and every year that we’ve had the API as a tool to measure improvement,” she said.

State Education Secretary Kerry Mazzoni said one possibility would be for the Legislature to allocate money in a special session; another would be for Davis to include new funding when he submits next year’s budget in January. But she said prospects for that are uncertain.

The only money currently available in the budget for awards–$144 million–is going to retroactively pay last year’s winning schools, she said. The separate $100-million bonus system just for teachers was dropped last year for lack of money and is not expected to be funded retroactively…

(3) “2002 Election Information”

Source: California Voter Foundation – 1 October 2002 (latest update)


Editor’s Picks:

* Official November 5, 2002 Voter Information Guide from the Secretary of State:

* CAL-ACCESS – Campaign Finance Data online from the Secretary of State:

* SmartVoter from the League of Women Voters:

* Easy Reading Voter Guide:

* Rough & Tumble:

Additional Voter Information Resources:

* Project Vote Smart:

* Rock the Vote:

* Alliance for Better Campaigns:

* League of Women Voters’ Guide to Judicial Elections:

* @LA – Politics:

* San Francisco Chronicle’s Election 2002 coverage:

* Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s Election 2002 coverage:

* Southwest Voter Registration Education Project:

From the California voter Foundation:

* 2002 California Online Voter Guide:

* County Election Office Web Sites:

* Voting Question & Answers:

* Directory of California Voting Systems:

* District Maps:


(1) “Discover Roundtable: Does Math Matter Anymore?”

Source:  Discover Magazine – October 2002


The following dialogue is an excerpt from a roundtable discussion sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Discover magazine, held June 11, 2002, at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.


1 | John Horton Conway is the John von Neumann Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1962 and remained there as a lecturer, reader, and, ultimately, professor until 1985. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1981.

2 | Keith Devlin is executive director of the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University. Devlin has written more than 20 books, including The Math Gene: How Mathematical Thinking Evolved and Why Numbers Are Like Gossip. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Bristol in 1971.

3 | Michael Hawley is director of special projects and founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Go Expeditions program. At MIT’s Media Lab, Hawley held the Alex W. Dreyfoos professorship. He earned undergraduate degrees in music and computer science from Yale and his doctorate from MIT.

4 | Brenda Dietrich is department manager, mathematical sciences, of the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center. She is the author of numerous publications and coauthor of Mathematics of the Internet: E-Auction and Markets. Dietrich joined IBM in 1984 after earning her Ph.D. at Cornell University.

5 | Alan Chodos is the associate executive officer of the American Physical Society, a position he has held since February 2000. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1970 and was a senior research physicist at Yale University for nearly 25 years before assuming the post at the Physical Society.

5 | George Andrews is an Evan Pugh Professor of Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oregon State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a critic of current trends in mathematics education.

6 | Eric Haseltine, the moderator of this roundtable discussion, is associate director of research for the National Security Agency. From 2000 to 2002, he was head of research and development for the Walt Disney Company. He also writes the NeuroQuest column for Discover every month.

7 | Sheila Tobias is an author and a consultant. She received a master’s degree in history from Columbia University and holds eight honorary doctorates. She has written extensively on women and mathematics and is the author of Overcoming Math Anxiety, Succeed With Math, and Breaking the Science Barrier.

ERIC HASELTINE: When we went to school, learning mathematics was, especially in the lower grades, a rather rote, dull affair. Reform has swept through the classroom in the last 10 years as critics argued that students needed to learn how to solve problems rather than just practice the same old skill sets. In fact, now that calculators are ubiquitous, many school systems are thinking about only briefly teaching kids the hardest math they face in early education–long division. This sounds as if it might be liberating, but I wonder if the panel thinks it will work.

BRENDA DIETRICH: I have a son in high school, an eighth grader, and a fourth grader. I have supplemented their math education because I got very discouraged when my older son, who is very, very bright, came home and said, “You know, I really like science, and I really like history, and I like literature, but math is really boring. Why do I have to learn it?” To someone who makes her living doing mathematics, this was devastating. So I took it upon myself to find material beyond what’s taught in school to make sure that my kids see the excitement of mathematics.

MICHAEL HAWLEY: There’s a musical analogue to this. One of my least favorite composers is Igor Stravinsky, but he said something I’ll never forget about teaching music. He saw musical conservatories as barely distinguishable from sausage factories. The problem with these places, he said, is that kids go through them playing scales and learning mechanics. What these places should be doing is teaching students to love music, to embrace the field with passion. That’s missing from most of the math education I’ve seen, at all levels.

GEORGE ANDREWS: I am a severe critic of most of the reform efforts recently undertaken by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Their idea that students can develop higher-order thinking skills in mathematics without learning arithmetic as seriously as it was learned before the age of calculators is ridiculous. Speaking as someone who has had countless college freshmen sit in my office, hopelessly out of their depth because their algebra and arithmetic skills were minimal, I believe the efforts to improve math education have failed. There is a strong trend, supported by companies that sell calculators, to make these tools standard in schools. I know it is difficult to learn mathematics. And teaching arithmetic is a difficult task for many who teach it now. There is, consequently, a strong temptation to toss out significant portions of elementary arithmetic–for example, long division. This would be a catastrophic mistake.

KEITH DEVLIN: I agree with practically everything George said–but let’s be careful. There are two purposes of education. One is teaching people how to do things. The other, which is more important, is preparing people to live a life. Everything we do–our commerce, our entertainment industry, and so forth–is, root and branch, dependent upon mathematics. Do people want to be ignorant of the life they’re leading? I think not. Mathematics is one of the greatest inventions of human creativity–an immensely rich piece of culture. If I went to an architecture class and I was taught just the nuts and bolts of bricklaying, I’d be very disappointed. When we teach math, we shouldn’t concentrate solely on the nuts and bolts–but you can’t just ignore them either. You cannot develop the ability to do mathematics unless you know an awful lot of things. The only way I know to make the brain understand numbers is to do boring, repetitive practice with numbers, just as the only way I know to become a good tennis player is to get out on that court and practice, practice, practice.

JOHN CONWAY: One big difficulty is that most teachers never really study mathematics. I would abolish departments of mathematical education altogether. They don’t teach mathematics–they teach how to teach mathematics, which I think is probably a travesty. You can’t learn mathematics unless you have a teacher who loves mathematics. I go out to a lot of schools to talk to kids. I want them to appreciate the joys of mathematics–and I get them dancing around, enjoying themselves, and seeing the pleasure of mathematics. But I also think it’s important to be able to do elementary arithmetic reasonably well. If that goes away, it will be really terrible because it’s the introduction to mathematics. If you are just taught how to press the buttons on your calculator, you’ll never get an idea in your head.

HASELTINE: So do kids need to do long division over and over for a school year, as was once standard?

SHEILA TOBIAS: From my point of view, which is not that of a user of mathematics–I am an admirer of mathematics and an appreciator of mathematics–I think that studying long division for 38 weeks, as I did when I was in fourth and fifth grade, became a waste of time as soon as the calculator came in, just as learning to do square roots the long way is a waste of time… When I say long division doesn’t matter, I mean that learning the techniques for doing long division is a waste of time. All it really does is force students to practice multiplication and subtraction and learn something about place value. Nobody with a $6.95 calculator does division the way we used to. The 38 weeks I spent learning long division could have been spent introducing simple probability and frequency distribution, not to mention interesting word problems.

ALAN CHODOS: I see value in what Sheila is saying. There’s data to show that learning science is very helpful to people in learning math. I think one of the reasons is they begin to use math in ways that are not just, you know, what is 375 divided by 42. Suppose, for example, you looked at this panel of seven and noticed that three of them had beards and asked yourself, “What is the probability that the three people with beards happened to end up sitting next to each other?” Well, that’s a lot more

interesting, isn’t it? …

(2) “Apple Gives Jaguar Free to K-12 Teachers” by Jim Dalrymple

Source: MacCentral – 17 October 2002


Apple on Thursday announced a program that will give all K-12 teachers in the United States a free copy of Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar.

Dubbed “X for Teachers” (, the program runs through December 31, 2002. Qualifying teachers will receive Mac OS X v10.2 Jaguar, Mac OS 9 for Classic support, and a Getting Started with Mac OS X Training CD–Apple will also pay for shipping, handling and postage.

“Getting Jaguar and a training CD for free makes it easy for teachers to move to Mac OS X, so they can spend more time using technology in the classroom and less time making it all work,” said John Couch, Apple’s vice president of Education. “Apple has delivered innovative products to teachers and schools for over 25 years, and Mac OS X is our best ever.”

Last month MacCentral revealed Apple’s education market share had fallen to less than half of its main competitor, Dell Computer Corp. Dell’s education market share at the end of the last quarter was 34.9 percent, while Apple’s was 15.2 percent, according to market research firm IDC.


(1) Math Reference Tables; English/Spanish Math Dictionary

Source: (formerly Dave’s Math Tables) via “The Math Forum Internet News” (

URLs: (Math reference tables); (English-Spanish math dictionary)

(2) Professional Development Resources Recommended by the Eisenhower Network

Source:  Research for Better Schools


ENC Focus: By Your Own Design


This new resource, developed by the ENC and the National Staff Development Council, is a compilation of over 175 articles covering an extraordinary range of topics relevant to mathematics and science education. The articles can be used to design individual professional development plans. Available on-line, this interactive resource can be used for free by any educator at any time.

* The Teacher Education Materials Project


TE-MAT: A Database for K-12 Mathematics and Science Professional Development Providers is a database which provides reviews of print products for professional developers.

* The Ohio Resource Center: The Site for Best Practices


This on-line resource center contains instructional resources, content resources, and professional resources that have been professionally reviewed. Links take the users directly to free and low-cost activities, lesson ideas, and publications.