COMET • Vol. 3, No. 09 – 5 March 2002


(1) “Schools Chief Race Hinges on Undecided Voters”  by Elizabeth Bell

Source:  San Francisco Chronicle – 28 February 2002


Many political observers originally gave state Sen. Jack O’Connell favorable odds for winning the state schools chief job outright in Tuesday’s primary election by capturing more than 50 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan race.

Yet with the election just five days away, it isn’t so easy to predict who will be California’s next superintendent of public instruction. Field Poll results released today showed 61 percent of voters are undecided.

While O’Connell, a 20-year Democratic legislator, is well known in his San Luis Obispo district and in Sacramento, only 18 percent of those polled statewide support him.

Lesser-known candidate Katherine Smith, a Republican school board member from Southern California, had 12 percent, edging out candidate Lynne Leach, who had 9 percent. Leach, a Republican Assemblywoman from Walnut Creek, is the state Republican Party’s choice for the job.

The current superintendent, Delaine Eastin, cannot run again because of term limits.

The top candidates are summoning their energy for a last-ditch blitz across the state to meet with parents, teachers and their party faithful to get out the vote…

O’Connell is spending $2.5 million on television ads, while Leach has pinned her hopes and $120,000 on slate mailers. Smith–who has not raised campaign funds–is relying on her own two feet to get the word out.  “This is a crazy primary,” said Leach.  “…I still meet people this week who don’t know we’re having a primary”…

O’Connell is a former schoolteacher who has written bills for several key school reforms, including class size reduction for kindergarten through third grade, the high school exit exam, and raising beginning teacher salaries. He had a hand in passing Proposition 39, which made it easier to pass local school bonds.

Leach has campaigned for equalizing funding to school districts for several years and wants to return more control to local school districts and partner low-performing schools with high-performing schools.

Smith has waged successful campaigns in her own district to require school uniforms and a daily moment of silence. She has proposed a “stand in respect” policy, encouraging teens to rise when an adult comes into the room.

A fourth candidate, Joe Taylor of Los Angeles, is listed as a political consultant. He has barely been visible in the campaign, ignoring most media inquiries.

The job of state superintendent is supposed to be nonpartisan, but Leach is hoping the higher-profile Republican gubernatorial primary will draw Republicans to the polls who will vote for her over O’Connell.

O’Connell’s team is still hopeful he can win more than 50 percent of the vote and avoid a runoff. When the campaign began, he quickly raked in endorsements and close to $3 million in campaign contributions. He is running his TV ad throughout the state, which focuses on his desire to further decrease class sizes.

(2) “2002 Election Information”

Source: California Voter Foundation – 26 February 2002 (latest update)


Editor’s Picks:

* Official March 2002 Voter Information Guide from the Secretary of State:

* SmartVoter from the League of Women Voters:

* Easy Reading Voter Guide:

* Rough & Tumble:

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

Additional Voter Information Resources:

* Project Vote Smart:

* Rock the Vote:

* Alliance for Better Campaigns:

* League of Women Voters’ Guide to Judicial Elections:

* @LA – Politics:

From California Voter Foundation:

* 2002 California Online Voter Guide:

* County Election Office Web Sites:

* Voting Question & Answers:

* “The Election Song”:

* District Maps:

(3) Legislative Analyst’s Office Analysis of the Governor’s 2002-2003 Budget


The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) “Analysis of the 2002-03 Budget Bill” for Teacher Support and Development (BTSA, NBPTS, Regional Consortia, CalStateTEACH, California Subject Matter Projects, etc.) is available at the above website.

The correspondence below is addressed primarily to the California Subject Matter Project (CSMP) community (which includes the California Mathematics Project) and is shared here with permission of the author.

(4) LAO Recommendations–Teacher Professional Development

Source:  Bob Polkinghorn  (University of California Office of the President (UCOP), Teacher Education and Professional Development Unit) – 1 March 2002

This is the first in a series of briefings I intend to offer over the next few months…

As you know, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released their comments and recommendations regarding the Governor’s Budget Proposal for fiscal year 2002-03.   The LA0 report recommended, as it has in the past, that all categorically-funded programs related to teacher recruitment, induction, and professional development, including the CPDIs [] and the CSMPs [/], be collapsed into a $722 million block grant and sent to K-12 districts on a proportional basis.

Districts, in turn, would have discretion as to how such funds would be expended, although expenditures from block grant funds would presumably need to be related to teacher support and development. Higher education segments (along with most anyone else) could, if they chose, be “providers” of services to districts and enter into fee-for-service agreements.

The UC intends to oppose the LAO recommendations on several grounds, not the least of which is our belief that the state’s higher education systems are not now nor should they become (be reduced to) “outside, fee-for-service providers.” Rather, UC, CSU, and the independents are and intend to remain partners with K-12 educators and agencies in a shared quest for a first rate education system, K-16. The fundamental difference between providers of service and partners is not trivial, nor are the implications. Much of the work in our community speaks to this point.  In addition, UC has concerns about quality control, accountability, and the dissolution of a professional development system that is an integral part of the state’s strategy for education improvement and high achievement for all students. Your thoughts on these points, and others, are welcome.

The formal response from UC will be coordinated though our budget office in Oakland our state government relations office in Sacramento.  I will brief you on the status of this response in my next note.  Formal hearings in the state Senate and Assembly will be April 10, although I do not expect anything definitive to come out of these sessions.

In view of all this, I believe it is evermore important that our CSMP and CPDI sites continue to conduct their programs and provide the high quality professional development that teachers and schools have come to expect. It is especially important that planned district-level partnerships be solidified (to the extent possible) and that our commitment to meet district, school and teacher needs be ever more on the forefront of planning discussions. Please ask site leaders to keep you apprised regarding the progress of these district partnership discussions and note, where possible, key district and school leaders who might be willing to advocate our behalf as the legislative session unfolds. At this point, we do not want or need to ask anyone to write letters, make phone calls, etc. with either local or state representatives.

I will remain in close touch with all of you in the days ahead.  We need to be mindful that we are very early in the process and it remains to be known just how viable the LAO recommendations will be once deliberations get serious. In the past, the Governor’s budget proposal has generally prevailed.  However, today’s fiscal and political climates create a good deal of uncertainty and we must treat the LAO recommendations very seriously.

The LAO report is available online at the following Internet address:



(1) “Celebrate Pi Day–March 14, 2002”

Source: NCTM News Bulletin – January/February 2002 (page 9)

The mathematical constant pi is the ratio of any circle’s circumference divided by the length of its diameter. It can’t be expressed exactly as a ratio of two whole numbers. Starting with 3.14159265358979323846…, the decimal digits of pi continue indefinitely without ever repeating a fixed sequence of digits.

A day has been set aside to celebrate this fascinating number. The commemoration begins precisely at 1:59 a.m. on 14 March (3/14/1:59…–which, coincidentally, is also Albert Einstein’s birthday. [Note: See for more information about Einstein.]

For Ideas and Activities:

Visit the following Web sites for ideas before you kick off a Pi Day celebration at your school:

(a) Pi Day on the “Math with Mr. Herte” Web site:

(b) Pi Pages on the Internet:

(c) Pi Day from the Exploratorium:

(d) Pi Day sites from the Math Forum:

(2) “Mathcounts Equals Problem-Solving Fun” by Kevin Brown

Source:  The Detroit News – 4 March 2002


At these math sessions, kids don’t worry. “And I think because no grades are involved, students know nothing bad is going to happen,” said Plymouth East Middle School teacher Jennifer Melkvik.

She is among 17,000 volunteer coaches nationwide heading weekly “Mathcounts” sessions outside of traditional math class. The goal is to keep middle school kids interested in math at an age when many stumble over complicated concepts…

Melkvik touts the value of team problem-solving. It’s part of Mathcounts, but not a staple of traditional math instruction. “In real-life situations, you’re rarely told to sit at a desk and figure all this out by yourself,” Melkvik said. “In work situations, you get together with other people”…

Parent Barbara Lucas looked on as son Bob, an eighth-grader at Dearborn Divine Child, studied a problem projected on a screen. Stretched above was a shiny white banner with “Mathcounts” in red and black block letters.  “This really increased his grade in math and opened us to a talent we didn’t know he had,” Lucas said. “He used to get B’s, now he’s moved up to A’s. I think it’s the personal interest of his coach. And it’s cool for them to be on a team, to support their school by being in competitions like this.”

Mathcounts backers claim participation from more than 500,000 students, 5,909 schools and 17,000 volunteers…

Ford is one of several program sponsors that encourages employee participation. “I love math–that’s why I’m here,” said Mike Makowski, a Ford engineer and Melvindale Strong Junior High coach…

Makowski tells his students that even the toughest problems can be worked out: “It’s just a mix of logical thinking and common sense.”

When a student solves a problem, Mike Makowski has them go to the chalkboard and show the class.  “You let the kids explain it. They understand it better because they talk in their own language. You actually find out how kids think.”

[Note: For more information about MATHCOUNTS, go to]

(3) “Resources for Parents, Teachers and Gifted, Talented, Creative and Promising Mathematics Students”

Source:  Linda Sheffield – (859-572-5431)


In conjunction with mathematics educators from around the world and in response to numerous requests from teachers and parents, I have been working on the development of a website to help mathematics educators, parents, teachers of mathematically promising, talented, gifted and creative students as well as the students themselves. It is located at . This process is just beginning, and the site has no bells or whistles.

I would appreciate any suggestions for additions, deletions or changes. I also would like to add information to the resource links for students and teachers and would appreciate any suggestions.

You may email me at or call (859) 572-5431 (Northern Kentucky University).

(4) “In Draft Regulations, Education Department Hints that States May Use Mix of Tests by Greg Toppo

SourceSan Francisco Chronicle – 27 February 2002


The Bush administration is signaling that it may give states a break on the reading and math tests they are supposed to begin giving to all students in grades three through eight.

Draft regulations released Wednesday by the Education Department suggest that the administration is open to allowing different kinds of tests, as long as they meet high standards.

State education officials and legislators have said that developing, giving and grading new state tests could cost billions of dollars at a time when they are struggling to balance state budgets.

The National Governors Association last week asked the Education Department to let states opt out of using uniform, statewide math and reading tests each year. The governors asked that states be given the chance to show that a combination of state and local tests show student progress.

They also asked to be allowed to use both their own customized tests and off-the-shelf, standardized tests not tied to state curricula.

Draft regulations posted Wednesday on the Education Department’s Web site say states may use a combination of state and local tests, as well as customized and off-the-shelf tests, if states also add questions to address their own content standards.

States that use a combination of state and local tests would have to demonstrate that the system “has a rational and coherent design,” the guidelines say…

Education Department spokesman Dan Langan said the draft guidelines will serve as a starting point for negotiations slated to take place over the next several weeks.

“The goal was to provide some flexibility,” he said. “There will be, obviously, much more discussion on this particular provision during the rule-making sessions.”

A group of teachers, federal, state and local administrators, parents, students and business people will meet over the next few weeks to develop federal regulations on testing and other matters. [See article below.]

Over the past decade, nearly every state has begun testing students in reading and math in at least a few grades. Several states would need to add merely a few tests to fulfill Bush’s requirements, but others would have to redo their entire systems or start from scratch.

The tests must be in place by the 2005-06 school year.

Annual state testing for all students in grades three through eight is a basic principle of Bush’s education plan, which ties test scores to schools’ federal funding for the first time. Passed by Congress, the plan was signed by Bush on Jan. 8.

(5) “Education Department Names Negotiators for Title I Rules Development” (Press Release, 2/27/02)

Source (contact): Susan Wilhem -(202) 260-0826


U.S. Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Susan B. Neuman today announced the 21 members of the negotiating committee that will help develop new rules related to standards and assessments under Title I (Part A) of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Comprised of education practitioners including state and local education administrators, teachers, school board members and also parents, the committee will come to Washington, D.C. in mid-March to negotiate the substance of draft regulations.

Title I is designed to help disadvantaged children meet high academic standards. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, signed into law on January 8, 2002, amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 and provides support for federal education programs including Title I programs operated by school districts.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) asked for advice and recommendations on Title I regulatory issues–from state and local education administrators, parents, teachers and paraprofessionals, school board members and others, in a Jan. 18 Federal Register notice. The law requires that ED select participants from among those who submitted comments, a total of more than 100 individuals and organizations.

The law requires that ED use a negotiated rulemaking process to develop draft rules on standards and assessments, to commence after the comment period closed (Feb. 19) and before proposed regulations are issued for public comment in the Federal Register.

To assemble a diverse negotiating group representing a wide range of interests, all geographic regions, and the views of parents and students as well as educators and education officials, ED asked more than 70 organizations to submit nominations along with their comments on regulatory issues. ED also received nominations from individuals and organizations that participated in five focus groups held to solicit advice. A list of the negotiators and the interests they are to represent follows the press release.

The group will meet five times, on March 11-13 and March 19-20, 2002, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at a location in Washington, D.C., to be announced. The meetings are open to individuals who wish to observe the process. The negotiating committee will review and revise draft regulations already developed by the Department. The final proposed rules they prepare will be available for public comment when published in the Federal Register by May 1, 2002…

Department officials developed this process and scheduled negotiated rulemaking promptly, and officials hope to issue the regulations as quickly as possible. The Federal Register notice and the draft regulation can be viewed now at: . The Federal Register notice will also be available later this week at: .

Negotiators for Negotiated Rulemaking Sessions NCLB, Standards and Assessments under Title I, Part A

State administrators and state boards of education:

* Judy Catchpole, superintendent of public instruction, Wyoming Department of Education (DOE)

* Jim Horne, secretary of education, Florida DOE

* Dr. Bob Harmon, assistant state superintendent for special programs, Washington Department of Public Instruction

* Rodney Watson, assistant superintendent, Office of Student and School Standards, Louisiana DOE

* Lou Fabrizio, director, Division of Accountability Services, North Carolina DOE

* Rae Belisle, chief counsel, California State Board of Education

Local administrators and local school boards:

* Charlotte Harris, senior director of program development, Boston Public Schools

* J. Alvin Wilbanks, superintendent, Gwinnett County (GA) Public Schools

* Beverly Carroll, Alachua County, Fla. School Board

* Nelson Smith, charter schools, Washington, D.C.

Principals and teachers:

* Avis Cotton, principal, Dardanelle Middle School, Dardanelle, Ark

* Enedelia Schofield, principal, W.L. Henry Elementary School, Hillsboro, Ore

* Patricia Fischer, Title I teacher, Hooker Public Schools, Okla

Representing students (including at-risk students, migrant students, limited English proficient students, students with disabilities, and private school students):

* Minnie Pearce, parent, Detroit.

* Arturo Abarca, teacher, Helitrope Elementary School, Los Angeles Unified School District

* Maria Seidner, director, bilingual education, Texas Education Agency

* Dr. Alexa Pochowski, associate commissioner, Kansas DOE

* Myrna Toney, director of migrant education, Wis. DOE

* John R. Clark, assistant superintendent, DOE, Diocese of Allentown, Penn

* Tasha Tillman, parent, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Business interests:

* John Stevens, director, Texas Business and Education Coalition

U.S. Department of Education:

* Susan B. Neuman, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education

* Joseph F. Johnson, director, Compensatory Education Programs