COMET • Vol. 4, No. 10 – 21 March 2003


CTA-Sponsored Bill Aims to Improve and Streamline State’s Jumbled Testing System

Source:  California Teachers Association – 18 March 2003


A new bill sponsored by the California Teachers Association [would] streamline and improve the state’s jumbled testing system, aligning it with new federal testing guidelines required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and freeing up more time for student learning.

“This bill is the first step to bringing some common sense to California testing and assessment system,” said Wayne Johnson, president of the 330,000-member California Teachers Association. “It would also save the state millions of dollars during this budget crisis, reducing the need to cut other vital education reform programs like class size reduction.”

The Assembly Education Committee [considered] AB 356, authored by Assembly member Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and co-authored by Gene Mullin (D-San Mateo), on Wednesday…

The bill exempts second graders from the annual STAR testing program, aligning the state program with federal law.  It deletes passage of the California High School Exit Exam as a requirement for graduation, but retains the exam as a primary testing instrument and allows local school districts to decide how they want to use it. And finally, AB 356 eliminates the flawed rewards and sanctions provisions in the Public School Accountability Act. According to the California Department of Education, exempting second-grade students from the state-testing program would save about $3.2 million.

“Teachers believe in testing students, but the testing mania that has taken over California is eliminating valuable classroom instruction time–particularly for our youngest kids,” said Johnson. California is one of only two states that mandate standardized testing for second graders.


Note: The bill’s text, history, and status can be found at the following Web site:


(1) Fellowships for Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Study in Mathematics Education

Source: SIG/Research in Mathematics Education Winter 2003 Newsletter (Jeff Shih, Electronic Communications Secretary) – 10 March 2003


The National Science Foundation has funded five Centers for Learning and Teaching to help rebuild the nationÍs infrastructure in mathematics education. These Centers have funds to provide long-term support for individuals who wish to pursue doctoral and post-doctoral studies in mathematics education. Competition for National Science Foundation fellowships is open to United States citizens or permanent residents at the time of application. We are particularly interested in people who want to make a difference in mathematics education and whose career goals include leadership in research, development, and practice that improves school mathematics.

Fellows will study with nationally known faculty addressing critical issues in:

*  research on teaching and learning of mathematics

*  development of mathematics curriculum and assessment materials

*  preparation and professional development of mathematics teachers

*  educational policy and leadership for school mathematics

Contact Information:

National Science Foundation Centers for Learning and Teaching:

Funded Centers and Contacts:


William S. Bush: University of Louisville  –  502.852.0590  –

Vena Long: University of Tennessee  –  865.974.6973  –


Elisabeth Swanson: Montana State Univ.  –  406-994-6768  –

Libby Krussel: University of Montana  –  406.243.4818  –

Ron Narode: Portland State University  –  503.725.4798  –

Ed Geary: Colorado State University  –  970.491.1315  –

John Moore: University of Northern Colorado  –  970.351.2973  –


Pat Wilson: University of Georgia  –  706.542.4194  –

Deborah Ball: University of Michigan  –  734.647.3713  –


Thomas Carpenter: UW-Madison  –

Megan Loef Franke: UCLA  –

Alan Schoenfeld: University of California, Berkeley  –


James Fey: University of Maryland  –  301.405.3151  –

Patricia Campbell: University of Maryland  –  301.405.3129  –

Kathleen Heid: The Pennsylvania State University  –  814.865.2430  –

James Hiebert: University of Delaware  –  302.831.1653  –

(2) “Centre Of Excellence to Boost Maths Teaching” by Sarah Cassidy

Source:  The Independent (UK) – 14 March 2003


Maths teachers [in England] are to be sent back to school as part of a drive to make their lessons more interesting and to entice more subject specialists into the profession.

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, announced the creation yesterday of a National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, to “undo the myth that it is acceptable to be poor at maths.”

Mr Clarke was speaking at an international mathematics seminar organised by the Advisory Committee for Mathematics Education (ACME), an independent group set up to improve maths lessons.

Sir Christopher Llewellyn Smith, chairman of ACME, said almost one in four maths lessons was not led by a subject specialist, and filling all vacant posts would require 40 per cent of all new graduates to choose teaching as a career.

Mr Clarke said he planned to “inspire and support” maths teachers. “The sad fact is that maths still frightens too many people, including teachers,” he told the seminar. “We have to ensure that all teachers, not just maths specialists, are confident when handling mathematics.”

The new centre will aim to improve maths teaching from pre-school number work to mathematics degrees as well as courses for adults.

It will provide teachers with professional training and support projects for the mathematically gifted.

Sir Christopher welcomed the centre’s creation, which ACME had proposed in December. “We desperately need to reverse the downward spiral in maths education,” he said. “The under-supply of numerate graduates means it is difficult to recruit new teachers of maths with good quality mathematical backgrounds. A closed loop has been created, with not enough of today’s pupils and students turning into tomorrow’s maths teachers.”


Related Web sites:

ACME response to creation of National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching (13 March 2003 Media Release)


Welcome to the ACME [Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education] Web Pages


(3) “To School Officials, Education Secretary Urges Change” by George Archibald

Source: The Washington Times – 15 March 2003


Education Secretary Rod Paige told state education board members yesterday that in return for flexibility to use federal school aid as states and local school districts want, there will be no flexibility in national requirements for student improvement in reading and mathematics achievement.

“My greatest nightmare would be, when the next person comes in and sits down in the chair that I occupy now, they look back and say the reading improvement for students in the United States has not occurred and it is at the same place it was in 1984,” Mr. Paige told a legislative conference of the National Association of State Boards of Education at the Wyndham Hotel in Washington.

“I am absolutely obsessed with the idea that it is going to be different,” he said of two decades of stagnant student performance in basic academic achievement in public schools.

“Now in order to make a difference, we have to operate the situation differently. That change is difficult. But change is required.”

Kathleen N. Straus, a Michigan State Board of Education member from Lansing, complained that Mr. Paige’s department was being too rigid in its implementation of the No Child Left Behind school-reform law, which was enacted one year ago.

“We’re on the same page as No Child Left Behind. We want to do that. We understand what you and the president say about local control and flexibility. But we find that the Department of Education gives us very little flexibility,” Mrs. Straus said. “And we wondered if there’s any chance of that flexibility showing up in their interpretation of what we are supposed to do?”

Mr. Paige responded that he and President Bush are holding firm about implementing accountability on national requirements in reading and math achievement. “The amount of flexibility in this bill is historic, compared to the way the federal legislation has been written in the past,” Mr. Paige said. “This legislation says that almost one-half of the dollars, $23 billion, can be used in a flexible manner. We don’t tell you how to use it.”

But states and local school districts will be held strictly accountable for “adequate yearly progress” so that all public elementary and secondary school children perform at the “proficient” level on state reading and mathematics tests by 2013-2014, he said.

“One year after the signing of this bill, I think we’re making great progress. We’re moving forward. We’re making friends and we’re making a few enemies. But the essential winners are going to be the children of the United States of America,” Mr. Paige said.

“What we have done in the past is not sufficient, because if good can be better, then good is not good enough. … Education is a civil right to me and to this president. It is just as much a right as the right to vote or the right to be treated equally,” he said. “I think we have an absolute duty, it is the nation’s duty, to see that each child has an opportunity to maximize their potential.”

Sue Gamble, a member of the Kansas State Board of Education from Shawnee, said the state had requested a waiver this year from a federal requirement to report classes that do not have a “highly qualified teacher” but that Mr. Paige’s department had refused the request.

Mr. Paige said the new law requires states and local school districts to measure and report success for boys and girls, various racial and ethnic groups, family income levels, and other demographic indicators.

“We count success through disaggregated averages,” he said. Highly qualified teachers will be required in all classes by 2005-2006, he said, because “we’re saying you have to help everyone.”

(4) ” ‘Training for the Brain’ Technology Yields Academic Gains at St. Thomas Aquinas H.S.”

Source:  T.H.E. Journal – October 2002


Imagine introducing a new technology to students that is similar to a video game–involving musical tones, hand and foot tapping, as well as coordinated movements, such as dancing–with scores to track improvement against oneself and others. Now imagine that 25,000 repetitions of these exercises in 12 one-hour sessions can improve mental processing with significant gains in reading and math fluency. For the 2,000 students at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this far-fetched description is a reality. Dozens of elementary and secondary schools in southern Florida, Virginia and Illinois now are introducing this innovative “training for the brain” technology called the Interactive Metronome (IM).

Pilot Program Creates Demand

In August 2001, 29 students from the high school’s football team headed to the computer lab. They donned headphones, and hand and foot sensors for the dozen IM-powered training sessions to improve their timing, concentration and focus. After those sessions, the team mentally played almost perfectly in a 15-1 season that earned them a No. 5 USA Today national ranking, because of far fewer penalties and mental errors. More important, academically their IM-powered training produced an increase in reading fluency by more than two grade levels and math fluency by one grade level. The team’s classroom grades also improved substantially–0.34 points for 68 percent of them – from their improved ability to focus and concentrate. “We have always emphasized mental preparation for our student athletes,” says George Smith, the high school’s athletic director and head football coach. “But I never could find an efficient, effective way to train this mental discipline until now. IM training improved my players from the 55th percentile to the 99th percentile nationally in their timing, focus, concentration and coordination.”

Monsignor Vincent T. Kelly is the supervising principal at St. Thomas Aquinas and heads curriculum for the Archdiocese of Miami. He closely monitored the pilot program with student athletes and assessed its broader applications. By December 2001, the high school installed IM stations in a former computer lab, and 24 faculty and staff members became certified as IM trainers. In January, classes were opened to all students and the demand exceeded available training stations. IM classes continued in the school’s summer program and are scheduled throughout the next academic school year. “We are pleased to be the first school in the nation to offer IM training to all 2,000 of our students,” says Kelly.

IM-powered training involves students performing 13 different hand and foot exercises in varying difficulty to a constant metronome beat. The training works much like the centuries-old timing device, but uses a computer with headphones, and hand and foot sensors to track performance precisely. During each exercise, the computer measures how far ahead or behind the student is as they attempt to match the beat. Like training wheels on a bicycle, the IM’s patented auditory guidance system progressively challenges students to improve their timing and focus by accurately matching the computer’s rhythm. The average milliseconds of error are calculated as the score. Perfect timing is reflected in a zero score – no milliseconds off the beat. Students who start IM training outside of the normal range consistently improve to within normal, while students who start within the normal range achieve an elite level of timing and rhythm.

The Academic Achievement Correlation

Studies show that IM performance correlates with academic achievement in areas such as mathematics, language, reading and attention to task. A white paper released at the 2001 American Psychological Association Convention shows a high correlation between Interactive Metronome proficiency and California Achievement Test results. For the St. Thomas Aquinas students who have taken IM training, the pre- and post-test results show significant improvements based on the nationally recognized Woodcock-Johnson 3rd Edition Standardized Test. Specifically, post-tests showed a 1.11 grade level improvement in math fluency, the “measure of ability to rapidly and accurately solve problems,” and reading fluency improved by 1.92 grade levels. In the area of mental processing speed, which Woodcock-Johnson describes as “the ability to perform automatic cognitive tasks, particularly when measured under pressure to maintain focused attention,” the students improved by 2.61 grade levels.

An acoustical engineer who sought to measure timing and improve performance for professional musicians invented IM-powered training. Using the invention with an 8-year-old music student who has profound birth defects, it was discovered that IM training could produce physical gains and enhance learning. Seven years of scientific studies followed before the program was commercially introduced for use by practitioners and educational specialists to address a wide range of cognitive challenges.

In a clinical study published in the March/April 2001 issue of The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, the Interactive Metronome was found to produce significant gains in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the areas of concentration, motor planning, control of aggression, language processing and reading. Other studies show improved coordination and timing in both children and adults in academic and sports endeavors. These findings are consistent with recent research on the growth of the brain, indicating that environmental influences, not just genetics, can facilitate brain development. IM training for cognitive disorders is best delivered in a clinical setting, not in the up to 25 student class setting more appropriate for school computer labs.

Today, there are more than 800 hospitals, clinics and schools countrywide offering IM-powered training. Schools that adopt this training may contract with a third-party provider to deliver the technology and training from the school’s computer lab. Alternatively, as was done at St. Thomas Aquinas, schools can acquire the technology and site license to deliver IM-powered training through faculty who complete certification as IM instructors by taking the training themselves.

[Visit St. Thomas Aquinas H.S. online at]

(5) Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE)


More than 30 Federal agencies formed a working group in 1997 to make hundreds of Federally supported teaching and learning resources easier to find. The result of that work is the FREE web site. For an overview of what’s available here at FREE, please visit the site map ( Each month we add new teaching and learning resources (…[Mathematics resources are available at ]…

The U.S. Department of Education (ED), on behalf of the FREE Working Group, was selected in 1997 by the Government Information Technology Services Board to support federal agencies that would partner with teachers to develop online learning materials and learning communities around agency resources. The project, known as the “Consortium for Education,” would also document the lessons learned from these partnerships ( Descriptions of the work by 10 teams supported under the Consortium for Education project an be found at