COMET • Vol. 4, No. 18 – 24 May 2003


(1)  CA Education Master Plan Dialogue

URL (Dialogue):


URL (Master Plan text):

The California Education Master Plan Dialogue that was held on 19-23 May 2003 was hosted by the California Education Master Plan Alliance (CEMPA) with funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

CEMPA was created in 2003 with the mission of providing information to the public about the Master Plan for Education and advocating for its full implementation.

Three overarching goals stem directly from the mission to fully implement the Master Plan for Education:

* Advertise and disseminate information about the Master Plan for Education and the status of its implementation.

* Inform Californians on the legislative process and the ways in which they can participate in shaping policy decisions that have an impact on education.

* Conduct research and analysis of data on educational resources and ways in which those resources are used to promote student achievement.

The online Dialogue was conducted to give the public an opportunity to learn about selected education bills, talk with legislators and other education experts, and help them craft legislation to effectively guide the implementation of California’s Education Master Plan over the next two decades. It was also designed to help Californians who have not typically been involved in policy development become more familiar with the process by which an idea becomes a law and to actually participate in shaping selected education legislation. This website will remain active and available for public viewing until April 2004.

We invite you to review the thoughts and ideas exchanged by participants in this dialogue, including California legislators, a variety of guest panelists, and individuals from throughout the state who care enough about education to share their opinions. They can be found by visiting the Agenda and Discussion sections of this website. We encourage you to think about the ideas offered on this important topic. You can also find related information and research by visiting the Library section of the website. There is perhaps nothing more important than successfully rebuilding California’s education system with a clear focus on students and the kinds of learning opportunities and support they should be guaranteed.

Next steps:

*  The ideas and suggestions contained in the week’s dialogue will be used by legislative staff to amend Master Plan bills to improve the likelihood that they will achieve their respective goals when enacted.

*  Most of the amendments will be written over the summer months. The amendments will also address concerns of legislators and state control agencies regarding statutory and regulatory consistency, fiscal implications, and transition steps.

*  The amended Master Plan bills will be re-introduced in their respective houses (Assembly or Senate) in January 2004, where they will be deliberated and voted on and moved to the second house for similar deliberation and voting.

*  Ultimately, each bill that successfully receives a majority vote from both houses will move to the Governor for signature….

Individuals who have not yet registered [as Dialogue participants] may still do so to receive e-mails with the wrap-up summary and other updates and announcements.

If you would like a status update on implementation of California’s Education Master Plan, call the Alliance at 916-322-2049 or email Jennifer Mitchell, Charles Ratliff at, or Christine Galves at

(2)  State Board of Education Meeting Highlights for May 2003

Source: California State Board of Education  (916-319-0827)


Exit Exam:  HumRRO Independent Evaluation Released

An independent evaluation of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) has found that the exit exam is valid and meets all nationally recognized test standards for use as a graduation requirement. The study by the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) also found that the exam has motivated schools and students to focus on academic achievement and mastery of rigorous state academic content standards. Academic content standards in English-Language Arts and Mathematics were adopted in 1997 and have been integrated into curriculum and textbooks over the past four years.

The independent evaluation was mandated by AB 1609 (2001). Under AB 1609, the State Board of Education has the authority to delay the exit exam as a graduation requirement for the class of 2004 after reviewing the findings of the independent evaluation, which was due May 1. The State Board will review additional data at its June meeting, and a decision on whether to delay the exam as a graduation requirement for the class of 2004 is anticipated at the State Board’s July monthly meeting. Initial passing rates for the Class of 2005 (those who tested in March 2003) will be available by June…

Golden State Seal Of Merit Diploma For Class of 2003

The State Board approved requests by numerous school districts to waive Education Code Section 51451, regarding the method of qualifying high school seniors in the class of 2003 for a Golden State Seal Merit Diploma.

The normal process of demonstrating mastery is for students to have earned achievement levels of recognition, honors, or high honors on six Golden State Examinations (GSEs), including the following: U.S. history; reading/literature or written composition; a mathematics exam; a science exam; and two other exams of the student’s choice.

Due to cancellation of the spring administration of the GSEs  as a part of the current year budget cuts, many seniors are only part way to completing this requirement. To be eligible for the 2003 Golden State Diploma under the waiver process, seniors must:

*  be receiving a high school diploma from their district;

* have earned achievement levels of 4 (recognition), 5 (honors), or 6 (high honors) on four or more of the six required Golden State Examinations;

* be enrolled in a high school in a district that has been granted a waiver by the State Board to use up to two of the following 2002 California Standards Tests scores (no lower than a 350 scale score) in lieu of GSE results to complete the six subject-area requirement: Grade 11 English-Language Arts; Grade 11 History/Social Science (United States History); High School Mathematics; Algebra I; Algebra II; Geometry; Integrated Mathematics 1, 2, or 3; Biology; Chemistry; Physics; Earth Science.

Districts must have certified that all listed students meet the above requirements and have completed the legal requirements of a General Waiver Request.

Regulations on Instructional Materials Adopted: The State Board adopted regulations to implement the Instructional Materials Funding Realignment Program. Specifically, the regulations include technical revisions due to enactment of Senate Bill X1-18, legislation that allows school districts to use instructional materials adopted by the State Board AB 2519 in 1999 to meet the requirements for standards-aligned instructional materials in mathematics and reading/language arts for the 2002-03 and 2003-04 fiscal years.


(1)  “Lawmakers Pursue Flexible Text Selection” by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Source:  Education Week – 21 May 2003


…At least one key California lawmaker is now attempting to throw out the textbook-adoption process in favor of a more flexible system.

“We have to give teachers a lot more say in curriculum decisions,” said state Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, the Democrat who heads the education committee in the lower legislative chamber. “The result of this one-size-fits-all mentality is that teachers do not have the freedom to choose the materials that are best for their students.”

Legislators in several other “adoption” states are also proposing changes that would allow greater flexibility in textbook selection. A Florida bill proposes a pilot program that would test local choice and purchasing decisions. And a New Mexico lawmaker’s attempts to abolish the state-approved list has been gaining steady support in the Senate over the past four years.

In many of the 22 textbook-adoption states, districts can use state money only to buy instructional materials that appear on an approved list. Several states, however, offer such lists as a guide, but allow districts to choose materials they deem best.

Changing those longtime policies won’t be easy. The prevailing attitude among many officials in adoption states is that the advantages that come from statewide selection of textbooks far outweigh the drawbacks. Meanwhile, none of the so-called open-territory states has sought to switch to a state-adoption system, according to Stephen D. Driesler, the executive director of the Washington-based school division of the Association of American Publishers…

New Mexico Sen. Cynthia Nava has introduced a bill in the legislature four years running to eliminate what the state calls its “multiple list,” a lengthy inventory of textbooks that state officials have reviewed, for which some $30 million in state money is allocated.

As an associate superintendent in the 13,400-student Gadsden, N.M., district and a former teacher, Ms. Nava said she has seen firsthand how the system of selecting textbooks frustrates educators who struggle to address the individual needs of students.

“The state now has a standards-based curriculum, and it is less important than it used to be to have a statewide textbook adoption,” argued Ms. Nava, a Democrat. “We shouldn’t be so insistent on telling them every step of the way how to get students to meet those standards”…

“The publishing marketplace has been warped by the textbook-adoption process…,” writes Diane Ravitch in her new book, The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn. Ms. Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University, agrees with Sen. Nava that teachers should choose the materials they think are best for their students.

Moreover, Ms. Ravitch writes, deregulation “would encourage writers to break free of the dull formulas that now make most of the textbooks look like peas in a pod, with interchangeable literary selections and conventional, politically safe opinions.”

In a 2001 report, the Center for Education Reform, a Washington-based organization that supports school choice, raised similar issues in attacking textbook adoption.

Mr. Driesler, of the publishers’ association, argues, however, that interest groups are known to battle over textbooks–the de facto curriculum–and content even when local boards are trying to decide which books to buy. In fact, such disagreements over what gets taught date back to the beginnings of the country’s public school system.

Despite the strictures that tend to accompany textbook adoption, some states appear to have found ways to balance a perceived need for state oversight with the demand for local control.

In Kentucky and Virginia, state textbook committees review available materials to ensure that they adequately address state academic standards and can help prepare students for state tests. Districts can use the lists as guides to buying textbooks, but have flexibility in using state money to buy off-list books as well.

New Mexico officials argue that they, too, allow wide latitude, because the state’s multiple lists are extensive, according to David Bowman, the acting director of the instructional-materials division of the state education department.

Sen. Nava says that is not enough. “I feel strongly about it,” she said of changing the current setup. “I don’t plan on giving up.”

(2) Online Mentoring Project–The Math Forum @ Drexel

Source:  Lisa Lavelle –Problem of the Week Manager, Mentor Coordinator–


The goal of the NSF-funded Online Mentoring Project is to create a dynamic online environment for pre-service teachers to mentor students in grades 3-12 using the Math Forum’s Problems of the Week (PoW). This is a unique opportunity for pre-service teachers to focus on how students think about math before they face the complexities of the classroom.

A beta version of the “Online Mentoring Guide” (OMG) is now available for use and is free to higher education faculty who would be interested in using it with their students. Mathematics and science educators are also invited to collaborate with the Math Forum by reviewing and contributing to a revision of the OMG and by contributing mentoring resources to the Guide (e.g., research articles and Web resources).

The OMG is a curriculum tool that currently exists in the WebCT platform. It provides a self-guided instructional system allowing pre-service teachers to learn how to mentor students in the Math Forum’s PoW environment. It also creates a dynamic interactive space where pre-service teachers first try to solve a problem and explain their solution, and then serve as a mentor for some of their colleagues who have presented solutions. The Guide then moves to a broader discussion of mentoring, encouraging the pre-service teacher to enter into the discussion. Pre-service teachers conclude their instruction by mentoring PoW submissions.

The Math Forum’s Problems of the Week (PoW) are designed to provide creative, non-routine challenges for students in grades 3 through 12. There are currently five PoW services:

*  Math Fundamentals:

*  Pre-algebra:

*  Algebra:

*  Geometry:

*  Pre-calculus:

Each PoW service has a new active problem every two weeks, as well as a complete archive of past problems. Students have two weeks to submit a solution to the current problem. They have four additional days to revise their solutions.

The focus of the PoW project is mathematical problem solving and communication. Mentors reply to students’ submissions with the goal of getting the student to revise their work. Mentors focus on the mathematical thinking first, trying to help students achieve a sound solution path, but they also comment on the students’ communication. In fact, students whose math is correct will almost always receive suggestions as to how they might make their explanation stronger.

Students’ submissions are scored using a rubric that rates them a novice, apprentice, practitioner, or expert in six different categories (three in problem solving and three in communication).

How to Get Involved

* The OMG is designed to function as an online interactive text and will fit within an existing math education, science education or educational methods course.

* The OMG is highly flexible and designed to parallel the work students do in class. It can be used in as few as three weeks or all semester long.

* Because the OMG is an asynchronous unit, all discussions and interactions among students and between students and a faculty member can be conducted online. This will allow the faculty member to decide how much or how little class time will be devoted to the work with the OMG.

Contact Information

For more information about working with the Online Mentoring Project team, please contact:

Wesley Shumar

Department of Culture and Communication

Drexel University


Kristina Lasher

The Math Forum

215.895.1080 x80962

Craig Bach

School of Education

Drexel University


(3) Seattle 8th Grader and California Team Awarded Mathematics Champions at 2003 MATHCOUNTS National Competition (Press Release)


Hesterberg of Seattle answered this challenging math problem in less than 45 seconds to win the MATHCOUNTS National Championship title at the 2003 MATHCOUNTS National Competition today in Chicago: The area of a square is 144 square meters. The square has the same perimeter as a regular hexagon. What is the number of meters in the length of one side of the hexagon? (The correct answer: 8 meters)

The 8th-grader from Washington Middle School competed against 227 other middle-school student Mathletes in this prestigious competition, sponsored by the CNA Foundation.  Hesterberg was victorious in an intense, one-on-one oral Countdown Round with the top 10 individuals. Andrew Chien of Saratoga, Calif. was awarded the second-place individual title and Mario DiDonna of Leawood, Kansas, placed third.

In the team competition, California captured the National Team Championship title. Team members include Erik Chen from Olympus Jr. High School in Roseville, Michael Viscardi from Josan Academy for the Gifted in San Diego, York Wu from Miller Middle School in San Jose and second-place individual winner, Andrew Chien from Redwood Middle School in Saratoga. The Missouri team took second place, and the Maryland team placed third.

Brian Lawrence of Kensington, Md. won the Masters Round, after giving a 15-minute presentation of a college-level proof before a panel of three judges and more than 500 spectators with only 30 minutes to prepare. Lawrence received a $2,000 scholarship, courtesy of Raytheon, for his accomplishments.

“The Mathletes impressed all of us with their skill and speed in solving these complex problems. All of the competitors, their coaches and parents should be commended for their achievements,” said Donald G. Weinert, P.E., chairman of the board of the MATHCOUNTS Foundation. “The MATHCOUNTS National Competition provides an opportunity to recognize these outstanding students and to reemphasize the importance of math education, but we are equally proud of every student who participated in the program. Each of them developed mathematical skills that will assist them later in life”…

(4)  MATHCOUNTS National Competition to Air on ESPN, May 29


More than 225 Mathletes from around the country will soon be competing on an even larger stage as they vie for the “National Math Champion” title. ESPN, The Worldwide Leader in Sports, will be televising the 2003 MATHCOUNTS National Competition, sponsored by the CNA Foundation. The hourlong program, produced by ESPN, will air on May 29 at noon ET (9 a.m. PT). It will highlight the excitement of the middle school math students as they test their knowledge of math, as well as their teamwork and communication skills, while competing for the national individual and team championships.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, MATHCOUNTS is a national math coaching and competition program. The program makes achievement in mathematics a reality for more than 500,000 middle school students through creative curriculum materials and coaching by a grassroots network of more than 17,000 volunteers.

“The MATHCOUNTS partnership with ESPN heightens the prestige of math achievement as a school sport by bringing the National Competition into the homes of spectators across the country,” said Peggy Drane, executive director of MATHCOUNTS. “The fact that ESPN, synonymous with premier athletic events, is covering the National Competition speaks volumes about the awareness and interest in student achievement through all forms of competition.”

“We are pleased to have this relationship with MATHCOUNTS and to showcase on national television this educational competition as well as highlight the accomplishments of these young mathematicians,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN director of programming and acquisitions.

The MATHCOUNTS Foundation Founding Sponsors are the National Society of Professional Engineers, CNA and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). National Sponsors include ConocoPhillips, The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, General Motors Foundation, Lockheed Martin, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NEC Foundation, Texas Instruments Incorporated and 3M Foundation.

Each year, MATHCOUNTS develops a new School Handbook, meeting NTCM standards for 7th and 8th grades, and provides a complimentary copy to every U.S. middle school. Similar to preparation for athletic events, MATHCOUNTS’ competition students utilize these materials as they work with a coach for months, or years, to practice and prepare. Once the annual competition begins, students represent their school in one of over 500 local competitions and the winning Mathletes advance to the state level. Results at the state level determine the top four individuals and top coach, who earn the honor of representing their state or overseas team at the national finals. At all levels, MATHCOUNTS challenges students’ math skills, develops their self-confidence and rewards them for their achievements.

For additional information on MATHCOUNTS and/or to discover how you can aid in the mathematical development of our future leaders, please visit