COMET • Vol. 4, No. 21 – 9 September 2003


(1) Algebra is Still a High School Graduation Requirement in California Schools

URL (general link to California Law, which consists of 29 codes, including the Education Code):

Although the California High School Exit Exam has been delayed as a graduation requirement for two years, the requirement that students pass Algebra I (or its equivalent) in order to receive a high school diploma is still in effect. Relevant sections from the Education Code are reproduced below:

Section 51220.  The adopted course of study for grades 7 to 12, inclusive, shall offer courses in the following areas of study:

…(f) Mathematics, including instruction designed to develop mathematical understandings, operational skills, and insight into problem-solving procedures…

51224.5.  (a) The adopted course of study for grades 7 to 12, inclusive, shall include algebra as part of the mathematics area of study pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 51220.

(b) Commencing with the 2003-04 school year and each year thereafter, at least one course, or a combination of the two courses in mathematics required to be completed pursuant to subparagraph (B) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 51225.3 by pupils while in grades 9 to 12, inclusive, prior to receiving a diploma of graduation from high school, shall meet or exceed the rigor of the content standards for Algebra I, as adopted by the State Board of Education pursuant to Section 60605.

(c) If at any time, in any of grades 7 to 12, inclusive, or in any combination of those grades, a pupil completes coursework that meets or exceeds the academic content standards for Algebra, those courses shall apply towards satisfying the requirements of subparagraph (B) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 51225.3…

51225.3.  (a) Commencing with the 1988-89 school year, no pupil shall receive a diploma of graduation from high school who, while in grades 9 to 12, inclusive, has not completed all of the following:

(1) At least the following numbers of courses in the subjects specified, each course having a duration of one year, unless otherwise specified.

(A) Three courses in English.

(B) Two courses in mathematics…

(2) Agenda for 10-11 September 2003 Meeting of the State Board of Education


Selected agenda items (with links to related materials):

* ITEM 3:  No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Teacher Requirements (“Highly Qualified Teacher”)–Including, but not limited to, Update on Consolidated Application.


The September submission for the [NCLB] Consolidated State Application contains baseline data and performance targets on the following topics:

— English proficiency for English Learners

— Highly Qualified Teachers

— Persistently Dangerous Schools

— Graduation Rates

The Board has discussed and approved policies on all these issues. The September submission is the final submission of the Consolidated Application

[Note: Links to California’s Consolidated State Application and related documents can be found at   Attachment B is “California’s Conceptual Plan for Meeting Teacher Requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act“:]

* ITEM 28:  No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Teacher Requirements (“Highly Qualified Teacher”)–Including, but not limited to, Adoption of Proposed Title 5 Regulations.


Recommendation: Approve the proposed permanent regulations regarding No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Teacher Requirements (“Highly Qualified Teacher”). Direct that CDE staff complete the rulemaking package, in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, including, but not limited to, responding to public comments…

Summary of Key Issue(s): The staff of the State Board of Education (SBE), the Office of the Secretary of Education (OSE), the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), and the California Department of Education (CDE) have been working for over a year to develop a definition by which California could meet the Teacher Requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (also known as the Highly Qualified Teacher requirement). The effort has been to meld the requirement of this new federal law with CaliforniaÍs existing teacher preparation and credentialing process, and produce a new system that is as transparent to teachers and administrators as possible while still adhering to the new standards required by NCLB.

The public hearing for these proposed regulations will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 9, 2003, at 1430 N Street, Room 1101, Sacramento. The 45-day written comment period [ended] at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, September 8, 2003. Comments received during the public comment period and public hearing will be summarized, including responses, and provided to the Board in a Last Minute Memorandum [(check the Web site above… [The proposed Title 5 regulations for NCLB Teacher Requirements are also contained in this online document.]

* ITEM 30: Seminar Session on Mathematics

[] [This will be an] informational presentation on CaliforniaÍs system of mathematics, including the creation of the California Mathematics Standards, the instructional frameworks, and alignment to assessments.

Invited presenters are:

– Sue Stickel, Deputy Superintendent, CDE Curriculum and Instruction Branch

– Paul Clopton, Biomedical Research Statistician, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San


– Robert L. Trigg, former member, CA State Board of Education, and retired

superintendent of Elk Grove Unified School District

– Hung-Hsi Wu, Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley

– ZeÍev Wurman, Vice-President of Software Development, eASIC Corp., San Jose


Note:  Check the California Channel Web site for information regarding Webcasts of meetings:

(3) National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)–Information and Invitation to Bay Area Teachers to Participate in a NBPTS Study

Source: Misty Sato ( via Susie Hakansson – 1 September 2003

Middle school and high school teachers of mathematics and science from the San Francisco Bay Region are sought to participate in a study with researchers from the Stanford University School of Education on how the National Board Certification process impacts teachers’ classroom practices. (Although teachers are sought from a relatively limited area within the state, this announcement is included in COMET to inform all teachers about National Board Certification, which is one way to obtain “highly qualified” teacher status.)

Teachers must be willing to participate in the study for three consecutive years, have an interest in pursuing National Board certification at some point in their teaching career, and be willing to videotape their class, collect instructional materials and student work samples, and participate in interviews regarding classroom practices. A number of financial and professional incentives are available for participants. For more information about the study, call Misty Sato, Coordinator of the National Board Resource Center at Stanford University, at 650-724-7349 or send her an email message: Interested teachers can register online at

What is National Board Certification?


The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is a private, nonprofit organization that operates a national, voluntary system to assess and certify teachers who meet high standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.  The National Board Certification process is rigorous, requiring a two-part assessment based on the National Board standards and reflecting various aspects of teaching.

Part I–A practice-based portfolio constructed during the school year that demonstrates evidence of classroom practice through video and student work, demonstrates evidence of professional and community contributions through documentation, and provides extensive analytical and reflective commentary on practice.

Part II–Assessment Center exercises taken at regional testing sites. The written exam is comprised of six open-ended, 30-minute questions that assess depth of subject matter and professional knowledge.

Meaningful Professional Development


Most National Board certified teachers indicate that the certification process is the best professional growth experience they have had in their teaching careers.  Many say it has transformed their teaching by helping them to focus on the relationship between teaching and student learning. The National Board Certification process can be an important leverage for improving practice and creating communities of practitioners who can lead change.

Advanced Certificate, not a License


The advanced system of National Board Certification is voluntary and complements, but does not replace, state licensing. It is a professional certification increasingly used by states as an option for advanced licensing status

Eligibility for National Board Certification


1.  Possess a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution

2.  Have completed three years of successful teaching at an accredited institution

3.  Hold a valid teaching license for each of those three years if required by the institution

– Fee for the National Board assessment:  $2,300.   For information on fee subsidies and other support for teachers pursuing National Board certification, please refer to

For more information about the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Certification process, visit



(1) “Math and Science Get Own Research Center” by Michelle Galley

Source: Education Week – 3 September 2003

URL: (free registration required)

The federal government is trying to do for math and science what it has done for reading: sponsor a systematic program of research that will drive improvements in curriculum and instruction, particularly for struggling students.

The new program housed at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which administers much of the experimental research into reading disabilities and has helped shape policy on reading instruction, will sponsor studies of how children learn math and science, as well as the origins and treatment of specific math-learning disabilities.

While such studies have been financed through the NICHD in the past, the importance of that research has been elevated by the formation of a department devoted exclusively to the endeavor.

The NICHD, in conjunction with the Department of Education’s office of special education and rehabilitative services, next month plans to announce the recipients of a new set of mathematics grants. Those awards could total as much as $18 million over three to five years, according to Daniel Berch, the director of the math and science program and a former senior researcher at the Education Department…

Some of those studies will examine brain-imaging to determine what part of the brain is engaged in mathematical thinking. Other factors, such as gender, socioeconomic status, and cultural differences, will also be studied to determine how they influence the way children learn math…

A lot of work has been done to understand and treat children with learning disabilities in reading, said Lynn Fuchs, a special education researcher at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Much less emphasis has been placed on mathematics, she said.

The new NICHD program, Ms. Fuchs said, “has the capacity to begin a systematic program of research dedicated to a very serious problem in mathematics”…


Note: The “Mathematics Cognition And Specific Learning Disabilities” RFA is posted at

(2) Looking Inside the Classroom:  A Study of K-12 Mathematics and Science Education in the United States

Source:  Sean Smith ( in a post to on 6 June 2003

URL (for report):

Horizon Research, Inc. (HRI) has released a new report describing the status of mathematics and science instruction in kindergarten through the twelfth grade (K-12) in the United States.  Looking Inside the Classroom:  A Study of K-12 Mathematics and Science Education in the United States includes findings from observations of and interviews with 364 teachers [in 31 districts] between fall 2000 and spring 2002.  The study was conducted with support from the National Science Foundation.  Both the full report and a highlights report are available for free download at the above Web site. Print versions can also be ordered at this site.

The major purpose of the study was to provide the education research and policy communities with snapshots of mathematics and science education as they exist in classrooms in a variety of contexts in the United States. These snapshots include both the instruction that takes place and the factors that shape instruction. Areas addressed include:

– the accuracy of science and mathematics content;

– the intellectual engagement of students with that content;

– teacher questioning strategies;

– extent of  “sense-making” in the lessons; and

– factors that determine teachers’ choice of content and instructional strategies.

(3) “Large-Scale Study Finds Poor Math, Science Instruction” by David J. Hoff

SourceEducation Week – 3 September 2003

URL: (free registration required)

For almost a decade, a debate has raged over the best way to teach mathematics and science. Should teachers instruct students in the subjects’ facts and procedures and then give them the opportunity to apply their new skills and knowledge? Or should they guide their students toward discovering the principles behind math and science and then help them use what they learn in real-life situations?

While arguments have been heated in professional circles, a new study suggests teachers can use either approach successfully. “We do our kids a disservice by choosing one pedagogy and using it all the time,” said Iris R. Weiss, the president of Horizon Research Inc. and the lead researcher on the project, which analyzed more than 300 lessons in a cross-section of math and science classrooms. “Teachers need to use their personal style and try a variety of approaches.”

The problem is that most teachers are not using either approach effectively, the study suggests…

The study, which was underwritten by the National Science Foundation, is one of the few large-scale examinations of how American teachers do their jobs. Earlier this year, another federally backed study, based on an analysis of videotaped math lessons in the United States and six other countries, found essentially the same thing: American teachers aren’t offering challenging lessons to their students. In reviewing the videos, researchers found that American teachers failed to communicate the underlying mathematical ideas that help students understand how the skills they’re learning are part of a logical and coherent intellectual discipline.

As in Ms. Weiss’ study, the researchers found no link between the type of instruction and the success of the lesson. Countries where teachers spent a lot of time lecturing performed just as well on tests as those where teachers challenged students to discover the material on their own. The common link in high-achieving countries was that teachers ensured that students understood the basic principles of mathematics, as well as the skills needed to perform its procedures.

“This is using different methods, and the picture we come up with is pretty much the same,” said James W. Stigler, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Los

Angeles, and the director of the videotape study for the Third International Mathematics and Science Study”Repeat, known as TIMSS-R. “We do have a problem, no matter how we look at it”…

The common characteristic of the successful lessons, Ms. Weiss said in an interview, was that students could make sense of the mathematical or scientific content and then apply it in other situations. But, she said, “the whole system is not set up with either the capacity or the incentives for teaching for understanding.”

The researchers saw that in a variety of cases, the report says, including a math lesson in which students solved problems on a worksheet and the teacher later gave out the correct answers. The approach was inadequate because the students were never challenged to explain the mathematical reasoning behind the problems…

“We see the absence of sense- making,” Ms. Weiss said. “That seems to be the part that’s hardest.” The study suggests that teachers need a variety of communications skills to ensure that students are learning.

“Content [knowledge] is not enough to make a person a good teacher,” said Johnny Lott, the president of the National Council of Mathematics Teachers and a professor of mathematics at the University of Montana-Missoula. “You have to have a teacher who knows how to ask the deep, probing kind of question. The big question is, how do you teach people to ask those questions?”

Changing teachers’ practice isn’t easy, the researchers acknowledge.

“Looking Inside the Classroom” suggests that professional development should model the types of lessons teachers should be doing in their classrooms. That means teachers need to be focused on helping their students achieve a set of specific learning goals, and they should use a variety of strategies, from lectures to inquiry-based projects….

Mr. Stigler, the UCLA researcher, said teachers also need to see high-quality lessons so they can figure out ways to change their own practice. He has started LessonLab, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based company that collects videotaped lessons and creates professional development for teachers using them…

(4) Essay Contest: Biographies of Contemporary Women in Mathematics


To increase awareness of women’s ongoing contributions to the mathematical sciences, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) is sponsoring an essay contest for biographies of contemporary women mathematicians and statisticians in academic, industrial, and government careers.

The essays will be based primarily on an interview with a woman currently working in a mathematical career. This contest is open to students in the following categories: Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, and Undergraduate.

At least one winning entry will be chosen from each category. Winners will receive a prize, and their essays will be published online at the AWM web site. Additionally, a grand prize winner will have his or her entry published in the AWM Newsletter. For more information, contact Dr. Victoria Howle (the contest organizer) or see the contest web page (above). The deadline for entries is 31 October 2003.

(5) *NSYNC’s Lance Bass to Promote Science Education

Source:  NSTA Express: September 2, 2003


Lance Bass of the pop group *NSYNC has been named World Space Week 2003 Youth Space Spokesperson by the Spaceweek International Association. In this role, he will help excite students about science, engineering, technology, and math. Scheduled for October 4-10, World Space Week is celebrated by more than 50 nations with a number of programs and events, including a FREE Teacher Activity Guide that contains space-related math and science activities you can use to celebrate the week and Lance’s Lab, a global competition in which students will conceptually design an International Space Station module (and student winners will get to meet Lance at an awards event scheduled for Spring 2004). For more information, teachers and students are urged to visit