COMET • Vol. 4, No. 27 – 20 October 2003


(1) Upcoming Conferences–California Mathematics Council


The California Mathematics Council (CMC) offers three state conferences that are collectively attended by over 8500 K-16 teachers, preservice teachers, administrators, and parents. Information about the 2003-2004 conferences can be found on the Web site above. Dates and locations for the CMC conferences for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 are listed below:

CMC-South: Palm Springs Convention Center and area hotels

7-9 November 2003;  5-7 November 2004

CMC-North: Asilomar Conference Grounds (Pacific Grove, Monterey Peninsula)

5-7 December 2003;  3-5 December 2004

CMC-Central: Embassy Suites, Seaside (Monterey Peninsula)

12-13 March 2004;  11-12 March 2005

(2) VideoCases for Mathematics Professional Development–Facilitator Institute

Source: Judy Mumme – WestEd (805-388-4415)

You are invited to attend a Facilitator Institute designed for educational leaders to learn about new, cutting-edge professional development materials related to algebra and algebraic thinking. The VideoCases for Mathematics Professional Development (VCMPD) materials, developed with support from the National Science Foundation, are aimed at mathematics teachers in grades 5-10.  A series of modules offering a total of 54 hours of professional development were designed to help teachers address some of the “problems of practice” associated with the issues and challenges in teaching algebra. Based on videos from real classrooms, these videocases are intended to equip teachers to prepare and enact lessons that will help students develop conceptual understanding of linear functions. It is intended that teachers’ own understanding of linear functions be deepened while focusing on teaching practices.

The Facilitator Institute will be held on March 15-19, 2004, in San Diego, California.  The Institute is intended for teacher leaders, administrators, and university educators interested in leading professional development or study groups focused on algebra and algebraic thinking. Enrollment is limited.  For an Institute Application and more information, visit

(3) Two California Teachers Receive Prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards


Last Thursday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell congratulated the selection of two exceptional California educators to receive the 2003 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards.

Keith R. Ballard, music teacher at Montgomery Middle School, Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego; and Kathleen Vasquez, English teacher at Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School, San Francisco Unified School District in San Francisco, are California’s winners of this distinguished recognition.  Both teachers were surprised at school assemblies in San Diego and San Francisco where it was announced that they had been selected for the prestigious honor that comes with a monetary award of $25,000 each. The recipients may use the money as they wish.

* The Milken National Educator Awards are given to teachers and principals relatively new to education. In the case of California’s recipients, they each have been in education approximately 10 years. Nationwide, teachers, and principals in 47 states will receive the Milken honor this month. All were selected based on the following criteria: Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by outstanding instructional practices in the classroom, school, and profession;

* Outstanding accomplishments and strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership; and

* Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues, and the community.

Experts agree that the need to attract more qualified teachers is urgent because the demographics and incentives of the 21st century may make it difficult for many individuals to choose education as a career. Currently, California employs 302,000 teachers. Over the next 10 years, schools nationwide will need to hire 2.2 million new teachers, but are expected to come up short by about 40 percent. In California as many as 300,000 additional teachers will be needed in the next decade.

“The most important legacy we can hand down to our children is a good education that will lead to opportunities and a better life for them in the future,” said O’Connell. “So we must ensure that our students have the best teachers to help shape their minds. Programs like the Milken National Educator Awards are instrumental in helping raise the consciousness about the importance of quality education in our society.”

In addition to the $25,000, each of the two educators will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. in May for the annual Milken Family Foundation National Education Conference. For more information, please contact the Milken Family Foundation’s Web site at


(1) “Inside the New SAT Test” by John Cloud

Source:  Time Magazine – 19 October 2003


This extensive article provides details about the changes taking place in the format and content of the SAT. The political agenda behind the “New SAT,” scheduled to debut in March 2005, is discussed in the article, as is the potential impact of the new format on the performance of minorities.


…The College Entrance Examination Board, which owns the [SAT], is developing the “New SAT,” an exhaustive revision largely intended to mold the U.S. secondary-school system to its liking.

The College Board wants schools to produce better writers, so the New SAT will require an essay. The board thinks grammar is important, so the new test will ask students to fix poorly deployed gerunds and such. To encourage earlier advanced-math instruction, the New SAT will go beyond basic algebra and geometry for the first time to include Algebra II class material… The board, a powerful group of 4,300 educational institutions–including most of America’s leading universities–has undertaken an unprecedented effort to push local school districts to alter their curriculums accordingly.  In short, the dreaded SAT could actually help produce a national curriculum, a sweeping education reform enacted without the passage of a single law…

(2) How AYP is Helping Communities to Close the Achievement Gap

Source: Education Trust ( – 7 October 2003

URL (Report):

On October 7, the Education Trust released a report documenting how AYP [Adequate Yearly Progress] provides important new information about academic achievement in America’s public schools.  This year’s first-ever application of the AYP formula is providing the foundation for school improvement efforts in all 50 states by uncovering large achievement gaps, identifying schools that have made significant progress, and recognizing schools with high percentages of low-income and minority children meeting state proficiency benchmarks.

“Our society can no longer afford to consider schools successful unless they successfully teach all groups of students.  For too long, state accountability systems looked only at overall averages, and in so doing allowed massive achievement gaps between groups to be ignored.  This initial release of AYP data tells us that different groups of students, often times even those in the same school, are not taught to the same high levels,” said Ross Wiener, policy director of the Education Trust.

The report, What New “AYP” Information Tells Us About Schools, States, and Public Education, highlights information about the AYP formula in Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  Although some have criticized the AYP formula as unfair, “the unfairness flows from how many students aren’t getting taught what they need to know, not from the AYP formula,” said Wiener.  “This is the beginning of a truth telling process.  The challenge now is to turn this new awareness into action, to help the schools and students that are struggling.”

As states continue to release their AYP lists, questions are being raised about how the AYP formula works and what factors contribute to the number of schools on AYP lists.  This report provides answers to those questions.

This report provides several examples of ways AYP is helping real schools and their communities move forward.  Much of the angst concerning this law comes from the fact that AYP is identifying schools with large achievement gaps that were previously designated by their states as being successful based on overall averages.  AYP is forcing these schools to examine why some groups of students are performing far below state proficiency levels while others are exceeding them.

“Some education organizations are using the facade of ïA’ schools not making AYP to seduce the public into believing that this law is unfair.  They would rather tout the success of a few, while simultaneously sweeping the lives and future of many away,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust.  “From now on, all means all–we can’t go back to a time when overall averages masked big gaps.”

This report identifies several ways AYP is working:

* AYP is identifying schools with massive achievement gaps, including many schools that had been identified as “successful” by state accountability systems.

* AYP is identifying schools that are falling short across the board.

* AYP is recognizing the improvement of previously low-performing schools.

* AYP results show that schools previously designated as needing improvement can improve and move off the list.

* AYP is identifying schools that are successfully teaching all groups of students.

“We can no longer accept the illusion of averages.  A focus on averages has hidden the truth about who is getting taught and suppressed the academic potential of our poor and minority students.  Now is the time to get our heads out of the sand and face the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead of us.  Now is not the time to turn our backs on the schools and students who need our help the most,” Haycock concluded.

(3) American Schools in Crisis? Debating No Child Left Behind

Source:  NOW with Bill Moyers (PBS – 17 September 2003)


The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 []was designed to improve education and achievement in America’s schools in four clearly defined ways: accountability for results; an emphasis on doing what works based on scientific research; expanded parental options; and expanded local control and flexibility. But under those new strict guidelines, many educators complain that schools will suffer unfairly by being labeled as failing when they are really not. How are these new measures going to change the way our educational system is run? Below are highlights from each of the four cornerstones of the plan as defined by the U.S. Department of Education, along with feedback from educators.


“Under the act’s accountability provisions, states must describe how they will close the achievement gap and make sure all students, including those who are disadvantaged, achieve academic proficiency. Schools that do not make progress must provide supplemental services, such as free tutoring or after-school assistance; take corrective actions; and, if still not making adequate yearly progress after five years, make dramatic changes to the way the school is run.”

Robert L. Linn, a University of Colorado professor and co-director of the Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing, was quoted in the New York Times: “Nobody can argue against No Child Left Behind, because how can you say that you should leave some children behind? But it is also nuts to say that it is possible to bring everybody to the same level. You can say that your goal is to have everyone run a mile in under five minutes, but do you really believe that it can be accomplished? I don’t” [ ].

However, the newsletter “NCLB Extra Credit” vouches for the strength of the program: “To quote one school superintendent in Colorado, whose district produces all kinds of Merit Scholars, and whose students score in the 95th percentile on average, ‘We have a very strong accountability system with our local community…’ After all, his schools’ performance is already being assessed by a couple of different programs. ‘Do I really need a third one from the federal government?’ he asks.

“Yes, he does, if he’s leaving too many kids behind. No matter how well the others do. It’s as simple, and as challenging, as that. Let’s stop fooling ourselves. Unless we educate all, all will be dragged down by those we fail to nurture” [].

Proven Methods

“No Child Left Behind puts special emphasis on determining what educational programs and practices have been proven effective through rigorous scientific research. Federal funding is targeted to support these programs and teaching methods that work to improve student learning and achievement.”

In April 2003, former teacher, principal and superintendent Jamie McKenzie charged in “Fuzzy Math, Fuzzy Reading, and Fuzzy Science”: “NCLB narrows educational choices and strategies by creating an artificial test of scientific reliability that does not belong in the educational environment and does not even work very well in the field of medicine” [].

Choices for Parents

“Parents with children in schools that do not meet state standards for at least two consecutive years may transfer their children to a better-performing public school, including a public charter school, within their district. If they do so, the district must provide transportation, using Title I funds if necessary. Students from low-income families in schools that fail to meet state standards for at least three years are eligible to receive supplemental educational services, including tutoring, after-school services, and summer school.”

The Education Commission of the States provides a list of Pros & Cons on the school choice issue, citing advocates as believing that “Depending on how school choice programs are designed, they can level the playing field by giving low-income or minority students access to a high-quality education otherwise unobtainable.” Meanwhile, opponents fear “School choice programs that force public schools to compete in the open marketplace reduce the importance of the civic and socializing missions of education that train students in citizenship and democratic principles. School is transformed into a commodity, and parents attempt to consume the best education product possible in the form of high-quality schools” []

More Local Freedom

“Under No Child Left Behind, states and school districts have unprecedented flexibility in how they use federal education funds, in exchange for greater accountability for results.”

William J. Mathis, superintendent of schools in Brandon, VT, fears that the federal government is asking too much and giving too little as he explains in the Phi Delta Kappan: “The federal Administration has asked for an increase of $1 billion in Title I, but we need at least $84.5 billion if we are to make a realistic effort to leave no child behind. The states, currently wallowing in deficits totaling $58 billion, will be legally forced to take on these added burdens, but they lack the capability” []

Meanwhile, in a testimony to the Heritage Foundation, Krista Kafer quoted other statistics, arguing that “Since the law’s enactment, Congress has sent $771.5 million to states to design and implement their annual testing programs, and President Bush has asked an additional $390 million for next year. Two recent studies suggest this will be more than adequate. A 2002 study conducted by Accountability Works found that the annual cost increase for the 50 states to implement new tests will be between $312 million and $388 million. A GAO study completed this May estimates that the new tests will cost $1.9 billion between 2002 and 2008. That is less than the funding ceiling set in the NCLB.”

Further Resources:

The Center on Education Policy released its study, “Implementing the No Child Left Behind Act: A First Look Inside 15 School Districts in 2002Æ03,” based on case studies of 15 school districts completed as of September 2003. The report “highlights the problems arising with implementation and the strategies used to tackle these problems” [].   Some other organizations working in education policy are listed below:

The Center for Education Reform (

The goal of the Center for Education Reform (CER) is to provide citizens and legislators with the tools necessary to implement change. From programs for Charter Schools to School Choice, from curriculum reform to increased accountability, CER works for improved education in America.

Developing Educational Standards  (

This site is a repository for as information about educational standards and curriculum frameworks from all sources (national, state, local, and other) on the Internet, organized both by subject area and by state.

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing is an advocacy organization working to end the abuses, misuses and flaws of standardized testing and ensure that evaluation of students and workers is fair, open, and educationally sound. The FairTest site outlines the new federally mandated national testing plan for grades K-12 and offers fact sheets on many related topics.

National Education Association (

The NEA is committed to advancing the cause of public education, with 2.7 million members who work at every level of education, from pre-school to university graduate programs. Founded in 1857 “to elevate the character and advance the interests of the profession of teaching and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States,” the NEA is focused on “restoration of public confidence in public education.”