COMET • Vol. 4, No. 32 – 5 December 2003


(1) Algebra I Requirement for Graduation

Source:  Kay Garcia (, California Department of Education


Completion of Algebra I is now a mandated requirement to receive a high school diploma. While many students have yet to meet this requirement, the California Department of Education and the State Board of Education believe that all students can meet the requirement by providing them with teachers knowledgeable in the content area, implementing differentiated instruction, providing varied ways of demonstrating competency, creating additional time slots for learning, and developing other strategies. More information is available on the following web pages: Algebra I Requirement for Graduation ( and Frequently Asked Questions (

For complete mathematics graduation requirements, please visit the Mathematics page ( on the High School Graduation Requirements Web site.

(2) California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) Study Guides

Contact: Jessica Valdez (916-445-9449)


The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) Study Guides are now available on the California Department of Education’s CAHSEE Web site under “Resources.”

In addition, hard copies of the study guides have been printed for every tenth-grade student in California and have been shipped to the test coordinators in all school districts for distribution.

All questions about the study guide and its distribution should be directed to Jessica Valdez in the CAHSEE Office at (916) 445-9449.

(3) State Schools Chief O’Connell Announces Five California Teachers of the Year for 2004

Source: California Department of Education (Press release)


On November 26, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell named five extraordinary educators as California’s Teachers of the Year for 2004. One of the five will go on to represent California in consideration for the National Teacher of the Year honor.

Arthur Coleman, Jr. of Lodi teaches at Hamilton Middle School in the Stockton Unified School District, San Joaquin County. Dawn Imamoto of Davis teaches at Bryte Elementary School in the Washington Unified School District, Yolo County. Paul Lewanski of Santa Ana teaches at Tustin High School in the Tustin Unified School District, Orange County. Paul McLaughlin of Chino Hills teaches at Suzanne Middle School in the Walnut Valley Unified School District, Los Angeles County. Zenaida Rosario of San Ysidro teaches at La Mirada Elementary in the San Ysidro School District, San Diego County.

“I chose these five teachers because they are so devoted to the pursuit of helping children get a superb education that they often sacrifice their personal time to help them,” said O’Connell. “Their passion for teaching motivates students to learn, and the proof is improved achievement. Their commitment to quality education, rapport with students, and innovative teaching methods make them wonderful role models not only for children, but also for other educators.”

O’Connell also is nominating one of the five, Paul Lewanski, to represent California in the National Teacher of the Year program. The President of the United States will announce the selection in the spring of 2004.

The 31-year old California Teachers of the Year program is open to public and private school educators who teach pre-kindergarten through grade twelve. County offices of education traditionally nominate winners of their regional Teacher of the Year competition. A selection committee reviews the candidates’ applications and conducts site visits to evaluate the teachers’ rapport with students, classroom environment, presentation skills, use of appropriate teaching methods, their ability to adjust to last minute changes, among other criteria. O’Connell then selects the awardees.

“The selection of these five teachers among a field of 60 very qualified applicants was difficult,” said O’Connell. “While I’m proud of the hard work of all of the more than 307,000 teachers in California, I am particularly drawn to these finalists because of their exceptional teaching methods and their ability to affect children’s lives so positively through education.”

O’Connell will recognize the five Teachers of the Year at a dinner in their honor in Sacramento next January. The State Board of Education also will recognize them and seven runners-up at its January meeting.

For more information about the California Teachers of the Year program, please visit


(1) Call for Participants:  Middle School Mathematics Teachers Research on Online Approaches to Professional Development

Source: Education Development Center (via Art Sussman)

URL: (Project summary:

EDC (Education Development Center) and the Boston College Technology and Assessment Study Collaborative are collaborating on a research project funded by the National Science Foundation that is investigating the effectiveness of alternative approaches to online professional development, exploring the impact of these approaches on teachersÍ content knowledge and instructional practices. The project is being led by Dr. Glenn Kleiman of EDC and Dr. Mike Russell of Boston College.

We are looking for 150 middle school (grades 7-8) mathematics teachers who are interested in participating in a professional development offering as part of this research project. As part of the project you will be enrolled in a 10-week online course that will provide innovative algebra classroom activities for your students. The course will focus on cultivating algebraic thinking in your class through number activities and the study of patterns and functions. The course will also introduce web-based technology that is available at no cost that you can use in your classroom to help promote algebraic thinking. In return for your participation in the research activities, you will receive a $200 stipend. You can also choose to obtain graduate course credit from Antioch University Seattle for a reduced tuition fee of $300 (to which you can apply the $200 stipend).

About the Research Project:

The research will compare two types of professional development approaches. Both types will cover the same content and will require the same time commitment. The two types of professional development will be:

* Individualized self-paced: In this model, teachers do the course work on their own schedule and interact through email with a highly qualified instructor

* Learning-community: This model follows a more structured schedule and is facilitated by a highly qualified instructor. The cohort of teachers who are taking the course interact with one another and the instructor via an asynchronous online forum.

What it Means to Participate:

Participants must teach 7th and/or 8th grade mathematics and must agree to participate in whichever of the professional development approaches they are assigned within the research study. Each of the courses will run over a period of 10 weeks, with an expectation that participants will spend 4 hours per week on online and off-line activities related to the course. The coursework can be done on your schedule and either at home or school over the Internet. In addition to completing the professional development coursework, participating teachers must be willing to:

* complete 2 formal surveys that will require approximately 4 hours over the course of the year,

* be available for occasional informal communication over the course of the year,

* hand out and return to the research team a brief (15 minute) student survey, and

* be willing to be selected for field observation and/or interviews.

Time Line:

The first survey to collect baseline data will be conducted in January 2004. The professional development workshops will begin on February 16 and end on April 16, 2004. Follow-up observations and interviews will be conducted from April through June 2004 and possibly September through November, 2004.

Next Steps:

If you would like to participate in this professional development opportunity or would like more information, contact Rebby Carey by December 24, 2003. You can call her at 617-618-2892 or email her at

(2) ThinkQuest Web Site Design Competition

Source: David R. Richards, Director of ThinkQuest Partnerships & Marketing

(Oracle “Help Us Help” Foundation)


ThinkQuest is recognized as one of the leading Internet-based programs to encourage collaborative learning.  Since its inception in 1996, over 125,000 students from about 100 countries have worked in small teams to create educational web sites. These web sites are published in the ThinkQuest Library, a highly popular (used by over 2.5 million unique visitors per month) educational resource used by teachers, students and the general public the world over (

Last year, the Oracle “Help Us Help” Foundation, which is funded by Oracle Corporation (the world’s largest enterprise software company), acquired ThinkQuest and launched the ThinkQuest USA competition.  The 2003 national winners and runners-up attended ThinkQuest Live @ OracleWorld in San Francisco, where they enjoyed sightseeing, an educational agenda featuring tutorials by industry experts, front-row seats for keynote addresses by industry leaders, a “VIP” tour of the exhibit hall, as well as the opportunity to showcase their winning web sites at the conference attended by over 20,000 technology professionals.

The Oracle Foundation launched the new ThinkQuest competition in October. This program encourages students between the ages of 9 and 19 from all over world to collaborate in teams of 3-6 under the supervision of a teacher-coach to author educational content related to one of six topics (including medicine, mythology and folklore, natural disasters, nonnative species, space travel, and the world economy).  Teams will have until the end of February 2004 to work on their sites. There will be two contest cycles per annum to encourage participation from northern and southern hemispheres (with their very different academic calendars). All sites must be submitted in English or Spanish, and bonus points will be awarded to multilingual entries.  Bonus points will also be awarded to teams consisting of multinational team members. The projects will then be evaluated through a two-step process including peer review and scoring by volunteer educators.  Sites that meet the evaluation criteria will be published in the ThinkQuest Library, and winning teams will receive exciting prizes, including attendance at the next ThinkQuest Live event.

Students are attracted and motivated by the prizes and sense of accomplishment seeing their work featured in the ThinkQuest library. They learn the subject matter of their web project and also learn powerful lessons about teamwork, research, critical thinking, project management, and technology. By encouraging multinational collaboration between students from developed and developing countries, the ThinkQuest program fosters understanding, life-long learning, and the development of crucial life skills.

See to learn more about the Oracle Foundation and for further information about Oracle’s Education Initiatives. ThinkQuest is profiled in Technology & Learning Magazine’s November 2003 issue in the article “Top 10 Innovative Projects”:

(3) PBS’s “NewsHour Extra” Teacher Resources

Source: Public Broadcasting Service


Do you want to build your students’ analytical thinking and critical analysis skills? Are you searching for ways to make your subject matter more relevant and engaging? “NewsHour Extra” is here to help!

Each “NewsHour Extra” story comes with a short lesson plan that includes initiating questions, a reading comprehension printout. and extension activities…

You’ll find in-depth lesson plans that match school subject areas with important developments from around the world and around the country. [The Math/Economics page currently includes lesson plans entitled “A Gigabyte of Music, How Much is That?” and “Sampling Bias and the California Recall”–see]

(4)  Teachers’ Grab Bag from NSTA Reports is Online

Source: “NSTA Express” – 1 December 2003


NSTA Reports‘ ever-popular, monthly column–Teachers’ Grab Bag–is on the web. Check out where you can find hundreds of free and almost free items such as videos, publications, CD-ROMs, lab kits, and much more. Visitors can search the database by cost and type of products/services.

(5) Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) Update

Source: U.S. Department of Education – (800) LET-ERIC (538-3742)


ERIC is a national information system funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to provide access to education literature and resources.

In January 2004, the Department of Education will begin to implement a reengineering plan for ERIC. The new ERIC mission continues the core function of providing a centralized bibliographic database of journal articles and other published and unpublished education materials. It enhances the database by adding free full text and electronic links to commercial sources and by making it easy to use and up to date.

Beginning in January and until the new ERIC model for acquiring education literature is developed later in 2004, no new materials will be received and accepted for the database. However, the ERIC database will continue to grow, as thousands of documents selected by the ERIC clearinghouses throughout 2003 will be added. When the new model is ready later in 2004, the new ERIC contractor will communicate with publishers, education organizations, and other database contributors to add publications and materials released from January 2004 forward.

ERIC clearinghouses, including AskERIC, close at the end of December 2003. During the transition period, continue to use this ERIC website to:

* Search the ERIC database.

* Search the ERIC Calendar of Education-Related Conferences.

* Link to the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS) to purchase ERIC full-text documents.

* Link to the ERIC Processing and Reference Facility to purchase ERIC tapes and tools.

* Stay up-to-date about the ERIC transition to a new contractor and model.


Related information: AskERIC Site Update

Source: AskERC –


The resources at will be moving to a new home on December 20, 2003–the Educator’s Reference Desk at This new site will include 2000 lesson plans, 3000 value-added pointers to education information & organizations, and 200 question archives.

The AskERIC site and question-answer service itself will be discontinued on December 19, 2003.