COMET • Vol. 4, No. 33 – 13 December 2003


(1) National Board for Professional Teaching Standards–Certification Recipients and Information

Source:  Kay Garcia ( – California Department of Education


Fifty-nine California mathematics teachers recently learned of their national certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.  National Board Certification is the highest credential in the teaching profession.  A state teaching license or credential allows one to begin a career in teaching while national certification is recognition of accomplished teaching.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers two certificates for math teachers.  The Early Adolescence/Mathematics (EA/MATH) certificate is appropriate for teachers who teach students ages 11-15 and the Adolescence and Young Adulthood/Mathematics (AYA/MATH) certificate is appropriate for teachers who teach student ages 14-18.  Both certificates are appropriate for teachers who know the full range of the school mathematics curriculum: algebra and functions; geometry; calculus; discrete mathematics; and statistics and data analysis.  (For EA certification, it’s concepts related to calculus and discrete mathematics.)

Over approximately a six-month period, teachers seeking national certification must create a portfolio as a showcase of their practice.  The four-part portfolio includes written analyses of student work, two classroom videos, and evidence of candidates’ involvement outside the classroom with both their profession and the family and community of their students.

Candidates are also required to sit for six, 30-minute assessments on content.  For mathematics certifications you must be able to demonstrate content knowledge in the previously mentioned areas as well as various mathematical thinking processes and in using technology and manipulatives.

It can take up to three years to earn national certification.  Approximately 50% of first-time candidates achieve National Board Certification.  Candidates receive ten scores

(four portfolio and six assessment center) and may bank passing scores for two years while they retake entries.  In general, candidates who are part of a support group have a higher achievement rate.

The application fee for national certification is $2,300. The California Department of Education administers the federal Candidate Subsidy Program (CSP), which provides fee assistance to candidates.  Additionally, many districts provide fee support for their teachers.

The state offers a $20,000 incentive award to National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) who teach in high priority schools.  For details about this award, the CSP, and information about how various school districts support National Board Certification, please visit, the Web site for information about national certification in California.  The award is subject to funding in the annual budget act.

California currently has 215 math teachers who have earned National Board Certification, 125 AYA/MATH and 82 EA/MATH.  You will find the names of the 2,649 NBCTs in California on the National Board Web site at as well as information about earning graduate credit for completing the process.

(2) NCLB Highly-Qualified Teacher Requirements–Regulations Update; HOUSSE forms

URL (Announcement):

URL (Regulations):

The meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE) scheduled for Friday, 12 December 2003 was canceled. The State Board had scheduled this meeting to consider any objections that might have been raised during a 15-day public comment period on amendments to the State Board’s proposed [Title 5] regulations regarding implementation of the highly qualified teacher requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 [see]

Because no objections were raised during the public comment period that ended 9 December 2003, the scheduled meeting [was] not warranted.  In accordance with the State Board’s earlier direction to staff, a rulemaking package will now be completed, and the proposed regulations will be forwarded to the State Office of Administrative Law for approval once a pending exemption request per Executive Order S-2-03 is approved.


Note: Online versions of the “NCLB Teacher Requirements: Certificate of Compliance” (Form 1) and “California HOUSSE [High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation]–Part 1” (Form 2) are available at “HOUSSE–Part 2” (Form 3) is available for download at

(3)  “Total Overhaul Sought in Funding for Schools” by Deb Kollars

Source: The Sacramento Bee – 11 December 2003


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s top education adviser is calling for a complete and dramatic overhaul of the way California pays for public schools.

Education Secretary Richard Riordan said Wednesday that in light of The Bee’s recent investigation of school financing, the new Republican administration is expanding its proposals for education reform to include a new kind of student funding formula.

Under the approach Riordan has in mind, students would trigger uniform “weighted” dollar allotments for their schools, based on their learning needs, rather than the random and inequitable amounts they now generate for their districts.

Such a shift would mark the first time in three decades that California has fundamentally addressed one of the most convoluted, political and deeply entrenched aspects of state spending–and the biggest, at $41 billion a year.

“We need to start from scratch and do a systematic reform of the entire system,” said Riordan, the former mayor of Los Angeles, who has long been involved in school reform efforts.

Earlier this week, the education secretary visited the Edmonton school system in Alberta, Canada, which uses a weighted formula that provides all students a uniform amount of basic education money, then adds on a standard supplemental amount for those with greater needs, such as the poor. The system stands in stark contrast to California’s, which has a thousand different base funding amounts for children–one for every district–and then adds uneven amounts of money for other needs.

Riordan said Edmonton puts much of the money directly into the hands of school principals, something he and Schwarzenegger would like to see in California to reduce bureaucracy and encourage greater personal accountability for student achievement.

Riordan stressed that the administration is in the early stages of exploring the idea of a weighted student funding formula.

“The governor will be studying it and looking at all the options,” Riordan said.

The notion, he added, is consistent with the governor’s overall goal of streamlining school funding.

Margita Thompson, press secretary for Schwarzenegger, said it is too soon for the governor to comment on the possible change in student funding. Given the state’s deep financial problems, she said, all options for greater efficiency–both short term and long term –will get a good, hard look.

“Everything has to be on the table because the fiscal crisis is so severe,” she said.

As a key step on the road to change, Riordan is advocating the appointments of two prominent education leaders to a panel that will spend the next year studying school finance in California. Called the Quality Education Commission, the group was supposed to have begun its work last July. But the appointments came slowly–former Gov. Gray Davis completed his seven choices just before he left office.

Schwarzenegger canceled those appointments and is refilling the slots himself. Riordan is recommending the first two be Ted Mitchell, president of Occidental College, and David Davenport, research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The Quality Education Commission was created in response to the state’s new Master Plan for Education, released last year, which called for finding a more sensible way to pay for schools.

Mitchell said Wednesday that any significant changes to the system would require thorough study and research, and then consensus among the many layers and bodies invested in education, including the Governor’s Office, the Legislature, the Department of Education and the state Board of Education.

“All will need to come together to form solutions that will be effective and durable,” he said.

Such reform is badly needed, based on a yearlong investigation by The Bee, called “Paying for Schools.” The newspaper’s review covered three distinct areas of school finance–known to insiders as categoricals, mandates and revenue limits–and found them loaded with inequities, politicking, red tape, and confusing and outdated rules and formulas.

The three areas also have big price tags.

The state spends more than $11 billion a year on its categorical system, a confusing maze detailed in a collection of articles published in February. California has more than 100 of these special pots of money earmarked for specific purposes, such as teacher training, violence prevention, gifted education and services for poor children.

In addition, California spends a sizable but shifting amount on mandates, which reimburse schools for tasks imposed on them by the state. Over the past five years, nearly $1 billion has gone out for education mandates, including such routine things as teaching biology to sophomores, according to a Bee investigation published in May.

Finally, there is the $29 billion revenue limit system, which provides per-student dollar amounts for every child in the state to cover the basics of education: teachers and other staff, utility bills and supplies ranging from pencils to microscopes. The public may expect those amounts to be even, but they actually range from $4,300 to more than $8,200 a student. They are accompanied by layers of funding that increase the inequities, according to the most recent slice of the investigation, published Nov. 30-Dec. 3.

“The system is so mind-boggling,” Riordan said. “It is impossible to understand.”

During the campaign and again during his early weeks in office, Schwarzenegger took aim at the categorical mess, saying the separate pots should be eliminated to reduce bureaucracy and provide more strings-free money to districts.

That alone would be an enormous political battle. Some of the categories of funding date back 30 to 40 years and have constituencies who believe deeply in their purposes. Periodically, state politicians have attempted–without success–to rein in the unwieldy system. Just last year, Davis tried and failed.

Now, the new administration is talking about going much further in restructuring the underlying funding process.

Riordan said he wants to create a fairer financial foundation for schools by setting up the weighted student formula, as Edmonton and a number of U.S. states are doing.

Oregon, for example, has used a weighted approach for the last 10 years. There, a typical student, regardless of where he or she lives, brings a school a standard $5,280 a year.

Six other groups of children with special needs trigger an additional sum for their districts in Oregon. A student not proficient in English receives an extra weight of .50, meaning the child brings in an extra $2,640 to a district. The other five weighted groups are: special education; pregnant and/or parenting students; those in poverty; kids in foster homes; and those classified as neglected or delinquent.

That approach “would put the money at the student level,” Riordan said, adding that he also wants to get rid of many of the other complex funding streams of the revenue limit system. One antiquated source, called “Meals for Needy Pupils,” brings millions of extra dollars to some districts every year while bypassing many others.

State Sen. Dede Alpert, D-San Diego, said Wednesday that the Quality Education Commission would play a critical role in reshaping school funding. The commission has been asked to develop a new “adequacy” model that determines what a quality education actually costs.

The new master plan recommended retaining a handful of categorical funding streams to address the needs of special populations of children–which Alpert said would have the same effect as using a weighted approach.

“The weighted formula would be an interesting alternative,” she said.

Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Association, said he worries that weighted formulas might not address California’s numerous demographic and geographic differences.

“My intuition doesn’t support a simple, one-size-fits-all approach,” he said, adding that he also was concerned about the administration latching onto a single approach to the exclusion of other promising options.

“But I am excited by the prospect of someone in high authority taking a look at the question,” Plotkin said. “The existing system is filled with inequities.”

The 13-member Quality Education Commission will begin meeting in late January at the earliest, said Mary Weaver, its interim director. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation of Menlo Park and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of Seattle have together donated $500,000 to pay for staffing, travel and other costs for the first year of the commission’s work, she said.

The meetings will be public, and Web-based public forums also are planned.


(1) PMET (“Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers”) Workshop Applications are Now Available


PMET (Preparing Mathematicians to Educate Teachers) is a major initiative of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) funded by the National Science Foundation with supplemental funding from Texas Instruments. Its goal is to enhance the background of mathematicians who teach mathematics courses taken by students preparing to teach at the elementary, middle and/or secondary grade levels.  A major component of PMET is a series of workshops running from 7-12 days and for one or two summers.  The eight new workshops for summer 2004 will take place in California, North Carolina, Nebraska, New York and Ohio.  For specific dates and sites, go to the PMET Web page:

This can also be reached by going to the MAA home page and following links to PMET workshops.

Each workshop is planned to include about 25 participants. Room, board and tuition is covered by the grants, so participants need only pay their travel.  In the past, many institutions have provided these travel funds.

Application forms are available online for download at

The deadline for applications is April 9, 2004.

For questions or additional information contact Ed Dubinsky – PMET Associate Director for Workshops and Minicourses (

(2) Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program


The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program offers current public or private elementary and secondary mathematics, technology, and science classroom teachers with demonstrated excellence in teaching an opportunity to serve in the national public policy arena. Fellows provide practical insight in establishing and operating education programs. Fellowships increase understanding, communication, and cooperation between legislative and executive branches and the science, mathematics, and technology education community.

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Act was signed into law in November 1994. The law gives the Department of Energy responsibility for administering a program of distinguished educator fellowships for elementary and secondary school mathematics and science teachers. Selected teachers spend a school year in a Congressional Office, the Department of Energy (DOE), or a federal agency such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Albert Einstein Fellows bring to Congress and appropriate branches of the federal government the extensive knowledge and experience of classroom teachers. They provide practical insights and “real world” perspectives to policy makers and program managers developing or managing educational programs. Fellows receive a stipend of $5250 per month plus travel and moving expenses.

Some of the outstanding contributions of Einstein Fellows have included:

*  Drafting legislation and influencing policy that seek to improve K-16 education in the United States;

*  Initiating collaborations and establishing partnerships between federal agencies;

*  Designing and implementing national science, math, and technology education programs;

*  Creating web-based science education programs;

*  Establishing and evaluating national and regional programs centered on school reform and teacher preparation in science, mathematics, and technology; and

*  Creating and producing educational curricula and products with national distribution.

Applications are currently being accepted online for the 2004-2005 Fellowship year. The application deadline is 1 February 2004.

ELIGIBILITY–Each applicant must meet the following criteria:

* Be a U.S. citizen at the time of selection;

* Have a minimum of five years full-time classroom teaching experience;

* Be teaching full time in a public or private elementary or secondary school; and

* Have a current teaching assignment with at least 3ò4 of classroom contact hours in science, mathematics, and/or technology (applies to secondary school teachers only).

SELECTION CRITERIA–Fellowship selections are based on evidence of:

* Excellence in teaching science, mathematics, or technology;

* An experimental and innovative attitude in their approach to teaching;

* Sustained professional growth in science or mathematics in the art of teaching;

* Professional involvement and leadership;

* Interpersonal and communication skills needed to serve in the public policy environment; and

* Knowledge of national, state, and local policies which affect education.

DURATION OF FELLOWSHIP–Einstein Fellows usually spend a school year in a professional staff position in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives, at the Department of Energy (DOE), or at other federal agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

(3) The National School and Business Partnerships Award

Source:  The Council for Corporate & School Partnerships


Created by The Council for Corporate & School Partnerships, the National School and Business Partnerships Award will recognize exemplary partnerships between schools and businesses around the country. Partnerships involving kindergarten through 12th grade public schools and/or school districts and businesses are eligible to apply for the award.

The Council will present six awards in the inaugural year. Those selected for the award will receive national recognition and the schools or districts will receive $10,000 to support partnership efforts.

Members of The Council for Corporate & School Partnerships will judge applications.

Applicants for the award will be judged on a number of criteria, including:

*  The strength of the partnership’s foundation, as evidenced by shared values, and the school and business partner’s ability to define mutually beneficial goals;

*  The success of the partnership’s implementation, as evidenced by such factors as the management process and determination of specific, measurable outcomes;

*  The partnership’s sustainability, based on such factors as support by school and business leaders and by teachers, employees, students and other constituents; and

*  The partners’ ability to present a clear evaluation of the partnership’s impact, as measured by evidence that the partnership was developed with clear definitions of success for all parties, and that it has resulted in improvements of the academic, social or physical well-being of students.

Judges may also consider the uniqueness of the partnership and the value of third-party support of the partnership.

A PDF version of the application packet, including instructions, can be downloaded at

Applications sent via mail must be postmarked by 29 January 2004.  Winners of The National School and Business Partnerships Award will be announced on 21 April 2004.

If you have any questions regarding the application process, please send queries to

(4) Student Finds Largest Known Prime Number

Source: – 11 December 2003


More than 200,000 computers spent years looking for the largest known prime number. It turned up on Michigan State University graduate student Michael Shafer’s off-the-shelf PC…

The number is 6,320,430 digits long and would need 1,400 to 1,500 pages to write out. It is more than 2 million digits larger than the previous largest known prime number.

Shafer, 26, helped find the number as a volunteer on an eight-year-old project called the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search.

Tens of thousands of people volunteered the use of their PCs in a worldwide project that harnessed the power of 211,000 computers, in effect creating a supercomputer capable of performing 9 trillion calculations per second. Participants could run the mathematical analysis program on their computers in the background, as they worked on other tasks.

Shafer ran an ordinary Dell computer in his office for 19 days until November 17, when he glanced at the screen and saw “New Mersenne prime found.”

A prime number is a positive number divisible only by itself and one, e.g., 2, 3, 5, 7 and so on. Mersenne primes are a special category, expressed as 2 to the “p” power minus 1, where “p” also is a prime number.

In the case of Shafer’s discovery, it was 2 to the 20,996,011th power minus 1. The find was independently verified by other participants in the project…

(5) Links to Additional News Items:

(a) “Trying to Figure Out Why Math is So Hard for Some” by Valerie Strauss

Source:  Washington Post – 2 December 2003


(b) “No Child Left Behind: A Progress Report”

Source: Education Week – 10 December 2003


URL (NCLB summary):