COMET • Vol. 4, No. 09 – 12 March 2003


California State Board of Education (SBE) Agenda for March Meeting

The agenda for this month’s meeting of the California SBE is available (pdf) at


(1) NAEP: Updates and Information on the National Assessment of Educational Progress

URL (Main site):

URL (Mathematics):

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is called the “Nation’s Report Card” because it is the only on-going monitor of student achievement across time. NAEP has been assessing and reporting trends in student performance in key academic areas since 1969 [ presents a timeline].  NAEP is a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), under policies set by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). NAEP provides objective information on student performance to policymakers, educators, and the general public.

NAEP is the main source of information about the condition and progress of education in the United States. Results are provided on the performance of various groups and subgroups of students at the national and state levels. NAEP does not report data on individual students and is, in fact, forbidden by law to do this. Policymakers, educators, and the public increasingly rely on NAEP to gauge the effectiveness of education and use these data to inform various viewpoints and policies…

* Types of NAEP Assessments 

In the area of mathematics, there are two different NAEP assessments, the long-term trend NAEP and the main NAEP. The main NAEP has both a national and state component.

The long-term trend NAEP, first given in mathematics in 1973, allows change in national achievement over time to be tracked reliably. Based on national samples of students at ages 9, 13, and 17, this assessment provides descriptive information about students’ strengths and weaknesses, the relative achievement of student groups by gender and ethnicity, and information relating achievement and background variables.

The long-term trend NAEP consists of the same test items and test procedures originally used in the 1970’s. It produces trend data that is used to anchor the assessment so that today’s student performance can be compared with students of the past. The long-term trend NAEP is often described as measuring basic mathematics skills because it examines student performance with traditional paper-and-pencil computation.

The main NAEP is based on a mathematics assessment framework developed in 1988. It is administered to a national sample in grades 4, 8, and 12 and to state samples in grades 4 and 8. The main NAEP was designed to provide state-level student achievement data in addition to national-level student data that was being produced. The 1998 Project Steering Committee adopted a policy statement defining the purpose of state-level student achievement comparisons as providing “data on student performance to assist policymakers and educators to work toward the improvement of education.”

* Schedule for the State and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from 1969-2012

The current schedule for 2002 and beyond assumes continuing legislative authority. The schedule may be augmented, with advance public notice, as resources permit.

NAGB has reexamined the assessment schedule for 2003 and beyond to address the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. According to the new law:

*  NAEP must administer reading and mathematics assessments for grades 4 and 8 every other year in all states.

*  In addition, NAEP must test these subjects on a nationally representative basis at grade 12 at least as often as it has done in the past, or every four years.

*  While NAEP is required to administer long-term trend assessments in reading and mathematics at ages 9, 13, and 17, there is no requirement that the science and writing trend assessments be continued. NAGB has formulated policy for the long-term trend assessments.

*  Provided funds are available, NAEP may conduct national and state assessments at grades 4, 8, and 12 in “additional subject matter, including writing, science, history, geography, civics, economics, foreign languages, and arts.”

* NAEP Calendar of Events 2003-2005


March–NAEP 2003 reading and mathematics assessments end.

May–Projected release of NAEP 2002 reading assessment results.

June–Projected release of NAEP 2002 writing assessment results.

September–Projected release of NAEP 2003 reading and mathematics assessments results.


Fall–Foreign language assessment administered to students at grade 12


Winter–Reading, mathematics, and science assessments administered to students at grades 4, 8, and 12.

* State Mathematics Assessment

In 1996 and 2000, in addition to assessing a national sample of students, NAEP examined the mathematics performance of fourth- and eighth-grade students in state-level assessments.

See a broad summary of the state-level results for the 2000 mathematics assessment at

View and download the Report Cards for all participating states at

Visit the State Profiles database for key data about each state’s student and school population and its NAEP testing history and results:

* How the NAEP Mathematics Assessment Works

= Learn about what the assessment measures and how it was developed:

= Learn who took the 1996 and 2000 assessment and how it was administered:

= Explore sample questions from the assessment and see how they were scored:

= Find out what students know and can do by looking at the NAEP mathematics scale:

= Find out what students should know and be able to do by viewing NAEP mathematics achievement levels:

(2) TIMSS: Updates and Information on the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study


The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS, formerly known as the Third International Mathematics and Science Study) resulted from the American education community’s need for reliable and timely data on the mathematics and science achievement of our students compared to that of students in other countries. TIMSS is the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment of its kind ever undertaken. Offered in 1995, 1999, and planned for 2003, TIMSS provides trend data on students’ mathematics and science achievement from an international perspective.

* TIMSS Results

TIMSS assessed the mathematics and science performance of U.S. students in comparison to their peers in other nations at three different grade levels in 1995 and at one grade level in 1999. TIMSS also collected information on schools, curricula, instruction, lessons, and the lives of teachers and students to understand the educational context in which mathematics and science learning takes place. The TIMSS results provide participating countries with valuable information about the achievement of their students and mathematics and science instruction.

Highlights of the TIMSS results:

* Mathematics and Science Achievement of 8th-Graders in 1999:

* Teaching and Curriculum in 1999:

* Mathematics and Science Achievement in 1995 and 1999:

The complete United States TIMSS reports from 1995 and 1999, along with other results and brochures, are also available at

* For Educators

A variety of resources have been created by NCES to make the TIMSS curriculum and assessment information available to schools in a ready-to-use form.

Mathematics Concepts and Mathematics Items (544 KB):

Science Concepts and Science Items (508 KB):

Mathematics Items (390 KB):

Science Items (346 KB):

The Mathematics Concepts and Mathematics Items book contains 82 released mathematics items from the TIMSS 1999 assessment, and the Science Concepts and Science Items contains 68 released science items. Every item is accompanied by a scoring guide to provide assistance in scoring written responses, as well as international results that indicate the percent of students in each country who answered the question correctly. In addition, an excerpt from the TIMSS curriculum framework is included at the back of each volume.

The separate Mathematics Items and Science Items books contain the same assessment items as in the other two books described above, but in a ready to use format. Each item is presented on a separate page without the scoring guide and percent correct indicated for each country, making them ready for photocopying.

There are a number of ways you can use these resources. Examples include:

* To inform discussions about your schools’ mathematics and science curriculum;

* To explore the links between concepts you teach and ways to measure students understanding;

* To design your own assessment according to your needs; and

* To reflect on the performance of your students in comparison to the performance of students in other countries, including the United States.

In addition to these resources, your students can test their mathematics and science knowledge to see how their answers compare to 4th and 8th grade students from countries around the world. By clicking on the “Explore Your Knowledge” link (, students are provided the opportunity to test their knowledge of mathematics and science topics at their own convenience. In addition to learning the answers to the mathematics and science questions, students can also learn other interesting tidbits about the topics covered by the items and the countries that have participated in the TIMSS assessments. Over time, new items will be added as they are publicly released by the international organization that administers TIMSS.

(3) “Teaching the American Way” by Jay Mathews

Source:  Washington Post – 11 March 2003


If you fret, as I do, about insufficient rigor in U.S. classrooms, try spending some time with teachers who have brought the American way of schooling overseas. It is a shock to discover that despite our failure to teach enough to many American students here, well-educated foreigners still prefer the WAY we teach to the brain cramming that goes on in their own schools.

I discovered this at the annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of International Education in St. Louis last month. The group, whose executive director is former Alexandria, Va., superintendent Herbert Berg, represents private schools–often called American or international schools–located in foreign countries. They cater to American diplomat and business families, as well as children from other countries whose parents are working abroad and the children of host country parents, at least the more affluent ones.

I asked these American educators why parents in Asia and Europe, whose local schools outscore us on international tests, would want an apparently inferior American education…

We Americans think our schools have problems. Our average test scores are often not quite as high as those found abroad. But foreigners still think we encourage creative thinking in ways their own schools do not. That success, they say, seems to be reflected in the innovative triumphs of our businesses and laboratories. Also, foreigners envy the strength and accessibility of American universities and often want their children to attend them. And as Larry W. Dougherty, headmaster of the American Overseas School of Rome, told me, foreign parents notice that American educators want them involved in school affairs, while their own schools freeze them out.

What I find particularly enchanting is the foreign parents’ impression of American education as a bulwark against rote memorization and dull repetition. Keep in mind that these American schools abroad are run much like private schools and first-rate public schools in this country. Their students are just as frantic about getting into American colleges. They prepare carefully for the SAT and work hard in International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement courses, as students do here.

Yet U.S. schools that put much emphasis on the SAT, AP and IB are frequently denounced by American education critics as foul dens of drill and kill.

A change in perspective can make things clearer. I came away from the St. Louis conference pleased that the balanced American approach–both free thinking and frequent review, with students both listening and talking–is appreciated abroad. Those foreign parents and students know what the American system can do when it has relatively small classes and well-organized schools, and I wish that for all U.S. schoolchildren.

The overseas experience also casts doubt on the frequently expressed notion that our schools are being deadened by high stakes tests. The American and international schools abroad may not have to worry about state and federal tests, but many of them give annual standardized tests to convince American parents they are keeping up with schools back home…

The argument that we were losing out to foreign education systems is weakened by the failure to consider different admissions criteria in different countries and, as American expert Gerald W. Bracey often points out, the relatively insignificant difference between the average scores of American students and those in other countries.

So cheer up. Score one for us. And take a look, if you need more proof that our system is not so bad, at what is happening in Japan.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the American economy stalled and the Japanese soared, business writers started blaming U.S. schools for our troubles. Those articles appeared less frequently as the American economy recovered. Now we find the Japanese overhauling their schools to look more like ours as their own economy stagnates.

Kathleen Kennedy Manzo of Education Week has done the best reporting on this. Her Sept. 25 story, “North Wind Bows to the Rising Sun,” says Japan’s education system has reacted to “rising reports of teenage suicide and violence, dramatic increases in numbers of students dropping out or refusing to attend school, a decided disconnect between the country’s fact-based curriculum and the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in an era of innovation.” In a national survey three years ago, only half of elementary school children and less that one fourth of older children in Japan said they enjoyed school. An international survey of students in 37 countries ranked Japan 36th for students’ interest and enjoyment of math.

Last April, Manzo says, a new system took effect: “The national course of study, which broadly outlines the content that every public and private school in Japan must teach at a given grade level, was trimmed by about 30 percent. The reduction coincides with the elimination of Saturday school, a fixture in the academic calendar that stretched the school year to upwards of 240 days [compared to 180 in the U.S.]. A new course, sogo gakushu, or integrated-study period, fills the curriculum gap, allowing student-directed, project-oriented lessons on such nontraditional topics as coexisting in a diverse society and taking care of the environment, as well as core subjects. At the same time, more control in this centralized system is shifting to local boards, school administrator, and teachers.” Sound familiar? I wager the Japanese will go too far in Americanizing their schools, just as we were wrong to say in the 1980s that a Japanization would save us. There is, I think, a happy medium for both societies, based on our different habits and traditions.

But in the eyes of those around the world who keep track of such things, we are doing much better than many of us think we are. That is worth keeping in mind.

(4) Announcing the ASCD Outstanding Young Educator Award

Source:  Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)


(ASCD) is proud to introduce an awards program that salutes a new generation’s passion for excellence

ASCD, in our ongoing search for what works in schools, has decided to search out, highlight, and celebrate the accomplishments of a young educator who achieves excellence and equity in teaching and learning. The ASCD Outstanding Young Educator Award (OYEA) is our way of recognizing an emerging educational leader and sharing his or her exemplary practices with the education community. Beginning in 2003, ASCD will select three quarterly OYEA finalists. During the fourth quarter of each year, the annual winner will be chosen from among the three finalists. The deadline for first quarter nominations is March 30, 2003.

The ASCD Outstanding Young Educator Award nominee is an education professional, 40 years of age or younger, who demonstrates exemplary commitment and exceptional contribution to the profession. This person’s creative and innovative accomplishments within the classroom, school, district, state, or region have had a significant impact on student performance and achievement over time and provide an ongoing model of excellence in encouraging all learners to succeed. The educator’s body of work consistently proves leadership among colleagues. The 2003 ASCD Outstanding Young Educator Award winner will be profiled in Educational Leadershipmagazine, will receive a check for $10,000, and will be honored during a general session at the 2004 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in New Orleans, Louisiana. The winner will receive an ASCD Institutional Membership for his or her school or district.

If you are an ASCD member and have firsthand knowledge of a colleague’s accomplishments that meet these criteria, you are invited to submit a nomination. Self-nominations will not be accepted.

Nomination form: