COMET • Vol. 5, No. 13 – 4 May 2004


(1) California Mathematics Framework Revision Update

Source: Tom Akin, California Department of Education

The Curriculum Commission will be examining its timeline for completing the update of the Mathematics Framework at its meeting on May 20-21. It is anticipated that the field review of the Framework will begin in August and last through early October.  [The agenda for this meeting will be posted at]

(2) Ed-Data (Education Data Partnership)


= How does your school compare with similar schools?

= How much do elementary districts typically spend on books and supplies?

= What are AYP and API all about?

You can easily find answers to these and other frequently asked questions on this website. A glossary gives you quick access to helpful definitions. You can also link directly to many California Department of Education web pages as well as numerous K-12 education sites.

The “Reports” pages provide the following information for multiple years from a pull-down menu:

*  Accountability (schools), including API Base and Growth, AYP and Tests

*  Demographic Profiles (all levels), with robust interactive comparisons for schools and districts

*  Financial statements (districts and county offices of education), with charts and comparisons

*  Bond and tax elections (districts)

*  Lists of districts in each county and schools within each district.

The information comes from data that schools, teachers, districts and the county provide to the California Department of Education (CDE). The Reports are updated periodically when the CDE certifies and releases new data.

“Education Issues and Background” offers background information on various topics such as AYP, API, STAR, California’s school finance system, and how California compares to other states.

To keep up with the latest postings on Ed-Data, automatic e-mail notices can be requested.


(1) “NAEP Data Says High School Achievement Improves, Course Credits Increase”

Source: NCTM Legislative and Policy Update – 3 May 2004

On April 28, the National Assessment Governing Board held a briefing entitled “Workshop on High School Grades, Courses, and Student Achievement: New Data from NAEP.”  The briefing, which examined the recently released results of “The High School Transcript Study: A Decade of Change in Curricula and Achievement: 1999-2000,” featured a panel of educators, statisticians and education policy experts.  The results of the High School Transcript Study (HSTS) indicate that high school graduates in 2000 earned more credits than high school graduates in 1990, and, on average, that the graduates’ GPAs rose from 1990 to 2000.

Dr. Katy Harvey, principal of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland and member of the National Assessment Governing Board, spoke of the need to better align grading practices with the outcomes that are expected on the NAEP and other achievement-focused examinations.  She also commented on the need to restructure the senior year of high school to make it a more meaningful experience for all students.

Michael Cohen, President of Achieve, Inc., spoke of the education policy implications of the NAEP results, saying that the rise in NAEP scores and the increase in course credits indicate that the standards based movement of the last decade is working.  However, the NAEP scores themselves remain low when compared to other industrialized nations, leading Cohen to conclude that US students are proficient but not fully prepared to compete in today’s high-tech global economy.  For more information or to view the HSTS results, visit

(2) “United States Still Leads in Science and Engineering, But Uncertainties Complicate Outlook”

Source: National Science Foundation – 4 May 2004


The United States remains the world’s leading producer of and a net exporter of high-technology products and ranks among the global leaders in research and development (R&D) spending. However, ongoing economic and workforce changes make the outlook for the future uncertain, according to Science and Engineering (S&E) Indicators 2004, a biennial report of the National Science Board (NSB) to the president.

“The United States is in a long-distance race to retain its essential global advantage in S&E human resources and sustain our world leadership in science and technology,” said NSB Chair Warren M. Washington. “For many years we have benefited from minimal competition in the global S&E labor market, but attractive and competitive alternatives are now expanding around the world. We must develop more fully our native talent.”

S&E Indicators, which this year contains a new chapter with a state-by-state breakdown of two dozen science and technology indicators, is considered the nation’s most authoritative source for national and international science and engineering trends in education, the labor force, academia and the global marketplace, as well as nationwide and statewide expenditures for research and development…

Indicators 2004 shows that the United States now ranks 17th among nations surveyed in the proportion of its 18-24-year-olds earning natural science and engineering degrees. In 1975, the United States ranked third.

Record levels of foreign-born S&E workers have helped make possible the rising U.S. S&E employment in the past several decades. Indicators 2004 highlights U.S. Census data from 2000 showing about 17 percent of bachelor’s degree holders, 29 percent of master’s degree holders, and 38 percent of doctorate holders employed in S&E occupations are foreign-born.

The latest data in Indicators 2004 paint a more detailed picture. The percentage of foreign-born mathematicians and computer scientists in the U.S workforce, for example, has nearly doubled since 1990. In addition, foreign-born students constituted more than 50 percent of U.S. engineering and computer science graduate students in 2001.

On the other hand, the number of high-skill-related visas issued to students, exchange visitors and others has declined significantly since 2001. These numbers reflect both a drop in applications and higher U.S. State Department refusal rates…

As in past years, S&E Indicators 2004 Chapter 4 contains information on R&D expenditures by state. In 2000, the most recent year for which complete data were available, the 20 highest-ranking states continue to account for 87 percent of R&D expenditures, while the 20 lowest-ranking states account for only 4 percent.

The new state indicators permit comparisons that take into account a wider range of state characteristics. These measures demonstrate that R&D expenditures do not necessarily reflect a state’s ranking on other indicators, such as eighth-grade educational performance, bachelor’s degrees conferred, patents awarded, federal R&D spending or share of high-tech businesses.

State Indicator Highlights:

— In most states, eighth-graders’ mathematics performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress improved from 1992 to 2000, and for those states with data available for 1996 and 2000, most showed a slight increase in eighth graders’ science performance.

— A state’s ranking in the workforce, R&D, or economic indicators often does not reflect its standing in education indicators (eighth-grade math and science performance or bachelor’s degrees conferred).

— College graduates are more likely to be found in states with strong federal and industry R&D investments or strong high-tech economies. The states with many bachelor’s degree holders in the workforce are often not the same states conferring relatively high shares of those bachelor’s degrees.

— A wide gap separates the top states for industrial R&D investment from those at the bottom. Similarly skewed distributions appear among rankings for federal R&D spending.

— States with a high proportion of high-tech businesses also show a higher percentage of bachelor’s degree holders, S&E doctorate holders and S&E occupations in the workforce.

(3) Public to Policymakers: “More Math, Please”

Source: Mass Insight Education and Research Institute – 6 April 2004


A new bicoastal public opinion poll called “More Math, Please” reveals a public that wants more math, not less. The survey is a new bicoastal public opinion poll that challenges some popular myths and stereotypes surrounding math.

Mass Insight Education, a nonprofit group focused on improving student achievement, commissioned the survey of 1000 residents in Massachusetts and Washington–states with remarkably similar demographics and approaches to school reform–to learn how public attitudes are affecting efforts to increase students’ math capabilities.

The results show that not only does the public feel relatively comfortable with math, but that 83% across both states report that they use math at work or at home. Moreover:

— The public believes that math was not harder to learn than other subjects, although more women remember having difficulty with math in school than men. 

— Those who have the chance to help children with homework are as willing to help with math as they are with other core subjects. By 2 to 1 margins, however, they find it more difficult to help with math than with other subjects.

—  More than 75% of the adults surveyed believe all students should take at least geometry and algebra; of these, about a third think all high school students should study trigonometry and calculus.

— Recognizing a link between math skills and New Economy jobs, seven out of 10 believe that better math education would provide a critical competitive advantage to their state’s economic future.

— The pop-culture notion of widespread “math phobia”–an American public that is largely intimidated by mathematics–may hold less truth than is generally believed.  Only 14% of the 1000 adults surveyed by the study acknowledge having a fear of math.

One objective of the bicoastal study was to learn how well public attitudes on math correspond with the views of top corporate executives in these two high-tech states. With help from the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and the Washington Roundtable, Mass Insight Education and Partnership for Learning surveyed 32 CEOs and senior-level executives from some of the largest firms in the two states about their perceptions of the math skills of students and employees.

Among the results:

— Nearly unanimously (31 out of 32), executive respondents believe U.S. students’ math skills don’t compare well with those of students around the world. These opinions echo the results of previously published national surveys, which indicate that two-thirds of American employers and professors rate workers’ and students’ math skills as poor to fair.

— That dim assessment of today’s high school graduates’ math skills is shared by the public. Only one in five people believes American students do as well at math as other countries’ students do.

— Most of those polled in these two states where standards-based reform has been underway for over a decade believe that although students are not as skilled as they could be in math, they are in better shape than they were before standards and testing–and that high school exit exams in math are part of the right strategy to continue improving math achievement.

“The message of the survey is clear,” said William H. Guenther, president of Mass Insight Education. “The public is ready for leadership in math. Fear of math has been overblown. Residents in these two New Economy states couldn’t be clearer on the critical importance of math skills to their economic future–or the inadequate state of current math education in the United States compared to that in other countries.”

In Washington, where students in the classes of 2008 and beyond will be required to meet standards on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) to earn a high school diploma, the poll results should bolster the resolve of state policymakers to raise mathematics standards. “This poll should quiet the critics who say that some kids can graduate without strong math skills. Now is the time for educators and policymakers to stand up and tackle our most difficult academic challenge: math. Washington needs a comprehensive plan to move students’ math WASL results from the basement to proficiency,” said Jennifer Vranek, executive director of Partnership for Learning.

Steps to improve math education were spelled out by Mass Insight Education in a 2003 policy brief, Raising Math Achievement in Massachusetts, which was based on interviews with two dozen national math reform experts and is available at Those steps include:

— Math teacher training and support, through the use of more rigorous certification requirements, intensive content training, and the use of in-school math coaches;

— More flexibility for local school leaders in hiring, compensating, and developing math teachers to ensure a competent workforce;

— Assistance to districts in evaluating and selecting standards-based math curricula; and

— Targeted investment of state education dollars in a comprehensive math reform initiative encompassing these strategies.

Massachusetts has begun to respond, providing more than $3 million in No Child Left Behind funding to pilot programs in math/science content training. Governor Mitt Romney’s FY05 budget proposal includes a further $3 million in funding for related math improvement initiatives.

In Washington, nearly $900,000 in state funds will be targeted to math achievement in the next year. Among other things, these funds will pay for evaluation of math instructional materials, a report on improving teacher math skills, and a K-12 project focused on reducing remedial math courses needed at institutions of higher education.

(4) “Reform Ideals and Teachers’ Practical Intentions” by Mary M. Kennedy

Source: Education Policy Analysis Archives – 7 April 2004


Article Abstract:

Reformers have been trying for decades to alter the fundamental character of classroom instruction in the United States, but have repeatedly been unsuccessful in fostering significant change in teaching practice. Several hypotheses have been put forward to account for this problemÆthat teachers lack sufficient knowledge (hence we need more professional development), that they lack sufficient will (hence we need accountability systems) or that they disagree with reform ideals or find other agendas to be more compelling in their classrooms. This paper addresses the third hypothesis by trying to ascertain what teachers care about when they respond to specific classroom situations. Numerous authors have suggested that teachers’ beliefs, values, and perceptions influence their practices, but most papers in this area focus on just one teacher or a small handful of teachers and show how these particular teachers’ ideas influence their practice. We still have little idea what kinds of concerns and intentions tend to be pervasive in teachers’ thinking, and how these ideas differ from those embodied in reform ideals. The paper begins by reviewing reform literature and outlining its main themes. It then describes a study of teachers’ interpretations of classroom situations and their intentions for specific things they did in those situations. From teachers’ discussions of their practices, the author identifies the primary areas of concern that dominated teachers’ thinking as they constructed their practices and shows where these concerns are similar to, and different from, reform ideals.

(5) “Research Mathematicians and Mathematics Education: A Critique” by Anthony Ralston

Source: AMS [American Mathematical Society] Notices – April 2004


Since at least the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983, there has been ferment about precollege mathematics education in the U.S. Since then, but particularly since 1993, research mathematicians have been more active on the precollege mathematics scene than at any time since the days of the New Math in the 1960s. Indeed, the pages of the Notices have regularly had articles, opinion pieces, and letters on the subject of school mathematics. This seems, therefore, a good time to review the impact of research mathematicians on school mathematics over the past ten years. In this article I will consider where the intervention of research mathematicians in school mathematics has had favorable results and where the results have been less than favorable.

Just about everyone agrees that research mathematicians have the knowledge and expertise to make important contributions to the improvement of school mathematics in the U.S. Indeed, it has been stated by a prominent mathematics educator that “American mathematics education has benefited from a virtually continual stream of support from prominent research mathematicians.” Equally, just about everyone believes that school mathematics is in great–some would say dire–need of improvement. International comparisons such as those in the Third International Mathematics [and Science] Study as well as scores on various tests, together with a plethora of anecdotal evidence, suggest that far from achieving (the first) President Bush’s aim that U.S. mathematics education should be second to none by 2000, mathematics education in the U.S. is still nowhere near “second to none.” Thus, the efforts of research mathematicians, working together with the other constituencies in math education, will be needed if the current situation is to show improvement. As noted in [Koblitz, 1997], “one of the most important ways mathematicians can be socially responsible [is] by working to improve precollege math education.”

But instead of cooperation, we have had for the past decade, although recently at a lower decibel level, the Math Wars, which pit (mainly) research mathematicians against (mainly) college and university mathematics educators and school mathematics teachers. No matter which side, if either, of these wars you are on, it is clear that they have, at least, prevented more improvement in U.S. school mathematics education than might otherwise have been achieved. Throughout this article I will use the terms “traditional” and “progressive” (or “reform”) to designate the two sides in the Math Wars, because, whether you like these terms or not, they have become traditional (!) in the literature.

My aim here is not to re-fight or continue to fight the Math Wars, at least insofar as their mathematical substance is concerned. However, I will not hesitate to criticize the tactics of the math warriors when I think these have been counterproductive…

My conclusion is that although a number of research mathematicians have contributed positively to school mathematics education in recent years, the research mathematics community has largely squandered an opportunity to have a significant positive impact on American mathematics education. Too many have used a “scattershot approach” that often takes the form of “unsubstantiated claims and random anecdotes.” Too often the result has been that when they have become active in mathematics education, research mathematicians have not lived up to the high standards that they normally bring to their own professional work.

How could research mathematicians make a more positive contribution to school mathematics education in the future? The most important way would be for research mathematicians to see their role as colleagues of mathematics educators and constructive critics of work in mathematics education. In addition, (almost all) research mathematicians, who have had little or no experience in elementary or secondary classrooms, should learn to be rather more humble about school mathematics, since their experience in college and university classrooms is seldom relevant to elementary and secondary education.

Another way for research mathematicians to make a positive contribution to school mathematics education would be to help in recruiting more intellectually able people to teach mathematics rather than throwing brickbats about curriculum matters. This is a crucial problem that badly needs to be addressed, and it is one where both mathematicians and mathematics educators should find it easy to sing from the same hymn book. It is past time that the intellectual leaders in American mathematics started to make the case that those we attract to elementary and secondary school teaching need to be the “brightest and best,” as intellectually able as those attracted to professions such as law and medicine and, yes, to the academic world.

Pending such an epiphany by research mathematicians, the Math Wars, which once were avoidable, will continue to be part of the school mathematics landscape. The research mathematics community, through its hubris, has by and large contributed-and continues to contribute-to a worsening situation in school mathematics in the U.S., a situation that shows no signs of getting much better in the foreseeable future. The lesson of the New Math has not been learned.