COMET • Vol. 5, No. 16 – 28 May 2004


(1) Mathematics Framework Revision Update

Sources:  Tom Akin, Consultant, California Department of Education; Sheri Willebrand, President, CMC-Southern Section

The Mathematics Subject Matter Committee of the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission) is planning a series of teleconferences on June 15, June 25, June 29, and July 12 to discuss proposed revisions to the Mathematics Framework. Monitor the Curriculum Commission Web site for notice of teleconference times and locations:

The Curriculum Commission is expected to approve the draft revisions (including instructional materials criteria) for public review on July 21. The public comment period for the draft Mathematics Framework is expected to commence on August 10 and continue through October 12. Electronic submission of comments will be encouraged.

(2)  “School Finance Bill Advances” by Ed Fletcher and Deb Kollars

SourceSacramento Bee – 28 May 2004


The Senate on Thursday approved an effort to streamline the education financing process by reducing the number of “categorical” pots of money available to school districts.

The measure, which was approved on a 33-0 vote and now moves to the Assembly, would give school districts greater spending flexibility, while keeping the pressure on districts to meet the programs’ original goals.

“This will help school districts maintain some of the important principles of categoricals while giving them more flexibility,” said Sen. Deirdre Alpert, D-Coronado, the bill’s author.

SB 1510 would group 27 state-funded programs into eight block grants. Districts would be free to use some or all of the block money for any of the categorical goals…

Overhauling how schools are funded was one of the goals Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set out to achieve in his first 100 days in office. He fell well short of meeting that timeline, and his effort to end 22 school programs, freeing $2 billion from their categorical strings and allowing school districts to spend as they wish, never got much traction or out of its first committee.

Supporters of Alpert’s approach say her approach is better than the governor’s because her bill protects some of the worthy goals currently funded through categoricals.

“This proposal has the ability to provide an enormous amount of flexibility, while at the same time providing the proper amount of fiscal protection of these programs,” said Brett McFadden, a spokesman for the Association of California School Administrators. “Dede Alpert’s bill is the proper balance of flexibility and program integrity”…

Alpert said she’s working with the governor in hopes that this proposal won’t end up like the others she cajoled all the way to the governor’s desk only to have them vetoed.

Ashley Snee, a spokeswoman for the governor, said he does not have a position on Alpert’s bill, and she couldn’t say whether the governor would do any arm-twisting to revive his plan.

(3) “Algebra Success Adds Up at Last” by Bill Lindelof

Source:  Sacramento Bee – 20 May 2004


After years of futility, Sonny Chavez has discovered how to pass Algebra 1, which for him has been an educational morass of integers, coefficients and frustration…

Chavez’s success, which he describes as “amazing,” is mirrored around the Sacramento region where seniors are finally passing Algebra 1, a requirement for high school graduation under a new state law.

Pressured to meet the requirement, students have taken advantage of after-school tutoring, slower-paced courses and smaller class sizes offered by their districts.

Those programs and others reflect the changes being made by district officials, students and parents to ensure students pass the sometimes dreaded subject. School districts say they are spending more on teacher training and purchasing Algebra 1 textbooks as more students take the subject. Parental pocketbooks also are being pinched to pay for-profit tutors for help.

The extra effort is needed. Though the state granted a requested reprieve to 200 school districts this year, that generosity is not expected to be repeated for the class of 2005. That means districts will continue to plan more intensive teaching of Algebra 1 next year…

The 2000 algebra law, effective in the 2003-04 school year, also applies to students with learning disabilities and English-language learners. The bill’s author, Sen. Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, said the primary goal was to make sure students get the teaching they deserve and to prepare them to be successful. (Algebra is required by the California State University and University of California systems.)

The algebra requirement was tweaked in January when the state Board of Education granted a one-year delay…  Waivers for all the requesting districts covered about 14,000 of the 275,000 seniors statewide. About half of the state’s school districts…requested waivers.

Only seniors named by districts were waived. Some seniors without a waiver will flunk Algebra 1, although the total won’t be known until final grades are in…

Sue Stickel, California deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the Algebra 1 requirement is part of the state’s effort to strengthen math knowledge throughout the public school system. Fairly sophisticated algebra now is taught in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades, she said.

Stickel, a former math teacher, said students learn logical thinking skills from algebra.

“It is a tool for science, whether it is in chemistry or physics,” she said. “It is a gateway for higher mathematics”…


Related articles:

(a) “Q&A with Math Professor Scott Farrand” by Bill Lindelof


(b) Disregard For Law Requiring Algebra Adds Up To Trouble” by Jennifer Nelson


(4) “Free [SAT] Practice Exam Offered In San Jose” by Julie Patel

Source: Mercury News – 24 May 2004


…Eager to get a jump on the exam that could determine their college admission chances, more than twice the number of students expected showed up at a Princeton Review office in San Jose to take a free practice test designed to resemble the new SAT being developed by the non-profit College Board.

“I wanted to see what the new one was like,” said Simon Iacob, 15, of Sunnyvale. “It required more concentration and more personal reflection than before,” he said after taking the test.

Princeton Review offered the test at about a dozen locations in the Bay Area. Half of the 50 or so students who showed up in San Jose were turned away because there weren’t enough tests.

One reason students are anxious to see the test is that some colleges — like those in the University of California system — have announced they will accept only the new test, starting with the class that enters college in 2006.

The College Board will start using the test in March 2005. It has released most of the changes and some sample questions but not a full test.

The SAT has traditionally been considered a test measuring aptitude–natural ability or potential to learn new skills. It will now include some elements typically found in tests measuring achievement, or what is learned in school. For example, the new test will include some technical words that wouldn’t have been found in the old test or that would have been defined for students. In the new test, students are expected to have learned these words in class.

The biggest change in the new test is the addition of a writing section, in which students will write an essay in 25 minutes and answer multiple-choice grammar questions. The old verbal section will be called the critical reading section and will no longer include analogies. The math section will include concepts from algebra II, instead of just algebra and geometry. The new test will be 30 minutes longer at 3 1/2 hours, and the price will increase from $26 to $36 or $38…

Because it relies on more classroom knowledge than before, [critics] fear it may increase the gap in scores between kids who attend good schools and bad schools.

But Deana Lewis, the regional outreach director for Princeton Review, said the removal of the analogies section should make the test more — not less — fair.

“They’ve taken out the biggest offender, analogies, because they rely on rote memorization,” she said.

She said she hopes the test will continue to evolve to better test the abilities of students from diverse backgrounds…


(1) “House to Vote on Teacher Training Incentive Package”

Source: CQ Today Midday Updates – 27 May 2004

URL (Congressional Quarterly):

Next week the House will take up a trio of bills (HR 4409, HR 4410, HR 4411) that seek to strengthen teacher training programs, target federal funding for graduate study to subject areas facing teacher shortages, and increase student loan forgiveness for high-demand teachers who serve in needy schools. “Teachers are playing a vital role in shaping our nation’s future competitiveness, and they deserve all the support we can give them,” John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, said last week when the package was introduced. The bills, which will be considered under suspension of the rules, seek to address growing shortages of math, science and special education teachers, and to help schools serving low-income students to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers. Among other things, the legislation would more than triple–from $5,000 to $17,500–the loan forgiveness available to math, science and special education teachers, along with reading specialists, who serve in high-need schools for five years.

(2) “Biennial Report: State Indicators of Science and Mathematics Education”

Source:  Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)


The CCSSO reports on science and math indicators include 50-state tables and graphs, analysis of trends by state, references to relevant research, and guidance for states and districts on selecting and using indicators. States report aggregate data to CCSSO from state information systems using a spreadsheet application designed specifically for state uses, which includes a data reporting function for each state. CCSSO conducts special analyses of NAEP state-level results and Schools and Staffing Survey data for the state indicators reports. A hard-copy version of this report as well as prior biennial reports are available through the CCSSO Publications Office. The development of state science and math indicators is supported by states and by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The report is available for free download at the above Web site. (Highlights of the report are available at

(3)  “NRC Urges Multiple Studies for Math Curricula” by Michelle Galley

Source:  Education Week – 26 May 2004


At least four different types of studies need to be conducted on a mathematics curriculum before it can be deemed effective, asserts a report released last week by the National Research Council. [The full text of this report, entitled “On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness: Judging the Quality of K-12 Mathematics Evaluations,” is available online at]

That conclusion was reached by a team of researchers who for two years studied the body of research that has been done on 19 math curricula, 13 of which were produced with the support of the National Science Foundation, and six of which were published by commercial ventures.

The report outlines what is needed to have “a set of high-quality and valid studies,” said Jere Confrey, the chairwoman of the review committee for the NRC, an arm of the congressionally chartered National Academies of Science.

“We have set a really high bar for what needs to happen,” said Ms. Confrey. The panel did so, she said, because “it is essential” that states and districts choosing curricular materials can have confidence in them.

So far, no single curriculum has met the committee’s goal of using four different methodologies to prove its worth, she said.

Of the evaluations already performed, the report says that “the number of studies in the commercial category was far smaller than the number of studies on the NSF-supported materials.”

Overall, the report supports the NSF-designed curricula, according to Diane Resek, a professor of mathematics at San Francisco State University. “Often, the NSF curricula have been attacked as unproven, but that seems to be discounted” in the new report, said Ms. Resek, whose work focuses on K-12 education.

The timing of the report is especially significant because the No Child Left Behind Act includes a provision requiring that educational materials be proved effective according to “scientifically based research.” But there was no clear definition in the law for what that research should entail, Ms. Confrey said.

As a result, the research team from the NRC set out to define the term “scientifically established effective” for existing math curricula, and concluded that using four specific methodologies fulfills that definition. The researchers did not address other subjects in the curriculum.

The committee recommended that content analyses focusing on such matters as accuracy, topic coverage, and the progression of math lessons be performed on each program.

In addition, comparative studies that weigh two programs of high quality against each other should be carried out, the report says.

“A comparative study could be meaningless without a content analysis,” Ms. Confrey said, if the study compares two programs that are equally poor in quality.

Case studies showing how the materials are used in classrooms are also essential, according to the report. “It could be a beautiful curriculum, but not if teachers can’t implement it,” said Ms. Confrey, an education professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Finally, studies that look at other evaluations of the curriculum are also required to judge the quality of materials.