COMET • Vol. 5, No. 02 – 28 January 2004


(1) Mathematics Framework Revision: Teleconference Announcement

Source:  Tom Akin, Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission)


The Mathematics Subject Matter Committee of the Curriculum Commission will hold a teleconference on Friday, 30 January 2004, from 3-5 p.m. to continue work on the (a) Algebra Readiness and (b) Criteria for Evaluating Instructional Materials sections of the Mathematics Framework.

This teleconference is expected to be the Commissioners’ final meeting before the Framework draft is released for a 6-week field review. The draft will be available online for public comment at by mid-February.

Teleconference sites/contacts:

California Department of Education; 1430 N Street, Room 3102; Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 319-0881; Contact: Tom Akin

CSU Northridge, Department of Biology; 18111 North Nordhoff Street; Northridge, CA 91330-8303

(818) 677-3356; Contact: Dr. Stan Metzenberg

Los Angeles Unified School District; 333 South Beaudry Ave., 25th Floor; Los Angeles, CA 90017

(213) 241-6444; Contact: Dr. Norma Baker

San Pedro High School; 1001 West 15th Street, Room 148-A; San Pedro, CA 90731

(310) 547-2491; Contact: Richard Wagner

(2) State Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg is Appointed to the Curriculum Commission

Source: Office of the Speaker of the Assembly (916-319-2047)

On 20 January 2004, the Speaker of the California State Assembly, Herb Wesson, announced the appointment of Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg to the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission. Goldberg serves as Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Education ( Her biography is located at

(3) PBS Documentary: “First to Worst” (Pubic Schools in California)


“They’re like Calcutta,” a former high ranking education official says of public schools in California, the subject of a new PBS documentary titled “First to Worst.”

The film, hosted by journalist John Merrow, chronicles the rise and fall California’s public school system, the largest in the nation and home to one of every eight American students. “First to Worst” airs nationally starting February 1, 2004 (check local listings).

In the 1950’s and 60’s, California’s schools were the national model. “There was a commitment to excellence,” author Peter Schrag says in the film. “California was the land of new opportunity; there was wonderful historical tradition in that.” Today, California’s schools rank near the bottom. Since tying with Mississippi and Guam in the mid 1990’s, state test scores have barely nudged upward. “We basically turned our back on schools,” John Mockler, an education policy expert, relates in the film.

“First to Worst” explores the roots of California’s current education crisis, tracing it to the anti-tax movement of the 1970’s and 80’s and to civil rights lawsuits that aimed to equalize school spending but resulted instead in disastrous funding limits on schools. “We really wrote off adequacy and embraced equalized mediocrity,” says Michael Kirst of Stanford University.

“First to Worst” pays special attention to Proposition 13, the 1978 anti-tax law (still in effect) that froze property taxes on businesses and homes and, critics say, cut funding for public schools off at the knees. “We’re always on a survival level,” Harriet McLean, a principal in Contra Costa, explains in “First to Worst.” “We’re understaffed, we’re over-crowded, and our roof leaks.” McLean takes viewers on a tour of her school, which is typical of appalling conditions found in many schools throughout the state.

Viewers of “First to Worst” also go inside palatial public schools in suburban communities like Orinda. In this district, well-to-do parents funnel millions of private dollars into local education foundations. More than 400 other districts (out of 1000) raise money this way, contributing to a widening gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” and blurring the line between private and public education.

“First to Worst” makes clear that the problems with California’s schools go beyond facilities and funding. Years of state intrusion into classroom teaching produced educational disasters in the form of teaching fads [that] combined to wreck academic achievement, and by 1994 California ranked at the bottom in national assessments. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of immigrant students arrived in California, posing a whole new set of challenges for teachers.

Today, California is trying to regain its footing. It has developed high academic standards for all students and a new system of accountability, but academic progress has been slow. On the most recent national assessment, California ranked 9th from the bottom. In per-pupil spending, the country’s richest state ranks 37th. The state’s newly elected governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is promising to spare schools as he goes about slashing programs to balance a budget estimated to be nearly 35 billion dollars in the red.

However, whether simply maintaining the status quo in school funding will suffice is an open question. Much is at stake in for the nation: California’s six million students represent a sizeable portion of America’s future voters, parents, and workers. “I am not going to be able to expect my car tires to be changed with any trust because of the kind of education we are providing right now,” says ACLU attorney Catherine Lhamon. “It clearly matters to us all.”


Related article (includes projected air dates/times in California):


(1) Archived Webcast: “Closing America’s Achievement Gap: The 2nd Anniversary of No Child Left Behind”


This program, which originally aired on January 20, is now available in the Education News webcast archives (above website).

Excerpt from This edition of Education News [features] interviews and discussions with Department officials, educators, researchers and parents to explain the challenge of our nation’s achievement gap and how school systems and communities across the country are using the tools in No Child Left Behind to ensure all children are successful. In addition, the show [profiles] the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which honors high-performing schools that demonstrate a dramatic narrowing of the achievement gap.

(2) Teachers’ Pay May be Tied to Performance

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch – 14 January 2004


If a new commission of government, business and education leaders has its way, teachers will find a significant portion of their raises tied to progress by their students.

Nationwide, salaries and raises are typically based on a teacher’s experience and education. That “does nothing to reward excellence because all teachers, regardless of effort or performance, get the same automatic pay increases,” according to a new report by The Teaching Commission, a nonprofit group formed in 2003 to improve the public teaching corps.

The pay-for-performance idea is part of a compensation overhaul recommended by the commission, whose members include former IBM Chairman Louis Gerstner Jr.; President Clinton’s education secretary, Richard Riley; and former first lady Barbara Bush.

The idea of incorporating student scores in some way seems to be coming of age as states refine their tests and standards, said Michael Allen of the Education Commission of the States.

The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, believes such a plan could ignore performance that won’t show up in test scores, such as a teacher who prevents a child from dropping out, said Tom Blanford, associate director for teacher quality.

(3) The Lighter Side of Math-related News: Using the Results of the Super Bowl and the Summer Olympics to Determine the Outcome of a Presidential Election

Source: Slate Sidebar article (published prior to the 2000 presidential election)


Do econometric models explain presidential elections, or do their authors simply play with figures until they stumble onto a formula that fits the curve of a handful of election results? Consider the [Pete] Nelson Model, below, which relies on the same equation-generating techniques used by academic election forecasters. It posits that two major sporting events, the Super Bowl and the Summer Olympics, determine the outcome of presidential elections.

The election equation is: DV=a1 + a2SBLP + a3OB


— DV is the Democratic candidate’s share of the two-party vote.

— SBLP is the number of points scored by losing team in election year Super Bowl.

— OB equals 1 if a superpower boycotts the Olympics during election year; 0 if no boycott.

The estimated model is: DV=0.3874 + 0.0071SBLP – 0.0594OB

The model correctly predicts the winner of every election since the first Super Bowl, including the squeakers of 1968 and 1976 [see website for the actual figures, and for the prediction of the results of the 2000 election]…