COMET • Vol. 5, No. 23 – 1 October 2004


Governor Schwarzenegger Signs SB 1448 and Vetoes AB 1846, AB 2744, and SB 1380

Source: Legislation Summary prepared by the California Science Teachers Association


For the complete text of these bills, go to

*  SB 1448 (Alpert)  Reauthorization of STAR

Signed by the Governor on 16 September 2004


Excerpts from SB 1448:

…(1) Existing law, the Leroy Greene California Assessment of Academic Achievement Act, requires each school district, charter school, and county office of education to administer to each of its pupils in grades 2 to 11, inclusive, certain achievement tests. Existing law repeals the act on January 1, 2005.

This bill would extend the repeal date of the act to January 1, 2011, thereby imposing a state-mandated local program.  The bill would, commencing July 1, 2007, exclude pupils in grade 2 from the standards-based achievement test requirement…

(k) The [State Superintendent of Public Instruction] and the [State Board of Education] are authorized and encouraged to assist postsecondary educational institutions to use the California Standards Tests for academic credit, or placement and admissions processes, or both purposes.

(l) The superintendent shall, with the approval of the state board, annually release to the public at least 25 percent of test items from the standards-based achievement test…administered in the previous year…

Vetoed Bills:

*  AB 1846 (Goldberg)  NCLB Responsibility

=  Summary: Designates the Superintendent of Public Instruction, an elected official, to be responsible for carrying out the provisions of NCLB.

=  Governor’s Veto Statement (September 10):


To the Members of the California State Assembly:

…This bill would only create more confusion of governance in the existing education system, if the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) is the authority for provisions related to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the State Board of Education (SBE) is the authority for all other federal programs. In addition, this bill would undermine the authority of the SBE.

      Moreover, California has already submitted applications for various programs and received funding under the NCLB Act. This bill may force California to revise and resubmit current applications in order to meet the provisions of this bill, potentially jeopardizing receipt of federal funding.

      This shift in authority proposed by the bill would also limit statewide public input. Although the SPI is an elected official, I believe it is important for education stakeholders–parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community members – to have an official venue for public testimony. The SBE holds public hearings on various K-12 education issues throughout the state for issues to be appropriately heard and considered. 

       For these reasons, I am unable to support this bill.

AB 2744 (Goldberg) Review of Content Standards

Summary [by CSTA]:  This bill would allow the state superintendent to appoint a content review panel, to be comprised 60% of teachers recommended by the state professional association, to review and revise the content standards two years prior to each adoption of instructional materials. The bill would allow the State Board of Education to either adopt or reject the revisions.

=  Governor’s Veto Statement (September 24):

To Members of the California State Assembly:

…The State’s entire K-12 educational system: standards, textbooks, teacher training, assessments, accountability and intervention are built on the content standards as the foundation. The State Board of Education currently has the authority to review and revise the content and performance standards as the Board deems appropriate. The original standards were adopted through a public and inclusive process involving teachers, educators and content experts from around the state. Having the development under the authority of the State Board ensures that the public has access to all deliberations around the standards since the State Board is subject to the requirements of the Bagley-Keene Opening Meeting Act. Therefore, I see no compelling reason to shift the duties for standards development from the State Board of Education to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.   For these reasons, I cannot sign this measure.

*  SB 1380 (Escutia)   Instructional Materials Review

=  Summary [by CSTA]:  This bill would provide for an alternate materials adoption process wherein the State Board of Education (SBE) must solicit from districts recommendations for materials for adoption and must adopt those materials unless the board makes certain written factual findings, including that the materials lack alignment to the content standards and frameworks and lack scientific evidence to support the content and approach of the materials.

=  Governor’s Veto Statement (September 24):

To the Members of the California State Senate:

… This bill is inconsistent with the State Board of Education’s educational principles to ensure that classroom curriculum is rigorous, standards-aligned and research-based. It would significantly undermine California’s current standards-aligned textbook adoption process by not allowing for sufficient consideration of materials submitted by school districts. Provisions in the bill requiring an automatic approval by the State Board of Education within 90 days of submitted instructional materials, unless certain findings are made, could result in a more lenient review standard or a higher rejection rate. Neither of these results serve to provide California’s students with the highest level of instructional quality that is deserved.  For these reasons, I cannot sign this measure.


(1) Bulk Quantities of Selected Issues of ENC Focus are Available Free of Charge

Source: Gail Hoskins (, Eisenhower National Clearinghouse


To order multiple copies of ENC Focus from the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse, use the form available at the above Web site.

The following three issues are currently available both in hard copy and online:

(a) “New Horizons in Mathematics and Science Education” — Teachers of the future will deal with the implications of broad societal changes and will work with students, parents, and the community to create an educational system that is less conventional, but potentially more stimulating and successful than ever.


(b) “Becoming Literate in Mathematics and Science” —

We all agree that schools must prepare young people to be math literate, science literate, and technology literate, but we are not always sure what the literate citizen should look like. From understanding net gains and losses, spreadsheets, and annual reports to the composition of matter and the chemistry of the universe, math and science literacy affects the decisions we make in our personal and community life.


(c) “Partnerships with Business and the Community” —

Articles in this issue will help you shape the relationship between your school and its environment. Emphasis is on the fact that the bottom line of all school partnerships is student learning.


(2) “Hard Arithmetic Is Not Deep Mathematics” by Cathy Seeley (topic of October 26 Online Presidential Chat)

Source: Cathy Seeley, President, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics


Helping all students develop a high level of mathematical proficiency is more important than ever before. Nearly every state and province has raised high school graduation requirements for students, and almost everyone agrees that we must raise our standards and expect more of our students. Attempts to define what it means to raise standards or increase expectations have led to interesting, and sometimes contentious, discussions at the state or provincial and local levels.

The message of NCTM’s Principles and Standards for School Mathematics is clear. Students need a balanced mathematics program that allows them to be actively engaged in mathematics lessons so that they can develop deep understanding, mathematical thinking, and the ability to apply what they learn to solve problems. Computational proficiency is an important part of such a balanced program. However, computational proficiency is not the primary goal of effective mathematics programs. Instead, it is a tool used in the service of deeper mathematics.

The kind of mathematics that students need today–that adult citizens need–goes far beyond what once was sufficient. In the past, it might have been enough for a literate citizen to know how to read, write, and do basic measurement and arithmetic in everyday life. In the past, it might also have been enough for students who were going to college to master a set of algebraic tools that enabled them to take higher-level mathematics or science courses. But in today’s world, there is rapid change, pervasive technology, and jobs that didn’t exist five years ago. These all call for a much broader set of mathematical skills, including the ability to reason and apply mathematics to an ever-changing range of problems. And the reality of life today is that many more of our students are likely to participate in some kind of postsecondary education than ever before.

In this environment, how do we raise the bar on the mathematical proficiency that we expect of all students? And how likely is it that all students can achieve the goals that we set?

In response to the first question, we can raise the bar on mathematical proficiency by choosing fewer topics to focus on at each grade level and by teaching those topics in great depth. “Depth” means, for example, that students know a lot about multiplication before they deal with an algorithm for performing multiplication. “Depth” means that when fractions are introduced, we teach in such a way that students really know what fractions represent, in what kinds of situations they might be useful, how they compare to one another, how they relate to what students know about whole numbers, what it means when the numerator or denominator increases or decreases, and so on. “Depth” means that before students confront the rules for operating with fractions– such as going straight across, turning upside down, cross multiplying, etc.–we ensure that they know a lot about fractions and a lot about operations. “Depth” means that students learn how to “solve proportions” and can recognize and use proportional relationships in ways that powerfully connect the ideas of prekindergarten – grade 12 mathematics. And “depth” means that students earning credit for a high school algebra course know how to solve equations and how to use algebraic tools and representations to solve many kinds of problems both within and outside of mathematics.

“Depth” does not mean making all students master arithmetic procedures earlier or with more digits. A school system whose standards include the mastery of fraction operations earlier than the standards of another system does not necessarily have a more rigorous curriculum. “Depth” does not mean narrowing our curriculum down to numbers and operations alone at the expense of measurement, geometry, and data analysis, where those numbers and operations are actually used. “Depth” does not necessarily mean more exercises. Focusing on more arithmetic procedures or more digits at the expense of deeper explorations and problem solving is not the same as raising our expectations for all students. And “depth” does not have to be painful or boring.

In visiting schools, I have found many wonderful examples where students are learning mathematics in depth. In these classrooms, mathematics is taught in greater depth and students are actively engaged, which opens the door for all students to master challenging mathematics. “Depth” is not the same as difficult arithmetic. “Depth” comes when students “get it.” This means that students need to see the contexts in which mathematical ideas arise, need to wrestle with those ideas in problems that take some time to solve, and need opportunities to represent and communicate what they learn. The next President’s Message will address the nature of student engagement in these classrooms and how we can ensure that students learn what is taught.

If we define our mathematics curriculum–the standards developed in our states and provinces–in ways that focus on students knowing and using mathematics and not just doing hard arithmetic, we can achieve this depth. And if we make some accompanying shifts in how we structure our classrooms, we can ensure that all students have an opportunity to reach the ambitious goals that we set.

Is your state or province or school system shifting its curriculum and standards toward deep mathematics rather than hard arithmetic? Do you believe that all students can achieve high standards? What will it take to make this happen? What will keep it from happening? Share your thoughts during my next online Presidential Chat, scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET, Tuesday, October 26. Visit at that time to join the discussion.

Also, in November be sure to read the President’s Message about student engagement and join a related discussion online at 3:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, November 16.

(3) “Algebraic Thinking” (Online Chat Transcript–24 September 2004)

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)


The topic of September’s online chat with NCTM President Cathy Seeley was on the topic of algebraic thinking. Prior to the online chat, a President’s message entitled “A Journey in Algebraic Thinking” was posted at

A transcript of the September online chat can be found at Following are some of the questions submitted for Cathy Seeley’s response:

— Is algebra more than what most of us learned with x’s and y’s and many homework problems? You seem to imply that.

— One of the red flags I see in developing algebraic thinking is how we develop students’ conceptual understanding of equality, especially in the early years. We must allow students to discuss and explore all aspects of what equality is and is not in order to break away from the idea that math is all about “the answer.” Number relationships and balanced equations may not boil down to a nice little number for an answer, and it’s important in the developing years for students to understand this.

— A major mistake is when we don’t tell our first grade students the truth about the numbers…We should tell them about positive and negative numbers and also tell them that the real numbers are a part of all the numbers, and there are more numbers to learn (complex numbers… I hope we also show the power of algebra to our young students by letting them use it to solve problems.

— I am a community college math teacher. Approximately 90 percent of the students who take our placement test assess into a developmental class in at least one of the areas: math, reading, English. Yesterday I had a student wanting into my Intermediate Algebra class who assured me he had passed Algebra II in high school this spring. He could not combine like terms (he thought 5x – 5 = x), he could not graph a linear equation, he could not factor x2 – 5x -6, and so on. I don’t really mind, since it does mean job security for me, but what is the disconnect between grades and knowledge?

 I think we need to clarify what we mean by “algebraic thinking.” I believe too much emphasis is placed on patterns (which is an important idea)… Representing our thinking through mathematical symbolisms must be an important part of algebraic thinking.

— When it comes to middle school math in the United States (specifically grade 8), what percent of the students do you think should be taking an Algebra 1 course as an elective instead of taking the traditional 8th grade math course, which includes some algebra concepts?

— Are we perpetuating an artificial segregation of math content (algebra, geometry, etc.) by emphasizing “algebraic thinking” as a concept? Why not place the emphasis on mathematical thinking?

— Nearly 40 percent of my students are repeaters or students with learning disabilities, and keeping them from giving up on themselves is my main challenge… Are there any strategies out there to help engage students with limited motivation?

— At what point do we introduce algebra to students who still have not mastered basic numeracy skills? Students who have troubles with operations using fractions are not likely going to understand or be successful with basic algebra. I have students in my grade 10 class that still use calculators to add and subtract fractions. They cannot even grasp the concept of solving for an unknown.

— Do you feel that calculators should be used on a daily basis in middle school math classes, specifically grades 7 and 8?

— What are your thoughts on how much algebra should be taught at the middle school level and also being from an urban area where many students are low level? How do we catch them up?

— How do you get students out of a find-the-answer mode and into understanding that problems can have multiple solutions?

— What are the main weaknesses that have been identified in student achievement in the algebra field, and at which levels? What does NCTM suggest to try to overcome these problems?

— I use an integrated curriculum and use a lot of explorations. The students do very well with it, but I am having difficulties getting that knowledge to transfer to textbook problems. Any ideas about how to ease this transfer?

— When parents ask, how do we respond to the question:  What is so important about algebra anyway?

— As a high school mathematics teacher, I see many students that come in to my classroom without basic number sense.  Would you think that before we can work on algebraic thinking, we need to work on number sense first, or do you think they can (or even should), be emphasized simultaneously?

— Do you have some data indicating how parents can support their children in fostering algebraic thinking?