COMET • Vol. 5, No. 25 – 15 October 2004


(1)  California’s 11th Graders Get Early Signal of Their Math and English Proficiency

Source: California State University

Contacts: (CSU) Clara Potes-Fellow: (562) 951-4800,;

(Calif. Dept. of Education) Ann S. Bancroft: (916) 319-0818,



In an unprecedented partnership between the California State University (CSU) and California’s K-12 public schools to assess college readiness, nearly 40 percent of 11th grade students volunteered this year to take tests of their abilities to succeed at college-level mathematics and English at the CSU.

“Results of the new Early Assessment give a timely, early signal to students about their own readiness for college-level mathematics and English,” said David S. Spence, CSU executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer. “By taking the new test, students will know prior to their entering the 12th grade whether they need more preparation for college. A key benefit of taking the test includes the possibility of earning an exemption from CSU-required English or mathematics placement tests upon admission to a CSU campus.”

Students in 11th grade participate in the Early Assessment Program (EAP) by responding to an extended version of the California Standards Test, the statewide assessment given annually to all 2nd through 11th graders.

In spring 2004, the first year that the test was made available to all public school 11th graders, more than 150,000 students took the extended test in English and 115,000 in mathematics.

Among those tested in English, 33,720 students, or 22 percent, were classified as ready to take English courses at the college level and are exempt from taking the CSU English Placement Test after admission. In mathematics, 63,504 students, or 55 percent of those tested, scored high enough to take college level mathematics.

“Once again California is leading the country in helping to prepare our children,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. “Too often in the past, students entered their senior year without a realistic sense of their ability to succeed in college. But with this unprecedented collaboration between the California State University and the K-12 community, this test will serve as a wake-up call for many of our high school students, and steer them to do what it takes in their senior year to become academically prepared.”

Early notification of high school juniors regarding their readiness for college is the first step in a comprehensive effort by the California State University, Superintendent O’Connell, and the state Board of Education to smooth the transition between high school and college and better prepare all students to do college-level work. The three partners in this effort are working to strengthen the senior year of high school by developing new courses, providing services, and offering professional development for K-12 teachers.

CSU faculty and high schools are collaborating to develop 12th grade instructional activities to assist those students who need additional preparation. Activities include a teacher development program to strengthen 12th grade courses on expository writing and reading.

In addition, the CSU website at has a Diagnostic Writing Service, a Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project, and a Math Success tutorial. Students and the public can use them to assess their current skills and to increase their proficiency (e.g., see for the 40-item MDTP Mathematical Analysis Readiness Test).

Education officials anticipate that English and math proficiency of CSU first-time freshmen will rise as a result of early intervention in high school. The CSU Board of Trustees policy is to reduce the need for remediation of incoming freshmen to 10 percent within the next three years. Currently more than half are in need of remediation.

(The California State University draws its students from the top third of California’s high school graduates, which means only students who earn a B average or better in high school are directly eligible for regular admission to the CSU, according to the California Master Plan for Higher Education.)

To obtain in-depth information about the EAP, please visit

Related Story:

“Double Dose of Bad News for Schools in California–NOT READY: Many of state’s high schoolers couldn’t handle college classes, test shows” by Tanya Schevitz

Source: San Francisco Chronicle – 14 October 2004


(2) F.P. Collea Teacher Achievement Award Program (TAAP)–Deadline: October 29

Contact: Steven L. Thomas, University of Southern California, (213) 740-8932



The Francis P. Collea Teacher Achievement Award Program (TAAP) provides K-12 teachers with financial support for professional development activities as well as opportunities to implement a discipline-specific classroom or school program.

TAAP recognizes that many outstanding teachers in California’s public and private schools have creative and innovative ideas for enriching teaching and learning in their classrooms and/or schools. Funding to put these ideas into practice is limited and usually not available for most classroom teachers. TAAP provides classroom teachers with “seed money” for making their ideas a reality in their schools.

The program consists of a set of Professional Development Opportunities coupled with a Classroom and/or School Project Plan:

–Professional Development Opportunities:  Teachers who plan to submit a proposal must develop a set of professional development activities that they will undertake as part of their proposal. All team members [2-4 teachers] do not have to engage in the same professional development activities. Teachers should select activities that can benefit their Classroom or School Project Plan.  Examples of such activities include:

– Formal university coursework and/or fieldwork. (Note: TAAP funds may not be used solely for the completion of an advanced degree.)

– Attendance at meetings and conferences of professional discipline-specific societies.

– Research work at university and/or private sector laboratories.

Selected professional development activities should contribute to more effective teaching and stimulate professional growth.

Although teacher teams design their own development activities, fellow teachers, administrators, university faculty, and industry personnel must be consulted. Through this consultation process, the proposed activities can maximize their professional activities and give these teachers recognition for their efforts.

–Classroom and/or School Project Plan:  This plan gives K-12 teachers an opportunity to develop and implement an innovative program in their classrooms or school. The plan should involve students, other teachers, parents, and/or members of the local community. The plan should utilize resources within the school district and the local community. Plans should address an important educational need within a classroom or schoolf 

* The money requested for professional development should be at least 50% of the total budget.

* Where possible, in-kind matching money will strengthen the proposal.

* Maximum award amount: $30,000

For application guidelines, visit

The proposal deadline is 29 October 2004.

(3)  “California Schools Put in Program for Failing Academic Standards” by Jennifer Coleman

Source: The [San Jose] Mercury News – 14 October 2004


State education officials added 505 schools to the list of those not meeting academic improvement goals set by the federal No Child Left Behind act.

The schools failed to improve students test scores in English and math for two years in a row. After Wednesday’s additions, more than 1,600 schools are now in “program improvement” status, meaning they could be subject to federal sanctions.

The program only includes Title I schools, those that get additional federal funds because they serve more low-income students. About 28 percent of California’s 5,714 Title I schools are in program improvement.

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell predicted that a vast majority of schools, in California and nationwide, will eventually fall short of the federal standards, which mandate that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and English by 2014.

“Once this federal measurement identifies all schools as failing, it ceases to be a meaningful accountability system,” he said.

Schools in program improvement must allow students to transfer to other schools in the district that are making adequate progress toward the federal benchmarks. If the schools test scores continue to fall short, the state can fire principals and replace other school administrators.

Sixty-five schools improved their academic performance enough to leave the program.

The California accountability program, which measures year-to-year improvement for each school, is a “fairer and more accurate measurement of school performance,” O’Connell said.

The federal law requires that all schools meet the same benchmark – an increasing percentage of students proficient in reading and math that will reach 100 percent in 2014.

To make this year’s goal, schools were required to test at least 95 percent of their students and at least 13.6 percent of elementary school students and 11.2 percent of high school students must be proficient in English and language arts. For the math requirement, 16 percent of elementary students and 9.6 percent of high school students must be proficient.

Next year, the goal will rise to 24.4 percent proficient in English and 26.5 percent in math, and will remain at that level for three years.

About one-third of all California public schools fell short of the federal goals this year, but that was an improvement over last year, when about half the schools didn’t reach that goal.

Schools can fall short of the benchmarks in many ways – either by failing to test enough students or not having enough students meet the English or math goals. If a subgroup within the school, such as learning disabled or English language learners, fails to make those goals, that can also cause a school to fail.


To see a list of the schools, visit the California Department of Education Web site:

Related Story:

“Double Dose of Bad News for Schools in California–PENALTIES LOOM: Under No Child Left Behind, 20% now failing federal standards” by Nanette Asimov

Source: San Francisco Chronicle – 14 October 2004



(1) ASCD Research Briefs

Source: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development


ResearchBrief is a Web-based publication designed to offer field-based practitioners and policymakers focused summaries of original, interdisciplinary, high-quality research. Every two weeks, ResearchBrief will present an overview of a recent study-including the research questions, data sources, and findings-as well as implications for practitioners and policymakers. Each issue of ResearchBrief also looks at the broader context of related research and includes links to a wealth of research resources and tools. A panel of nationally renowned scholars and practitioners oversees the production of ResearchBrief and helps to ensure the quality of studies reviewed, as well as the relevancy to ASCD members.

This week’s issue is entitled “Socioeconomic Status and IQ.” Archived issues are available at  Among the archived issues for 2004 are the following:

September 28, 2004: The Effect of State Testing on Instruction in High-Poverty Elementary Schools

August 17, 2004: The Complexities of Student Mobility and Achievement

August 3, 2004: The Effects on Adolescent Girls of a Girls-Only Math and Science Curriculum

July 20, 2004: Teacher Quality Measures and Student Achievement in Mathematics

July 6, 2004: Summer Bridge and Student Improvement

June 22, 2004: Teacher Professional Development in High-Stakes Accountability Systems

May 25, 2004: Retention and Student Achievement

May 11, 2004: The Effects of Block Scheduling on Teacher Perceptions and Student Performance

April 13, 2004: How Effective Are National Board-Certified Teachers?

March 16, 2004: Equity, Adequacy, and the Effect of Resources on Student Achievement

January 6, 2004: The Effects of Lab Structure on Student Achievement and Attitude Toward Science

(2) “The Kerry Education Agenda”–Web Chat Moderated by Erik Robelen

Source: Education Week (published by Editorial Projects in Education)

URL (Chat Archives):

URL (Transcript of Today’s Web Chat):

As part of its coverage of the 2004 election, Education Week invited members of the Bush and Kerry presidential campaigns to take part in live online discussions. In this second of two chats, Robert Gordon, a key Kerry advisor on education issues, answered questions today on Mr. Kerry’s education initiatives, including proposed changes to the No Child Left Behind Act.

Robert Gordon previously served as the policy director for the Edwards for President campaign; legislative director for Sen. Edwards; law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; a lawyer for children in child protection cases in New York City; and a Clinton White House aide who helped develop the AmeriCorps national service program.

Note:  The transcript for the September 9 Web chat on President Bush’s education agenda is located at (For more information, visit The transcript of today’s Web chat on Senator Kerry’s education agenda is located at   (For more information, visit

Below are some sample questions asked of Mr. Gordon today:

— NCLB focuses on scientifically-based research, basic skills, and testing. Will Kerry look into increasing funding for research and development on teaching practice and professional development where teachers learn how to encourage inquiry-based classrooms, critical thinking, and project-based learning that deepens understanding of concepts and prepares students with 21st century skills?

 Please explain Mr. Kerry’s position on early childhood education. It is less expensive to fund early education “NOW” than to fund prisons “LATER.”

— The Manhattan and Urban Institutes say that only 71% of kids are graduating from public high schools. What do you plan to do about that ?

 Students today are tested more than in any previous generation. Many people believe that our students are only learning how to circle in the bubbles on the test. How does Senator Kerry view the assessment of student portfolios as opposed to a standardized test?

— Could you please discuss the adverse effects that the No Child Left Behind Act has had on rural schools, and then discuss what a Kerry administration would do to remedy these problems?

— As you know, urban schools are faced with a variety of issues such as High Quality Teachers as opposed to Highly Qualified as described in NCLB, truancy, funding, overcrowded classrooms, etc. What is your plan for addressing the needs of schools that serve urban populations?

—  What will be done to protect students and schools from the over emphasis of testing? When will teaching the “whole” child be reinstated rather than simply addressing the test-taking, academic child?

— Would John Kerry repeal the NCLB Act? and if so, why, and if not, why not?

(3) Mathwords (Mathematics Formulas and Definitions)

Source: Math Forum Internet News (18 October 2004):


URL (Mathwords):

Bruce Simmons, a math teacher at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, designed Mathwords for students who need an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand math resource all in one place. It is a comprehensive listing of formulas and definitions from Algebra I to Calculus.

The explanations are appropriate for average math students, and over a thousand illustrations and examples are provided. Use the alphabetical sidebar to browse, or type the word you are seeking in the search field.