COMET • Vol. 5, No. 30 – 22 November 2004


O’Connell Selects Five Extraordinary Teachers of the Year; Chooses One for National Competition

Source: California Department of Education – 22 November 2004


This morning, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell selected five exceptional educators for California Teachers of the Year 2005. One of the five will go on to compete for the National Teacher of the Year honor. Also, for the first time, among those winners is an educator from an Alternative Schools Accountability Model (ASAM) continuation high school.

Alan Siegel of Kelseyville teaches history, civics, and economics at the W.C. Carl³ Continuation High School in the city of Lower Lake, Lake County. Eric Burrows of Solvang teaches advanced placement U.S. and European history at San Marcos High School in the city of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County. Ray Williams of Huntington Beach teaches the sixth grade at Steve Luther Elementary School in the city of La Palma, Orange County. Kim Labinger of Los Angeles teaches the fourth grade at Thomas A. Edison Elementary School in the city of Glendale, Los Angeles County. Stanley Murphy of Chula Vista teaches social studies at San Diego High School in the city of San Diego, San Diego County.

“There is one underlying theme among all these extraordinary teachers,” said O’Connell. “They all have an incredible love of teaching and see great joy when their students meet the challenges of learning. That’s why I am choosing them to be our California Teachers of the Year for 2005.”

O’Connell selected Murphy to represent California in the National Teacher of the Year competition. The national winner will be selected next year by a panel convened by the Council of Chief State School Officers. All candidates for the National Teacher of the Year program will be honored at a White House ceremony…

The California Teachers of the Year program began in 1972. The program pays tribute to the state’s teaching work force, the growing complexity of challenges that confront California’s schools, and the need to promote collaboration and teamwork among teachers to meet those challenges.

California continues to face a critical teacher shortage. The program plays a pivotal role in drawing new people into the field. It honors the state’s nearly 310,000 educators by identifying outstanding teachers through local, regional, and statewide recognition activities; selecting five people each year who will best represent California’s teachers and symbolize the profession’s contributions to quality education; and focusing public attention on noteworthy accomplishments of teachers.

The competition is open to public and private school educators who teach pre-kindergarten through grade twelve. County offices of education traditionally nominate winners of their regional Teacher of the Year competition. A state selection committee reviews the candidates’ applications and conducts site visits to evaluate the teachers’ rapport with students, classroom environment, presentation skills, use of appropriate teaching methods, and their ability to adjust to last minute changes, among other criteria. The State Superintendent then selects the awardees. For more information, please visit the California Teachers of the Year (CA Dept. of Education) Web site at


(1) Focus on: Closing the Achievement Gap

Source: ASCD SmartBrief – 9 November 2004

URL (Educational Leadership, Nov. 2004):

Disparities in school achievement, graduation rates, and participation in higher education challenge educators, policymakers and the public to address gaps that prevent some students from reaching their potential. Explore the complex issues that surround achievement gaps in the November issue ofEducational Leadership. Online abstracts are available for all articles in this issue; the full text of selected articles are also available online. One such article is “Web Wonders/Closing Achievement Gaps” by Christy Guilfoyle:

Educators working to close achievement gaps will find many resources on the Internet to help them become more informed on statistics, tap into the latest research, and connect with others who are striving for the same goal.

Facts and Figures

The Education Week Web site is a good place to start learning about the achievement gap. In its “Issues: AÆZ” section, you’ll find a comprehensive discussion of the achievement gap with an archive of related Education Week news articles from recent years (

Explore student achievement across the United States by delving into the results of the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Data analyses are available on the National Center for Education Statistics Web site for both mathematics ( and reading ( The “Subgroup Results for the Nation” link compares the achievement of various groups of students by gender, race/ethnicity, eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch, parents’ education level, type of school, and community type.

The Council of the Great City Schools provides a city-by-city analysis of student performance on state assessments in the fourth edition of Beating the Odds ( The analysis also measures achievement gaps between cities and states, African Americans and whites, and Hispanics and whites.


Visit the Educational Testing Service Web site to download a complete copy of the report Parsing the Achievement Gap(, which examines conditions that help create and perpetuate achievement gaps. The report identifies factors that account for gaps between minority and white children, ranging from quality of curriculum and teacher preparation to amount of television watched.

Focusing on early childhood, a recent white paper from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education examines The Early Childhood Challenge and finds that the achievement gap exists when students arrive at kindergarten (

State and Local Efforts

To see what states are doing to close achievement gaps, visit the Education Commission of the States Web site ( Under the “What States Are Doing” section, you’ll find information about how Texas, Kentucky, Maryland, Washington, and other states are closing achievement gaps. Visit “Quick Facts” and “Selected Research and Readings” for abundant information about the achievement gap issue.

The Boston Public Schools has a Web site ( featuring information about Boston’s recent efforts to measure and close the gaps in each of its schools. Check out a PowerPoint presentation by Superintendent Payzant entitled “Proficiency for All” ( and a special report on closing achievement gaps in special education (

Groups Working to Eradicate Achievement Gaps

ASCD has identified the achievement gap as a priority issue for the Association’s influence and advocacy activities during the coming year and beyond. In March 2004, the ASCD Leadership Council adopted a position calling for educators, policymakers, and the public to understand the grave consequences of persistent gaps in student achievement and to demand that addressing these gaps becomes a policy and funding priority ( In June 2004, ASCD Executive Director Gene R. Carter called for closing the gap in his monthly editorial, Is It Good for the Kids? (

The Education Trust is an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels and to close existing achievement gaps. The organization’s Web site ( includes fact sheets and publications about the achievement gap and equity issues as well as a new Spanish-language section to provide resources for Latino parents, community leaders, and advocates (

The Minority Student Achievement Network is a national coalition of 21 multiracial, urban-suburban school districts across the United States. The Network’s mission is to discover, develop, and implement practices to ensure high academic achievement for students of color. Its Web site includes news, research, and promising practices (

(2) Forum Examines the Effectiveness of NCLB in Closing Achievement Gap

Source: NCTM Legislative and Policy Update – 15 November 2004

On Friday, November 5, the Progressive Policy Institute hosted the forum, “Can Schools Close the Achievement Gap?”  Moderated by Jay Mathews of the Washington Post, the forum featured two speakers with starkly contrasting views:  Richard Rothstein, author of Class and Schools and frequent education columnist for The New York Times and Ross Weiner, director of policy for the Education Trust. [See]

The speakers sparred over whether the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) would be an inevitable failure causing demoralization of public educators (Rothstein’s view) or a vehicle for improved academic success, especially for low-income students (Weiner’s view).  Rothstein stated that the goal of universal proficiency for all students by 2014 was unreachable because socioeconomic factors have a demonstrable effect on learning that cannot be ameliorated by more rigorous curriculum and accountability.  Weiner countered that an equal education is not offered to all students.  In fact, the problems of low-income children are compounded by offering them schools that are poorly funded and teachers who are weak or inexperienced.  However, he cited examples of low-income schools that have raised academic achievement beyond that of wealthier schools, proving that it is possible to do so.

[Editor’s note: Weiner’s PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded from the following Web site: ]

(3) “Bush Picks Spellings for Education Secretary”

Source: – 17 November 2004


President Bush on Wednesday nominated domestic policy adviser Margaret Spellings to be the next education secretary, replacing Rod Paige.

Spellings has served as a domestic policy adviser since Bush took office in 2001, with issues such as education, health and labor in her portfolio. She also was a key figure in drafting the president’s No Child Left Behind education initiative.

Before coming to the White House, Spellings worked for six years as a senior adviser to Bush when he was governor of Texas, where she also was responsible for developing education policy.

Bush said he had known Spellings for more than a decade and had relied on her advice throughout his political career.

“I’m now calling on this energetic reformer to serve the children of America by continuing our vital work of improving our nation’s public schools,” he said.

He said that she would continue to push his education reforms.

“We must ensure that a high school diploma is a sign of real achievement so that our young people have the tools to go to college and to fill the jobs of the 21st century,” Bush said. “In all our reforms, we will continue to stand behind our nation’s teachers who work so hard for our children.”

The No Child Left Behind Act, passed in January 2002, requires each state to demonstrate that it has developed challenging standards for students in reading and math and, in future years, science. Each state must annually test every child’s progress in reading and math in third through eighth grades and at least once during 10th through 12th grades.

Some critics have complained that the program is underfunded, while others say it is too ambitious.

In a speech at the Republican National Convention, Paige lauded the measure, saying, “All across America, test scores are rising; students are learning; the achievement gap is closing; teachers and principals are beaming with pride.”

The nation’s largest teacher’s union, the National Education Association, which had a frosty relationship with Paige, called Spellings’ nomination “a great opportunity for the administration to change the tone of its discourse with the education community.”

“We look forward to finding common ground with Ms. Spellings in her new role,” the NEA said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Paige called the NEA a “terrorist organization” for its opposition to No Child Left Behind. The union called on Bush to sack Paige, who later apologized.

Paige’s resignation from the Cabinet was announced Monday. He said he plans to return to his home state of Texas.

Bush praised Paige on Wednesday as a “humble and decent man who inspired his department and implemented the most significant federal education reform in a generation”…


Note: The White House Press Release is located at

(4) “Google Graduates to Vertical Search [‘Google Scholar’]” by Rich Duprey

Source: The Motley Fool – 19 November 2004


…Google Scholar is a free service that searches peer-reviewed papers, books, abstracts, technical reports, and other scholarly literature. It accesses information from universities, professional societies, and academic publishers, then orders the results based on the relevance to the query and even lists how many times that particularly reference has been cited. Users can then click on the citations for further research. Many of the search hits lead users to sites that require password access. While that means you might not be able to read the entire text of the documents (unless you have access), it does bring to the fore areas that were previously hidden to searchers.

Scholar was a project dreamed up during “20% time,” that is, the time Google allows its employees to sit around dreaming up cool stuff. Other Google features created during such free-thinking hours include Froogle, Local Search, spell-checking, and “define”–getting the definition of words simply by typing in “define” and the word you want the meaning of in the search box.

Research papers are on sites that would not normally be spidered by search engines, Google’s or anyone else’s, so they would remain hidden even though they are available on the Web. By arranging with the publishers to gain access to the sites, Google has given researchers the ability to easily find such materials…

The company said that it has benefited greatly from scholarly research and this is its way of giving back to the research community, hence the tag line “Stand on the shoulders of giants.”

More than likely, it will also provide a rich avenue of advertising. While Scholar currently does not carry sponsored ads, the opportunity to target a highly specialized audience would be quite lucrativef

There’s also the opportunity to expand into other so-called “vertical” searches such as travel, recreation, sports, or virtually any industry sector. First-generation vertical search engines–think of travel sites such as Expedia or Orbitz–are more akin to agents rather than publishers. They’re not independent of their allied partners and so do not necessarily provide unbiased information. A true vertical search engine would focus upon a specific topic or industry and provide greater relevance to the user.

Froogle was a step in that direction, beholden to no specific retailer and casting its net wide over the Web. Scholar is more of a true vertical search engine that will probably be the start of many more iterations. With multiple streams of revenue possible–from site listings, subscriber fees, and paid advertising–vertical search could be the Next Big Thing…

(5) Preliminary Announcement and Call for Papers: 8th International Conference of The Mathematics Education into the 21st Century Project

Source: Alan Rogerson, Chairman of the International Programme Committee (via Agnes Tuska, CSU Fresno)


The Mathematics Education into the 21st Century Project has just completed its seventh successful international conference in Poland, following conferences in Egypt, Jordan, Poland, Australia, Sicily and the Czech Republic. The next conference will be in Johor Bharu, in the very south of Malaysia, and very close to Singapore, which will be the entry port for most participants. The Chairman of the Local Organising Committee is Professor Noor Azlan Ahmad Zanzali, of the Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).

The conference will open with an evening Welcome Reception on Friday, November 25th, and conclude after lunch on December 1st. The dates of the conference are conveniently fixed to follow on from the DELTA conference in Fraser Island, Australia and to lead into the MAV Conference, Melbourne. The conference excursion will be to the unique and fascinating historic city of Malacca. Side tours and trips can be arranged to other places in South East Asia and Australia/New Zealand. There will be an additional social programme for accompanying persons.

The title of the conference is “Reform, Revolution and Paradigm Shifts in Mathematics Education.” Papers are invited on all innovative aspects of evolutionary/revolutionary changes in Mathematics Education, past and future. For further conference details, please email


Note–Links to the proceedings of past conferences can be found at the above Web site.