COMET • Vol. 5, No. 06 – 26 February 2004


(1) State Board Meeting Includes Science Adoption Criteria

Source: Art Sussman – WestEd – 22 February 2004

The California Curriculum Commission has forwarded proposed criteria that textbook publishers must follow when producing science materials for California’s K-8 schools. The State Board of Education will consider and probably vote on those criteria at their next meeting March 10 and 11 in Sacramento. The proposed criteria are available online at

The website of the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) includes additional background information, and also has a link to the proposed criteria:

These criteria will affect adoption of future K-8 science instructional materials. Teachers and other interested education stakeholders can communicate their feedback to the State Board and other state officials who play significant roles with respect to education policies.

The CSTA website includes the following suggested addresses:

State Board of Education

1430 N Street, Room 5111

Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: 916-319-0827

FAX: 916-319-0175

[Letters are forwarded to all members of the Board every Thursday.]

Secretary of Education Richard Riordan

Office of the Secretary for Education

1121 L Street, Suite 600

Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: 916-323-0611

Fax: 916-323-3753

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell

California Department of Education

1430 N Street

Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 319-0800

Hon. Jackie Goldberg

Chair, Assembly Education Committee

California State Assembly, Room 2003

P.O. Box 942849

Sacramento, CA 94249-0045

Hon. John Vasconcellos

Chair, Senate Education Committee

California State Senate

State Capitol, Room 5108

Sacramento, CA 95814

(2) “State to Seek Changes in Federal Testing Mandate” by Erin Walsh

Source: North County Times – 25 February 2004


California’s chief of schools said Tuesday he will ask the federal government to stop penalizing the state’s schools for allowing parents to opt their children out of standardized tests.

Letting parents pull their children out of the tests could land dozens of California campuses on a list of failing schools because a new federal law sanctions schools for low participation on tests, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

O’Connell said he plans to ask the State Board of Education, and eventually the federal Education Department, to allow parents to take their kids out of standardized tests without lowering schools’ overall participation rates. California is one of very few states that allow parents to opt their children out of standardized tests.

Under the federal law known as No Child Left Behind, schools that score too low on statewide standardized exams or test less than 95 percent of their students land on a list of failing schools and face state takeovers if they do not improve…

Throughout the state, nearly two-thirds of high schools failed to meet the federal mark because of low participation rates.

“Here in California parents have the right to choose whether their children participate in testing or not,” O’Connell said in Escondido, following a meeting with the North County Times editorial board. “We need to respect that right, but we need to do so in a manner that doesn’t hurt our schools.”

O’Connell said he will propose a number of changes today to the way California implements the No Child Left Behind law, which affects every state in the country.

His proposed changes include a measure that would allow schools to give children whose parents pulled them out of state exams a score of zero instead of counting them absent from the tests. Such a change would allow students to opt out without dragging down a school’s participation rate, O’Connell said.

The proposal would have to be approved by the state board, which would then send the changes to the U.S. Department of Education for approval.

Federal education officials in Washington, D.C. said they would not comment on O’Connell’s proposal until it is submitted in writing by the state…

A few local schools had a relatively high number of parents opt their children out of state testing last year, including high schools. Opting out tends to happen more at schools with high numbers of college-bound students, who take a number of other, college-preparatory tests that some families deem more important than the state tests, district officials said…


(1) “From Research to Practice” (Live Web Chat Today)

Source:  Education Week on the Web – 26 February 2004


WHEN: This afternoon, Thursday, Feb. 26, 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (ET)

WHERE: (Note: This link will expire on 28 February 2004.)

Leading education organizations and experts have consistently emphasized the need for high-quality education research that can inform practice in schools and classrooms. The No Child Left Behind Act prescribes that programs adopted using federal funds be grounded in rigorous research showing that such interventions support school improvement and raise student achievement. But just what “scientifically-based” research is there in education? And what have we learned from it? How can districts and schools distinguish rigorous research from the glut of weak studies that are poorly designed, marked by flaws, or conducted by agenda-driven organizations?

Find out today (Thursday, Feb. 26), 3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. (ET) as we chat with experts in the field:

Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, Director, Institute of Education Sciences. The Institute was established in 2002 within the U.S. Department of Education, and conducts, supports, and disseminates research on education practices that improve academic achievement; statistics on the condition of education in the United States; and evaluations of the effectiveness of federal and other education programs. The institute has recently released a guide for practitioners on how to identify and implement scientifically-based research programs: “Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence” (see; also see

Lisa Towne, Senior Program Officer, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, and study director for the Council’s report “Scientific Research in Education,” which described the nature of scientifically based education research and offered recommendations for the future of a federal education research agency (see

Submit your questions now, even if you can’t join the live chat:

You can read the transcript later today at

(2) ERIC Update

Source: Michael Tillman, Director, Curriculum/Juvenile Library, California State University, Fresno

AskERIC has been replaced by The Educator’s Reference Desk at “Through The Educator’s Reference Desk, you can access AskERIC’s 2,000+ lesson plans, 3,000+ links to online education information, and 200+ question archive responses. While the [AskERIC] question/answer service will no longer be active, The Educator’s Reference Desk provides a search interface to the ERIC Database, providing access to over one million bibliographic records on educational research, theory, and practice.”

All ERIC Clearinghouses, with the exception of the What Works Clearinghouse at, are no longer functioning.  Some of the information previously stored at various ERIC Clearinghouses can be found through a Clearinghouse Plans Web site at One of the stated goals of the What Works Clearinghouse is to “provide educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a central, independent, and trusted source of scientific evidence of what works in education.”

(3) “New Policies Provide States With Increased Flexibility To Help English Language Learners”

Source: No Child Left Behind “Extra Credit” – 20 February

The U.S. Department of Education announced two new policies yesterday that will help students who are new to this country and the English language while also giving states and local school districts greater flexibility to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Assessing Limited English Proficient Students

Limited English proficient (LEP) students new to the United States often have a difficult time participating in state assessments due to language barriers or the lack of schooling prior to arriving in the United States from their native countries. Thus, it is often difficult to assess LEP students’ content knowledge in reading and other language arts in their first year of enrollment in a U.S. public school.

The policy announced yesterday allows LEP students, during their first year of enrollment in U.S. schools, to have the option of taking the reading/language arts content assessment in addition to taking the English language proficiency assessment. These students would also take the mathematics assessment, with accommodations as appropriate.  States may, but would not be required to, include results from the mathematics and, if given, the reading/language arts content assessments in Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) calculations Æ part of the accountability requirements under No Child Left Behind. Students would be counted as participants for AYP purposes for the 95 percent testing requirement, which ensures that all children count and receive the quality education they deserve. This flexibility provides teachers and students more time for English language instruction and acquisition.

Limited English Proficiency Students as a “Subgroup”

LEP is not a demographic group per se, but a classification that changes as a student gains language proficiency.  Its membership can change from year to year with language proficient students exiting each year and new LEP students entering each year.  Since LEP students exit the subgroup once they attain English language proficiency, states may have difficulty demonstrating improvements on state assessments for this student subgroup.

The new policy addresses AYP calculations, allowing states to include students who have attained English proficiency in the LEP subgroup for up to two years.  This policy is an option for states, not a requirement. It will give states the flexibility to ensure that AYP calculations credit schools and local education agencies (LEAs) for improving English language proficiency from year to year.

More information about these new policies is available online at:

(4) “Third International Mathematics and Science Study 1999 Video Study Technical Report, Volume 1: Mathematics”

Source: Patsy Wang-Iverson, Research for Better Schools ( via TIMSS-Forum listserv


This first volume of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 1999 Video Study Technical Report focuses on every aspect of the planning, implementation, processing, analysis, and reporting of the mathematics component of the TIMSS 1999 Video Study. The report is intended to serve as a record of the actions and documentation of outcomes, to be used in interpreting the results, and as a reference for future studies.

For those who may be interested in the coding scheme used by the Mathematics Quality Analysis Group to examine a subset (120) of the 638 mathematics lessons (see Appendix D for the results of their analysis), this can be found on pp. 117-120.

The report is only available online. You can download the full report (536 pp.), or you can download parts of the report.

(5) “Training Young Minds not to Wander” by Bridget Murray

Source: APA Monitor – October 2003


Can children be trained to focus better–thereby building neural networks associated with attention? In all likelihood, yes, said Michael Posner…

“The fact that we can now trace the development of neural networks in the human brain that are at the very heart of the educational experience means that we can try to change them for the better,” said Posner, professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Oregon.

Key to understanding how attention develops, said Posner, is knowing its major components, which include:

* Maintaining alertness, or focus.

* Orienting to visual and auditory stimuli, or where you look and what you listen to.

* Sustaining executive or voluntary control, or suppressing competing cognitions or emotions, to complete a task. This form of control is associated with empathy and IQ.

Posner and his colleagues at Oregon and the New York City-based Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, of which Posner was the founding director, have found that they can measure network efficiency by gauging the speed at which people perform a simple cognitive task–what they call the attention network task (ANT)–involving all three networks. They’ve also found two genes that relate to differences in people’s attentional efficiency, as measured by the task.

But that doesn’t mean people are necessarily sentenced to a fixed level of attentional efficiency–quite the opposite, Posner emphasized. Preliminary results from as-yet unpublished research have shown that children can improve their attentional efficiency, since such networks are still forming. Executive attention develops latest, suggesting that it might be the most malleable ability to study…

Trained children show a slight tendency toward improvement in executive attention as well as more coherent brain activity measured by the scalp electrode monitoring, Posner said. They also show clear post-training improvement on the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT) and in overall IQ, compared with controls.

“If the result holds up in replications currently being conducted,” said Posner, “it suggests that we were not only able to train, but that we were able to get generalization–because the KBIT was different from anything we used in our training.”

For Posner, the findings hold exciting implications not just for helping children with attention-deficit problems, but for generally improving young children’s education.

“We should think of this work not just as remediation but as a normal part of education,” said Posner. “Attention plays a very important role in acquisition of high-level skills, and if attention is trainable, it becomes attractive for preschool preparation”…