COMET • Vol. 5, No. 07 – 4 March 2004


(1) CSU Mathematics Education Summit; Call for Proposals–November 2004 Conference


On 22 January 2004, mathematics educators from higher education institutions throughout California convened in San Diego to discuss a variety of issues of common concern. The agenda for this meeting, which was coordinated by mathematics educators from California State University-Long Beach and funded by the Center for Education and Equity in Mathematics, Science, and Technology (CEEMaST) at Cal Poly, Pomona, is available online at, together with links to the “Face-to-Face and Cyberspace” conference held at the Asilomar Conference Center in 2002. (Session facilitators/speakers may submit any additional materials to Rajee Amarasinghe,, for posting on the conference Web page.)

A luncheon presentation/discussion led by Carol Fry Bohlin and Judith Jacobs at the San Diego meeting resulted in a call to establish an association of California mathematics teacher educators. (The PowerPoint file for this presentation can be downloaded at  Joan Commons, Past-President of the California Mathematics Council, Southern Section (CMC-SS), offered to provide space in the 2004 CMC-SS (Palm Springs) program for a teacher education strand on November 5-6. Judith Jacobs offered to organize this 10-session strand, as well as a luncheon for the mathematics teacher educators in attendance.

An invitation to submit proposals for the teacher education strand at the 2004 CMC-SS conference is available online at (or download a Word file at The deadline to submit a proposal is Monday, 15 March 2004.

(2) California State Board of Education:  Agenda for 10-11 March 2004 Meeting


The State Board of Education meets next week (March 10-11) and will consider numerous topics of interest to California educators. The full agenda is available at the above site as a PDF file. Selected agenda items that may be of particular interest to COMET readers are listed below:

ITEM 3–Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR): Including, but not limited to, approval to allow Grade Eleven Students enrolled in Integrated Mathematics 3 to take the Algebra II California Standards Test (CST).

ITEM 5–Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program: Approval of Performance Standards (Levels) for the Grade 5 Science California Standards Test (CST).

ITEM 10–California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE): Including, but not limited to, Program Update.

ITEM 12–No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001: Including, but not limited to, a report on the February NCLB Liaison Team meeting, Highly Qualified Teacher issues, and supplemental educational service provider.

ITEM 14–No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001: Proposed Changes to California’s Accountability Workbook.

[COMET Editor’s Note:  See Secretary of Education Jack O’ Connell’s press release at  Excerpt: “I want to remove the [NCLB] penalty against schools…where parents exempt their children from testing.”]


A Public Hearing on the following agenda item will commence no earlier than 2:00 p.m. The Public Hearing will be held after 2:00 p.m. as the business of the State Board permits.

ITEM 23–Curriculum Commission: Approval of Criteria for Evaluating K-8 Science Instructional Materials for 2006 Primary Adoption

(3)  “Letter from CSTA to Johnathan Williams, Member of the State Board of Education Regarding the Criteria for Evaluating K-8 Science Instructional Materials”

Source: California Science Teachers Association


Item 23 on the State Board of Education (SBE) agenda above is the approval of the Criteria for Evaluating K-8 Science Instructional Materials (2006 Primary Adoption).  These criteria are located at   The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) has expressed concern about these criteria in two letters posted on the organization’s web site:

CSTA’s letter to the State Board of Education was addressed to new SBE member Johnathan Williams, who is the founder and co-director of the Accelerated School, an inner city charter school in South Central Los Angeles (see  Below is an excerpt from this letter, dated 24 February 2004:

“Category 1, criterion number 5, poses a particular problem for schools and teachers; the criterion as written is confusing, arbitrary, and overly prescriptive. Many teachers and administrators reading this criterion believe that it limits the teaching of a particular concept using hands-on activities to no more than 20 to 25 percent of instructional tine. While this many not be the intent of the criterion, it would clearly prohibit many valuable science instructional materials from being adopted by the state and, consequently, from being available for purchase by local districts with instructional materials funds.  The criteria, taken as a whole, convey a predisposition to direct instruction which is dismissive both of the authority of local districts to make basic instructional decisions and of the expertise of teachers to understand and meet the specific needs of the students in their classrooms.”

(4) “Letter from NCTM to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Regarding the Draft Criteria for Evaluating Instructional Materials”

Source:  National Council of Teachers of Mathematics


Last month, the President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) wrote California’s Governor to express concern regarding California’s proposed criteria for evaluating mathematics and science instructional materials.

February 25, 2004

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

I am writing as President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) to express dismay over the new California Draft Criteria for Evaluating Instructional Materials that are currently being considered for public comment. [COMET Editor’s comment: According to the California Department of Education, the public comment period for the revised California Mathematics Framework–which includes the instructional materials evaluation criteria–is expected to commence on March 15 and continue through May 14. For updates, refer to]  Specifically, the proposed criteria include the following:

2. The materials support comprehensive teaching of the California Mathematics Standards at each grade level, as detailed, discussed, and prioritized in Chapters 2 and 3 of the California Mathematics Framework. The only standards that may be referenced are the California Academic Content Standards developed under Education Code section 60605. There should be no reference to national standards in the instructional materials, and principles of instruction must be reflective of current and confirmed research [emphasis by writer]. The materials must not be in conflict with the California Mathematics Standards or the California Mathematics Framework.”

[A similar statement is included in the instructional materials evaluation criteria for science.]

…While recognizing that it is within the state purview of education to set any standards or guidelines that the state chooses, the proposed California criteria have national implications. These criteria state that subject matter in mathematics and science must reference only California standards at a time when your state superintendent acknowledges that California, with its standards adopted in 1997, has a massive number of students who are not succeeding.

A major reason for national concern is that textbook publishers often cater to the California text market. If you choose to set criteria for textbook selection that limit reference of standards to only your state standards and limit principles of instruction to only those that reflect the current thinking in California, a bar is being set that severely limits not only your teachers and students but teachers and students nationwide. And this is being done at a time when Mr. O’Connell has noted that the majority of California’s 1.7 million high school students are not succeeding…  Now should be the time for California’s leadership to compare its standards to those of “high-performing” states and to other national standards…

Your state has many transient students coming from all across the nation and beyond. It is time to consider views from outside. Those inside are clearly not working. Today’s society is mobile and not restricted to any one state. By taking a myopic view of standards and teaching principles, California is being set up either as the only model to follow (which is certainly not the case) or as a stand-alone entity. Neither result is practical or desirable in today’s world. Surely it is in California’s economic interest for your state’s students to be competitive with young people coming from [states having] more visionary [mathematics] programs…

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is well into planning its annual meeting and exposition in Anaheim in April 2005. We expect over 15,000 educators from across the nation to attend. The major policy document of the Council is Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000), a well-researched document that represents a balanced, forward-thinking approach to the teaching of mathematics. It will be highlighted at that meeting.

California educators, along with thousands of their colleagues from other states, will participate in learning about a wide range of views of mathematics that extend beyond geographic state borders. They will explore instructional materials and approaches developed by some of the best researchers and instructional designers in the world. This conference and exposition will be a tremendous opportunity for mathematics teachers, mathematicians, and other educators to extend what they know by building on what others have done.

The current California position is far from progressive. Rather, it represents a very limited view that has the potential to insulate California from an opportunity to improve an educational system that your own state superintendent has labeled as failing to meet the needs of many students.

Please reconsider what is being proposed in the most recent California criteria for the sake of your students and teachers. At the least, this move represents a major step backward at a time when students, especially in California, need to be moving forward. At the worst, at a time of focusing resources on No Child Left Behind, the potential economic liability of limiting your students’ access to knowledge could indeed leave many children behind.


Johnny W. Lott, President


(1) Assessing Students’ Mathematics Learning: Issues, Costs and Benefits (MSRI Conference)

Source: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)


Conference Agenda:

Dates:  7-10 March 2004

Location:  MSRI; 17 Gauss Way; Berkeley, CA

Organizers: Deborah Ball, Hyman Bass, Jim Lewis, Robert Megginson, Alan Schoenfeld

Concerns about student understanding have led to growing demands for accountability, and to “high stakes” tests both for systems and for individual students, with serious sanctions and consequences for failure. But the nature of these assessments themselves is controversial. What should students know to be judged mathematically proficient? How well do assessments of various types uncover and measure such knowledge? How does “teaching to the test” affect learning, for better or for worse?

This workshop (the first in MSRI’s series, “Critical Issues in Mathematics Education”)  will bring together mathematicians, mathematics education researchers, psychologists and other social scientists, classroom teachers and school leaders, designers of assessment tools, policymakers, and journalists to examine student assessment in mathematics. Discussions will focus on the nature of mathematical proficiency and what is worth measuring; purposes and needs for mathematics assessment; challenges of designing meaningful, useful assessments; supporting instruction; issues of equity, sensitivity to culture, and pressures on urban and high-poverty schools; and the intended and unintended consequences of high stakes testing. Activities will include: a live interview assessment of a student’s mathematical understanding; learning about different tests, technologies, and methods, within the U.S. and internationally, and what each provides; and analyses of the needs, and the costs and benefits of different approaches to assessment.

This workshop is supported by grants from the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (National Science Foundation), the Microsoft Corporation, the Noyce Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.

The workshop will begin at 1:30 pm on Sunday, March 7, and officially end at 12:15 pm on Wednesday, March 10. At 1:30 pm on Wednesday, there will be a two-hour post-conference presentation by Robert Moses, Founder and President of The Algebra Project, and colleagues, on “Children Left Behind: New Curricula, Large Scale Assessment and the Algebra Project.”

For more information, visit the Web sites above.

(2) KQED’s “Forum”: K-12 Mathematics Education

Source:  Anne Brooks Pfister, Assistant to the Director, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)


On 2 March 2004, KQED’s “Forum” radio show showcased MSRI’s upcoming conference on assessment in K-12 mathematics education. Host Michael Krasny interviewed the following guests:.

– Deborah Ball, Professor of Mathematics and Teacher Education at the University of Michigan

– Robert Moses, founder and President of The Algebra Project and teacher at W.H. Lanier High School in Jackson, Mississippi

– Oaz Nir, gold medalist, International Math Olympiad 2000 & 2001

– David Eisenbud, President of Mathematical Science Research Institute and Professor of Mathematics at U.C. Berkeley

An audio archive of the program is available at the following site:

(3) “From Research to Practice”–Archived Web Chat

Source:  Education Week on the Web


The transcript from last week’s Education Week on the Web’s “Talk Back Live” program is now available online at the above Web site.

The transcript opens as follows:

“Welcome to Education Week on the Web’s Talk Back Live. Today, we’re discussing ‘scientifically-based’ education research with Grover ‘Russ’ Whitehurst, the director of the U.S. Education Department’s Institute of Education Sciences, and Lisa Towne, the senior program officer overseeing a series of National Research Council committees that have been examining scientific inquiry in education. I’m Debra Viadero, an associate editor here at Education Week, and I’ll be your moderator. Let’s start out with a question for each of you. Mr. Whitehurst, what does the Education Department mean by ‘scientifically-based’ research?…”