COMET • Vol. 6, No. 11 – 14 April 2005


(1) Governor Schwarzenegger Announces Governor’s Advisory Committee on Education Excellence

Source: Office of the Governor – 8 April 2005

On Friday, April 8, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Education Excellence, a non-partisan, privately funded group charged with examining K-12 education in California and recommending steps to improve the performance of public schools.

“California’s children deserve to be taught in the best public schools. There is no issue more important to me and to the future of California than the reform of public education,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Our future and the futures of millions of children depend upon the quality of our schools. We have many great schools and thousands of great teachers, but as I have said many times before, they work in a system that is broken. I have asked this distinguished group of educators and policy makers to help me fix this broken system and to make California’s schools the best in the nation once again.”

Drawn from the public and private sectors, the 15-member committee will be led by Occidental College President Ted Mitchell, an education historian, former UCLA vice chancellor and long-time advocate for public schools.

“Ted has been a leader of education reform efforts in our state for two decades and has earned the trust of educators, policy makers, and legislators from both sides of the aisle,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “I have great confidence in him and in the other committee members who represent a wide range of voices, ideas, and communities. I know they will bring forward bold and creative ideas for making our schools great.”

“I am grateful for the governor’s confidence and for the opportunity to serve our children and our state,” said Mitchell. “The committee’s existence and our broad charge are testimony to the governor’s commitment to improving our schools. I look forward to working with him, with Secretary Riordan, with Superintendent O’Connell, with the Legislature, teachers, and education groups throughout the state to better California’s schools.”

The committee will focus on four interrelated issues: the distribution and adequacy of education funding; the functioning and effectiveness of governance structures; teacher recruitment and training; and the preparation and retention of school administrators. In this way, the work of the committee will incorporate the charge of the Quality Education Commission through a more integrated and thorough analysis of California’s public school system.

In each of these areas, the committee will draw on the insights of researchers and policy makers from California and across the country. The governor has directed the committee to develop a plan for public engagement, to report regularly to Secretary for Education Richard Riordan, and to deliver its recommendations in a series of reports within the next 24 months.

“The Governor has brought together an exceptional committee of individuals who share our commitment to improving public education. The critical goal — to provide every single student with a quality education — deserves unwavering focus,” said Riordan. “Ted Mitchell is one of education’s best leaders. I know he will successfully lead this team to complete its meaningful charge.”

The committee and independent studies in support of its work will be funded through a public-private partnership. Discussions are underway with a number of foundations, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We are encouraged by the commitment to investigate California’s school finance structure and understand what is working and where the gaps lie,” said Marshall Smith, director of education for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, speaking on behalf of the four foundations. “Our hope is that a well-researched, non-partisan study of these issues will inform conversations at all levels of California’s government.”

Committee members include:

*  Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent, San Francisco Unified School District

*  Russlynn Ali, Executive Director, Ed Trust West

*  Dede Alpert, Nielson & Merksamer LLP; former state senator

*  Ernesto Cortes, Southwest Regional Director, Industrial Areas Foundation

*  Jim Doti, President, Chapman University

*  Dave Gordon, Superintendent, Sacramento County Office of Education

*  Thomas Henry, Chief Executive Officer, Fiscal Crisis Management & Assessment Team

*  Jose Huizar, President, Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education

*  Sherry Lansing, Chairman Emeritus, Paramount Pictures

*  Peter Mehas, Superintendent, Fresno County Office of Education

*  Irene Oropeza-Enriquez, teacher, Prairie Elementary School, Woodland

*  Mark Rosenbaum, General Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union

*  Sau-Lim (Lance) Tsang, Board Member, Oakland Unity High School – Charter School

*  Randolph Ward, State Administrator, Oakland Unified School District

*  Caprice Young, President and Chief Executive Officer, California Charter Schools Association

(2) State Schools Chief O’Connell Names Members to P-16 Council

Source: California Department of Education – 11 April 2005

On Monday, April 11, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced the appointment of 44 members from throughout the state to the newly established Superintendent’s California P-16 Council. (Council member names and affiliations are listed at the above Web site.) The Council has been charged with the development of strategies to better coordinate, integrate, and improve education for California students from preschool through college. O’Connell named Dr. Barry Munitz, president and chief executive officer of The J. Paul Getty Trust and former chancellor of the California State University, to chair the Council.

“Different segments of California’s education system have been working in isolation for too long,” said O’Connell. “We can better help our students meet the challenge of high standards and high expectations if the entire system is better coordinated. I have asked this impressive group of education leaders and experts to find ways to break down traditional barriers and work toward building a seamless education system that better serves all California students.”

O’Connell first announced the establishment of the P-16 Council last December. The Council has been charged with examining ways to: (1) improve student achievement at all levels and eliminate the achievement gap; (2) link all education levels, from preschool, elementary, middle, high school, and through higher education, to create a comprehensive, seamless system of student learning; (3) ensure all students have access to caring and qualified teachers; and (4) increase public awareness of the link between an educated citizenry and a healthy economy.

The members of the Council represent a wide range of experts throughout California, including teachers, administrators, parents, business leaders, students, and academics. In addition, several of the statewide Council members serve on regional councils as well.

“I am honored to accept this extraordinary responsibility,” said Dr. Munitz. “I look forward to working with other members of the Council to address the complex challenges that face students as we help prepare them for the real world. This is not going to be an easy task. It will take time and enormous energy to make a candid analysis of the economic, academic, and political realities of where education stands now in California. President Ted Mitchell of Occidental College, who has just been named the chair of Governor Schwarzenegger’s new Advisory Committee on Education Excellence to focus on key K-12 issues, has been a close friend and superb colleague for many years, and we have been talking already about the most effective strategies for keeping these two groups closely aligned.”

The P-16 Council will first convene May 17 and immediately tackle such issues as O’Connell’s call to add rigor and relevance to our state’s high schools and better prepare students for careers or college. The Council will also work closely with the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Education Excellence to ensure all segments of California government are working toward building educational excellence.

“This Council will help the state better meet the needs of our students and improve their academic achievement, which in turn will provide California’s business sector with a better skilled work force to compete in today’s global economy,” said O’Connell.


Related article:

“A 2nd Schools Panel Is Named” by Jean Merl
Source: Los Angeles Times – 12 April 2005

State schools chief Jack O’Connell on Monday named members of another new panel aimed at improving California’s struggling public education system. The P16 Council seeks better coordination among school levels, from pre-kindergarten through college.

The announcement of the panel by O’Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction, comes days after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named members of his own advisory committee… The governor intends his committee to replace the Quality Education Commission, created in 2002 to analyze the state’s school finance system.

The two groups have some overlapping members, including San Francisco schools Supt. Arlene Ackerman and former Paramount Studios chief Sherry Lansing, but O’Connell said the panels have different missions.

The governor’s 15-member committee will spend two years focusing on school finance, governance, and training and retention of teachers and administrators. The superintendent’s council, to convene May 17 and continue indefinitely, will concentrate on improving student achievement.

When the groups’ concerns overlap, O’Connell said he expects his council will “be complementary and working in concert” with the governor, state Education Secretary Richard Riordan and Schwarzenegger’s committee.

“This is about improving student achievement at all levels, eliminating the achievement gap [in which blacks and Latinos generally lag behind whites and Asian Americans] and really trying to build a comprehensive, seamless system from preschool to higher education,” Munitz said in an interview Monday.

(3) AB 1100 (Content Standards: Review Panels)

Source: Legislative Counsel of California

California Assembly Bill 1100 was introduced by Assembly Member Mullin on 22 February 2005. For the current status of this bill, visit

Partial bill text (see above Web links for the full text):

.Existing law requires the State Board of Education to adopt statewide academically rigorous content standards in core curriculum areas, and permits the board to modify proposed content and performance standards.

This bill would require that there be no more than 15 content standards per subject area for each grade and would remove the authority of the board to modify proposed content and performance standards.

Existing law states that because these standards are models, their adoption is not subject to the Administrative Procedure Act.  This bill would delete that statement and exemption.

This bill would also require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to appoint content standards review panels in each subject area. The bill would specify the membership of the panels and would require each content standards review panel to review the content standards established in its particular subject matter and revise the standards as the panel deems necessary. The bill would require the panel to forward the revisions to the board. The bill would require the board to adopt or reject the standards within 120 days of receipt.


SECTION 1. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature to establish a stable, routine, and coherent system by which the state’s academic content standards, assessments, and instructional materials are revised to enhance the success of California’s pupils and schools. The Legislature applauds educators and policymakers who devoted their time to building California’s standards-based system. The system of standards, assessments, and instructional materials contributed to improvements in learning and achievement in California since 1998.

(b) The Legislature finds and declares that California’s pupils and schools deserve and require instructional programs that reflect the latest in human knowledge and understanding. With the course of human events and scientific inquiry unfolding at a rapid pace, it is imperative that California routinely examine its academic standards to ensure that each content area reflects both the latest knowledge and a course of study for a specific period of time.

(c) To ensure that all pupils and schools are provided with the resources and learning expectations necessary to succeed in the 21st century, it is the intent of the Legislature to establish a single point of review for standards, assessments, and instructional materials that is driven by a periodic review of the state’s academic content standards. The current system of multiple boards, commissions, and panels, ambiguous criteria for appointments to these bodies, and a lack of balance in the representation of the state’s education stakeholders, by design has been unstable, and may affect the long-term quality desired by the state in providing a world-class education to pupils as evidenced by pupil learning.

(d) It is, therefore, the intent of the Legislature to establish a single body in state government that provides direction and vision for all participants who create, review, recommend, or evaluate standards, assessments, and instructional materials.


(h) (1) The Superintendent may appoint a content standards review panel for each subject area two years prior to the adoption of the curriculum for each subject area. Sixty percent of the members of each panel shall consist of public school teachers nominated by subject area professional organizations and shall be currently teaching each particular subject matter in kindergarten and grades 1 to 12, inclusive. In making appointments to each review panel, the Superintendent shall endeavor to ensure that teachers appointed to the review panel represent a wide range of teachers in the public schools, including, but not limited to, teachers from different grade levels, teachers from different geographical areas of the state, teachers from urban and rural schools, teachers of English learners, teachers of special education, and teachers from the state schools for the blind and deaf. A teacher nominated by a subject area professional organization is not required to be a member of that professional organization.

(2) The membership of each review panel shall meet the following requirements:

(A) A member of a review panel shall possess a thorough knowledge of the academic content standards in the content area and grade level span in which he or she is appointed.

(B) A teacher appointed to a review panel shall be recognized as an outstanding teacher by his or her school district, fellow teachers, and by a statewide or national professional teaching organization. The teacher shall demonstrate leadership in his or her work with other teachers in both implementation of the content standards and in implementing effective instructional methods.

(C) Teachers appointed to the review panels shall represent the diversity of California’s teachers in ethnicity and gender.

(i) Each review panel shall review the content standards established in its particular subject matter and shall revise the standards as the panel deems necessary. Upon revising the standards, the panel shall forward the standards to the state board, which shall adopt or reject the standards within 120 days of receipt.

(k) This section shall become operative July 1, 2007…


(1) “Using Research to Improve Teaching” by Cathy Seeley–President’s Message and Online Chat Today (Thursday, April 14)

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

Join [NCTM President Cathy Seeley] in discussing issues and questions related to linking research and practice in a President’s Chat today, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. ET. What are your biggest challenges in implementing research-based practices? If you are a researcher, what challenges do you face in translating research findings for practitioners? What existing research resources are most valuable to you? How can NCTM best focus its resources on using research to improve teaching and learning?

Submit your questions/comments to


Federal policymakers and the public have raised a call for teaching and decision making in schools to become more evidence-based–to use research to guide our practice. As educators, we welcome this call. After all, what we care about most is how well our students learn.

Why is making.connections between research and practice so challenging? Some might point to a lack of available research findings in a format that is easy to grasp. Others might mention that sometimes research seems to give us conflicting results or that particular studies are not designed to be immediately applied in the classroom. We might observe a widespread lack of interest from classroom teachers and district leaders in research articles or sessions on research at conferences. We might also note that teachers face tremendous pressure to focus on short-term test results and to pursue these test results using techniques and materials that may contradict what research tells us about how children learn mathematics. And more recently, we have seen much discussion about defining research in increasingly narrow, quantitative ways that seem to exclude a great deal of high-quality work in the mathematics education research community.

The fact is that we need to know more about many things. A recent report from the National Research Council, “On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness: Judging the Quality of K-12 Mathematics Evaluations,” alerted us to the fact that we don’t yet have as much information as we might like to answer questions about which programs seem to be most effective for students. We have much to learn about what it takes to implement a program well and how we can measure results with respect to the fidelity of implementation. But there are also many things we do know. Principles and Standards for School Mathematics is built on a strong research base that is described in a comprehensive partner volume–A Research Companion to “Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.” In addition, a quick source of research pertaining to many current issues of interest to mathematics teachers and other leaders is EdThoughts: What We Know about Mathematics Teaching and Learning. In recent years NCTM has produced many research publications, including Lessons Learned from Research and Putting Research into Practice in the Elementary Grades: Readings from Journals of the NCTM. The Journal for Research in Mathematics Education is respected around the world as a peer-reviewed forum for sharing high-quality studies. And all three of NCTM’s school journals periodically publish short articles on research targeted to the practitioner. Do we have access to research? Absolutely. Do we need even better access? Positively.

You can help us to make research findings more accessible by letting us know what your concerns and questions are. What do you most need to know to improve teaching and learning in your classroom, school, or district? Send your thoughts to We will use your input as a guide as we seek to provide answers.

(2) Secretary Spellings Announces More Workable, “Common Sense” Approach To Implement No Child Left Behind Law

Source:  U.S. Department of Education – 7 April 2005
URL (Press release):
URL (Spellings’s speech):

Under a new approach to implementing the No Child Left Behind law, states will have additional alternatives and flexibility if they can show they are raising student achievement and closing the achievement gap, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced on Thursday, April 7. Secretary Spellings made the announcement during a meeting with the nation’s state education chiefs and other education leaders at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate near Washington, D.C.

Secretary Spellings said the new guidelines, Raising Achievement: A New Path for No Child Left Behind, are a comprehensive approach to implementing the law and she reiterated that “the bright lines of the statute” (e.g., annual testing to determine student achievement, reporting results by student subgroups, and highly qualified teachers) are not up for negotiation.

“We have learned a lot over the last three years as our infant law has matured, and these past three years have helped us be smarter about how this law is working in the schools,” Secretary Spellings said. “These new guidelines show us the way forward given what we’ve learned. They focus on results for all students, the fundamental mission of the No Child Left Behind Act.

“States that show results and follow the principles of No Child Left Behind will be eligible for new tools to help them meet the law’s goals of getting every child to grade level by 2013-14. It’s a shared responsibility.

“Think of this new policy as an equation: the principles of the law, such as annual testing and reporting of subgroup data, plus student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap, plus overall sound state education policies, equals a new, common sense approach to implementation of No Child Left Behind. In other words, it is the results that truly matter, not the bureaucratic way that you get there. That’s just common sense, sometimes lost in the halls of the government.”

Raising Achievement: A New Path includes the four key principles of No Child Left Behind:

*  Ensuring students are learning: Raising overall achievement and closing the achievement gap;

*  Making the school system accountable: Including all students in all schools and districts in the state; ensuring all students are part of a state’s accountability system and are tested in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school by the 2005-06 school year; providing data on student achievement by subgroup;

Ensuring information is accessible and parents have options: Informing parents in a timely manner about the quality of their child’s school and their school choice options, identifying schools and districts that need to improve, developing a dynamic list of after-school tutors, encouraging public school choice and the creation of charter schools and creating easily accessible and understandable school and district report cards; and

*  Improving teacher quality: Providing parents and the public with accurate information on the quality of their local teaching force, implementing a rigorous system for ensuring teachers are highly qualified and making aggressive efforts to ensure all children are taught by highly qualified teachers.

“This is a comprehensive approach to the implementation of this law,” Secretary Spellings said. “States seeking additional flexibility will get credit for the work they have done to reform their education systems as a whole.

“States that understand this new way of doing things will be gratified. It makes sense, plain and simple. Others looking for excuses to simply take the federal funds, ignore the intent of the law and have minimal results to show for their millions upon millions in federal funds will think otherwise and be disappointed.”

Secretary Spellings announced that the first example of this “workable, sensible approach” would be to apply the latest scientific research and allow states to use modified assessments for their students with persistent academic disabilities who need more time and instruction to make substantial progress toward grade-level achievement. These scores will be limited to 2 percent of all students for accountability purposes; this is a separate policy from the current regulation that allows up to 1 percent of all students being tested (those with the most significant cognitive disabilities) to take an alternate assessment.

“This new approach recognizes that these children should not all be treated alike. By relying on the most current and accurate information on how children learn and how to best serve their academic needs, this new policy focuses on children. They continue to be included in the accountability system because we know that otherwise, they risk being ignored, as was often the case before No Child Left Behind.”

Secretary Spellings also announced that she was directing an additional $14 million in immediate support for these students and that the Department would provide states with a comprehensive tool kit to help them identify and assess students with disabilities.

“It’s you–the educators out in the states–who are closing the achievement gap. You’re demanding more and getting more. You’re refusing to accept old excuses for poor performance. Thanks to your leadership, we are seeing significant educational improvement on a national scale. And as we continue to watch this law grow and mature, we will address other concerns raised by educators–again, as long as the children are learning.”

More information about this announcement–including links to the Secretary’s speech, a webcast, and fact sheets on the new policy–is available at


Related article:

Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Comments On Federal Plan To Offer New NCLB Flexibility

Source: California Department of Education – 7 April 2005


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued the following statement regarding new guidelines for NCLB implementation announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

“I am very pleased that the federal government is going to prioritize results for students over bureaucracy. This signal toward a more flexible application of NCLB is a very important step in the right direction, particularly for students with disabilities.

“In California, we are first and foremost committed to raising student achievement. We believe strongly in high standards as well as accountability and have always supported the goals of NCLB. I was heartened by Secretary Spellings’ comments and look forward to a meaningful conversation about how we will continue to demand the best our of our students and teachers while focusing our efforts on those students who need the most help.

“I sincerely hope that states like California, that have long been focused on growth in student improvement each year, will be able to benefit significantly from this new approach to NCLB implementation.

“I have been urging the federal government to consider a growth model, like California ‘s Academic Performance Index, since NCLB’s inception. I look forward to working with Secretary Spellings and the workgroup she is convening to continue to make the case for approval of California’s high standards-based accountability system to meet the goals of NCLB.”

For more background on O’Connell’s efforts to encourage consideration of a growth model, please see “Fight for Changes to NCLB – Selected Letters”:

For more information on the new guidelines for NCLB implementation, please visit

(3) “The Impact of the No Child Left Behind Act on Student Achievement and Growth: 2005 Edition” by John Cronin, G. Gage Kingsbury, Martha S. McCall, and Branin Bowe

Source: Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) – 13 April 2005
URL (Executive Summary):

On April 13, Northwest Evaluation Association researchers released a new study that indicates student achievement has improved since the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was passed, but student growth has declined slightly. In fact, if change in achievement of the magnitude seen so far continues, it won’t bring schools close to the requirement of 100 percent proficiency by 2014.

The researchers define growth as the difference in scores for a single student from one point in time to another, and achievement level as the score that a student has at one point in time, such as a score from a standardized test.

The study also evaluated achievement gaps among ethnic groups. It found that students with different ethnicities who had the same initial test scores grew differently. Most noteworthy, Hispanics academically grew less than Anglos.

“We present this study as a baseline, recognizing that NCLB is a work in progress, and changes are continually being made that can affect the outcome from one year to the next,” said Allan Olson, NWEA’s executive director. “Our goal is to conduct a similar study annually, to help inform the progress educators are making toward improving learning for all students.”

The researchers evaluated reading data from more than 320,000 students in third through eighth grade at more than 200 school districts located in 23 states across the country. They also looked at math data from more than 334,000 students in the same grades at more than 200 districts in 22 states. They compared academic growth and achievement scores in the 2001-2002 school year to growth and scores in the 2003-2004 school year.

As seen in other studies, the researchers report that achievement scores on state tests for math and reading have improved under NCLB; however, student growth has declined over the past two years. Overall, changes in mathematics growth are greater than those in reading. Also, student achievement levels and growth have improved more in grades in which state tests have been implemented than in those grades that do not participate in their state test.

“This study clearly shows consistent patterns, but was not designed to determine cause and effect. Even though it purposefully coincides with NCLB timelines, the results may or may not be related to the law’s adoption,” said NWEA’s Director of Research G. Gage Kingsbury, Ph.D. “That said, the data indicate that having an assessment in place is good for achievement, and that the law may not be helping minority students grow as much as they need to; we saw no dramatic increase of growth for low-performing students.” (Growth of Hispanic students in every grade and subject area tends to be lower than the growth of Anglo students with exactly the same initial score.)

The study was designed with scientifically based research methodology. Study data were supplied through NWEA’s Growth Research Database. The database comprises data of interest to education researchers, including assessment data gathered from NWEA member districts. These data provide a detailed look at academic growth, and aggregated proficiency levels. Additionally, the tests from which the data are derived are more sensitive for low- and high-performing students, giving a more accurate picture of achievement.

The NWEA study builds on findings that this independent national education research group released in April 2004 and November 2003. The 2004 study indicated that Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures are not a complete picture for judging school effectiveness. The 2003 study demonstrated that state standards of proficiency differ substantially from state to state, grade to grade, and subject to subject.

The new report is available at   A link to the Executive Summary in PDF format is also available on that Web site.

(4) NCTM 2005 Annual Conference

Source:  National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

The NCTM Web site now contains a number of links associated with the annual conference held in Anaheim on 6-9 April 2005.

Webcasts (

= Anaheim Opening Session with Cathy Seeley (20:58)

= Opening Session: “Education Helps Reach the Summit of Your Dreams” (Erik Weihenmayer)

– Erik Weihenmayer on Vision

– Erik on reaching the top of Mount Everest (first blind climber to do so)

– “Leadership is contagious.”

= Presidential Address: “Who’s Doing the Talking?” (Cathy Seeley)

= “Past President Reflects: Can Every Child Achieve in Mathematics, Especially in Algebra?” (Johnny Lott)

= “Algebraic Thinking: Developing the ‘Big Ideas'” (Randall Charles)

Conference Program:

Daily Conference Newsletters (PDF format):

Math License Plate Contest Winners:

(Footnote: The COMET Editor’s license plate can be viewed here: