COMET • Vol. 6, No. 16 – 19 May 2005


(1) Improving Teacher Quality State Grants Program: 2005 Request for Proposals

Source: California Postsecondary Education Commission


This is an update of the pre-announcement posted in COMET on April 28 (

The California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) has issued a Request for Proposals for the federal Improving Teacher Quality grant program, funded under Title II-A of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 to support professional development activities for prospective, new, and veteran teachers. This RFP is targeted to a single initiative-addressing academic literacy in all subject areas in secondary education. Projects will be funded for up to three years.


May 17

Request for Proposals posted on Web, mailed to institutions and agencies (

May 24-26 (see p. 6 of PDF file above for details and attendance form)

Technical Assistance Workshops for prospective proposers (all workshops 10 a.m.-1 p.m.):

*  Tuesday, May 24 – Long Beach (Long Beach City College)

*  Wednesday, May 25 – Fresno (Fresno City College)

*  Thursday, May 26 — Hayward (Alameda County Office of Education)

June 17 (see PDF file for form)

Deadline to submit Notice of Intent to Apply (Required to access application)

August 1

Deadline to submit proposals

September 6 – 12 (tentative)

Interviews with finalist applicants

October 1, 2005 (tentative)

Grant awards announced

Information: Contact


(2) New on the California Ed-Data Partnership Website:  District Comparisons

Source: EdSource ( – 18 May 2005


The California Ed-Data Partnership website––has just unveiled a powerful and user-friendly new way to get comparative information about California school districts. Behind its familiar format, Ed-Data is for the first time enabling you to see financial, demographic, performance, and teacher salary data in a single report. The site’s new “Compare Districts” function makes it easy for you to choose the results you want to see and answer the questions you’re most interested in.

Want to know how many California school districts have 100% of their teachers fully credentialed? And then see how their students score on the California Standards Tests? Or see how their average teacher salaries compare?

Just go to the Ed-Data website, select a district, and choose “Compare Districts” from the pull-down report menu. The “Districts Like This” tab lets you find districts with one or two particular characteristics from a list of 24 items that range from revenue limit funds per ADA to average class size to percent of schools making Adequate Yearly Progress. A quick “Click to Compare” provides a pre-defined set of results — or you can customize your report to select the data you care about most.

New “Highest/Lowest” Option

Want to know which unified school districts in Los Angeles County get the highest revenues per pupil? Or which elementary school districts in the state have the lowest proportions of English learners?

Answers to an endless set of questions like that are at your fingertips with the “Highest/Lowest” tab on our district comparison report. It looks similar to “Districts Like This,” but this time you can search for the top, or bottom, among the list of 24 characteristics. And, again, you can customize the results.

The latest data release from the California Department of Education is the much-awaited 2003-04 financial information for school districts. This data is part of the new comparison function, or you can select a single district and choose “Financial Statements” from the pull-down menu.

And watch for new, comprehensive financial reports coming later this summer!

The Education Data Partnership is unique to California and includes the California Department of Education, the Alameda County Office of Education, FCMAT, and EdSource.  As always, we welcome your feedback to

(3) “Moving on Up: Questions for Alan Bersin” by Marsha Sutton

Source: Voice of San Diego – 17 May 2005

URL (Part 1):

URL (Part 2):

Alan Bersin will become the next state secretary for education on July 1, one day after the expiration of his contract as superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District. Bersin replaces Richard Riordan who resigned April 27. On April 29, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also appointed Bersin, 58, to a seat on the 11-member state Board of Education.

The controversial superintendent sat down with Voice of San Diego education writer Marsha Sutton several days after the governor’s announcement, for a conversation about San Diego City Schools, his stormy tenure at the helm of the state’s second-largest school district, his views on education and what changes are needed statewide to improve academic achievement. Excerpts from the interview follow below. [Please access the above Web sites to read the entire extensive interview.]

Q: Some people have said that the position of secretary for education is just a figurehead and the governor’s mouthpiece with little power. What kind of impact do you hope to make in that position? What do you hope to accomplish?

A: There’s an opportunity to be a spokesperson for the governor’s point of view on education, to represent that point of view, to find common ground with the people inside and outside the education world. While the situation is polarized at the moment, I don’t believe that there’s anything necessary in that condition, that there’s considerable common ground that can and will be found among the people of good will. The job of secretary for education was created during the administration of Gov. [Pete] Wilson with the intent of providing a focal point for policy formulation at the governor’s cabinet level that could engage in dialogue with the superintendent of public instruction and with the state board and with the education coalition. I think that is more than a full-time job and one that represents an opportunity I’m eager to embrace.

Q: Are you more excited about the state board position, which is where many people see the power?

A: I think the positions of the secretary for education and member of the state board have their roles and their responsibilities. I’m looking forward to exploring the intersections of both being on the state board and being in the cabinet as Secretary for Education. In Sacramento at the level of state policy, it’s all about discussion and dialogue and then finding the common ground, being able to forge the compromises.

Q: Many of your critics have said that the emphasis on math and literacy has led to a sacrifice in other areas of student learning.

A: It’s up to reporters like you to actually assess whether the arts have suffered in the city schools, and I would submit to you that they haven’t, that in fact the GATE Gifted and Talented Education, arts, music, athletics are actually much stronger than they were eight years ago. But I make no apology for the focus on literacy and mathematics. Those are the critical gateway skills that our students need in order to access knowledge, in order to think critically and communicate clearly, in order to be able to succeed in the workplace or the university. If you cannot think critically and communicate clearly, and if you cannot compute precisely and understand what a mathematical approach to life involves, you will not be able to prosper in the world that we now live in. But the suggestion that that was done at the expense of what makes life worth living . is simply inaccurate.

Q: Is education now your calling, or do you ever see yourself going back to being an attorney?

A:  Oh, I’ve never stopped being an attorney. I’m now an educator, proud to be one, but I’m an educator lawyer.

Q: Interesting combination.

A:  Both of them concerned with issues of justice…


Related article:

New Bersin Positions Have Overlapping Duties” by Marsha Sutton

Source: Voice of San Diego – 2 May 2005


California’s Secretary for Education, one of nine cabinet members, is appointed by the governor and serves as the governor’s spokesperson and chief advisor on education matters. The Office of the Secretary for Education was established in 1991 by then Governor Pete Wilson, but the office has never been formalized and is not responsible for the administration of programs or funds. That responsibility goes to the California Department of Education and its head, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The 11-member state Board of Education, which now includes Bersin, is widely regarded as the power center for statewide education policy. It is the governing and policy-making body of the CDE, and all its members are appointed by the governor. Besides Bersin, also representing San Diego County on the state board is Ken Noonan, superintendent of the Oceanside Unified School District, who was just appointed by Schwarzenegger two weeks ago.

As the next Secretary for Education, Bersin, a Democrat, will work with Jack O’Connell, also a Democrat and California’s 26th State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Serving as the chief executive officer of the CDE, the state superintendent, a nonpartisan position that has existed in the state for over 150 years, cannot be hired or fired by the governor. As an elected official, the state superintendent is accountable directly to the people of California.

O’Connell, elected in 2002 to a four-year term, oversees elementary and secondary public school programs, implements policy established by the state Board of Education, and, as chief executive officer of the CDE, has overall responsibility for the supervision of the state’s public education system.

The intent is that these officials and departments work together in a concerted effort to advance the cause of public education in California, which serves seven million K-12 students in more than 9,000 schools.


(1) Celebrating More Than a Century of Science on U.S. Postage Stamps

Source: U.S. Postal Service via The Math Forum @ Drexel Internet News – 16 May 2005


Four American Scientists–Thermodynamicist Josiah Willard Gibbs, geneticist Barbara McClintock, mathematician John von Neumann and physicist Richard P. Feynman–were honored with postage stamps dedicated in a special ceremony on May 4 at Henry R. Luce Hall, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

“These are some of the greatest scientists of our time; their pioneering discoveries still influence our lives today,” said John F. Walsh, a member of the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors, who dedicated the stamp.

Joining Walsh were Paul A Fleury, Dean of Engineering, Yale University; Michelle Feynman, Feynman’s daughter; Marina Whitman, Von Neumann’s daughter; Marjorie M. Bhavnani, McClintock’s niece; John Willard Gibbs III, Gibbs’ cousin; John Marburger, Director, Office of Science Technology; and Victor Stabin, stamp artist. Honored guests included Richard Levin, President, Yale University and John DeStefano, Mayor, New Haven, CT.

“This is truly an honor for, not only science enthusiasts and scientists, but for our community as well,” said DeStefano. “As a life-long resident of New Haven, I am thrilled these beautiful scientist stamps are being issued here.”

Artist Victor Stabin started with collages featuring portraits of the scientists and drawings associated with their major contributions to create the stamps. Information about the specific elements in each collage is printed on the back of each stamp. [See the Web site above for more information about the scientists depicted on the stamps.]

(2) 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM)

Source: National Science Foundation


On May 16, President Bush announced the recipients of the 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM)–a program supported and administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  Each award includes a $10,000 grant for continued mentoring work.

PAESMEM honors individuals and institutions that have enhanced the participation of underrepresented groups–such as women, minorities and people with disabilities–in science, mathematics and engineering education at all levels.  Since its inception in 1996, the PAESMEM program has recognized 87 individuals and 67 institutions.  Each year’s awardees add to a widening network of outstanding mentors in the United States, assuring that tomorrow’s scientists and engineers will better represent the nation’s diverse population.  This year, nine individuals and five institutions received the award.

The 2004 individual awardees are drawn from institutions across the country and represent a variety of professional fields.  All are highly regarded mentors and have pioneered innovative and resourceful programs to broaden opportunities in science, math and engineering for underrepresented students at all levels:

– Lenore Blum of Carnegie Mellon University helped pioneer the Expanding Your Horizons program at Mills College in 1973.  The program–designed to introduce young female students to women in science and related careers–has since gone national through the Math/Science Network….

– Barbara Burke of the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona….

– Charlena Grimes of Washington State University has helped improve the school’s engineering and architecture department’s retention rate by 20 percent through the Bridge Program.  Nearly half of the more than 663 underrepresented students that have participated in the program attained a degree in science, mathematics, engineering and technology…

– Richard Ladner of the University of Washington ….

– Jeffrey Russell of the University of Wisconsin, Madison…

– Herb Schroeder of the University of Alaska Anchorage…

– John Warner of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell…

– Steven Watkins of Louisiana State University and A&M College…

– Elizabeth Yanik of Emporia State University (Kansas)…

Five institutional awards are going to organizations with programs directed to Latino and Native American students, women and minorities in biological sciences and underrepresented groups seeking mathematics doctorates.  They are:

– The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)

– The Department of Mathematics at University of Iowa is the largest single awarder of math doctorates to minorities in the nation…

– The Miami Museum of Science, Inc..

– The Native Americans in Marine and Space Sciences (NAMSS) Program, Oregon State University

– The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)

(3) “Officials Detail NCLB Test Flexibility for Students With Disabilities” by Christina A. Samuels

Source: EdWeek on the Web  – 10 May 2005


States can start taking advantage of flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act for some of their special education students this school year, but they will have to clear several hurdles to do so, the U.S. Department of Education announced May 10.

In April, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that 2 percent of students in special education who have “persistent academic disabilities” could be tested using modified assessments. The result, for some states, is that more of their students who are in special education will be deemed proficient under NCLB standards.

The Education Department already allows 1 percent of students with “severe cognitive disabilities” to be counted as proficient even if they take alternative assessments that are below grade level. The additional 2 percent is intended to allow for students who, even with the best instruction, still cannot meet grade-level standards, Secretary Spellings has said.

“I believe that this is a smarter, better way to educate our special education students,” Ms. Spellings said May 10 in a teleconference with reporters.

The short-term option, to be used until the Education Department comes out with final rules in the fall, will allow states to adjust their adequate-yearly-progress, or AYP, goals for the 2005-06 school year. However, to receive the flexibility, states will have to meet several conditions: They must test at least 95 percent of their students with disabilities; put in place appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities; and make available alternative assessments in language arts and mathematics for students with disabilities who are unable to take the regular tests, even with accommodations….