COMET • Vol. 6, No. 22 – 14 September 2005


(1)  Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

URL (California finalists):

Earlier this summer, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell recognized five outstanding California teachers who were selected as state finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

Margaret Cagle and Susan Schreibman Ford were selected in the mathematics category.  Caleb Cheung, Susan Deemer, and Catherine Nicholas were selected in the science category.  As finalists, they are now nominated to represent the state in the PAEMST competition–the nation’s highest teaching award for teachers of mathematics and science.  The winners will be announced in March 2006 by President Bush.

“The exemplary work of these teachers is important now more than ever before as we begin to challenge kids with more difficult coursework in order to prepare them for college or jobs of the future,” said O’Connell.  “I commend them for their love of teaching, hard work, and dedication that inspires kids to learn math and science.”

Margaret Cagle, 50, is from Woodland Hills.  She teaches eighth grade honors algebra, geometry, and French at Lawrence Gifted/Highly Gifted Magnet in Chatsworth within the Los Angeles Unified School District.  Originally an architect by training, Cagle became an educator after learning there is a critical shortage of math teachers.  She earned her National Board Certification in 1999.

Susan Schreibman Ford, 39, is from Turlock.  She teaches algebra and integrated math, and serves as department chair at Delhi High School within the Delhi Unified School District School.  Schreibman Ford is on an educator leadership team and is a teacher-trainer for the Interactive Mathematics Program.  She received her National Board Certification in 2002.

Caleb Cheung, 33, is from Oakland.  He teaches seventh grade life science at Frick Middle School within the Oakland Unified School District.  He mentors other science teachers and plans special science activities for students and their families.  Cheung earned his National Board Certification in 2000.

Susan Deemer, 32, is from Redwood City.  She teaches seventh grade chemistry and eighth grade physics at Katherine Delmar Burke School, a private girls’ school in San Francisco.  Deemer often uses hands-on demonstrations to spark student interest and curiosity about the complexities of science that require abstract thinking.  She is the co-facilitator of the curriculum council at the school.

Catherine Nicholas, 42, is from Castiac.  She teaches seventh grade science at Rio Norte Junior High School in Valencia within the William S. Hart Union High School District.  Nicholas chairs the science department that she helped set up at the school, and is coach to the school’s Science Olympiad that has led to three awards.  She received her National Board Certification in 2002.

PAEMST has honored more than 3,000 K-12 mathematics and science teachers nationwide since the program’s inception in 1983.  Mathematics and science teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade are eligible for the award. In even-numbered years, elementary teachers (grades K-6) are eligible to compete; in odd-numbered years, secondary teachers (grades 7-12) are recognized. The application deadline is May 1, 2006 for K-6 teachers; the deadline for secondary (7-12) teachers is May 1, 2007.  Application and selection information can be found at

Every year, a state may nominate up to three teachers in each category (mathematics and science). Up to 108 teachers across the nation are then selected by a national panel as recipients of the Presidential Awards. These teachers receive the following:

*  An expense-paid trip for two to Washington, DC, to attend a week-long series of recognition events and professional development opportunities.

*  A citation signed by the President of the United States.

*  A $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

*  Gifts from sponsors of the program from around the country.

The five California nominees for 2005 and the 2004 Presidential Awardees will be recognized at the November 2005 meeting of the State Board of Education in Sacramento. They also will receive a plaque signed by both Secretary O’Connell and State Board of Education President Ruth Green at a luncheon following the board meeting.

For more information on PAEMST, including past winners, please visit

PAESMT-Mathematics Coordinator for California:

Sandie Gilliam

2100 Nelson Road

Scotts Valley, California 95066


Phone: 831-335-1677

Fax: 831-335-1677


(1)  Laura Bush and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings Surprise American Star of Teaching in Des Moines, Iowa

Source:  U.S. Department of Education – 8 September 2005

Last Thursday, Laura Bush and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced Judy Kinley of Lovejoy Elementary as Iowa’s American Star of Teaching in a surprise ceremony. Kinley is a master math educator for Lovejoy Elementary and Des Moines Public Schools.

An experienced elementary math teacher, Judy Kinley has taken the lead in standardizing math education at three Des Moines Public Schools targeted by a Title III grant to increase achievement with English language learners. She is considered a master educator, modeling math teaching in classrooms and mentoring other teachers. She also organizes family math nights to involve parents in math lessons.

One teacher from every state and the District of Columbia representing all grade levels and disciplines will be honored this fall as a No Child Left Behind 2005 American Star of Teaching. A committee of former teachers at the U.S. Department of Education selected the American Stars from among 2,000 nominations based on their success in improving academic performance for all their students.

Begun in 2004, the American Stars of Teaching recognition effort is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative, which includes teacher workshops, research-based classroom strategies, teacher and principal roundtables, regular e-mail updates, and free online professional development. More than 4,500 teachers have participated in workshops and roundtable discussions.

The House of Representatives recently approved $100 million in funding for President Bush’s Teacher Incentive Fund to reward K-12 educators who make outstanding progress in raising student achievement or narrowing the achievement gap. The Teacher Incentive Fund is also a proposed provision of a Higher Education Act reauthorization bill, which would also make permanent student loan forgiveness available for such teachers.

(2)  New Teacher-to-Teacher Training Corps Announced

Source: U.S. Department of Education – 8 September 2005

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced additional efforts aimed at supporting the teachers of more than one million students over the next year, including a teacher training corps and a technology partnership for teachers in urban areas who focus on math and science. The additional efforts are part of the Department’s Teacher-to-Teacher initiative.

“The success of No Child Left Behind is due in large part to the inspiration and determination of our nation’s teachers,” said U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. “The Teacher-to-Teacher initiative is all about giving teachers the tools they need to do their best to improve student learning and close the achievement gap.”

The new Teacher-to-Teacher Training Corps will include teachers and practitioners who will provide on-site technical assistance to individual school districts. For example, the corps could offer an in-service program for a school district’s high school math teachers. Members of the Teacher-to-Teacher Training Corps will participate in the Department’s summer workshops. All 50 states and the District of Columbia accept the Department’s Teacher-to-Teacher summer workshops and online professional development courses for credit. Expanded to 32 courses, the free digital workshops are available to teachers around the world.

Secretary Spellings also announced a partnership between the Department and TechNet, a group of technology companies, to create workshops for teachers in urban areas that focus on math, science, and technology.

Other recently announced support for teachers includes “Teachers Ask the Secretary,” a new, easy-to-use Web page that gives teachers the opportunity to directly ask the secretary questions and learn information about a wide range of subjects, including teacher quality, professional development, and state academic standards.

(3) Teacher-to-Teacher Training Corps–Call for Trainers

Source: U.S. Department of Education – 9 September 2005

The following announcement is a “Call for Trainers” to serve in the Teacher-to-Teacher Training Corps.  For more information concerning opportunities provided by the federal government’s Teacher-to-Teacher initiative, please visit

Teachers and school leaders who are using scientifically based research strategies and have data to demonstrate effectiveness are sought to be part of the Teacher-to-Teacher Training Corps. The goal of this initiative is to support district level professional development efforts by providing demonstrations by expert teachers and administrators of ways to improve academic performance through increased content knowledge and improved pedagogical skill. Participants should leave sessions with ready-to-use strategies and an understanding of why and when those strategies are effective.

Members of the Teacher-to-Teacher Training Corps will be eligible to participate in workshops for teachers during 2005 and 2006. They will also be eligible to make presentations at the Department’s summer workshops in 2006 and work with interested districts in ways that align with and support continuing district efforts during the school year and summer. Sessions at each site will be aligned with the district’s academic goals and student data. A district may want the corps to work with secondary math teachers on several districtwide in-service days. Or a district may desire a series of Saturday offerings for its science teachers.

The members of the corps will also support participants through e-mail mentoring, e-Learning presentations, webcasts and follow-up visits, some of which have already begun with the Teacher-to-Teacher workshop providers.

To apply for this corps, you must submit a complete proposal, which should include a PowerPoint presentation and handouts. In order to be considered for the Teacher-to-Teacher Training Corps, your proposal must be received by October 10, 2005. Please visit for additional information.

If you are selected, the U.S. Department of Education will provide travel, accommodations, and a $1,000 honorarium for planning, preparation and participation in each training event. You will have the flexibility to determine the level of your participation in workshops scheduled around the country during 2005 and 2006.

More information on the Department’s Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative is posted on the Web at

You may also wish to view the collection of e-Learning workshop sessions at The following Math/Science workshops are included on this site:

*  Taking the “Dense” Out of Density

*  Feedback: A Powerful Tool for Raising Student Achievement in Mathematics & Science

*  Patterns to Symbols: Algebra

*  Developing Computational Fluency in Addition & Subtraction

*  Standards-Based Differentiated Math

*   Using Technology to Enhance Algebra Instruction

*  Early Steps Count: Teaching Arithmetic to Prepare Students for Algebra

*  Measurement & Geometry: Building Conceptual Understanding in Young Children

*  Science & CSI: Weaving Science & Math Into Lessons That Teach Kids To Think

*  Linear Equations: A Hands-on Method for Teaching the Connections Among Equations, Tables, & Graphs

*  Got the “H.O.T.S.” for Inquiry?

(4)  “Embracing NCLB: One School’s Experience” (Chat Transcript)

Source:  Education Week – 15 September 2005

Rail Road Flat Elementary, an impoverished, 100-student public school in rural northern California, has become one of the highest-achieving schools in the state and last year was a state nominee for “national model of excellence” status. The school’s success has been attributed to strong student discipline and a heavy emphasis on the kind of teach-to-the-test learning that is often frowned upon in more affluent areas. “There’s a need for structure,” says Rail Road Flat teacher Randall Youngblood. “If I was teaching in another socioeconomic group, it might be different.” But what are the drawbacks?

In this chat (held earlier today), Youngblood discussed his school’s approach to academics and classroom management and its attitude toward state and national policy.  Visit the above web site for a complete transcript of this interview.

For more information on Rail Road Flat Elementary, read the article “One-Track Minds” in the Aug./Sept. 2005 issue of TEACHER MAGAZINE:

(5) “Assessing to Learn and Learning to Assess” – NCTM Presidential Chat, 21 September 2005

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

[From the President of NCTM, Cathy Seeley]  Let’s start this school year by exchanging ideas about assessment. What ways have you found to determine how well your students are learning the mathematics expected of them on a day-to-day basis? Do you know of an effective and appropriate large-scale test to measure the mathematics students should know? Join me in a chat to talk about these and other related issues on Wednesday, September 21, at 4:00 p.m. ET. Submit comments and questions online at

With the public’s attention focused on how well our schools are educating children in mathematics, students face assessment on a regular basis. At the classroom level, teachers use a variety of assessment measures and strategies to determine whether their students are learning the mathematics they are supposed to learn. Schools and school districts often administer tests across classrooms to determine whether students have reached a certain level of achievement or whether they are meeting particular benchmarks. Every state also administers largescale accountability tests as required by law. Is all this testing too much, or does it help students learn? When we assess to learn, we seek information that allows teachers to find out what students know in order to improve their mathematics learning. This means learning to assess all the kinds of mathematical knowledge we identify as important. By assessing to learn and learning to assess, we can maximize the positive impact of assessment on students’ learning without unnecessary negative consequences.

What Is Assessment For?

When a teacher wants to know whether a student or group of students is learning what is expected on a day-to-day basis, the teacher may use a variety of measures such as quizzes, interviews, projects, tests, or even purposeful conversation. If a test is used to determine the breadth of a student’s mathematical knowledge and level of thinking, it is likely to include opportunities for the student to produce extended responses that demonstrate a thought process in addition to measuring a range of mathematical content and skills. To measure a program’s effectiveness for a large number of students, a test needs to be efficient to administer and quick and economical to score. Each of these purposes calls for a different type of measure, with a specific format, scope, and context for administration.

Regardless of the purpose of an assessment, one factor is crucial to all assessments. They must be aligned with the particular mathematics that students are expected to learn. Ideally, this alignment will be evident in the content of the test or assessment and supported by the assessment format and manner in which the results are interpreted and used.

What Does Assessment Tell Us?

Teachers and students can benefit from assessment results that tell what a student knows and that identify a student’s potential misunderstandings. The most useful assessment results for directly influencing students’ learning are those that are immediate and specific. When we acknowledge what students are doing well and adjust or guide students as they first develop misunderstandings, they are far more likely to learn mathematics correctly and have that learning last. An effective teacher knows that it is important to measure students’ understanding of mathematical concepts and ideas, evaluate their proficiency in skills, and give them the opportunity to apply what they have learned to a variety of situations beyond the immediate context in which the mathematics was learned. Results of large-scale accountability tests should be interpreted and used carefully only for the purposes for which they were intended. For making day-to-day decisions, the teacher is the best person to assess mathematics learning, and the classroom is the best context in which to do so.

Too Much Testing?

Ideally, assessment should be seamlessly woven into the fabric of teaching and learning, minimizing interruptions in instructional time and maximizing the immediate impact on students’ learning. When assessment is part of the learning process, it does not need to sidetrack an effective mathematics program.

The bottom line is that the purpose of any mathematics assessment must be to improve students’ learning. When an assessment measure is well aligned with–and integrated into–the system of mathematics teaching and learning, preparing students to perform well should involve little more than teaching the mathematics program well.

Learning to Assess

Developers of accountability assessments can improve assessments by incorporating problem solving, open-ended items, and problems that assess understanding as well as skills. As consumers of test data, teachers, supervisors, administrators, and families can learn what test data do and do not tell us. In our own classrooms, we can refine our skills so that we design assessment measures that clearly show what students know, with assessment integrated as part of the teaching and learning process. Throughout the 2005-06 school year, NCTM will provide focused resources on assessment to help us learn to assess and assess to learn. Look for the magnifying glass icon on the NCTM Web site and in NCTM publications for articles, ideas, and events that support this Professional Development Focus of the Year.