COMET • Vol. 6, No. 30 – 8 November 2005


Calendar of Events for California’s Schools: 2006 Edition

Source: California Department of Education

Special events, observances, and holidays related to education in California during 2006 are included in this calendar. The California Department of Education hopes the calendar will assist schools in planning special recognition events. (Dates included are gathered from various sources and are not intended as definitive or official notification from the Department.)


(1) Teachers Ask the Secretary

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Teachers, do you have a question that you’d like to ask Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings? The U.S. Department of Education has established “Teachers Ask the Secretary,” a new feature of the Department’s Web site. It’s available at (select “Teachers”), or you may go directly to

This easy-to-use page will help teachers find answers on a wide range of subjects: teacher quality, professional development, state academic standards and more. The Department will share best practices and success stories under the No Child Left Behind Act and listen to your concerns. The page will be updated regularly to highlight as many topics as possible.

More information about the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative is available at

(2) Access and Opportunities to Learn are Not Accidents: Engineering Mathematical Progress in Your School by William F. Tate, IV

Source: Southeast Eisenhower Regional Consortium (SERC) at SERVE
URL (PDF file):

Foreword by Francena D. Cummings, Director

Southeast Eisenhower Regional Consortium:

The Southeast Eisenhower Regional Consortium [SERC] at SERVE commissioned this monograph, Access and Opportunities to Learn are Not Accidents: Engineering Mathematical Progress in Your School, to build on the literature related to factors and interventions impacting the achievement of underserved students in mathematics education. As the title implies, the author, Dr. William F. Tate [Chair and Professor of Education at Washington University), asserts that access and opportunities to quality mathematics education require thoughtful action and planning. Utilizing an Opportunity to Learn (OTL) framework, he argues that time, quality, and design are key building blocks for engineering mathematical progress in schools. These building blocks, however, must be situated within the larger context of the system that supports the mathematics program. In essence, the mathematics program will be impacted by factors like policies, fiscal resources, and community and national contexts.

Dr. Tate amplifies his message of engineering mathematical progress by stressing the importance of a clear vision and learner goals that reflect state and local mathematics standards and accountability structures. While many arguments around improving mathematics for underserved and minority students center on access to courses and tracking, he focuses on equally important variables related to quality instruction in mathematics classrooms and support infrastructures. This focus includes the selection and implementation of a quality curriculum and an accountability plan that monitors student progress, ultimately providing data that may be used in continuous refinement of the mathematics program.

What does this mean for advancing underserved populations’ participation in quality mathematics programs? There is an expectation that teachers will be the heart of delivering quality instruction, embracing instructional practices that include a major shift from their traditional methods of teaching–lecturing and textbook-oriented instruction. To this end, Dr. Tate encourages providing models of professional development that afford teachers similar opportunities–active learning that is designed from the ideas and resources related to their daily work with students. Moreover, there is a clear expectation that teachers have an opportunity to learn together as they consider standards-based instruction. As teachers learn to negotiate various professional development strategies like coaching, cases, mentoring, and study groups, they are often empowered to provide leadership within the local schools.

Empowering teachers! Empowered students! Reform in mathematics has been ongoing for quite a while but Cummins (1989) asserts that it is only possible when educators play an active role in involving students in the process. He believes that: “students who are empowered by their interactions with educators experience a sense of control over their own lives and they develop the ability, confidence, and motivation to succeed academically. They participate competently in instruction as a result of having developed a confident cultural identity and appropriate strategies for accessing the information or resources they require in order to carry out academic tasks to which they are committed” (Reference: Cummins, J. (1989). Empowering minority students. Sacramento: California Association for Bilingual Education, p. 4).

Cummins’ remarks emphasize how important teachers are to students’ learning and liking mathematics. Access and Opportunities to Learn: Engineering Mathematical Progress in Your Schools offers valuable data and strategies for designing and maintaining quality mathematics programs. This monograph should be valuable to policymakers, teacher leaders, principals, and educators who are responsible for providing K-12 mathematics education.


Access and Opportunities to Learn: Engineering Mathematical Progress in Your Schools can be downloaded free of charge at

(3) Call for Manuscripts: Mathematics for All: Instructional Strategies for the Diverse Classroom

Source: Mark Ellis – California State University, Fullerton –

Diversity is found in all classrooms. To assist teachers who are committed to meeting the needs of all of their students, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is developing a series of books (grades pre-K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12) that will address instructional strategies for offering quality mathematics in the increasingly diverse classroom.

These strategies, often referred to as differentiated mathematics instruction, recognize that diversity comes in the form of language, culture, race, gender, socioeconomic status, and ways of learning and thinking, as well as cognitive and emotional characteristics.

This series will help teachers determine how to teach mathematics to diverse student populations in a given classroom. You are invited to submit a manuscript for possible inclusion in this series. Manuscripts should (a) reflect the vision of the NCTM Standards; (b) have at their core a focus on teaching and learning that promotes students’ development of a conceptual understanding of mathematics; and (c) be supported by research whenever possible. Manuscripts may take the form of cases, vignettes, or teacher development.

For detailed guidelines about preparing articles for Mathematics for All, visit

(4) Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program

Source: U.S. Department of Energy (Office of Science: Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists)

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Act was signed into law in November 1994. The law gives the Department of Energy responsibility for administering a program of distinguished educator fellowships for elementary and secondary school mathematics and science teachers.  Selected teachers [generally 10-12] spend up to one year in a Congressional Office or a federal agency.

Appointments usually begin in September and end in June.  The application deadline is January 10, 2006. Finalists will be selected and notified on March 31. See

Agencies that have participated include the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Education (ED), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  The Fellows provide their educational expertise, years of experience, and personal insights to these offices.

Some of the outstanding contributions of Einstein Fellows include the following:

*  Drafting legislation and influencing policy that seek to improve K-16 education in the United States

*  Initiating collaborations and establishing partnerships between federal agencies

*  Designing and implementing national science, math, and technology education programs

*  Creating Web-based science education programs

*  Establishing and evaluating national and regional programs centered on school reform and teacher preparation in science, mathematics and technology

The Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education in coordination with the Office of Science handles the recruitment of teachers, the application process, the selection process, and the placement and orientation of the Fellows…  Information about current and past Fellows, as well as how to contact them, their duties, and day-to-day activities can be found at the Triangle Coalition web site:

Additional Information

If you have any questions or need additional information regarding the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program, contact Todd Clark at (202) 586-7174 or Cindy Musick at (202) 586-0987 or via e-mail to  or

(5) Carpenter, Rivera to Take 2005 Cy Young Awards, Mathematicians Predict

Source:  Inside Science News Service (ISNS)

Pitchers Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals and Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees will win the 2005 Major League Baseball Cy Young awards, predicts a pair of mathematicians from Rhode Island College. The actual winners, intended to represent the most outstanding American League and National League pitchers during the regular season, will be announced November 8 (American League) and 10 (National League) by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, whose members vote on the award.

Mathematicians Rebecca Sparks ( and David Abrahamson (, a husband-and-wife team who teach at Rhode Island College, have developed a formula that predicts which pitchers will place first through third in Cy Young voting. The researchers structured their formula to predict the voting results for starting pitchers, who almost always win the award, rather than relief pitchers, who are rarely the recipients. However, their formula reveals a lack of standout American League starting pitchers this year, suggesting that the AL award will go to relief pitcher Mariano Rivera for his extraordinary 2005 season.

Sparks and Abrahamson presented their model in the April 2005 issue of Math Horizons, a magazine published by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). Abrahamson will discuss the model in a talk about math and sports at a regional MAA meeting to take place at the University of New Hampshire on November 18 and 19, 2005.

Every season, the baseball writers’ association selects two sportswriters from every city in the major leagues to vote for a first, second and third place choice. The ballots are due right after the regular season ends. “The identities of the voters change frequently,” Sparks and Abrahamson write in their Math Horizons article, “but we will see that their voting results follow a predictable course”…

Their formula computes a score for each pitcher on a scale from roughly 0 to 10. For their formula to be successful, it must yield the top score in a particular season to the pitcher who places first in Cy Young voting, the next-highest score to the player who places second, and the third-highest score to the player who places third.

To calculate the scores, they first chose four key pitching statistics: wins, losses, strikeouts, and ERA (earned run average, which is the average number of runs that the pitcher is responsible for giving up per 9 innings of play). They also included a fifth statistic, the winning percentage of the pitcher’s team, as they thought that it influences the voting results.

But the main question, according to the two researchers, is how much importance the voters placed on each of those five categories. Do voters, consciously or unconsciously, generally value a pitcher’s number of wins more than his number of strikeouts? Does a pitcher on a first-place team really have a better chance of winning the award than a pitcher with slightly better stats on a last-place team?

The tools of mathematics can answer this seemingly subjective question. First, the researchers looked up the statistics in those five categories for starting pitchers between 1993 and 2002 and compared them to the Cy Young voting results for those years.

Then, to determine the relative importance of each of the five categories in the voting results, they turned to a mathematical method, dating to the 1940s, called linear programming. First developed by economists (who won the Nobel Prize for work that employed it) and mathematician George Dantzig, the idea is to find the missing numbers (in this case, the relative importance or “weight” of each pitching category in the voting) in order to satisfy certain constraints (i.e., a formula that would correctly yield the first- through third-place results for Cy Young balloting).

Analyzing the 1993 to 2002 data, they concluded that a pitcher’s number of wins carried almost three times as much weight in the voting as his earned run average. ERA, in turn, was about one-and-a-half times more important than strikeouts, and about twice as important as the winning percentage of the pitcher’s team. Almost completely insignificant, according to the model, is a pitcher’s number of losses; they seemed to have very little bearing on the voting results.

By taking each pitcher’s statistics in these five categories and adjusting their values according to these relative weights, the researchers’ formula correctly yielded all but one of the first-, second- and third place vote-getters in each league from 1993 to 2002. Recently, they incorporated the data for the 2003 and 2004 seasons into the model, and predicted three out of four Cy Young winners (the fourth was a reliever). By looking at the 2003 and 2004 statistics, they again found that the relative weights of the five categories were almost exactly the same as in the earlier data.

Using their formula, the researchers come up with the following predictions for the first three places in the 2005 National League voting:

1.  Chris Carpenter, St. Louis (6.4257 points)

2.  Dontrelle Willis, Florida (6.3420)

3.  Roy Oswalt, Houston (5.9064)

According to Abrahamson, it is possible that voters may drift away from their past behavior by voting for Roger Clemens or Andy Pettitte ahead of Roy Oswalt this year.

Clemens and Pettitte are generally better known veterans who may have a somewhat higher profile in the news media than Oswalt.

In the American League, the top starters in their model are, in order,

1.  Bartolo Colon, LA/Anaheim (5.8074)

2.  Johann Santana, Minnesota (5.3671)

3.  Jon Garland, Chicago (5.0730)

The model shows that there is no standout starter in the American League this year. Bartolo Colon, the top starter according to their model, has a total score of less than 6, a far cry from many AL Cy Young award winners in years past, such as Barry Zito (6.75, 2002) and Pedro Martinez (7.54, 1999).

“Our model quantifies the fact that there is no AL pitcher who will knock the voters’ socks off,” says Abrahamson. Therefore, Sparks says the two are “very confident” that the AL Cy Young Award will go to Mariano Rivera, a relief pitcher who had a particularly outstanding year. A Cy Young for Rivera, they say, would also serve as a kind of “lifetime achievement award” as Rivera, who has never earned the award, is likely toward the end of a very distinctive career.

The researchers think that their mathematical approach, known generally as “constrained optimization,” might work for other sports awards, such as the most valuable player in various leagues. It also might help provide insights into how magazines rank corporations, or top colleges. But the point of their approach, they say, is to show how the methods of mathematics can apply in many unexpected everyday situations.

“The moral is always the same for the mathematical modeler,” they write in their Math Horizons article. “More often than we may know, there is a pattern out there. We just have to keep thinking creatively, and we have got a good chance of finding it.”