COMET • Vol. 6, No. 06 – 24 February 2005


(1) State Schools Chief O’Connell Announces Winners of $20.3 Million in Grants to Improve Teacher Quality

Source: California Department of Education


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced yesterday the selection of 26 educational agencies that will receive $20.3 million in California Mathematics and Science Partnership (CaMSP) grants to help educators improve their skills in teaching math and science.

“California desperately needs to attract and retain experienced teachers, particularly those who teach math and science,” O’Connell said. “These federal grants will help train teachers in math and science instruction to better help our students succeed.”

The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, Title II, Part B is the funding source for the CaMSP grants. Eligible educational agencies have a student population where at least 40 percent qualifies for the National School Lunch Program. The law also requires all teachers of core academic subjects to meet the federal definition of “highly qualified teacher” no later than the 2005-06 school year. CaMSP is an in-depth professional development program for classroom teachers to enhance their knowledge and teaching skills of math and science through professional learning activities. Ultimately, the program is designed to increase the academic achievement of financially disadvantaged students in math (grade five through algebra I) and science (grades four through eight).

The grants are awarded to eligible partnerships or educational agencies that in turn create opportunities for teachers to receive professional development in teaching math and science. A panel selected by the California Department of Education staff that oversees the program, reviewed the grantees’ applications on a number of criteria, including the applicants’ vision and goals for teachers and students. For more information about the CaMSP program, please visit

A list of the 26 awardees and the amounts of the awards is available at


(2) Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI); Presentation on March 18 by John Conway on “The Free Will Theorem”


[]  The Bay Area’s Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) exists to further mathematical research through broadly based programs in the mathematical sciences and closely related activities. The Institute has been primarily funded by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from other government agencies, private foundations, and academic and corporate sponsors.

The Institute:

*  Was founded in 1982 by Shiing-Shen Chern (Director), Calvin Moore (Deputy Director) and Isadore M. Singer (Chair of Scientific Advisory Committee)

*  Furthers mathematics and the mathematical sciences at all levels

*  Runs year-long and half-year research programs across the mathematical sciences, with scientists from around the world

*  Hosts about 1,700 scientific visits per year

*  Has hosted all those who won Fields Medals since MSRI’s founding

*  Trains the next generation of researchers: 20-40 post-docs per year and summer graduate programs for 120-200 students

*  Increases access for women and minorities

*  Runs conferences in K-12 math education

*  Administers the Bay Area Math Olympiad and Berkeley Math Circles

*  Increases public understanding of mathematics via conferences, lectures, videos and journalist-in-residence programs

MSRI also hosts a number of public events (see Among the upcoming events is a presentation by John Conway, who will speak on “The Free Will Theorem” on 18 March 2005 from 7:30-9:00 p.m. at the Roda Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2015 Addison Street, Berkeley; located near the Downtown Berkeley BART station on Shattuck).

Ever since the early days of quantum mechanics, physicists have debated the foundations of the subject, and in particular, if the standard statistical interpretation is an accurate depiction of the real world, or if there are so called “hidden variables” that lie behind the quantum description of elementary particles such as electrons.

Recently, John Conway and Simon Kochen proved, on the basis of three little “axioms” from physics, that if there exist experimenters with a limited amount of free will, then elementary particles also have their own small amount of free will, meaning that on occasion their behavior is not determined by the prior history of the entire universe. This is believed to be the strongest “no hidden variable” theorem established so far.

John Horton Conway is the von Neumann Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University. Educated at the University of Cambridge, Professor Conway is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, and a master of nearly every field of mathematics. Colleagues consider him to be one of the most electrifying and entertaining lecturers in pure mathematics today. Conway has written and co-authored several books, and in 2004, Volume Four of “Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays” by co-authors John Conway, Elwyn Berklekamp and Richard Guy was released.


(1) Bill Gates to Join Nation’s Governors, Education and Business Leaders to Focus on Better Preparing Young People for College And Work

Source: Achieve, Inc.

URL (Achieve):

URL (Summit):

URL (Press release):$file/Gates.pdf

Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will deliver the keynote address at the 2005 National Education Summit on High Schools, hosted by Achieve, Inc. and the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C. on February 26-27.

The Summit will bring together governors from the 55 U.S. states and territories along with top business executives and prominent K-12 and higher education leaders to address the urgent need to improve America’s high schools so students can meet the demands of today’s challenging economy.

“Too many high school students drop out before earning a diploma, and too many of those who graduate are unprepared for the realities of the 21st century economy,” said Gates. “This failure of our high school system has dire consequences for our economy, but even more important, it is simply wrong.”

Nearly one of three eighth graders in America does not graduate from high school, and half of African-American and Hispanic students do not make it to graduation day. Colleges and employers report that many of those who do graduate lack basic skills. Only a small fraction of those who go on to postsecondary education succeed in earning a degree. Half of those who enter two-year institutions, for example, never return for their second year.

“For most students, high school graduation now marks not the terminus of their education but a way station on the road to college or a job,” said Washington Mutual Chairman and CEO Kerry Killinger, the Summit’s co-chair and vice-chair of Achieve, Inc. “The Summit will present an ambitious agenda to ensure that states are requiring that students complete more challenging course work to earn a meaningful high school diploma that signals to colleges and employers that American graduates are not just proficient but prepared.”

The global economy has placed a higher premium on workers’ ability to formulate new ideas and solve problems, rather than produce tangible goods. A solid education is increasingly important for young people and the nation to maintain competitive in the job market. The summit comes at a time when momentum is building nationwide to redesign America’s high schools so all young people can receive the education they need to be successful.

“During the last decade, efforts to improve public education have focused on earlier grades, to set standards and define end-of-course and graduation requirements. This year, states will begin to implement changes in high schools themselves and to rethink expectations for postsecondary education and workforce success,” said NGA Chairman Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, the Summit co-chair.

Other architects of the Summit agenda include Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Arthur R. Ryan, CEO of Prudential Financial, co-chairs of Achieve, and NGA Vice Chairman Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci, members of the NGA Redesigning the American High School Task Force. Gov. Taft is also a task force member.

Previous Summits – held in 1989, 1996, 1999 and 2001 – were instrumental in creating political momentum and public support for raising academic standards and performance in the nation’s schools.

This year, participants will address such core issues as strengthening requirements for rigorous coursework, bringing colleges and universities together with K-12 education to set common expectations, improving teaching and principal leadership, and expanding options and support for students to achieve high standards.

The 2005 National Education Summit on High Schools is sponsored by NGA and Achieve, Inc. in partnership with the Business Roundtable, the James B. Hunt Institute and the Education Commission of the States. It will be held February 26-27 at the JW Marriott Hotel, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.


(2) “Taft to Address Summit on High School Education” by Joe Guillen

Source: The Plain Dealer – 23 February 205


Taft and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, announcing the “2005 National Education Summit on High Schools,” said they plan to address problems such as the high school diploma’s diminished value, alarming dropout rates and a lack of high-quality teaching and leadership at low-performing high schools. Too few students are prepared to succeed in college or at work, they said.

“Students can make it to the top of the K-12 ladder, only to find that they still can’t reach the bottom rung of success for the rest of their lives,” said Taft, who helped craft the agenda for the weekend.

The sweeping discussion has broad support, not only among Republicans (including Taft) and Democrats (including Warner) but also among business leaders. Prudential Financial CEO Arthur Ryan joined Taft and Warner at the National Press Club Tuesday to outline the agenda, which includes proposals for higher academic standards, more challenging courses and financial incentives for good teachers to work in low-performing schools.


Editor’s Note:

Visit the following Web site for a collection of news articles about the Summit:


(3) Participate in the Regional Advisory Committee Process

Source: NSTA Express – 14 February 2005


The U.S. Department of Education has formed 10 Regional Advisory Committees (RACs) to advise the U.S. Secretary of Education on the technical assistance needs of states, school districts, and schools as they implement the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  The 10 committees-made up of state education agency representatives, parents, local education agency representatives, educators, business executives, and researchers-are charged with conducting regional education needs assessments and recommending technical assistance priorities in their regions.

Each RAC will submit a report to the secretary of education in March 2005, that will help the U.S. Department of Education establish funding priorities for 20 new technical assistance centers that will replace the 15 existing Comprehensive Centers, the 10 existing Regional Technology in Education Consortia, and the 10 existing Eisenhower Regional Math/Science Consortia.  The amount of funds appropriated for technical assistance will remain at roughly $57 million.  The competition for the new centers will be held in the spring and summer of 2005.

You and your colleagues can ensure that your concerns and recommendations will be considered by registering on the RAC Web site at and posting your comments in the public discussion-public hearing area designated for your region, on the following issues:

*  The challenges and needs for assistance in your region as schools, districts and states strive to improve student achievement and implement the requirements of NCLB;

*  The kinds of technical assistance that might help address those needs and challenges; and

*  How federal technical assistance providers in particular might best contribute to addressing education and technical assistance needs.

By registering at the site you can provide comments that will be considered by the RAC in your region when it produces its report, view and listen to online public regional meetings, and receive e-bulletins with updates on regional information and events. The dates of online public regional meetings and other events are provided on the Web site in the “Activities and Events” link.


(4) Harvard President’s Letter to the Faculty Regarding NBER [(National Bureau of Economic Research)] Remarks

Source: Harvard University Office of the President ® 17 February 2005


Dear Colleagues:

At the request of Professors Grosz, Hammonds, Skocpol, and others, I am making available a transcript of my remarks at the January 14 conference as well as the questions and answers that followed. Although I had intended them as informal and speculative, and was reluctant to reopen wounds, I want to be responsive to the concern expressed on Tuesday that our new task forces be in a position to move past the discussion of my remarks and move on with their important work. Links to the transcripts of my NBER remarks and my opening remarks at Tuesday’s Faculty meeting are attached at the bottom of this message.

As I said at our Tuesday meeting, if I could turn back the clock, I would have spoken differently on matters so complex. Though my NBER remarks were explicitly speculative, and noted that “I may be all wrong,” I should have left such speculation to those more expert in the relevant fields. I especially regret the backlash directed against individuals who have taken issue with aspects of what I said. In this University, people who disagree with me – or with anyone else – should and must feel free to say so. I know of no community as committed to free inquiry as this one, and no institution with a greater responsibility to uphold it.

As I now know better than I did a month ago, the matters I discussed at NBER are the subject of intense debate across a range of disciplines. Colleagues from these fields have taken time to educate me further. My January remarks substantially understated the impact of socialization and discrimination, including implicit attitudes – patterns of thought to which all of us are unconsciously subject. The issue of gender difference is far more complex than comes through in my comments, and my remarks about variability went beyond what the research has established. These are dynamic areas of inquiry, which will no doubt continue to engage scholars in the years ahead.

For now, if any good can come out of the recent controversy, I hope the intense attention on issues of gender can provide us with an opportunity to make concrete progress in the time ahead. It is vital that we aggressively implement policies that will encourage girls and women to pursue science at the highest levels, and that we welcome and support them in our faculty ranks.

Difficult as our most recent meeting was, I appreciate the honesty and recognize the intensity of the concerns expressed. This University faces a crucial set of opportunities and challenges, and I am committed to working together with this Faculty and the other Faculties to set and achieve common goals.


Larry Summers


“Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce”:

“Opening Remarks at the February 15 FAS Faculty Meeting”: