COMET • Vol. 7, No. 01 – 10 January 2006


(1) Governor Schwarzenegger’s Proposed Budget for Education

Source: Office of the Governor – 10 January 2006
URL (press releases):

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered his annual State of the State address before a joint session of the California State Legislature last Thursday and proposed a comprehensive Strategic Growth Plan to invest in California’s transportation, education, water, public safety and public service infrastructure. Today (January 10), the governor released his proposed budget to address identified needs. Links to press releases for both addresses are available at the above Web site.

“K-14 education funding will increase by $4.3 billion, an increase of $660 per student, bringing total per pupil spending to nearly $11,000,” the Governor announced today. “But it is not just the amount of money that is important. It is about how that money is spent. This budget focuses on the quality of education in our classrooms.”

The Governor’s budget proposes that California restore art, music and physical education to our schools. It focuses on teacher training and recruiting math and science teachers, and for the first time, it provides $428 million dollars to fully fund Proposition 49, the After-School Education and Safety Act, as required by the voters. “This will make California the only state in the nation to offer comprehensive after-school programs,” the Governor said. “Every elementary and middle school can have a program so that working parents will know that their children will be in a safe environment–getting help with their homework, doing arts and physical activities.”

The Governor’s budget also provides funds to eliminate student fee increases scheduled for this fall at the University of California, Hastings School of Law, and the California State University. In addition, the budget reflects no fee increases at California Community Colleges, and increases Cal Grant resources for students attending private institutions. The proposed budget also fully funds the second year of the Governor’s Compact with Higher Education.

Strategic Growth Plan

Over the next 20 years, California’s population is expected to increase by as much as 30 percent and it is estimated the state faces more that $500 billion in infrastructure needs over that same period. Governor Schwarzenegger’s Strategic Growth Plan is the first phase of a 20-year investment to meet these expected needs for Californians. The plan leverages $68 billion dollars in bonds over the next 10 years to invest more than $222 billion in the state’s infrastructure without raising taxes…

Over the next 10 years, a quarter of a million more students will be attending our California’s schools and an increase of more than half a million students is projected for the state’s colleges and universities. In addition, the more than 8,000 school sites in the K-12 system continue to age and require modernization while the growth in enrollment in higher education has created the need for more classrooms, libraries, labs and hundreds of new buildings. The Governor proposes constructing more than 2,000 small schools and 40,000 classrooms and modernizing another 141,000 in addition to significant construction and expansion at University of California, California State University and California Community College campuses.

To fund this investment, the Governor’s Strategic Growth Plan includes:

=  $26.3 billion total investment in K-12 education over the next decade through general obligation bonds. (The initial $7 billion bond would come before voters in 2006. Subsequent bond measures are proposed for the general elections every two years beginning in 2008 and ending in 2014.)

=  $11.7 billion total investment in higher education over the next decade. (The plan calls for $5.2 billion in bonds over the next five years, $6.1 billion from 2011 to 2016 and $400 million to fund the expansion of University of California telemedicine programs.)…


The Governor’s $125.6 billion budget plan for the 2006-07 fiscal year, which includes $97.9 billion in proposed General Fund spending, is available on the Department of Finance’s Web site at

The briefing paper issued on the Governor’s Strategic Growth Plan is available at

(2) Study Finds High-Quality, Universal Preschool Would Benefit California’s Population Centers

Source:  RAND Corporation
URL  (Report):
URL (Press Releases): and

A RAND Corporation study issued on December 15 estimating the local impact of high-quality universal preschool in California concludes that such early education would benefit each of the state’s most populated regions by cutting the need for special education, reducing juvenile crime, and eliminating the need for many children to repeat grades.

Regions that have larger numbers of poor and disadvantaged children would see benefits at rates that surpass what is expected statewide, the study says. But the potential gains from universal preschool would be substantial for all regions studied, which are home to 96 percent of the state’s population, according to the report by researchers from RAND Labor and Population.

“High-quality, universal preschool would create many benefits for California over the lifetimes of the children who attend such programs,” said Lynn Karoly, a RAND senior economist and author of the report. “We have provided estimates of those benefits by region to give people a better idea of what universal preschool might mean for their own community.”

The RAND study did not examine the potential effects of any specific universal preschool program proposals for California, including one that is expected to appear on the statewide ballot in June.

Estimates of the benefits offered by universal preschool are derived from studies of the impact of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers, a large-scale publicly funded preschool program serving disadvantaged children in that city’s public school system.

The estimates for California were made assuming that a part-day universal preschool program would reach 70 percent of the estimated 550,000 4-year-olds living in California in each of the next 10 years. The report estimates that this level of universal preschool enrollment would have the following impact: 9,100 fewer children in special education programs at some point during their school years; 10,000 fewer high school dropouts; 4,700 fewer children with a substantial case of abuse or neglect; and 7,300 fewer children involved in the juvenile court system. Overall, these statewide numbers amount a 5 to 19 percent drop over current levels.

These estimates are based on the assumption that the preschools would follow quality standards such as having low student-teacher ratios and requiring college-educated teachers. These standards exceed those used for California’s current public-supported preschool programs.

A previous RAND study examined the potential economic benefit to California society of a high-quality universal preschool program. In a report released in March, RAND researchers estimated that such a program would create $2.62 in short-term and long-term benefits for California society for every $1 invested.

Preschool education is an increasingly common experience for the nation’s young children, with 66 percent of the country’s 4-year-olds and 43 percent of 3-year-olds enrolled in some type of program during 2001. In California, about 65 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in some type of preschool.

In response to this new study, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued the following statement:

“The new RAND study of the benefits of preschool once again tells us that preschool is one of the best investments we can make for the future of California. It’s never been more important that all students start school ready to learn to high standards.

“We can no longer afford to expect only some of our students to achieve to world-class standards. If California is to compete in the rapidly advancing global economy, all of our students must become high-level problem solvers, excellent communicators and adaptable lifelong learners. But today, we have a pernicious achievement gap that is leaving too many of our students far behind where they need to be in reaching this goal. I’m convinced, and the research shows, that preschool for all is our best hope for eliminating this gap and providing all students with a real opportunity to succeed in the world.

“Los Angeles has our largest and most challenging school population. The RAND study found that if L.A. County’s 150,000 4-year-olds were given the chance to enroll in a quality preschool program, there would be an 11 percent reduction in high school dropouts, 4,500 fewer children would be retained in a grade, and 11 percent fewer children designated for special education programs.

“This research shows we can reduce the numbers of kids falling behind and dropping out of school.  These are real numbers that tell us what a difference we could make, right here in our state, if every child started school having had the benefit of preschool. Simply put, preschool works. It’s time for every child to benefit from a quality preschool program and for California.”


(1) The Effect of Retaining Kindergarten Students on Reading and Mathematics Achievement

Source: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development – 28 November 2005
URL (archives): 
URL (article):

[ResearchBrief is a Web-based publication produced by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development that offers practitioners and policymakers focused summaries of original, interdisciplinary, high-quality research. Once a month, ResearchBrief presents an overview of a recent study-including the research questions, data sources, implications for policy and practice, and the broader context of related research resources and tools. To be notified when new issues of ResearchBrief are posted, visit]

The Question:   Does retaining low-performing students in kindergarten lead to improved achievement?

The Context:   Despite a wealth of research on the effects of retention and social promotion on students’ personal and academic development, a significant degree of uncertainty remains regarding the use of these strategies. Prior research suggests that neither strategy adequately addresses the academic needs of low-achieving students, although studies do suggest possible benefits to social promotion (such as lower dropout rates for promoted students). In addition, some researchers…have hypothesized that retaining low-achieving students increases the academic homogeneity of both the promoted and retained classes, making instruction easier and more effective. Although retention policies in general remain a source of debate, retention in kindergarten has long been viewed in a somewhat different light, largely because discussion of student promotion at the kindergarten level focuses more on the developmental readiness of the learner than on using retention as a behaviorist motivation mechanism. This issue of ResearchBrief looks at promotion and retention and the effect these strategies have on kindergarten students.

Research Questions:   Guanglei Hong and Stephen Raudenbush conducted the study highlighted in this issue of ResearchBrief (see below for full citation). The authors examined three questions related to retention policies:

1.  What effect does retention have at the kindergarten level, and will learning outcomes change if schools change their policies?

2.  What is the effect of retention on children who are promoted?

3.  What is the effect of retention on retained students?

Findings:  The estimated effect of retention policies on student achievement was -0.24 for reading, with a standard error of 0.86; and -0.14 for mathematics, with a standard error of 0.55. When the researchers analyzed the effect of retention on promoted students (did retention of low-achieving students result in higher achievement for their promoted peers), no significant effects were found. Within the retention schools, retained students generally scored significantly lower on both math and literacy assessments than their at-risk peers who were promoted. The authors estimated that the likely effect not being promoted would have had on the promoted students was similarly negative.

The Bottom Line:  Retention policies have significant negative effects on retained students and little or no significant effects on their promoted peers. Estimates suggest that promoted students would show lower growth if they had been retained, whereas retained students would experience higher growth if promoted.

Citation:   Hong, G., & Raudenbush, S. (2005). Effects of kindergarten retention policy on children’s cognitive growth in reading and mathematics. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 27(3), 205-224

(2) Project Discovers New Largest Known Prime Number:  2^30,402,457 – 1

Source: GIMPS (Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search)

A collaborative effort at Central Missouri State University (CMSU) led by professors Curtis Cooper and Steven Boone has discovered the largest known prime number as part of the volunteer Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) project.

The CMSU faculty used idle time on 700 campus lab PCs and free software from as part of a world-wide computing grid of tens of thousands of computers working together to make this discovery.

The new prime number, known as M30402457, surfaced December 15th on one computer in the Department of Communication lab after running on and off for about 50 days.

Dr. Cooper and Dr. Boone have joined together with 21,000 other researchers worldwide participating in GIMPS. In addition to pursuing new prime number discoveries, these individuals also have an opportunity to compete for a cash award offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for discovery of the first 10-million-digit prime number. If GIMPS claims the $100,000 award, of which $25,000 will go to charity, a large portion will be given to the GIMPS participant who discovers the prime number.

CMSU’s research team has come the closest to claiming the award with this discovery of M30402457, or 2 to the 30,402,457th power minus 1, which is a 9,152,052-digit number. It is the largest known prime number, eclipsing GIMPS last discovery of a 7,816,230-digit prime in February 2005.

The new prime is the 43rd discovery in a special class of rare prime numbers known as Mersenne primes, named for French monk Marin Mersenne, who studied these numbers more than 350 years ago.

George Woltman, who started GIMPS in 1996, said Mersenne primes today are important primarily to number theorists. He added, however, most GIMPS participants study them for the fun of having a role in pure mathematical research and the chance of finding a new Mersenne prime. “While we think we understand the frequency and distribution of Mersenne primes, it has not been proven. Finds such as this one give us ‘another piece of the puzzle’ in confirming our theories,” Woltman said. He noted that in the past Mersenne prime searches have led to important advances in Fast Fourier Transforms as well as discovering computer hardware problems via rigorous stress testing. “The research project also promotes interest in math by capturing the imagination of younger participants,” Woltman said.

The 700 campus computers are part of an international grid called PrimeNet, consisting of 70,000 networked computers in virtually every time zone of the world. PrimeNet organizes the parallel number crunching to create a virtual supercomputer running 24×7 at 18 trillion calculations per second, or ‘teraflops.’ This greatly accelerates the search. This prime, found in just 10 months, would have taken 4,500 years on a single PC. Kurowski said, “GIMPS is an amazing project and CMSU’s team exemplifies the dedication to international cooperative computing demonstrated by all of GIMPS’ participants.”

“We’ve worked with Information Services to make sure we are not compromising the campus computing infrastructure,” said Dr. Cooper, who got interested in this project over 7 years ago with colleague Vince Edmondson.

Anyone with a reasonably powerful PC can join GIMPS and become a big prime hunter. All the necessary software can be downloaded for free at GIMPS is based in Orlando, Florida. Additional information may be found at

More Information on Mersenne Primes

Prime numbers have long fascinated amateur and professional mathematicians. An integer greater than one is called a prime number if its only divisors are one and itself. The first prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, etc. For example, the number 10 is not prime because it is divisible by 2 and 5. A Mersenne prime is a prime number of the form 2^p – 1. The first Mersenne primes are 3, 7, 31, and 127 corresponding to p = 2, 3, 5, and 7 respectively. There are only 43 known Mersenne primes.

Mersenne primes have been central to number theory since they were first discussed by Euclid in 350 BC. The man whose name they now bear, the French monk Marin Mersenne (1588-1648), made a famous conjecture on which values of p would yield a prime. It took 300 years and several important discoveries in mathematics to settle his conjecture.

There is a well-known formula that generates a “perfect” number from a Mersenne prime. A perfect number is one whose factors add up to the number itself. The smallest perfect number is 6 = 1 + 2 + 3. The newly discovered perfect number is 2^30402456 * (2^30402457 – 1). This number is 18,304,103 digits long.

There is a unique history to the arithmetic algorithms underlying the GIMPS project. The programs that found the recent big Mersenne finds are based on a special algorithm. In the early 1990’s, Richard Crandall, Apple Distinguished Scientist, discovered ways to double the speed of what are called convolutions — essentially big multiplication operations. The method is applicable not only to prime searching but other aspects of computation. During that work he also patented the Fast Elliptic Encryption system, now owned by Apple Computer, which uses Mersenne primes to quickly encrypt and decrypt messages. George Woltman implemented Crandall’s algorithm in assembly language, thereby producing a prime-search program of unprecedented efficiency, and that work led to the successful GIMPS project. Historically, searching for Mersenne primes has been used as a test for computer hardware. The free GIMPS program used by CMSU has identified hidden hardware problems in many PCs.

School teachers from elementary through high-school grades have used GIMPS to increase student excitement about mathematics. Students who run the free software are contributing to mathematical research.


Note: Also see

(3) New E-Newsletter from the National Science Foundation: NSF Current

Source: National Science Foundation
URL (archives, free registration):

On 28 December 2005, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the debut of NSF Current, an e-newsletter highlighting research and education projects supported by the foundation.

NSF Current, published by NSF’s Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, will notify stakeholders of current trends in basic science and engineering research and education. NSF Current will also provide information about important issues affecting NSF and the larger science and engineering enterprise.

Each edition of NSF Current includes five sections:

— NSF at Work (highlights of cutting-edge science and engineering research and education)

— Faces of NSF Research (a personal dialogue with an NSF stakeholder)

— NSF in the News (selected recent press reports mentioning NSF)

— Did You Know? (surprising facts and figures

— NSF Perspectives (messages from the NSF Director’s Office and other science and technology policy news

All editions of NSF Current will be available online at