COMET • Vol. 7, No. 11 – 23 March 2006


(1) API Base Results, Growth Targets, and School Rankings for 2005 are Released

Source: California Department of Education

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell released the 2005 Academic Performance Index (API) base results, growth targets, and school rankings for more than 8,700 eligible California schools yesterday.

The data show California schools at every level are making steady progress toward reaching the statewide performance target of 800–part of API’s numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1000. The percentage increase in high schools scoring above the 800 mark outpaced middle and elementary schools in 2005.

“I am particularly pleased to see that our focus on high schools is paying dividends,” O’Connell said. “I believe the California High School Exit Exam has been a key driver of progress as our students concentrate on learning the standards. It has also resulted in more focused instruction and individualized attention for struggling students. We still have a long way to go to improve our high schools, but I applaud the rate of improvement and hope that we can increase the pace.”

The percentage of the state’s elementary schools at or above 800 is 31.6%, up from 26.4% a year ago; for middle schools, the figure is 20.7%, up from 17.3%; and for high schools, the percentage at or above 800 is 11.8%, up from 7.0%.

Schools are expected to meet their annual API growth targets during the 2006 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) and California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) examinations. The growth target for a school is 5 percent of the difference between a school’s API Base and the statewide performance target of 800.

School API rankings allow the public to compare progress at an individual school compared to others statewide.

Schools are ranked academically on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the highest) to determine a school’s standing compared to other schools statewide (statewide ranks) and to schools with similar characteristics (similar schools ranks). In the calculation of similar schools ranks a dozen demographic variables are evaluated to identify schools with similar educational challenges.

It is important to note that there will always be schools ranked 1 and schools ranked 10 because of the nature of the decile system. Ten percent of schools will always be in each decile. However, the range of scores included in each decile has increased steadily over time.

For example, an API score of 638 in 1999 would place an elementary school above the median and in statewide rank 6. That same API score of 638 in 2005 would place a school in the bottom statewide rank 1.

“This illustrates how our schools are advancing as a whole. A respectable score earned in 1999 would not be cause for celebration today because of the steady rise in scores overall,” said O’Connell.

In January, the State Board of Education (SBE) adopted the addition of six new characteristics for use in similar schools ranking calculations. The six new characteristics were adopted to improve the accuracy of the similar schools ranking methodology. For more information, please refer to the 2005 API Base Information Guide, mid-Page 41:

The API reports school performance on student assessments that are a part of the STAR program, plus results from the CAHSEE. There are no new assessments added to the 2005 API Base.

However, two new API subgroups were adopted by the SBE in order to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 722 and to align the API subgroup definition with that of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB). These two new subgroups, English learners and students with disabilities, will be required to demonstrate comparable improvement in the same way as other subgroups.

The 2005 API Base results, growth targets, and school rankings are posted at

(2) State Assembly and Senate Education Bills Sponsored by State Superintendent Jack O’Connell

Source: California Department of Education

Last Friday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced his legislative agenda for 2006, including expanding options for students who are not successful in passing the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), increasing school accountability to close the achievement gap, and expanding programs to better train and support teachers and school leaders.

Visit the above Web site for a complete listing of the bills that O’Connell is sponsoring. A selection of these bills appears below.

On a related note, Governor Schwarzenegger on Tuesday issued a press release, “Governor Highlights Education Agenda: Accomplishments, 2006-2007 Budget, and Education Bond Awaiting Action in Senate.” The text of this press release is available via a link on

Note: The full text of a Senate or Assembly bill, as well as the bill’s status, history, votes, analyses, and any veto messages are available at  (You can also track bills in which you are interested; updates will be automatically emailed to you when action has occurred on the bills.)

California High School Exit Exam

AB 2040 authorizes additional summer and Saturday administrations of the CAHSEE.

AB 2163 contains a number or provisions aimed at helping to better prepare students and improve the high school senior year. The measure authorizes full funding of remedial summer school in elementary grades, and lifts the caps on high school independent study programs for students who have completed four years of high school without passing the CAHSEE so they can take intensive instruction courses designed to help them pass. It also includes programmatic recommendations to improve the senior year for students who are struggling to pass the exit exam.

SB 1383 provides eligibility for Cal Grants to students who are financially eligible to qualify, meet all other graduation requirements, and have at least a 2.0 grade point average, but have not passed the exit exam.

“I am authoring SB 1383 to ensure that the doors to higher education remain open for students with financial need,” said Senator Deborah Ortiz. “Students who do not pass the CAHSEE are still able to continue their education at community colleges or other post-secondary institutions. Financial obstacles should not prevent them from doing so.”

Expanding Teacher Training

“The single most important factor in a student’s success will always be their teachers,” O’Connell said. “Our state has a massive need for talented new teachers and school administrators over the next decade, particularly in our most challenged schools. I want to address the problem of our diminishing teacher corps and to expand professional learning opportunities so we can strengthen instruction in our rigorous standards.”

O’Connell is sponsoring the following bills to strengthen preparation programs and provide leadership development for teachers and school administrators:

SB 472 reauthorizes high-quality teacher professional development programs (AB 466 training).

SB 1190 adds science to the teacher professional development program.

SB 1433 establishes a Teacher Leadership Program to train teachers to serve as subject matter coaches for teachers.

“As a former teacher, I learned a lot from the experiences of others and this bill will allow more teachers to do just that,” said Senator Torlakson. “SB 1433 will provide experienced teachers with the skills necessary to support their peers and assist principals in creating collaborative, transformational change in our schools.”

AB 1967, by the Assembly Education Committee, is the Omnibus education bill for 2006.

Related Bill:  On April 19, a new bill (S.B. 1221) will be heard by the Senate Education Committee. “This bill would require a school district that maintains a high school to annually report for grades 10 to 12, inclusive, the percentage of pupils who pass the California High School Exit Examination and the percentage of pupils who fail that examination, aggregated by grade level, high school, ethnicity, and English language learner status to the State Department of Education. The bill would also require a school district to report the grade level, whether kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, in which an English language learner entered the California educational system…This bill would [also] require [the] school district…to annually report for grades 9 to 12, inclusive, the percentage of pupils who dropout, aggregated by grade level, high school, ethnicity and English language learner status to the State Department of Education.

(3) Edison International Awards $150,000 Grant to CSU for Preparation of Math and Science Teachers

Source: California State University Office of the Chancellor

On March 16, math and science education received a boost by an Edison International’s $150,000 grant to the California State University Foundation for developing a program to prepare prospective teachers of science and mathematics.

Edison’s New Era Awards For Excellence in Higher Education recognized California State University’s Early Assessment Program (EAP), which helps high school mathematics teachers prepare students to meet college-level math standards.

EAP, a collaborative effort by the State Board of Education, California Department of Education, and California State University, helps provide students with the mathematics skills needed for employment in the energy and utility sectors.

The Edison grant will underwrite nine regional two-day training sessions over two years for approximately 450 high school math teachers in nine counties within Southern California Edison’s service area. The New Era award also will leverage a $50,000 grant from the Boeing Company as participating teachers are provided with instruction and materials that are used to train other teachers.

“Helping Southern California students attain the academic and technical skills necessary to succeed in a competitive job market promotes economic success for Edison and for the region,” said John Fielder, president of Southern California Edison, an Edison International company. “Work force readiness has been identified as one of Edison’s most important business concerns.”

“With thousands of high school graduates entering the California State University under prepared to handle college-level math, there’s clearly a need to prepare teachers to provide a better math foundation,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “Edison’s grant promotes better teaching and supports the Early Assessment Program, which is recognized as the nation’s most innovative in aligning K-12’s instruction to college standards.”

Edison’s New Era Higher Education Awards fund innovative programs that support math, science, technology literacy and professional development for teachers.


(1) House and Senate Committees Hold Hearings on Competitiveness

Source: “NCTM Legislative and Policy Update” – 20 March 2006
URL (Hearing):

The Senate Commerce Committee held a full committee hearing on Innovation and Competitiveness Legislation on March 15.  The hearing’s focus was innovation and competitiveness challenges facing the United States and legislative action that might be taken by the committee to address these challenges.

The hearing featured remarks from Craig Barrett, Chairman of the Board of Intel Corporation; Norman Augustine, retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin [a regular speaker at such hearings]; John E. Kelly, III, Senior VP of Technology and Intellectual Property of IBM Corporation; and Deborah Wince-Smith, President of the Council of Competitiveness… Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.) presided over the hearing.  Senator Ensign is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Technology, Innovation, and Competitiveness, and an original cosponsor of the PACE [Protecting America’s Competitive Edge] Act legislation that is moving through the Senate and has won support from two-thirds of its members.

All panelists agreed that math and science education must be reformed at the K-12 level and that young people-particularly girls and minorities-must be engaged early, and that any interest must be nurtured.  In addition, tax policies around research and development and immigration policies that sometimes discourage the world’s best and brightest from coming to the United States were also criticized.

The panel was encouraged by the attention these issues are getting, although they argued that the attention is a bit overdue.  In her testimony, Wince-Smith expressed optimism:

“The National Innovation Act introduced by Senator Ensign and Senator Lieberman, and supported by many members of this committee, is a critical part of an action agenda to fuel America’s innovation capacity.  The Administration, through the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative, has endorsed many of the same priorities and, in fact, a tremendous convergence of public and private sector support has coalesced around implementing a national competitiveness plan, underpinned by the power of innovation.  The Council is pleased to wholeheartedly support these efforts.”

Remarks from the Committee members were friendly and basically agreed that something must be done on all fronts, and that the PACE Act package was an attempt to do that.

Full testimony from this hearing is available for download (PDF) at

The House Science Subcommittee on Research also held a hearing on competitiveness issues. The subcommittee’s hearing focused on undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.  While the majority of the hearing focused on what can be done to improve STEM education at higher education institutions, there was also discussion of teacher recruitment.  Several witnesses testified that undergraduate education is the key link to developing more and better-qualified teachers.  Making undergraduates more enthusiastic about their respective subjects will better enable them to inspire their students when they themselves are teachers.

Additional information on the hearing, including witness testimony, is available at:

Related articles in Education Week:

“A ‘New Model’ for a New World: Giving Our Students the Math and Science Education They Deserve” by Nancy S. Grasmick

“Talk of U.S. Crisis in Math, Science is Largely Misplaced, Skeptics Say” by Debra Viadero

(2) Conference Seeks End to “Math Wars” by “Finding Common Ground”

Source: Indiana University Press Release (via Marianne Smith)
URL (MAA–Finding Common Ground):

Earlier this month, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) hosted a conference funded by the National Science Foundation and Texas Instruments and sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America. Entitled “Finding Common Ground,” the conference was attended by mathematicians, mathematics educators, and specialists in statistics and educational technology.

Carl Cowen, dean of the School of Science at IUPUI and President of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), said the conference was an important milestone. The conference enabled mathematicians and mathematics educators, who have engaged in what has come to be known as the “Math Wars,” to make significant progress in finding common ground where both sides agree on ways to improve mathematics learning in the United States, Cowen said.

Ongoing debates about the best way to teach math have stood in the way of these camps working together for the best interests of students in the United States, said Richard Schaar, a retired senior vice president at Texas Instruments who initiated the effort to find common ground.

The search for ways to improve the way children are taught mathematics has been underway since “new math” arrived in the late 1950s and early 1960s and disappeared a decade later, Schaar noted. Efforts to teach standards first developed by the National Council of Teachers in Mathematics in 1989 have yielded mixed results, he added.

“It isn’t a question of going back to the good old days,” said Schaar, who has a doctorate in mathematics. “There were no good old days.”

Issues such as whether students in elementary school should use hand-held technology as they learn math has generated polarizing debates. Some argue teachers should not permit students to use any kind of technology as they learn basic number facts; others argue it’s okay to use it, Schaar said.

“That leaves an elementary school teacher wondering what to do, Schaar said. “It turns out that there is common ground where people agree that kids need to know their basic number facts, and there is an appropriate use of technology to teach them those facts.”

In addition to hammering out a process improving the methodology by which the various groups involved in K-12 mathematics education can come to a level of agreement on certain issues, conference participants worked on the development of key concepts that will help move mathematical education forward, Schaar said.

One such concept involves algebra. One of the leading indicators that a student will succeed in high school is passing a “good, solid algebra class,” Schaar said. “But there is no common agreement on a definition for such a course, who should take it, and whether it should be taught in eighth grade or ninth grade.”

Agreements on ways to improve mathematical education can’t come soon enough, Schaar said.

The generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians who entered their fields in the days of Sputnik are retiring. “We’re not doing a good job of replacing them,” Schaar said.

“About four million kids graduate from high school annually. What kind of jobs will they have with poor math skills, when good math skills are required for what has become the 21st century equivalent of an assembly line worker?”

For more information about the Common Ground Conference, contact: Richard Schaar at or Carl Cowen at

(3) Nominate an “American Star of Teaching” by April 15

Source: U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Initiative

The U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative is accepting nominations for the 2006 American Stars of Teaching program until April 15. Parents, students, colleagues, school administrators and others can nominate an exemplary teacher who they believe has the qualities to be an American Star of Teaching. We are seeking nominations of teachers across the United States who are improving student achievement, using innovative strategies in the classroom and making a difference in the lives of their students. Teachers across all grade levels and disciplines will be honored as 2006 American Stars of Teaching this fall. To nominate a teacher, go to

The U.S. Department of Education received more than 2,000 nominations for the 2005 school year. A list of past years’ honorees can be found at

(4) Dr. Uri Treisman named Scientist of the Year by Harvard Foundation for his Work in Math and Science Education


Last month, Dr. Uri Treisman, professor of mathematics and executive director of the Charles A. Dana Center, was named by the Harvard Foundation as 2006 Scientist of the Year for his outstanding contributions to American science. An award ceremony was held at Harvard last Friday.

Treisman was honored for his notable achievements in and contributions to the field of mathematics and particularly for his efforts to advance minorities and women in the sciences.

He has developed many programs that have dramatically increased the number of minorities who enter mathematics, science, engineering and related disciplines. At the University of California at Berkeley in the 1970s, Treisman started what is now known as the Emerging Scholars Program (ESP), designed to increase the number of minority and other underserved students who succeed in calculus. The ESP program developed by Treisman became a model used by colleges and universities throughout the United States.

As founder and director of the Charles A. Dana Center, Treisman develops strategies for strengthening education in Texas and nationwide. See for more information about this Center and its programs.