COMET • Vol. 7, No. 21 – 31 August 2006


(1) Educators are Still Being Sought for Service on Advisory Panels for the 2007 K-8 Mathematics Instructional Materials Adoption

Notice from Mary Sprague, California Department of Education (916-319-0172;

The State Board of Education, the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (“Curriculum Commission”), and the California Department of Education are seeking individuals to serve on panels that will assist with the evaluation of kindergarten through grade eight (Algebra I) instructional materials to be submitted for the statewide 2007 Mathematics Primary Adoption. Please consider applying to be part of this important and professionally rewarding opportunity.

Panel members are needed to review three types of mathematics programs: Basic grade-level programs for grades K-8, Mathematics Intervention programs for grades 4-7, and Algebra Readiness programs for students in grade 8 or higher who are not prepared to study Algebra I. The expertise of educators from all grade levels is critical for the successful review of these programs.

Applications are being accepted to serve as Instructional Materials Advisory Panel (IMAP) members. A majority of these panel members must be classroom teachers. Application packets for IMAP members are available online at
Applications are also being accepted to serve as Content Review Panel (CRP) members. These individuals are usually scholars with a doctorate in the subject area and many will be university mathematicians. Application packets for CRP members are available online at

Although the stated application due date is September 7, 2006, this date will be extended. However, we would appreciate receiving your application at your earliest convenience.

March 26-29, 2007 – Panel Training (Sacramento, CA)
July 16-19 OR July 30-August 2, 2007 – Panel Deliberations (Panel members will need to attend only one of these deliberations sessions).
The addition of a second deliberations session from July 30-August 2, 2007 is pending approval. These dates may not be reflected in the application packet currently online.

Appointees will be reimbursed for travel expenses and per diem (i.e., lodging, meals, and incidental expenses).

If you have any questions, please contact:
Mary Sprague, Lead Consultant, 2007 Mathematics Adoption
California Department of Education
Curriculum Frameworks Office
1430 N Street, Suite 3207
Sacramento, CA
(916) 319-0510 Email:

(2) Update: Science Instructional Materials Adoption for Grades K-8

Source: Suzanne Rios, California Department of Education, (916) 319-0881

The Curriculum Commission will be meeting on September 28-29 in Room 1101 at the California Department of Education Building in Sacramento, CA. At this meeting, a recommendation will be made to approve all of the K-8 science instructional materials submitted for adoption consideration except for those submitted by TPS Publishing Company (see ). The recommendation will then be forwarded to the State Board of Education for action at the Board’s November 8-9 meeting.


(3) Jack O’Connell Releases 2005-06 California High School Exit Exam Results

Source: California Department of Education (CDE)

On August 22, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell released the results of the 2005-06 California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE).

Results from the exam, which was administered to last year’s sophomores, juniors, and seniors, show steady improvement in the number of students in the classes of 2007 and 2008 who have met the CAHSEE requirement.

Since the class of 2007 initially took the CAHSEE as tenth graders in 2004-05, an estimated 89 percent have passed the English-language arts (ELA) portion of the CAHSEE, while an estimated 88 percent have passed the mathematics portion of the exam.

Passage of the CAHSEE, which assesses student mastery of state content standards in ELA and mathematics, became a California graduation requirement this year for all public school high school students.

The 2005-06 CAHSEE results also reveal good news for the class of 2008. At least three-fourths of participating tenth graders passed each part of the exam on their first attempt: 77% in ELA and 75% in mathematics. Students who do not pass the CAHSEE as tenth graders are given additional opportunities during high school to pass the exam.

This school year, twelfth grade students in the class of 2007 who have not yet passed will have up to three more opportunities to take the exam during their senior year. Nearly $70 million has been allocated in the state budget specifically to assist those students in the class of 2007 still struggling to pass the CAHSEE.

The California Department of Education (CDE) has provided every tenth grader with CAHSEE study guides and has released more than 300 questions from past CAHSEE administrations for teachers, students, and parents to review.

School, school district, county, and state level results for the CAHSEE have been posted on the CDE Web site at



(1) National Mathematics Advisory Panel Update

Source: U.S. Department of Education

The third meeting of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel will be held in Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 13 (9 a.m.-noon) and September 14 (9-11 a.m.). The purpose of the Panel is “to foster greater knowledge of and improved performance in mathematics among American students in order to keep America competitive, support American talent and creativity, encourage innovation throughout the American economy, and help State, local, territorial, and tribal governments give the nation’s children and youth the education they need to succeed.”

A transcript of the first meeting, held on May 22, 2006 in Washington, DC, is available for download at agenda for the second meeting, held in Chapel Hill, NC, on June 28-29, 2006, is also available on that page, as is a listing of future meeting dates and locations.

The September 13 meeting will include testimony from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Science Foundation, the American Competitiveness Council, and major mathematics textbook publishers. The agenda is available for download from Individuals interested in attending the meeting are advised to register in advance to ensure space availability. Please contact Jennifer Graban at (202) 260-1491 or by e-mail at by Friday, September 8, 2006.

The September 14 meeting will begin with an Open Public Session from 9 to 10 a.m. At that time, the public is invited to comment on elements of the Executive Order and the Panel’s work. Immediately following, from 10 to 11 a.m., the four task groups–Conceptual Knowledge and Skills, Learning Processes, Instructional Practices, and Teachers–will report on their progress. If you are interested in giving testimony during the public session on September 14th, please contact Jennifer Graban.

Given the expected number of individuals interested in providing comments at the meeting, reservations for presenting comments should be made as soon as possible. Persons who are unable to obtain reservations to speak during the meeting are encouraged to submit written comments. Written comments will be accepted at the meeting site or via e-mail to If you will be emailing written comments, please do so by tomorrow–September 1.

The Panel will submit to the President, through the Secretary, a preliminary report not later than January 31, 2007, and a final report not later than February 28, 2008. Both reports shall, at a minimum, contain recommendations based on the best available scientific evidence on teaching mathematics.


(2) College Board Announces Scores for New SAT with Writing Section

Source: The College Board

On Tuesday, August 29, the College Board announced SAT scores for the class of 2006, the first to take the new version of the SAT featuring a writing section.

Females across all ethnic groups outscored males on the writing section, which consists of a multiple-choice portion and an essay. The average writing score for all was 497. Females scored an average of 502, 11 points higher than males.

For the class of 2006, overall combined scores for mathematics and critical reading dropped by seven points from last year, which represents less than 1 percentage point.
* Mathematics scores dipped by 2 points to 518, returning to the level of two years ago. Both male and female mathematics scores declined by 2 points, to 536 and 502, respectively. Males outscored females across all ethnic groups in mathematics.
* Average critical reading scores decreased 5 points to 503. Males experienced a greater score decline than females in critical reading across all ethnic groups. Male scores declined by 8 points to 505; female scores by 3 points to 502. Males outscored females in critical reading in all ethnic groups except for African American in which females scored 7 points higher than males.
(The 2-point drop in the average mathematics score represents approximately one-fifth of one test question on the SAT; the 5-point drop in the average critical reading score represents approximately one-half of one test question.)

The most significant factor in the overall decline is mainly attributable to a change in student test-taking patterns, according to the College Board. The most notable change in test-taking behavior involved a decrease in retesting. Typically, students who take the test a second time see a 30-point increase on their combined score. Much of the score difference this year can be attributed to the decline in the number of students retaking the test and gaining the advantage of a score increase.

See the above Web site for detailed information about the results of the essay portion of the exam (e.g., 15% of essays were written in cursive; these essays received a slightly higher score–7.2 out of 12–than those that were printed–7.0).


Related Story:

“For SAT Maker, a Broader Push to the Classroom” by Karen W. Arenson
Source: The New York Times – 16 August 2006

To generations of students and their teachers, the College Board has been synonymous with the SAT test. But these days it has broader ambitions and wants to reach deeply into high school and even middle school classrooms nationwide.

The board is marketing new products like English and math curricula for grades 6 through 12. It has worked with New York City to start five College Board Schools, with plans to open 13 more in New York and other cities by 2007. It is also trying to improve existing schools, starting this fall with 11 public high schools outside New York State and adding 19 next year. In November, it will open an institute for principals.

The board says it is eager to bring new rigor to education. But these efforts are also being driven by the fact that the board, a nonprofit organization based in New York City, is no longer an unrivaled force. It faces strong competition from the ACT in college admissions testing, and some colleges are making the SAT optional.


(3) Teacher’s Gender Affects Student’s Academic Performance

Source: – 27 August 2006
URL (published report):

For all the differences between the sexes, here’s one that might stir up debate in the teacher’s lounge: Boys learn more from men and girls learn more from women.

That’s the upshot of a provocative study by Thomas Dee, an associate professor of economics at Swarthmore College and visiting scholar at Stanford University. His study [appeared] on Monday in Education Next, a quarterly journal published by the Hoover Institution. [The article, entitled, “The Why Chromosome: How a Teacher’s Gender Affects Boys and Girls,” is available for download at ]

Vetted and approved by peer reviewers, Dee’s research faces a fight for acceptance. Some leading education advocates dispute his conclusions and the way in which he reached them. But Dee says his research supports his point, that gender matters when it comes to learning. Specifically, as he describes it, having a teacher of the opposite sex hurts a student’s academic progress.

Dee warns against drawing fast conclusions based on his work. He is not endorsing single-sex education, or any other policy. Rather, he hopes his work will spur more research into gender’s effect and what to do about it.

His study comes as the proportion of male teachers is at its lowest level in 40 years. Roughly 80 percent of teachers in U.S. public schools are women.

Dee’s study is based on a nationally representative survey of nearly 25,000 eighth-graders that was conducted by the Education Department in 1988. Though dated, the survey is the most comprehensive look at students in middle school, when gender gaps emerge, Dee said.

He examined test scores as well as self-reported perceptions by teachers and students.

Dee found that having a female teacher instead of a male teacher raised the achievement of girls and lowered that of boys in science, social studies and English… When a man led the class, boys did better and girls did worse…

Dee also contends that gender influences attitudes. For example, with a female teacher, boys were more likely to be seen as disruptive. Girls were less likely to be considered inattentive or disorderly.

In a class taught by a man, girls were more likely to say the subject was not useful for their future. They were less likely to look forward to the class or to ask questions…

“The data, as he presents them, are far from convincing,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, which works to advance the progress of women. Greenberger said she found Dee’s conclusions to be questionable and inconsistent. More broadly, she said, boys and girls benefit by having male and female teachers as role models…

Dee said his research raises valid questions. Should teachers get more training about the learning styles of boys and girls? Should they be taught to combat biases in what they expect of boys and girls?

In the nature-nurture debate, he said, teacher gender belongs. “Some people will react strongly to this,” he said. “But I’ve taken pains to explain that we need to be cautious about drawing policy conclusions. As provocative as this all might seem, I really haven’t gotten that much negative feedback.”


(4) Chinese, English Speakers do Math Differently: Study shows the two groups use different parts of the brain

Source: The Associated Press (reported by MSNBC) – 26 June 2006

Things add up differently for native English speakers, compared with people who learned Chinese as a first language.

Simple arithmetic was easily done by both groups, but they used different parts of the brain, a new study shows.

Researchers used brain imaging to see which parts of the brain were active while people did simple addition problems, such as 3 plus 4 equals 7. All participants were working with Arabic numerals, which are used in both cultures.

Both groups engaged a portion of the brain called the inferior parietal cortex, which is involved in quantity representation and reading.

But native English speakers also showed activity in a language processing area of the brain, while native Chinese speakers used a brain region involved in the processing of visual information, according to the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The difference “may mean that Chinese speakers perform problems in a different manner than do English speakers,” said lead author Yiyuan Tang of Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China.

“In part, that might represent the difference in language. It could be that the difference in language encourages different styles of computation and this may be enhanced by different methods of learning to deal with numbers,” Tang said in an interview via e-mail.

“We believe language plays a role in the calculation,” Tang said. But Tang added that cultural factors may also play a part, such as math learning strategies and school training.

These cultural differences using numbers may help scientists develop better strategies for doing calculations, Tang explained: “It could well turn out that certain strategies may be optimal, even when used with a different type of language.”

Richard Nisbett, co-director of the Culture and Cognition Program at the University of Michigan, said “the work is important because it tells us something about the particular pathways in the brain that underlie some of the differences between Asians and Westerners in thought patterns.”

“Ultimately this kind of work will show us when these pathways begin to diverge, and how it may be possible to teach Westerners some of the advantages of Asian thought and Asians some of the advantages of Western thought,” said Nisbett, who was not part of the research team.

Nisbett last year reported on differences in the way Asians and North Americans view pictures. He tracked eye movements and determined that, when shown a photograph, North American students of European background paid more attention to the object in the foreground of a scene, while students from China spent more time studying the background and taking in the whole scene.

“They literally are seeing the world differently,” he said.

The new work extends his findings, Nisbett said, “in that it indicates that the reasoning differences that we find between Asians and Westerners are really quite deep.”

The new study was funded by the National Science Foundation of China and the McKnight Research Program.