COMET • Vol. 7, No. 28 – 21 October 2006


(1) State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Awards $5.4 Million In Grants To Educators Teaching In Low-Performing Schools

Source: California Department of Education

On Tuesday, October 17, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced that 1,200 teachers will receive a total of $5.4 million in National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Incentive Awards.

The awards are a partial payment of a $20,000 incentive available to National Board Certified Teachers. The payments are made possible through a district grant award process. The list of 174 school districts that received funds to make payments to these top teachers is available at

“We have long known that being taught by a great teacher is one key to student success,” said O’Connell.  “Congratulations to all 1,200 educators who have dedicated themselves to excellence in their profession. They deserve these grants, especially for committing to four years of teaching students truly in need of the best educators.”

The school districts are responsible for verifying that the teachers meet the requirements of the program. The educators must be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and are assigned to teach at least 50 percent of a full-time position in a high-priority school for four consecutive years.  The teachers will receive the $20,000 incentive award over that same time period.  A high-priority school is one that is ranked in the bottom half of the state accountability model (Academic Performance Index–API).

For information about how to become a National Board Certified Teacher or to view a directory of all National Board Certified Teachers, please visit



(1) National Mathematics Advisory Panel: Announcement and Agenda for the Fourth Meeting: Stanford University – 5-6 November 2006

Source:  U.S. Department of Education
Contact: Tyrrell Flawn, Executive Director, National Mathematics Advisory Panel, (202) 260-8354
URL (Announcement):
URL (Agenda)

The fourth meeting of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMP) will be held on 5-6 November 2006 on the campus of Stanford University at the Schwab Residential Center, 680 Serra Street, Stanford, CA.

The Open Session on November 5 will include testimony from the College Board and ACT on American student readiness for college-level mathematics. The Open Session on November 6 will include testimony on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the use of instructional technology and calculators, as well as task group reports.

The November 6 meeting will also contain an Open Public Session from 10:45-11:45 a.m. At that time, the public is invited to comment and present evidence in connection to…one or more of the Panel’s four focus areas: conceptual knowledge and skills, learning processes, instructional practices, and teachers…

Individuals interested in attending the meeting or in giving testimony during the public session on November 6 are advised to register in advance to ensure space availability. Please contact Jennifer Graban at (202) 260-1491 or by Wednesday, 1 November 2006. Please include your name, the organization you represent, and, if appropriate, a brief description of the issue you would like to present and the focus area(s) to which it relates. Presenters will be allowed five minutes to make their comments. Presenters are requested to submit three written copies and an electronic file (CD or diskette) of their comments at the meeting.

Given the expected number of individuals interested in providing comments at the meeting, reservations for presenting comments should be made as soon as possible. Reservations will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Persons who are unable to obtain reservations to speak during the meeting are encouraged to submit written comments, which will be considered on an equal basis with those presented on site. Written comments will be accepted at the meeting or via e-mail (by October 27) to


Agenda for the National Math Panel Meeting in Stanford, CA

Sunday, November 5, 2006

4:00 – 5:00 p.m.      Open Session–Invited Testimony

Welcome and Opening Remarks — Larry Faulkner, Chair

     American Student Readiness for College-Level Mathematics 

     Two 15-minute presentations and 30 minutes Q&A:

        Arthur VanderVeen, Executive Director, College Readiness, The College Board

        William Speer, University of Nevada Las Vegas

        Alfred Manaster, University of California at Santa Diego

        Cyndie Schmeiser, Senior Vice President, Research and Development, ACT

Monday, November 6

Open Session- Invited Testimony

8:15 – 9:30 a.m.  Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)

Three 10-minute presentations and 45 minutes Q&A

     Ina Mullis, Professor of Education, Boston College 

     Mick Martin, Professor of Education, Boston College

     James Stigler, Professor of Developmental Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles

     Gerald LeTendre, Associate Professor, Pennsylvania State University Department of  Education Policy Studies

9:30 – 10:30 a.m.   National Assessment of Educational Progress  (NAEP)

Two 15-minute presentations and 30 minutes Q&A

     Sharif Shakrani, Counseling, Educational Psychology, & Special Education, Michigan State


     Jim Milgram, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Stanford University

10:45-11:45 a.m.   Open Session – Public Comment

11:45-12:45 p.m.  Lunch Break

Open Session – Invited Testimony resumes 

12:45-2:45 p.m.   Instructional Technology and Calculators

Two 10-minute presentations (Overview and Additional Research), Three 20-minute presentations (Demonstration of the Research), and 40 minutes Q&A 

     Overview by Mark Schneiderman, Director, Education Policy, Software & Information Industry Association

Demonstration of the Research

     Richard Schaar, Retired Senior Vice President of Texas Instruments (TI) Incorporated and TI’s Math and Science Education Policy Advisor

     Denis Newman, President, Empirical Education

     Steve Ritter, Chief Product Architect at Carnegie Learning, The Cognitive Tutor Company and/or

John Anderson, Professor of Psychology and Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University

     Matthew Peterson, co-founder, senior Institute Scientist, and the Chief Technical Officer of the MIND Institute

     Additional Research by Barbara Means, Director of the Center for Technology in Learning, SRI International

3:00 – 4:30 p.m.  Research and Instructional Practices

    Two 30-minute presentations and 30 minutes Q&A

     Tom Good, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Arizona

     James Hiebert, Robert J. Barkley Professor, University of Delaware

4:30 – 5:15 p.m.   Open Session – Task Group Reports


(2) National Mathematics Advisory Panel–Transcripts of the Third Meeting

Source: U.S. Department of Education

The third meeting of the National Math Panel was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts on 13-14 September 2006. Transcripts from both days of the meeting are available for download as PDF files:

September 13 (Speaker Foci: NCTM Focal Points, National Science Foundation, Academic Competitiveness Council, and Textbook Publishers):

September 14 (Open Session, Task Group Reports):


(3) Bipartisan Senate Competitiveness Bill Introduced

Source: American Institute of Physics
URL (Bill text):

Thirty-nine senators are cosponsors of an extensive bill that would authorize major changes in federal support for research and development and for science education. While this legislation is unlikely to reach President Bush’s desk before this Congress adjourns, it will help position similar legislation in the new Congress which will convene next year.

S. 3936, the National Competitiveness Investment Act, was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader William Frist (R-TN), and is cosponsored by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV.) The bill is cosponsored by an almost equal number of Democrats and Republicans spanning a wide ideological spectrum, representing some of the nation’s most populous and industrialized states, as well as its most rural and agricultural states (see a list of cosponsors at ).

The bill was introduced on September 26 and encompasses many of the provisions that were in the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge bills introduced in January (see The PACE bills were based on recommendations in several competitiveness reports, most notably the National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report (see

S. 3936’s provisions are wide-ranging, covering topics such as the convening of a National Science and Technology Summit, release of scientific research results to the public, NASA’s inclusion as a full participant in interagency activities such as the American Competitiveness Initiative, the authorization of the doubling of Department of Education (DOE) Office of Science funding, the authorization of a wide range of DOE education programs (including math and science education assistance programs at all levels), a doubling of the authorization levels for the National Science Foundation (NSF), and NSF education programs.

In introducing the bill, Frist explained “This truly is a bipartisan bill. It reflects the fact that when it comes to our country’s economic future, there is wide bipartisan support for those policies that will keep the United States competitive in this ever changing, dynamic, global economy of the 21st century. The bill we are introducing today is a product of many Senators who have come together… who put aside political affiliations…to craft a broad comprehensive bill. The legislation has evolved over the course of the 109th Congress.” He continued, “The U.S. today has the strongest scientific and technological enterprise in the world, including the best research universities. But there is growing evidence and recognition that our educational system is failing in those areas that have directly underpinned our strength–science, engineering, and mathematics. We must invest for the future in those areas if we are to maintain our technological edge in the world.”

Later, he stated: “While the legislation does not address all of the issues raised in the various studies,…it nonetheless is a start, it is a good first step, and of course it is a bipartisan first step.” Regarding the bill’s cost, Frist stated, “Authorizations for these programs would total $73 billion over the next five years, less than $2.0 billion above the President’s request… This legislation is the correct thing to do for the country’s future economic security.”

In late September, a very well-attended convocation was held at the National Academies that was a follow-up to the release last year of the “Gathering Storm” report (see Among those speaking were Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY). All stressed their support of legislation to promote America’s competitiveness. Bingaman called S. 3936 an “important step” that “was the beginning of long journey” that “will require sustained effort over many years.”

Domenici told the convocation, “Through this new legislation, we are going to put the Augustine report’s recommendations into action. In this bill, we are addressing nearly every one of the recommendations made by this significant, influential report. The National Academy of Sciences told us what we need to do, and it is up to us on Capitol Hill to do it.” Looking at the near future, Domenici spoke about the importance of the FY 2007 appropriations bills that will be completed after Congress returns on November 9. He said, “We must not forget that authorizations are terrific, but we have to follow through and fund the programs. That will be hard work, because funding these programs will mean making hard decisions and taking cuts to programs somewhere else. But if we don’t start making the hard decisions today, we will be out of luck tomorrow.”

Hutchinson was very complementary about the “Gathering Storm” report, saying that it “really is the shot being heard around the world.” She spoke of her commitment to double NSF funding, and also said she wanted NASA to be a component of the American Competitiveness Initiative. She cautioned that “NASA is bleeding” its research budget to provide funding for the space station and the Moon-Mars initiative. Regarding competitiveness, she assured the convocation, “we are on this.”

Alexander described a meeting he had with President Bush, who said he would do his best to press for passage of S. 3936.

Boehlert was more pessimistic about the outlook for S. 3936 this year, saying: “The introduction of that package is good news because it demonstrates the Senate’s commitment to this issue, making it more likely that we’ll be able to work out legislation in November. I have to say, though, that I’d like to see a more streamlined, targeted approach than the 209-page Senate bill. Unless we set priorities, the legislation won’t have any impact. And the Senate package could not possibly get through the House. But it represents a lot of thought and a lot of hard work, and our staffs talk regularly. And impressively, the Senate Republican and Democrat leaders are sponsors of the Senate bill. So while I can’t say I’m optimistic that we’ll get authorizing legislation enacted this year, all the pieces we need to do so are on the board, and we could negotiate a good bill if we were given the green light to do so. At the very least, my colleagues who will be around for the 110th Congress in January will be in a good position to start right in again on STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] issues when Congress convenes. And now that the issue is on the front burner, it’s not going to go away.”


(4) New Customized NAEP State and National Comparisons Feature on the Web

Source: National Center for Education StatisticsScience Educators Happy Over Nobel Sweep” by Jeff Don

It is now possible to create tables containing average state and national scale scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for selected groups of public school students who have taken the test. Scores for one year or for two comparison years can be viewed broken down by factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, and eligibility for free or reduced-price school lunches.

You’re invited to visit and try this new feature. (Note: Try using a different Internet browser if the data does not appear in chart form after two minutes of processing. Firefox was more successful than Safari or Internet Explorer in a test on a Macintosh running System 10.4.)


(5) Free Preview Articles in NCTM Journals

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) publishes journals for teachers at all levels: Teaching Children MathematicsMathematics Teaching in the Middle School, and the Mathematics Teacher. The articles are archived on the NCTM Web site, and are available for viewing by members of NCTM who subscribe to a particular journal. Free preview articles are sometimes available for non-subscribers as well.

In this month’s issues of the three journals, the following articles are available for free download:

(a) “Measurement of Length: How Can We Teach It Better?” by Constance Kamii (in Teaching Children Mathematics)

Measurement of length is taught repeatedly starting in kindergarten and continuing in grades 1, 2, and beyond. However, during the past twenty-five years, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the outcome of this instruction has been disappointing. What is so hard about measurement of length? The purpose of this article is to explain, on the basis of research, why instruction has been ineffective and to suggest a better approach to teaching.

(b) “Learning from Voices in Classrooms” by Signe E. Kastberg and Wendy Otoupal-Hylton (in Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School)

(c) “Delving Deeper: The Ubiquitous Catalan Numbers” by Thomas Koshy (in the Mathematics Teacher)

Abstract: This article describes the relationships between elements of Pascal’s triangle and the Catalan numbers and also shows how often these numbers arise in various disparate counting problems.


NCTM also publishes the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education. An editorial entitled “Conventional Wisdom” by Steve Williams is available for download at   The article discusses misconceptions and realities about how manuscripts are selected to be published in this journal.


(6) Beliefs Shown to Impact Women’s Math Performance

Source: CTV – 19 October 2006
URL (Science article abstract):

When women are told that they are bad at math, they will perform wore on math tests than women who are told that’s a stereotype they can overcome, a new study shows.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered that when women are told their gender is irrelevant to their mathematical abilities, they do much better on math tests.

“The interesting thing–the new thing (our study) brings into the picture,” said Ilan Dar-Nimrod, a doctoral student and the lead author of the UBC study, “is that women process information differently if they believe the cause is genetic.

“But they can overcome a stereotype if they think the cause is environmental,” he told

The research builds on what is known about a concept called stereotype threat, in which being reminded of a commonly accepted negative belief about your group can elicit behavior that mimics the stereotype.

The phenomenon of stereotype threat exacts a huge cost, said the study’s co-author, Steven Heine, an associate professor of social psychology at UBC, because “negative stereotypes hurt people’s performance.

“But stereotypes lose their teeth and are less harmful,” Heine said, when attributed to a cause such as societal expectations.

The UBC researchers wanted to find out if it would have an impact on test scores if women were given different explanations for the stereotype that women aren’t good at math.

Over a three-year period, 135 women were asked to take tests that were deliberately designed to be very difficult. The tests were similar to those given as graduate school entrance exams.

Before completing the math section of the tests, the women were given one of four essays to read. Three of the essays discussed gender differences regarding math.

One essay asserted that there were no gender differences in math performance, the second blamed genetic differences for poorer performance by women, and the third maintained that the way girls were taught in elementary school had an impact on math scores.

The fourth essay didn’t mention math. Instead, it discussed the subject of women in art. Previous research has indicted that a seemingly neutral reminder of her gender is enough to have a negative impact on a woman’s test performance.

In this UBC study:

— Women who were told that their previous experience with math [environmental factors] would be the deciding factor in test scores gave twice as many correct answers as women who read the essay blaming their genes.

— Women who were merely reminded of their gender also performed worse than those who were told there was no difference in male and female abilities.

The tests would have made most people struggle, Heine said. When the women found the math section challenging, this created stress that caused them to credit their difficulty to the stereotype — and they did more poorly than those told the stereotype didn’t apply.

The UBC researchers said the study may indicate a need for scientists to look carefully at how they report discoveries of genetic links to intellectual and physical attributes… Stereotypes by themselves aren’t necessarily bad, because they can be useful as cognitive shortcuts, said Dar-Nimrod. But “being a stereotype doesn’t mean it’s true or it’s false,” he said.

Stereotypes are not true of everyone within a group and when people believe genetics will determine an outcome, the belief can become a self-fulfilling prophecy…

Gender differences in performance have long been a controversial topic…  Barbara Keyfitz, president of the Association for Women in Mathematics, told the Canadian Press that the issue can be resolved by providing strong role models for women who want to enter fields involving high level mathematics. That will break the stereotypical expectation, she said.


Related article:

“The Nature and Nurture of Women in Science”