COMET • Vol. 7, No. 03 – 23 January 2006


(1) Jack O’Connell to Serve on NCLB Reauthorization Task Force

Source: California Department of Education

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell is participating in a new federal work group to discuss reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, also known and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The ESEA Reauthorization Task Force is being formed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO;

“I am proud to participate in the discussion of how we can improve education reform,” O’Connell said. “I believe in the goals of NCLB and I want to ensure that reauthorization of that law helps us to better prepare students for success in the challenging, competitive and changing global economy of the 21st century. I also want to ensure that reforms, like the use of a growth model, are included in any reauthorization plan for NCLB so that states will be able to better target resources or sanctions on schools that are not moving in the right direction.”

The task force of 19 members includes a geographically and politically diverse group of state school chiefs, deputies, and federal liaisons. O’Connell will be represented on the task force by Chief Deputy Gavin Payne. The task force will be chaired by Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Elisabeth Bermaster, who is CCSSO’s board president-elect.

The goal of the task force is to reinforce sound state and local educations practices and produce a thoughtful and concise ESEA reauthorization proposal on behalf of all state school chiefs.

The task force will meet for the first time in early February in Washington, DC. They plan to present a reauthorization proposal in the fall.

(2) Agenda for the January Meeting of the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission

Source: California Department of Education

The agenda for the January 25-27 meeting of the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission) is available for download from the above Web site.

Agenda Item 10 (9 a.m.- 9:45 a.m., January 27) pertains to the Mathematics Subject Matter Committee:

A.  Election of Vice Chair

B.  Establish Goals for 2006

C.  2007 Mathematics Primary Adoption

1. Approve Instructional Materials Advisory Panel (IMAP) and Content Review Panel (CRP) Application Forms for the 2007 Adoption [Note: If approved, these will be ready in early February.]

2. Standards Maps for Mathematics Intervention and Algebra Readiness Programs

D.  Mathematics Framework Update

E.  Other Matters/Public Comment

(3) State Schools Chief Announces Legislative Solution to Dispute Over Special Education Students Taking the High School Exit Exam

Source: California Department of Education – 19 January 2006

Last Thursday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell joined Secretary of Education Alan Bersin, Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, Assemblywoman Karen Bass, and State Board of Education Chief Counsel Paul Seave in announcing that legislation has been introduced reflecting an agreement regarding special education students and the California High School Exit Exam.

“This bill, SB 517 by Senator Romero, will uphold the integrity of the California High School Exit Exam and at the same time, give our schools more time to provide special education students with the skills necessary to pass the exam,” O’Connell said.

The bill reflects the terms of a settlement reached last year in the case of Chapman, et al v. the California Department of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the State Board of Education.

That lawsuit sought to delay the consequences of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) for students with disabilities in the class of 2006.

SB 517 exempts students with disabilities from the requirement of passing the exam under certain circumstances. The delayed requirement is in effect for one year only and applies only to students with disabilities who have been identified to be on a diploma track for graduation in 2006.

To be granted a diploma, these students must have had an individualized education program (IEP) as of July 1, 2005, and have completed or be about to complete all other state and local graduation requirements in 2006. They must have taken the exit exam at least twice after tenth grade, including once during their senior year with any accommodation or modification specified in their IEPs.

“I continue to believe that for all students, a high school diploma should signify the acquisition of skills necessary to succeed in the world beyond graduation,” O’Connell said.

“About half of our special education students are on track to pass the exit exam. It would be a huge disservice to them, and to the significant number of students that I am convinced will be able to pass the exam, to expect less of them in the future. Those special education students who are on a path toward high school graduation should be given the same high-quality education as all of our students. Over the next year, I will work with the Legislature and the Schwarzenegger Administration to see how we can best help these students succeed in meeting all graduation requirements.”

SB 517 also requires that the school district or state special school granting a diploma to a special education student who has not passed the CAHSEE must certify whether the pupil has been provided with remedial or supplemental instruction focused on the exam.

The State Board of Education will be required to review any failure to grant a high school diploma by a school district or state special school.  The school district or state special school must submit documentation of the failure to grant a high school diploma within 15 days of the determination that the student with the disability does not meet the criteria specified in the legislation.

School districts must report to the Superintendent on the procedures used to implement this process and the number of pupils granted diplomas.


(1) Using TIMSS Videos to Improve Learning of Mathematics: A Resource Guide

Source: Patsy Wang-Iverson, Research for Better Schools

Message from Patsy Wang-Iverson (; 609-532-0292):

Mathematics and science video studies were conducted as part of the 1999 TIMSS. The mathematics portion of the study included seven countries: Australia, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the U.S.  Twenty-eight public release lessons (four per country; totaling more than 21 hours) were made available in 2003.

With support from grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, I worked with an eclectic group of individuals ( to try to make the lessons more accessible and useful for pre-service and in-service teacher educators by producing a resource guide to accompany these videos.

Although incomplete, a resource guide is now available at:

Please contact me [Patsy] with any questions, errors you find, and suggestions for improving the guide (contact information above).

(2) Science for Kids; “Gut Feeling” Geometry

Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

The EurekAlert! Science for Kids Portal is an online source for kid-friendly news and resources. The Portal is housed within EurekAlert!, the editorially independent online news service operated by AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). In addition to news articles, the site includes links to such topics as science fair ideas, science-related games, and science camps.

One recent article included in Science for Kids was “Gut Feeling Geometry,” an article based on research by Stanislas Dehaene and his colleagues:

Kids and adults who have probably never seen a ruler or talked about triangles, rectangles or parallel lines have a reliable “gut feeling” about geometry, according to a new study.

Some of the people with a “gut feeling” for geometry belong to the Mundurukú, a group of people who live in scattered, isolated villages in the Amazon.

Even though most of the Mundurukú who participated in this research had little or no formal education in schools, and have not used rulers, compasses or maps, they had no problem understanding and using many different concepts of geometry.

This “gut feeling” for geometry is even more interesting because the Mundurukú language has few words for arithmetic, geometry or concepts of space. The lack or words for these ideas provides an opportunity for scientists to learn about the human mind. Are the general ideas of geometry something that people have to be taught? Or do people just understand the basics without formal instruction?

The new study suggests that humans may not need to be specifically taught the fundamentals of geometry. But, it’s not yet clear if we are born with a “gut feeling” for geometry or if we somehow learn about geometry at a very young age.

To investigate their grasp of geometry, Mundurukú children and adults were asked, in the Mundurukú language, to point to the “weird” or “ugly” image from a series of six images.

Within each set of six images, five of the images all contained the same concept of geometry, and one image did not.

Even 6-year-old kids did a good job picking out the image that did not fit, in terms of geometry.

American kids who took the same tests did about as well as Mundurukú kids and adults. While well educated American adults did better, everyone had a tough time with the same kinds of questions.

The word “geometry” comes from the words “Earth” and “measure,” and geometry was first used to measure and chart the length, area and shape of land surfaces. To try to see if Mundurukú could use geometry for useful tasks, the researchers also set up a “map test.”

The results were quite similar to the tests with the different shapes: both Mundurukú children and adults did a good job reading maps. They did as well as American children, though not as well as educated American adults.

This research by Stanislas Dehaene from INSERM-CEA’s Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit in Orsay, France and his colleagues appears in the 20 January 2006 issue of the journal Science.


Related article:

(3) Preliminary Announcement: Mathematics Education into the 21st Century Conferences and Symposium


The following announcement is from Alan Rogerson, to whom all correspondence should be directed:

The Mathematics Education into the 21st Century Project has just completed its eighth successful international conference in Malaysia, following conferences in Egypt, Jordan, Poland, Australia, Sicily, Czech Republic, and Poland. Our project was founded in 1986 and is dedicated to the planning, writing and disseminating of innovative ideas and materials in Mathematics and Statistics Education. Our conferences are renowned for their friendly and productive working atmosphere. They are attended by innovative teachers and mathematics educators from all over the world (25 countries were represented at our last conference).

The next conference is planned for September 7-13, 2007, in Charlotte, NC. The chairman of the Local Organizing Committee is David K. Pugalee of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The theme of this conference is “Mathematics Education in a Global Community.” Papers are invited on all innovative aspects of mathematics education.

The 2008 conference will be held in the historic and beautiful city of Dresden, Germany on September 12-18. The theme of the conference will be “Models in Developing Mathematics Education.” The chairman of the Local Organizing Committee will be Ludwig Paditz of the Dresden University of Applied Sciences.

Another opportunity:  Marj Henningsen and Madeleine Long, in cooperation with our project, are planning an International Symposium to be held at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, with the theme “Policy and Practice in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning in the Elementary Grades” on November 8-10, 2006. After the Symposium, participants are invited to stay on for the Lebanese Mathematics Teachers National Conference (500+ teachers) on November 11-12.

(4)  Nominations are Requested for the 2006 Excellence in Summer Learning Award Program

Source: The Center for Summer Learning

The Excellence in Summer Learning Award recognizes an outstanding summer program that demonstrates excellence in accelerating academic achievement and promoting positive development for young people between kindergarten and twelfth grade. The award is given annually based on an application and interview process that elicits information on a program’s history, mission, goals, operations, management, staff development, partnerships, results, and sustainability. The Excellence in Summer Learning Award seeks to find and draw national attention to exemplary programs providing high-quality summer learning experiences for youth in their communities.

The mission of the Center for Summer Learning is to create opportunities for high-quality summer learning for all young people. A part of the Johns Hopkins University School of Professional Studies in Business and Education, the Center builds public support, improves the quality and availability of summer programs, and influences policies and funding to ensure that all youth have access to learning opportunities during the summer months.

For more information about this award and for a downloadable application form, visit the above Web site.

The deadline for applications is Friday, 10 February 2006. The award recipient will be announced in March.