COMET • Vol. 7, No. 34 – 10 December 2006


(1) More Content Review Panelists needed for 2007 Mathematics Adoption–Applicants Need an Advanced Degree in Mathematics

Source: Mary Sprague — California Department of Education, Curriculum Frameworks Office — (916) 319-0510;

At the November 30 meeting of the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (“Curriculum Commission”), the Commission announced that it will continue to accept applications to serve on a Content Review Panel (CRP) for the 2007 mathematics adoption.

To date, only four CRP members have been approved by the State Board of Education, and at least 20 more panelists are needed. Educators with an advanced degree in mathematics or a related field are therefore urged to submit an application to serve on a CRP and to do so by mid-January. An application can be downloaded from

There were no CRP applicants approved at the November Curriculum Commission meeting; however, the Curriculum Commission did decide to hold the one CRP application received until the January 2007 meeting to allow staff time to gather additional information about the applicant’s qualifications. The Curriculum Commission requested confirmation that the applicant is located in the Mathematics Department of their university and that the applicant teaches mathematics courses at the university.

In contrast, more than 160 individuals have applied to serve on an Instructional Materials Advisory Panel (IMAP), and no more applications for IMAP service are being accepted. The second cohort of IMAP members was approved at the November Curriculum Commission meeting. Letters to IMAP-Cohort 1 members, appointed by the State Board of Education in November 2006 will be mailed within the next week. The names of the IMAP-Cohort 2 applicants recommended by the Commission at the November 30 meeting will be forwarded to the State Board of Education for consideration at the Board’s meeting on 10-11 January 2007. Letters of appointment for IMAP-Cohort 2 will be mailed in early January.

(2) Students and High Stakes: Little Gain Seen Without a Stronger Teaching Force

Source: Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning
URL (Report):

  Poor student achievement, particularly among Latino and African American students, makes it highly unlikely that California will be able to meet state and federal education requirements for student proficiency, according to a new report released last Wednesday by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.

“While there has been some improvement in achievement over the past few years, the gap between where students are and where they need to be is alarmingly large,” said Margaret Gaston, Executive Director of The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. “California’s kids can’t get there without a continuing effort to build a high quality teaching workforce with the capacity and resources to improve student achievement.”

California’s Teaching Force 2006: Key Issues and Trends finds the state falling far short of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) goal of 100% of students being proficient in mathematics and English by 2013-14. Less than half of all students were able to demonstrate proficiency on state tests in 2006 (42% were proficient in English language arts, 40% in mathematics), and about one-third of schools did not meet federal requirements for Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) as required by NCLB.

African American and Latino students have an even greater distance to go to meet the high academic standards the state has set for them. The gap between these students and their white and Asian peers is actually increasing. 30% of Latino students were proficient or above on the mathematics CST in 2006. 24% of African American students were proficient or above in mathematics. In contrast, 54% of white students and 67% of Asian students were proficient or above in mathematics.

“Student achievement trends strongly suggest that California is not going to meet the proficiency requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation,” said Patrick Shields, Director of the Center for Education Policy at SRI International and the principal researcher for the report.

“Given the incredible hurdles the state faces in improving student achievement, there is an urgent need for highly trained and effective teachers. Meeting that challenge will require not only an increased focus on the quantity and qualifications of teachers, but on the quality of teaching.”

One place to start would be with an intensified effort to strengthen science and mathematics teaching for those already in the classroom. California lacks a sufficient number of mathematics and science teachers, with the least prepared and experienced mathematics and science teachers concentrated in low-achieving schools serving poor and minority students. In 2005-06, 21% of teachers in schools in the lowest achievement quartile were underprepared, novice, or both, compared to 12% of teachers in the highest achieving schools. 18% of teachers serving schools with high percentages of minority students were underprepared and/or novice, compared to 11% of teachers in schools serving few or no minority students. 31% of teachers in schools with the lowest passage rates on the California High School Exit Exam for mathematics were underprepared compared with 17% of teachers in schools with the highest pass rates.

The report also cautions state policymakers that the teacher shortage is far from over, warning that a drop in the production of credentials and declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs are warning signs worth watching in the face of escalating teacher retirements. California may need to replace as many as 98,000 teachers, or 32% of the current teacher workforce, over the next ten years.  Additionally, certain regions of the state such as the Central Valley are already experiencing shortages of fully prepared teachers, and high enrollment growth in those regions may only exacerbate the problem. However, enrollment in teacher preparation programs declined by 9% from 73,211 in 2002-03 to 66,493 in 2003-04.

“As we issue this report, we want to give full credit to the Governor and members of the Legislature for the progress that was made during the last legislative session to strengthen the teacher workforce,” concludes Gaston. “But low student achievement and demanding requirements for improvement set a high bar for the state. Hitting the mark will require a continuing effort to strengthen the teacher development system to get highly skilled teachers where we need them the most.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connel stated,  “While we have made significant strides to invest in quality professional development of our teacher force and provide some incentives to encourage teachers to enter the profession, I agree with the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning that we have to do more, in a more comprehensive way, to attract the best and brightest students to pursue teaching careers, balance the distribution of qualified teachers, create incentives for math and science majors to become teachers, and substantially bolster our special education teacher workforce.

“I look forward to working with the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, the higher education community, the Schwarzenegger administration, and the Legislature in the coming year to address the issues of teacher recruitment, teacher quality, equity and retention that are central to addressing the achievement gap.”

California’s Teaching Force 2006: Key Issues and Trends is the latest in a series of annual reports on the status of the teaching profession presented by The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning with research conducted by SRI International.  The report was developed as part of the Center’s Teaching and California’s Future Initiative. Partners in the Initiative include the California State University Office of the Chancellor, Policy Analysis for California Education, the University of California Office of the President, and WestEd. The Stuart Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provided funding for the report.

The full report and summary materials are available on the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning Web site at  Print versions of the report are also available.  For additional information, contact the Center at (831) 427-3628 or by email at

(3) State Auditor says Few Teachers Enrolling in Specialized Program

Source: The Sacramento Bee – 1 December 2006

Fewer than 7,300 of the state’s 252,000 public school math and reading instructors have completed a voluntary training program that state lawmakers approved in hopes of introducing more rigorous academic content to California classrooms, a state audit found.

Proponents had vowed to train 176,000 teachers on state educational standards and using texts and other teaching materials to boost student learning.

While the Mathematics and Reading Development Program started with $143 million in funding for fiscal 2001-02, state Auditor Elaine Howle said lawmakers cut $98 million from the program during its first two years. Education officials said annual funding was then cut further, to just $31.7 million a year.

The audit surveyed 100 school districts. Howle criticized teachers and district officials for lacking motivation to participate in the 120-hour voluntary training and also blamed the state Department of Education for failing to effectively promote it.

The state administrator of the program, Phil Lafontaine, disputed the report’s findings. He said 30,500 K-12 teachers had completed the training by the end of the 2005-06 fiscal year and that an additional 80,300 had taken the first part of the two-phase program, a 40-hour course.

School districts are paid $1,250 per teacher to cover costs of the initial 40-hour training session and another $1,250 when a teacher completes the second, 80-hour session. Teachers are paid $500 for each course.

Lafontaine said far fewer teachers sign up for the second, longer program.

The audit said lawmakers should demand greater accountability for the [program], which they recently voted to extend through fiscal year 2011-12 [via SB 472, which reauthorized AB 466].

“The Legislature should consider redefining its expectations for the program, clearly stating the number of teachers to be fully trained as well as any gains in student achievement expected,” the report said.   

(4) David Pearson and John G. Kenney Elected 2007 Chair and Vice Chair of California Teacher Credentialing Commission

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

Last Wednesday, a university dean and a high school science teacher were elected by members of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to serve as the 2007 Commission Chair and Vice Chair through next December. They are eligible to serve one additional term if elected. David Pearson and John G. Kenneyexpressed their dedication to the work of the Commission and thanked their fellow Commissioners for expressing faith in their leadership.

David Pearson is the Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, and also serves as a faculty member teaching language and literacy.  Well known for his extensive research in reading instruction and reading assessment policies, Dr. Pearson participates nationally as a resource for educators and policy makers. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 2001, he served as the John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of Education in the College of Education at Michigan State University and as Co-Director of the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement… Dr. Pearson received his B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley, after which he taught elementary school in California for several years.  He later completed his Ph.D. in Reading Education at the University of Minnesota and post-doctoral work at the University of Texas, Austin and Stanford University.

Dr. Pearson has written and co-edited several books about research and practice and has received numerous prestigious awards for his research.  In addition, he has been active in professional organizations and currently is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Writing Project, the Educational Advisory Board of the National Geographic Society, and the Board of Visitors of the Colleges of Education at the University of Minnesota and the University of Pittsburgh.

John G. Kenney is a Physics teacher at Calaveras High School in San Andreas, California.  He has been teaching for ten years and has served as the Science Department Chair for four of those years. Prior to becoming a teacher he worked as a mechanical engineer designing food and pharmaceutical processing equipment and manufacturing plants.  He managed major construction projects as Chief Engineer in this capacity.

Mr. Kenney graduated from Arcadia High School in 1973 and joined the US Army, spending three years as a communications section chief stationed in Germany.  Following his service he attended the University of California, Davis and graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1981. He later attended National University in 1996 to obtain his teaching credential and holds Multiple Subject and Single Subject (Physics) credentials with an additional authorization to serve English learners through Crosscultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD) certification.


The Commission on Teacher Credentialing is a nineteen member appointed board including four non-voting ex-officio members.  The Commission is responsible for setting standards and accrediting credential preparation programs for teachers, administrators and other school services providers in public preschool programs, public K-12 schools, and vocational and adult education.  The Commission also has the authority to suspend and revoke credentials and oversees disciplinary actions related to licensing in cases of educator misconduct. 


(1) “‘Focal Points’ Being Eyed in Math-Standards Revisions” by Sean Cavanagh

Source: Education Week – 6 December 2006

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is promoting its new, much-publicized curriculum guidelines among state officials and textbook publishers, two crucial audiences for the organization as it seeks to refine how that subject is taught.

So far, NCTM officials say, they have been encouraged by the response. The organization has been in touch with at least 10 states that are either planning to make changes to their math standards to reflect principles in the document or are considering such revisions.

In addition, association officials met last week with about 20 representatives of the textbook-publishing industry to explain the content of the new guidelines, “Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten Through Grade 8 Mathematics,” NCTM President Francis M. “Skip” Fennell said.

“We’ve had preliminary conversations with some states, and more direct conversations with others,” Mr. Fennell said. “Generally, they’re saying thank you for tightening” recommendations on how math should be taught, he added.

When the NCTM released Focal Points in September, the group’s leaders said they hoped the 41-page document would present educators and others with a streamlined set of crucial math skills and principles that elementary and middle school students should master.

The document was in some ways a follow-up to the NCTM’s publication of an influential set of K-12 math standards in 1989 that was revised in 2000.

Critics have complained that those standards did not place enough emphasis on essential math skills and basic arithmetic, and instead pushed a “fuzzy math” model. NCTM officials dispute those claims, saying the standards call for both the cultivation of basic math skills and more conceptual understanding of the subject.

Focal Points, however, has won praise from some critics of the original standards.

Broad Impact Anticipated

NCTM officials hope that state curriculum officials will revise their math standards to reflect the more streamlined approach advocated in Focal Points. If that occurs, they suggest, textbook publishers that cater to states’ individual demands can respond by narrowing their focus.

One state paying attention to the NCTM document is Florida, which is revising its math standards for the first time since 1996. A team of educators, both K-12 and college teachers, are working on that project, said Todd Clark, the deputy bureau chief for instruction and innovation for the Florida education department.

Those experts heard a presentation this fall on Focal Points from Jane F. Schielack, the associate dean for assessment and prekindergarten education at Texas A&M University, who chaired the team that wrote the NCTM document.

Florida officials are likely to reduce “dramatically” the number of expectations by grade level in math, in an attempt to encourage teachers to emphasize what is most important, and Focal Points could help them, Mr. Clark said. State officials want to better coordinate math lessons from grade to grade so that students can “gain mastery at each grade level, then move on,” he said.

Officials in Utah are also embarking on a revision of their math standards, and are likely to draw from the Focal Points in that process, said Nicole Paulson, an elementary math specialist for the state office of education. That process was originally not scheduled to occur until 2012, but state legislators now say they would like a revision to be complete by next year.

Most states revise their math standards every six to 10 years, said Barbara Reys, a professor of mathematics education at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Ms. Reys also co-directs the Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum, a research group that evaluates state and school math policies that is based at her university. In a recent survey, the center found that more than 80 percent of state officials said their state standards had been strongly influenced by the NCTM’s 2000 standards.

Ms. Reys, who served as one of several formal reviewers of Focal Points, believes the new document will also have a broad impact. “People have been looking for leadership from the national level,” she said.

Mastery Expectations

A recent report by Ms. Rey’ organization, in fact, says there are big differences in when states expect students to master different math concepts. In most states, students are introduced to fractions anywhere between 1st and 4th grades, her study found. Expectations for when they should become adept at adding and subtracting fractions also vary, with states making that demand somewhere between 4th and 7th grades, according to the study, “The Intended Mathematics Curriculum as Represented in State-Level Curriculum Standards: Consensus or Confusion?” [Note: See for the Executive Summary of this report.]

“We’re not sending clear messages to teachers on when major topics should receive major focus,” Ms. Reys said.

That lack of uniformity also makes it difficult to gauge student proficiency in math accurately in different states on measures such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, she said. States are required to have students participate in the math NAEP in 4th and 8th grades.

Ms. Schielack, who has had several conversations with state officials about Focal Points, said states could use the document to revamp teacher guides and other professional-development materials in addition to their standards.

“The states I’ve been to, the reaction has been exactly what I’d hoped for,” Ms. Schielack said. There was no feeling among state officials that they “have to throw away everything that they have,” she added. “I haven’t heard any comment that, ‘Oh this is so different, or this is going back to the basics.’ ”

(2) National Governor’s Association Announces Innovation America Task Force

Source: Government Technology – 6 December 2006

The National Governors Association (NGA) has announced a 17-member task force to guide the Innovation America initiative. The announcement came as governors gathered in Phoenix, Arizona to launch the effort.

The task force, led by NGA Chair Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and NGA Vice Chair Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, brings together a bipartisan group of governors and members of the academic and business communities to oversee efforts to strengthen the competitive position of the United States in the global economy by improving the nation’s capacity to innovate.

“To maximize our strengths in this increasingly global environment, governors must partner with the business and academic communities to ensure state policies complement and reinforce private sector innovation,” said Napolitano. “The Innovation America task force provides an outstanding forum for these groups to work together to enhance our economic competitiveness.”

“Working with the NGA Center for Best Practices, the task force will take the lead in developing strategies that drive innovation,” said Pawlenty. “The work of this task force will be critical to ensuring every state — and our nation — is equipped to excel in the global economy.”

During the two day gathering, governors will work with business and academic leaders to identify challenges to innovation and determine the most promising strategies, policies and programs for addressing them. The agenda includes discussions centered around the state innovation landscape, K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and the role of postsecondary education as an engine of innovation. Key gubernatorial staff members will learn about the resources being developed through the initiative and begin framing an action plan for creating an “innovation environment” in each state.