COMET • Vol. 8, No. 10 – 24 March 2007


(1) CCTC: Archive Available for Live Audio Broadcasts of Commission Meetings

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing – 20 March 2007

Due to popular demand, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing is now posting an archived version of the live audio broadcast of its meetings.

To access the archived audio broadcast, follow the steps below:

1.  Go to the Commission’s Website:

2.  In the left-hand column, click on “Agendas & Minutes”:

3.  Find the meeting that you are interested in, and click on “Agenda”

4.  Scroll to the item that you would like to access, and click on “Listen”

Audio archives are available for Commission meetings beginning with the February 2007 meeting. Audio transcripts of each agenda item are available on the agenda’s Web page approximately one week after the Commission meeting.


(2) Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Appoints Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction

Source: California Department of Education – 14 March 2007

On March 14, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced that he has appointed Anthony Monreal, Ed.D., to serve as Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, beginning April 1.

Monreal, 47, of Fresno has been Superintendent of the Selma Unified School District since 2003. He previously served as Superintendent of the Wasco Union High School District from 1999 to 2003.

“Dr. Monreal will bring important leadership and expertise in implementing effective instructional practices to the California Department of Education,” O’Connell said. “He has a rich array of experience working in and with California public schools in the heart of our state’s Central Valley. I look forward to benefiting from his wisdom and guidance.”

As Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Monreal will oversee seven divisions at the California Department of Education (CDE), including the School Improvement Division, the Special Education Division, and the Curriculum and Instructional Resources Division.

“I am truly honored and humbled to be invited to serve as the Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction by State Superintendent O’Connell,” Monreal said. “By joining Superintendent O’Connell’s team, I commit myself to working to achieve his most worthy goal of closing the achievement gap for the children of California. In this age of accountability, we must find a way to ensure opportunities for success for all of California’s students.

“This will take ongoing, honest dialogue and courageous action on behalf of our children. It is a wonderful time to be involved at this level. I will share what I have learned from the field as an educational leader,” Monreal said. “I will also strive to provide the leadership necessary at the Department of Education to implement a system that will enable our students to continuously improve their academic achievement. I believe that it can be done and that we working together can accomplish this urgent and necessary task. !Juntos Podemos!”

“The San Joaquin Valley and Fresno County are excited about the opportunity to have leadership at the CDE that can specifically address English Learner issues and curriculum and instruction needs that impact our local student population as well as students statewide,” said Larry L. Powell, Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. “Tony Monreal will be a tremendous asset to Superintendent O’Connell’s leadership team”…


(3) Getting Down to Facts:  A Research Project Examining California’s School Governance and Finance Systems

Source: Institute for Research on Education Policy & Practice at Stanford University

“Getting Down to Facts” is a research project of more than 20 studies designed to provide California’s citizens with comprehensive information about the status of the state’s school finance and governance systems. The overall hypothesis underlying this research project is that improvement to California’s school finance and governance structures could enable its schools to be more effective. See for technical reports and research summaries of each of these studies.

Over an 18-month period from September 2005 to March 2007, the Getting Down to Facts Project brought together an extraordinary array of scholars from 32 institutions with diverse expertise and policy orientations. It represents an unprecedented attempt to synthesize what we know as a basis for convening the necessary public conversations about what we should do.

“Getting Down to Facts” was specifically requested by the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence, former Secretary of Education Alan Bersin, the President Pro Tem of the California Senate, the Speaker of the California Assembly, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The project was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the Stewart Foundation.

The project was not designed to recommend specific policies.  Rather it aims to provide common ground for understanding the current state of California school finance and governance and for a serious and substantive conversation about necessary reforms.

The project addressed three broad questions:

1. What do California school finance and governance systems look like today?

2. How can we use the resources that we have more effectively to improve student outcomes?

3. To what extent are additional resources needed so that California’s students can meet the goals that we have for them?

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued the following statement in response to the study, which showed the need for additional education funding to improve student achievement.

“No other state has, on a bipartisan basis, begun the work of determining how adequately and how efficiently its schools are funded without a court order to do so. The research discussed yesterday makes clear what I’ve said all along–money alone is not the answer to improving our schools.

“At the same time, while researchers differed widely over how much more we need to invest in our schools, all came to the conclusion that we do need to invest more. The research also makes it clear that we need to spend additional money on those students who come to school with the greatest challenges.

“California has the most challenging student population in the country, but today we spend on average 30 percent less than the rest of the nation on education our children–fully 75 percent less than New York. We must find a better way, and we must make a greater investment if we are to prepare all students to succeed in the global economy.

“The range of estimates researchers have given for what it will take to reach that magic word, ‘adequacy,’ is so broad it may cause some to throw up their hands and say, ‘impossible.’ I urge us not to do that. Let’s not yet argue over specific dollar figures, or use the most sensationally high-cost estimates to torpedo efforts at real reform.

“I urge my colleagues in education and in state policy leadership roles to take this research as a starting point for designing a new way forward–a way that both fairly and fully enables our schools to meet the very daunting challenges we have put before them. The best way to do this is to design the right system and then fund it at a level that will ensure success.”



(1) Reminder: Deadline is Approaching to Nominate an American Star of Teaching

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

April 1 marks the last day to honor an inspirational teacher in your community by nominating him or her as an American Star of Teaching. Just click on and describe how your “star” has made a positive impact on their students and community.


(2) Legislative Update: House Republicans Introduce Bill That Would Allow States to Opt Out of NCLB

Source:  NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) Express – 19 March 2007

More than 50 Republican members have signed on to a bill, the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act of 2007 (A-PLUS Act), that would allow states and districts more flexibility in implementing state-based initiatives using federal education funding. If passed, this legislation would fundamentally alter the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

The A-PLUS Act would allow states to “opt out” of NCLB if it held a referendum or if two out of three state entities–the governor, the state legislation, and the state’s highest-elected education official–decided the state could no longer meet the law’s accountability mandates. States that elect to opt-out would still get federal funding and could combine funds from certain education programs into one funding stream. They would be freed from the requirements of each federal education program and could use the funds to advance their initiatives.

To read more from the front page article in the Washington Post, visit ; to read a one-page description of the A-PLUS Act, visit; to read the section-by-section summary of the bill visit

In other legislative news, Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) are seeking support for a Dear Colleague letter to appropriation leaders asking for at least $450 million in funding for the Math and Science Partnership program at the Department of Education.

Call or e-mail your member of Congress and ask him/her to sign on to the Ehlers/Holt Dear Colleague letter seeking additional funding for science and math education in the FY2008 budget. To send your representative this information, visit  For phone calls, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask for your Representative’s office. To send an e-mail, visit


(3) TIMSS Advanced 2008 — U.S. Schools not Currently Scheduled to be Included

Source: Patsy Wang-Iverson –

A Message from Patsy Wang-Iverson:

The United States currently is not scheduled to participate in TIMSS Advanced 2008, which will examine the performance of students at the end of their secondary year (12th grade) in the following areas:

Advanced Mathematics

— Algebra

— Geometry

— Calculus


— Mechanics

— Electricity and Magnetism

— Heat and Temperature

— Atomic and Nuclear Physics

In addition, the TIMSS Advanced Assessment Frameworks include measures of student performance in three cognitive domains: knowing, applying and reasoning. (More information is available at

The reasons for the non-participation of the U.S. given by the National Center on Education Statistics (NCES) are lack of personnel (staff have been retiring and not being replaced) and no budget for the study (NCES budget has been flat-lined for the past several years). However, NCES gave permission to the International Study Center at Boston College to approach another organization to manage the project. While there are organizations interested in managing the project, they are stymied by its cost, which is estimated at $3 million. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) oversees the project and is willing to waive its fee of $240,000 in order to encourage U.S. participation.

I believe strongly that the U.S. should participate in TIMSS Advanced, as this study is well aligned with our American Competitiveness initiative and our focus on high school: to improve the retention rate and students’ high school experience. Furthermore, it complements Achieve’s American Diploma Project and can provide additional information on setting rigorous high school standards.

Corporate CEOs in recent years, including Bill Gates and Craig Barrett, have been highlighting the need to produce more students who seek careers in mathematics and science. Most of these students can be identified in the advanced mathematics and science classes in high school. Thus, it just makes sense for the U.S. to examine the outcome of these courses through an international lens.

If we can raise the funds (~$3 million) for the U.S. to participate in the study, then it would be possible for states to participate as mini-countries. Without U.S. participation, it would be prohibitively expensive for states to participate. For the states, these data would be immediately useful, providing them with a measure of the quality and rigor of their advanced courses as well as directions for improving the courses.

The countries that have signed up to participate in TIMSS Advanced 2008 are: Armenia, Australia, Finland, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, and Sweden.

Let’s turn this negative situation into a positive. In the past, the public learned nothing of TIMSS until the release of the data, which inevitably turned the study into a horserace. However, there will be far more to learn from this study than the ranking (which is meaningless, since the denominator changes with each study).

I appeal to you to raise public awareness of this study; we should not let this unique opportunity slip away. Please educate your senators and congresspeople of this disconnect between their calls for improving mathematics and science education and U.S. non-participation in TIMSS Advanced 2008.

Please contact corporations and foundations, which can contribute to providing the necessary funds to enable U.S. participation in TIMSS Advanced. We have only a few months in which to get everything together.

Thanks very much, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Patsy Wang-Iverson

Cell: 609.532.0292



(4) A Calculation the Size of Manhattan: Mathematicians Map E8

Source: American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) via Rick Hashimoto

The American Institute of Mathematics (AIM), one of the leading math institutes in the U.S., announced that after four years of intensive collaboration, 18 top mathematicians and computer scientists from the U.S. and Europe have successfully mapped E8, one of the largest and most complicated structures in mathematics. The findings were unveiled last Monday, March 19, at a presentation by David Vogan, Professor of Mathematics at MIT and member of the team that mapped E8.  Partners on this project included MIT, Cornell University, University of Michigan, University of Utah and University of Maryland.

E8 (pronounced “E eight”) is an example of a Lie (pronounced “Lee”) group. Lie groups were invented by the 19th century Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie to study symmetry. Underlying any symmetrical object, such as a sphere, is a Lie group. Balls, cylinders or cones are familiar examples of symmetric three-dimensional objects. Mathematicians study symmetries in higher dimensions. In fact, E8 is the symmetries of a geometric object like a sphere, cylinder or cone, but this object is 57-dimensional. E8 is itself is 248-dimensional. For details on E8 visit

“E8 was discovered over a century ago, in 1887, and until now, no one thought the structure could ever be understood,” said Jeffrey Adams, Project Leader and Mathematics Professor at the University of Maryland. “This groundbreaking achievement is significant both as an advance in basic knowledge, as well as a major advance in the use of large scale computing to solve complicated mathematical problems.” The mapping of E8 may well have unforeseen implications in mathematics and physics which wont be evident for years to come.

“This is an exciting breakthrough,” said Peter Sarnak, Eugene Higgins Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University and Chair of AIM’s Scientific Board. “Understanding and classifying the representations of E8 and Lie groups has been critical to understanding phenomena in many different areas of mathematics and science including algebra, geometry, number theory, physics and chemistry. This project will be invaluable for future mathematicians and scientists.”

The magnitude and nature of the E8 calculation invite comparison with the Human Genome Project. The human genome, which contains all the genetic information of a cell, is less than a gigabyte in size. The result of the E8 calculation, which contains all the information about E8 and its representations, is 60 gigabytes in size. This is enough to store 45 days of continuous music in MP3-format. If written out on paper, the answer would cover an area the size of Manhattan. The computation required sophisticated new mathematical techniques and computing power not available even a few years ago. While many scientific projects involve processing large amounts of data, the E8 calculation is very different, as the size of the input is comparatively small, but the answer itself is enormous, and very dense.

“This is an impressive achievement”, said Hermann Nicolai, Director of the Albert Einstein Institute in Potsdam, Germany. “While mathematicians have known for a long time about the beauty and the uniqueness of E8, we physicists have come to appreciate its exceptional role only more recently. Understanding the inner workings of E8 is not only a great advance for pure mathematics, but may also help physicists in their quest for a unified theory.”

According to Brian Conrey, Executive Director of the American Institute of Mathematics, “The E8 calculation is notable for both its magnitude as well as the way it was achieved. The mapping of E8 breaks the mold of mathematicians typically known for their solitary style. People will look back on this project as a significant landmark and because of this breakthrough, mathematics is now a team sport.”

The E8 calculation is part of an ambitious project sponsored by AIM and the National Science Foundation, known as the Atlas of Lie Groups and Representations. The goal of the Atlas project is to determine the unitary representations of all the Lie groups (E8 is the largest of the exceptional Lie groups). This is one of the most important unsolved problems of mathematics. The E8 calculation is a major step, and suggest that the Atlas team is well on the way to solving this problem…

The Atlas project is funded by the National Science Foundation through the American Institute of Mathematics. (Congressman Jerry McNerney from California will deliver a commendation of the Atlas team to Congress
 on Tuesday, March 27.)


The American Institute of Mathematics is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1994 by Silicon Valley businessmen John Fry and Steve Sorenson, longtime supporters of mathematical research. AIM is one of 7 mathematics institutes supported by the National Science Foundation. The goals of AIM are to expand the frontiers of mathematical knowledge through focused research projects, by sponsoring conferences, and helping to develop the leaders of tomorrow. In addition, AIM is interested in helping preserve the history of mathematics through the acquisition and preservation of rare mathematical books and documents and in making these materials available to scholars of mathematical history. AIM currently resides in temporary facilities in Palo Alto, California, the former Fry’s Electronics headquarters. A new facility is being constructed in Morgan Hill, California. For more information, visit


(5) Science-Related Articles in The New York Times


Every Tuesday, the print version of The New York Times includes a separate section on science-related news. In the past two weeks, a number of the lead articles have focused on mathematics-related topics. Articles from the current week are generally available online in their entirety at the above Web site. An article related to the topic in the above article (E8) can be found at  (“The Scientific Promise of Perfect Symmetry” by Kenneth Chang).