COMET • Vol. 8, No. 14 – 28 April 2007


(1) Teacher Retention in California’s K-12 Public Schools

Source: California State University Office of the Chancellor – 26 April 2007

California can ease its critical teacher shortage and encourage teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools by making meaningful improvements to the teaching and learning environment, according to a new study released today by the California State University Center for Teacher Quality.

“Too many teachers leave the profession prematurely–critical problems in the teaching and learning environment are literally driving teachers from the classroom,” said Dr. Ken Futernick, the principal author of the report and the director of K-12 Studies at the CSU Center for Teacher Quality at CSU Sacramento. “If California is going to resolve its teaching shortage and improve instruction for all students we need to make changes that will keep teachers in the classroom and convince some who have left to return.”

The report, A Possible Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All Students Learn, cites research showing 22 percent of California teachers leave the profession after their first four years in the classroom. Additionally, 10 percent of teachers transfer away from high poverty schools each year.  California spends more than $455 million each year to recruit, hire, and prepare replacement teachers. The most serious consequence of high teacher turnover is the loss of continuity, experience and expertise that negatively impacts the educational experience of students.

“California’s continuing loss of good teachers is expensive, inefficient and unacceptable,” said Jack O’Connell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Increasing teacher retention is essential to resolving the state’s teacher shortage. If we in California are going to close the achievement gap between our poor and our more affluent students, we must ensure that all students have skilled and knowledgeable teachers with the support and resources necessary to succeed.”

Based on an online survey of nearly 2000 teachers, the report provides new insights into the reasons teachers leave, and offers specific recommendations on what California policymakers and education leaders can do to get more qualified teachers to stay.

According to the survey, dissatisfied teachers who left the profession cited serious problems with their working environment.  More than half of these teachers expressed concerns over inadequate supports, such as a lack of time for planning or professional development, and bureaucratic impediments such as classroom interruptions, unnecessary meetings, and too little say over the way their schools are run.  Teachers also pointed frequently to a lack of collegiality as a key reason for leaving the classroom.

Teachers also told researchers that compensation was less important than the support they received in their schools. While better compensation matters, teacher retention rates in schools that are hard to staff are unlikely to improve without specific improvements to the teaching and learning environment.

The survey also included teachers who planned to stay in the classroom. These “stayers” most often pointed to having meaningful input in the decision-making process at their schools and to strong, collaborative relationships with their colleagues. Like their colleagues who left the profession, these teachers also cited the importance of effective “system supports” such as adequate time for planning, and resources for classroom learning materials. When these positive conditions were in place, many “stayers” viewed their compensation as adequate and a reason for staying in the profession.

The report’s findings have significant implications for the state’s hardest-to-staff schools. In schools with high concentrations of poor students, teachers were more likely to encounter shortages of instructional materials, unsupportive principals, poor support for special education students, disruptive bureaucracies, and unclean and unsafe work environments.

“The concerns of teachers about their working environments are serious. The high rates of teacher turnover, particularly in high-poverty schools, should send a clear signal that something in the school environment is not working,” concludes Futernick. “The good news, though, is that many of these problems can be fixed. If we listen to teachers and respond appropriately to their concerns many more teachers will undoubtedly stay in the classroom. If that happens, our students will be the greatest beneficiaries.”

The report contends that meaningful efforts to address concerns in the teaching and learning environment would reduce the overall teacher attrition rate.  Annually, close to 18,000 teachers in California leave the profession before reaching retirement age. By cutting teacher attrition by 30 percent, California would prevent over 5,000 teachers from leaving the profession each year. Improvements to the work environment, even without increases in salary, would also encourage teachers who have left teaching to return to the classroom. Furthermore, if the current rate at which teachers re-enter the profession could be increased by 30%, the overall supply of teachers would increase by at least 500 each year. Together these efforts could help California reduce its projected annual teacher shortage by nearly one-third. Teachers would also be less likely to transfer away from hard-to-staff schools.

“The California State University prepares over half of the state’s new teachers and is committed to preparing teachers to succeed with all students,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed.  “But no matter how well prepared new teachers are, few will succeed if they do not have skilled veteran teachers as mentors or work environments that are not conducive to good teaching. Our hope is that this report will spur serious conversations among educators and policymakers about what can be done to improve the teaching and learning environment, especially in schools that serve underprivileged students.”

A Possible Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All Students Learn is a project of the California State University Center for Teacher Quality at California State University, Sacramento ( The complete report and summary materials are available online at  The full report is available for download from  You can also submit comments and questions to the author of the report at, as well as view others’ questions and the author’s responses.

(2) Scott Hill Appointed Undersecretary for the Office of the Secretary of Education, State of California|

Sources: Office of the Governor – 20 April 2007
URL Hill, 45, of Dixon, has been appointed undersecretary for the Office of the Secretary of Education. Since 2004, he has served as vice president of education policy for School Innovations and Advocacy. Prior to that, Hill served as chief deputy superintendent for the California Department of Education from 1999 to 2003 and executive director for the California Curriculum Commission in 1999. From 1997 to 1998, he was executive director for the California Academic Standards Commission. Hill previously was director of communications for the George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF) from 1996 to 1997 and a senior research analyst for the California School Boards Association from 1993 to 1996. He is co-founder and secretary of the Dixon Montessori Charter School and is a former member of the Dixon Cooperative Preschool Board of Directors.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued the following statement regarding the appointment:  “I am very pleased that Governor Schwarzenegger has appointed Scott Hill as Undersecretary of Education. Scott has extensive breadth of experience working on education issues. As executive director of the Standards Commission, he was integral to the development and adoption of California’s world-class academic standards. Scott also has a keen understanding of state education policy, California’s school accountability system, and local school governance issues. I look forward to working with Scott on behalf of California’s 6.3 million students to further improve California’s schools.”


(1) “Math-Science Bills Advance in Congress” by David J. Hoff and Sean Cavanagh

Source: Education Week – 27 April 2007

Improving K-12 instruction and student achievement in mathematics and science is at the heart of separate bills intended to bolster America’s economic standing that won overwhelming approval in both houses of Congress last week.

The omnibus bills include efforts to increase the content knowledge of prospective math and science teachers, provide professional development for teachers in those subjects, and define what students should know to do well in college and the workplace in all subjects.

“We can only succeed in the international global economy if we are competitive and if we innovate,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said during the House’s debate on the three bills that made up its competitiveness package. “We cannot innovate without the investment in education, the investment in science and technology.”

As part of that package, the House on April 24 approved the 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act by a vote of 389-22. The House also approved a science and technology bill that day, and a bill to provide loans to small technology businesses the next day. Both those bills passed by large margins.

The Senate passed its bill, 88-8, on April 25.

“The American Competes Act is the best way to keep more of the jobs of the 21st century right here in America and the best way to ensure that our children have the skills to keep America at the forefront of innovations and discovery,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader.

A White House statement expressed concern about the number of new programs proposed in the Senate bill, but it did not threaten a veto. The two chambers’ bills would have to be reconciled before Congress could send a measure to President Bush.

Supporters of the bill said that the Senate took a comprehensive approach to solving the problem because the stakes are high.

“We are at risk of losing our brainpower advantage,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a co-author of the bill, said. “If we lose our brainpower advantage, we lose … our standard of living.”

“Federal investment in the basic sciences and research has long been a critical component of America’s competitive dominance globally,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Last week’s action followed more than two years of bipartisan work in both houses that responded to a 2005 report from a panel of business leaders convened by the National Academies. In “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future,” the panel warned that the United States’ economy would suffer if it failed to improve the scientific and technological skills of its workforce.

In the K-12 section of that report, the business leaders set goals of recruiting 10,000 of the nation’s best college students to teach mathematics and science; improving the math and science skills of the 250,000 teachers already teaching those subjects; and doubling the number of students taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses.

Congress’ attempt to address the K-12 goals, as well as the broader scientific and technological issues addressed in the report, faltered last year. While the bills passed last week by the House and the Senate share many goals, they take different approaches to meeting them.

The Senate bill would establish several new programs in various federal agencies, while the House legislation focuses more on expanding existing programs, mostly within the National Science Foundation.

Both the House and the Senate bills would do more to attract new teachers to the profession and provide more in-service training to veteran educators who need to improve their expertise in various science subjects, said Gerald F. Wheeler, the executive director of the 56,000-member National Science Teachers Association.

10,000 New Teachers

The House bill sets a goal of luring 10,000 new math and science teachers annually. One mechanism for doing so is an expansion of the existing Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, administered by the NSF, which provides $10,000 annual scholarships to college students who agree to become math and science teachers.

The bill would increase the number of years of scholarship funding students could receive from two to three years. Students would be expected to teach for up to six years to receive that maximum funding, but could reduce the commitment by agreeing to work in “high need” schools. Scholarships would be converted to loans for awardees who did not fulfill teaching commitments. The Noyce program awards funding to colleges and universities, which then select students for scholarships, according to a description from the NSF.

The increased monetary incentives would at least offer a carrot for students considering other, better-paying math- and science-related jobs, Mr. Wheeler said.

“We have a hard time competing with corporate America, but this will help get the attention of [prospective] teachers,” he said.

Mr. Wheeler also supports a provision in the House bill that would provide competitive financial awards to establish stronger links between universities’ academic departments in math and science and their teacher-training programs. Many math and science experts say too few students majoring in those subjects consider becoming teachers; too few aspiring teachers, meanwhile, take advantage of strong academic courses offered by math and science departments.

“Nowhere do those two conversations come together,” Mr. Wheeler said.

Some postsecondary institutions, however, such as the UTeach program at the University of Texas at Austin, have drawn praise from federal officials for bridging the faculty divide and producing math and science teachers with strong content knowledge. Mr. Wheeler believes the House legislation would allow more universities to make similar efforts.

Both chambers’ bills would establish new programs to encourage math and science teachers to pursue master’s degrees in those subjects, with the idea that advanced training would provide them with greater subject-matter expertise.

The Senate bill would create competitive grants for states to ensure their standards are linked to higher education and workforce skills.

In an April 23 statement, White House officials voiced numerous concerns about the Senate competitiveness proposal–particularly its creation of new programs at the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Energy and at the NSF…

The Senate bill “expands many existing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs that have not been proven effective and creates new STEM education programs that overlap with existing federal programs,” the White House said in the statement.

A soon-to-be-released, congressionally mandated report, part of a review being led by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, will show that many federal math and science programs in teacher training and other areas have failed to produce results, the White House said.

‘Hard Part’ Ahead

The bills passed last week would create the new programs. The next big step, assuming a final version of the legislation is signed into law, would be for Congress to pass appropriations bills to pay for them.

With the budget for domestic spending austere, Congress will struggle to find the money to support the programs that eventually emerge in the competitiveness bill, Sen. McConnell said.

“The hard part, obviously, is going to be providing the funds to carry out the programs in this bill to meet these authorization targets we have set,” he said.

Still, advocates for the advancement of science and technology lauded Congress’ action as a good first step in addressing the needs in their fields.

“These bills are the best possible start to addressing the competitiveness challenge,” said James Brown, a co-chairman of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Coalition, a Washington-based advocacy group. “It’s an excellent deal, when you consider all the constraints out there.”

(2) Bill Gates Testifies Before the Senate on American Competitiveness

URL March 7, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates addressed the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). The topic of his testimony was “Strengthening American Competitiveness for the 21st Century.” His testimony (along with the active question and answer period that followed) is available for viewing (Real Player) and also available for download as a PDF file from

Excerpts from his 14-page testimony appear below:

Chairman Kennedy, Ranking Member Enzi, honorable members of the Committee, my name is Bill Gates and I am Chairman of Microsoft Corporation. I am also a co-chair, with my wife Melinda, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is an honor for me to appear before you today to share my thoughts on the future of American education, the development of our workforce, and other policies necessary to ensure America’s continued competitiveness in the global economy.

Any discussion of competitiveness in the 21st century must, in my view, begin by recognizing the central role of technology and innovation. Having spent the last 30 years as the head of one of the world’s leading software companies, I am continually astounded at the tremendous potential for technology to improve people’s lives. My faith that technology can help transform lives has only been strengthened through my work with the Gates Foundation, which focuses on funding innovative solutions in health care and education in order to reduce inequities in the United States and around the world….

When I reflect on the state of American competitiveness today, my immediate feeling is not only one of pride, but also of deep anxiety. Too often, we as a society are sacrificing the long-term good of our country in the interests of short-term gain. Too often, we lack the political will to take the steps necessary to ensure that America remains a technology and innovation leader. In too many areas, we are content to live off the investments that previous generations made for us – in education, in health care, in basic scientific research – but are unwilling to invest equal energy and resources into building on this legacy to ensure that America’s future is as bright and prosperous as its present. America simply cannot continue along this course. We must invest now to secure our economic and technological leadership for the future. In my view, we will lose this leadership unless we take three important steps:

— First, we must ensure that America’s students and workers have the skills necessary to compete in a digital economy by providing them with the necessary educational opportunities and resources. A top priority must be to reverse our dismal high school graduation rates – with a target of doubling the number of young people who graduate from high school ready for college, career, and life – and to place a major emphasis on encouraging careers in math and science. We must also focus far more of our energies on upgrading the skills of Americans already in the workforce.

— Second, we need to attract and retain the brightest, most talented people from around the world. This will not happen until we reform our immigration policies for highly skilled workers. America should be doing all it can to attract the world’s best and brightest. Instead, we are shutting them out and discouraging those already here from staying and contributing to our economic prosperity.

— Third, we need to provide a foundation for innovation by investing in ideas and capturing their value. The public sector in particular needs to continue to increase investments in R&D, especially in basic scientific research, to complement the R&D of the private sector and address new challenges. The R&D tax credit, which provides a critical, proven incentive for companies to increase their investment in U.S.-based research and development, needs to be made permanent. We also need a legal framework that rewards innovation.

I. Providing 21st Century Educational & Training Opportunities

America cannot maintain its innovation leadership if it does not educate world-class innovators and train its workforce to use innovations effectively. Unfortunately, available data suggest that we are failing to do so – in our math and science programs, in our job training programs, and especially in our high schools.

A. Improving America’s high schools

America’s greatest educational shortcoming today is what for much of our history was its greatest pride: our public schools…

Our current expectations for what our students should learn in school were set fifty years ago to meet the needs of an economy based on manufacturing and agriculture. We now have an economy based on knowledge and technology. Despite the best efforts of many committed educators and administrators, our high schools have simply failed to adapt to this change. As any parent knows, however, our children have not–they are fully immersed in digital culture.

As a result, while most students enter high school wanting to succeed, too many end up bored, unchallenged and disengaged from the high school curriculum—”digital natives” caught up in an industrial-age learning model. Many high school students today either drop out or simply try to get by. For those who graduate, many lack the skills they need to attend college or to find a job that can support a family. Until we transform the American high school for the 21st century, we will continue limiting the lives of millions of Americans each year. The cost of inaction substantially increases each year that we fail to act…

Every student in America should graduate from high school ready for college, career and life. Every child. No exceptions. Whether they are going off to college or into the work force or a combination of the two, it is the responsibility of public education to give our young people the skills, knowledge and preparation for life they need and deserve. As we work toward this goal, I would urge Congress to place an equal focus on standards, measurements and data, and additional support for students and teachers….

I urge this Committee to support the creation of a Center for State Education Data, which will serve as a national resource for state education data and will provide one-stop access for education research and policymakers, along with a public website to streamline education data reporting. But we can’t just collect data. We also need to use the data we collect to implement change, including by personalizing learning to make it more relevant and engaging for students – and thereby truly ensure that no child is left behind…

If we are going to demand more from our students and teachers, then it is our obligation to provide them with the support they need to meet the challenge. All students – regardless of age, grade level, gender, or race – do better when they are supported by a good teacher. Committed, quality teachers are the lynchpin of a good educational system, and those that excel – especially in challenging schools or in high-need subjects like math and science – should be rewarded. The Teacher Incentive Fund is an important first step in ensuring that teachers are rewarded, valued and respected as they would be in my company or in any other organization. This program should be made permanent through authorization…

B. Promoting math and science education

Another area where America is falling behind is in math and science education. We cannot possibly sustain an economy founded on technology pre-eminence without a citizenry educated in core technology disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, engineering, and the physical sciences. The economy’s need for workers trained in these fields is massive and growing. The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that, in the decade ending in 2014, there will be over two million job openings in the United States in these fields. Yet in 2004, just 11 percent of all higher education degrees awarded in the U.S. were in engineering, mathematics, and the physical sciences – a decline of about a third since 1960.

Recent declines are particularly pronounced in computer science. The percentage of college freshmen planning to major in computer science dropped by 70 percent between 2000 and 2005.  In an economy in which computing has become central to innovation in nearly every sector, this decline poses a serious threat to American competitiveness. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that every significant technological innovation of the 21st century will require new software to make it happen…

I believe our schools can do better. High schools are emerging around the country that focus on math and science, and they are successfully engaging students who have long been underrepresented in these fields – schools like the School of Science and Technology in Denver, Aviation High School in Seattle, and University High School in Hartford, Connecticut. These schools have augmented traditional teaching methods with new technologies and a rigorous, project-centered curriculum, and their students know they are expected to go on to college. This combination is working to draw more young people, especially more African American and Hispanic young people, to study math and science.

Schools are also partnering with the private sector to strengthen secondary school math and science education, and I want to mention one recent initiative in particular with which Microsoft has been involved. It is called the Microsoft Math Partnership, and it is a public-private initiative designed to focus new attention on improving middle-school math education. Although the program is currently focused on schools in Washington State, we believe this Partnership provides a sound model for public-private sector efforts across America.

To remain competitive in the global economy, we must build on the success of these schools and initiatives and commit to an ambitious national agenda for high school education. But we also must focus on post-secondary education. College and graduate students are simply not obtaining science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) degrees in sufficient numbers to meet demand. The number of undergraduate engineering degrees awarded in the United States fell by about 17 percent between 1985 and 2004.

This decline is particularly alarming when we look at educational trends in other countries. In other countries, a much greater percentage of college degrees are in engineering than in the U.S.  If current trends continue, a significant percentage of all scientists and engineers in the world will be working outside of the U.S. by 2010.

For years, the decline in the percentage of graduate degrees awarded to American students in science, technology, engineering, and math was offset by an increase in the percentage of foreign students obtaining these degrees.  But new security regulations and our obsolete immigration system are dissuading foreign students from studying in the United States… We can no longer rely on foreign students to ensure that America has enough scientists and engineers to satisfy the demands of an expanding economy. Tackling this problem will require determination by government and support by industry. The goal should be to “[d]ouble the number of science, technology, and mathematics graduates by 2015.” Achieving this goal will require both funds and innovative ideas. For high schools, we should aim to recruit 10,000 new science and mathematics teachers annually and strengthen the skills of existing teachers. To expand enrollment in postsecondary math and science programs, we should provide 25,000 new four-year, competitive undergraduate scholarships each year to U.S. citizens attending U.S. institutions and fund 5000 new graduate fellowships each year. America’s young people must come to see STEM degrees as opening a window to opportunity. If we fail at this, we simply will be unable to compete with the emerging innovative powerhouses abroad…

In my view, the challenges confronting America’s global competitiveness and technological leadership are among the greatest we have faced in our lifetime. Frankly, we have not been the careful stewards of our own “innovation account” that our children and grandchildren have a right to expect of us. It is time to revisit our game plan in this regard.

I recognize that implementing these solutions will not be easy and will take strong political will and courageous leadership. But I firmly believe that our efforts, if we succeed, will pay rich dividends for our nation’s next generation. We have had the amazing good fortune to live through one of the most prosperous and innovative periods in history. We must not squander this opportunity to secure America’s continued competitiveness and prosperity…

(3) “Technology Counts 2006: A Digital Decade”

Source: Education Week
URL: more technology into schools has been a priority for policymakers over the past 10 years, and in many respects, that goal has been accomplished. Yet few experts would argue that America’s schools are making optimal use of the new digital tools they have received. Likewise, few can point to evidence that all the new technology has translated into great leaps forward in student learning.

Though federal, state, and local policy initiatives have poured billions of dollars of technology spending into schools, average student achievement is little better than it was 10 years ago, at least as measured by reading, mathematics, and science scores on the federally sponsored National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Looking ahead, policy on school technology will continue to be framed by broader education policy–currently focused on students’ academic achievement and preparation for the global workforce, as well as the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is supposed to occur this year.

What progress has been made in the use of educational technology over the past 10 years? How is it not being used effectively? What should schools be doing to prepare for changes in technology in the future?  Education Week sponsored two Live Chats to address these and related questions.

On March 30, the following guests participated in a Live Chat entitled, “Technology Counts 2007: A Digital Decade”:

— Carole Vinograd Bausell, Project Director for Technology Counts 2007

— Andrew Trotter, Education Week technology writer

To view transcripts from this Live Chat, go to

The following guests participated in a second Live Chat on April 4, entitled “Technology Counts 2007: The Evolution of Educational Technology”:

—  Margaret A. Honey, Director of the Center for Children and Technology

— Cathleen Norris, Professor, Department of Technology and Cognition, College of Education, University of North Texas, and

— Elliot Soloway, Professor of Computer Science and Education, University of Michigan

Visit to view the transcript of this Live Chat.

Both chats are based on the publication Technology Counts 2007: A Digital Decade, the 10th edition of Education Week’s annual report on educational technology. To read the Executive Summary of this report, visit

Detailed state reports are available at

[The following is from]

State Technology Reports are a supplement to the 10th edition of Technology Counts, a joint project of Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center. As in previous years, the EPE Research Center has surveyed the states to assess the status of K-12 educational technology across the nation. The state reports assemble key findings from that survey and other sources in a format that allows readers to examine a particular state’s performance on this year’s indicators. For most indicators, national results are also provided as a benchmark against which the state can be measured.

Technology Counts 2007, which explores developments in educational technology over the past decade, tracks data from the 50 states and the District of Columbia in several critical areas of technology policy and practice: accessuse, and capacity. The report assigns grades to the states for their performance in those three categories. State grades are not comparable with those in last year’s report because of changes in two access indicators and improvements in the scoring for indicators related to teacher and administrator licensure. [California’s report is available at  The state’s grades are quite low.]


Visit, which depicts the locations of the 19 regional CMP sites and provides a link to each site. At the regional site’s home page, teachers may learn of quality professional development opportunities for the summer and academic year.

Visit,  the California Subject Matter Project home page, for links to projects in all of the academic areas.