COMET • Vol. 8, No. 21 – 13 September 2007


 (1) “No Child Left Behind” Discussion Draft–Summary

Source: The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News – 12 September 2007

House Education and Labor Committee leaders George Miller (D-CA) and Howard McKeon (R-CA) have released an unnumbered discussion draft [see next COMET item] for reauthorization of “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB), the law that provides federal education funding to states and requires accountability through state “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) measurements.  The draft would provide more flexibility to states in determining AYP; would encourage tests to assess students’ critical thinking abilities and problem-solving skills; and would strongly support teacher development and encourage highly-qualified teachers to serve in high-need schools.  The discussion draft does not include any authorization levels.

While the current version of NCLB requires states to begin testing students in science in the current academic year, neither the existing law nor the new draft would require that the results of those science assessments be included in calculation of states’ AYP.  (This summer, the American Institute of Physics and two of its Member Societies signed onto a letter sent by the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics [STEM] Education Coalition to Miller and McKeon, supporting the inclusion of science test results in AYP.  More information on this letter is provided below.)

Miller hopes to get a bill marked up by his committee before the end of this month.  This is likely to pose a difficult challenge, as both the current NCLB law and many of the proposed changes are highly controversial, with Democrats and Republicans objecting to different aspects.  According to reports, McKeon has indicated that he will not vote for a bill that is not supported by a majority of House Republicans.  In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is also reportedly working on a draft NCLB reauthorization.  If a reauthorization of NCLB is not completed and signed into law this year, an automatic one-year extension of the current law will go into effect.

The NCLB has brought about some positive changes in its five-and-a-half years, Miller said in a July 30 speech, including an increase in the number of qualified teachers in classrooms and the narrowing of achievement gaps among groups of students.  But, he added, we “didn’t get it all right” the first time.  He promised that with the reauthorization, “states will be allowed to develop better tests that more accurately measure what all students have learned.  These tests will be more useful to teachers and will drive richer classroom instruction.”  He continued, “These measures can no longer reflect just basic skills and memorization.  Rather, they must reflect critical thinking skills and the ability to apply knowledge to new and challenging contexts.  These are the skills that today’s students will need to meet the complex demands of the American economy and society in a globalized world.”  Additionally, he said, “As a nation we are not offering teachers the respect and support they deserve today, and as a result we are facing a very real teacher shortage crisis.  Particularly in urban and rural communities, in subjects like math, science, foreign language, and for children with disabilities and children learning English, we must hire, train, ad retain excellent teachers.  For these reasons, the legislation I will introduce will provide for performance pay for principals and teachers based on fair and proven models, teacher mentoring, teacher career ladders, and improved working conditions.”

Some specifics of the Miller-McKeon draft bill follow:

STATE ACCOUNTABILITY:  The discussion draft would allow states more flexibility in the way their accountability is determined. States could choose to use science or other subjects beyond just reading and math, multiple types of indicators, and growth models (measurements of student achievement growth over time) for accountability purposes.

ASSESSMENTS:  Student assessments would be required to involve multiple measures, “including measures that assess higher order thinking skills and understanding,” and the draft bill would authorize a pilot program for development of performance-based assessments that more effectively measure critical thinking and problem solving skills.

COMPARISON OF STATE CONTENT STANDARDS:  To enable comparisons of individual states’ content standards, the draft calls for a National Academy of Sciences study of how to compare standards across states, and directs the Secretary of Education to use this study to develop a common scale and biennially compare states’ standards and assessments with that common scale.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT: The draft bill would support state and school district efforts to increase the numbers and success of students taking Advanced Placement tests.

SUPPORT FOR TEACHERS: The draft bill places major emphasis on support for teachers, particularly induction programs, mentoring, master teacher assistance, time for discussion with colleagues, and multiple methods of evaluation for early career teachers in high-need school districts.  It calls for development of a model performance-based teacher evaluation tool, and encourages the portability of teaching credentials across states.  It would enable rewards and bonuses for principals and teachers, particularly those in math, science, and other shortage subjects, who agree to serve for a time in hard-to-staff schools.  States would be required to address instances of poor and minority students being disproportionately taught by inexperienced or unqualified teachers. The draft bill would encourage career growth paths for teachers, and alternative teaching certification routes for professionals and members of the military.

IMPROVING STEM TEACHING AND LEARNING: The draft bill would require coordination between the Secretary of Education and the Director of NSF on their respective Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) programs, and require that partnerships supported by the Education Department MSP program be based on scientifically valid research or modeled after successful programs supported by NSF.  It would authorize regional John Glenn Academies to provide summer workshops and year-long fellowships for STEM teachers.  It would also reauthorize the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which encourages equitable access to high quality instruction and encourages the more active participation of young women and minorities in science and mathematics.

Miller closed his July 30 speech with the following comment: “I am as excited and hopeful today as I have ever been at any time in the more than 30 years that I have served in Congress about the prospects for finally realizing the vision of excellent educational opportunities for all children in America.”

STEM EDUCATION COALITION LETTER ON SCIENCE IN AYP:  The American Institute of Physics, the Acoustical Society of America, and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine were signatories to a June 28 letter sent to Miller and McKeon by the STEM Education Coalition, requesting that the NCLB reauthorization legislation include science test results in AYP to “provide educators and administrators a valuable tool in determining and measuring the effectiveness of instruction that students are provided.”  “Given the nature of science instruction,” the letter continued, “we also urge you to consider language that would encourage states to adopt flexibility in how to assess student performance, skill, and knowledge in the sciences.  These include written assessments, performance based testing, project-based work, and portfolio projects.”  The full text of the letter can be viewed at  As indicated above, the draft would allow, but not require, states to use science in their AYP calculations.


(2) Miller-McKeon Discussion Draft (No Child Left Behind)–Your Input is Requested


[As presented above,] Representatives George Miller, and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Chairman and Senior Republican of the Committee on Education and Labor, and Representatives Dale E. Kildee and Michael N. Castle, Chairman and Senior Republican of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee recently released a staff discussion draft of remaining titles for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This follows the release of a staff discussion draft of Title I on August 27 (, which was accompanied by a letter requesting input from educators. The Committee welcomes and encourages comments on this discussion draft. Please send any comments on the remaining titles by September 14, 2007 to

A summary of the draft of Titles II-XI is available at

The summary of portions of Title II appears immediately below:

Title II – Teacher Excellence for All Children (TEACH)

Part A – Improving Teacher and Principal Quality

Performance Pay (from TEACH Act)

This section provides funding for high-need school districts that choose to apply for performance pay bonuses of up to $10,000 for outstanding teachers (and of up to $12,500 for teachers of math, science, special education and other shortage subjects) and annual bonuses of up to $15,000 to outstanding principals who transfer into the hardest-to-staff schools for four years. The evaluation criteria must be developed in collaboration with local teacher unions and based on multiple measures of success including student learning gains, principal evaluations, and master teacher evaluations, based on objective criteria. School districts applying for these funds must provide matching funds and demonstrate that they will improve their school working conditions and teacher hiring timelines.

Career Ladders for Teachers Program (from TEACH Act)

This section establishes competitive grants for high-need school districts to establish career ladder programs that increase salaries for those teachers who expand their knowledge and skills and take on additional responsibilities or leadership roles within the school. Teachers who serve as master teachers as part of a state-of-the-art induction program can receive up to $10,000 annually while mentor teachers can receive up to $5,000 annually. Annual bonuses of up to $4,000 will also be available for all career, mentor and master teachers and will be based on a combination of classroom observations and student academic growth at the classroom and school level. The grants will also fund up to $4,000 in annual bonuses to principals of schools that demonstrate school-wide student achievement gains.

Teacher Residency Program Grants

This section establishes competitive grants for high-need school districts to create teacher residency programs based on a proven model in which a prospective teachers work alongside mentor teachers for an academic year. Prospective teachers must be enrolled in an institution of higher education and receive coursework and instruction in the content area they plan to teach as well as pedagogy and classroom management. Participating prospective teachers commit to teach in a high-need school district for a period of 5 years.

Study on Developing a Portable Performance-Based Teacher Assessment 

(from TEACH Act)

This section requires the Secretary to study the correlation between teacher certification and licensure on other measures of teacher effectiveness while assessing whether current tests of pedagogy are reflective of the latest research. The Secretary will then make a grant to a partnership of an independent professional organization and an organization that represents state educational agencies to model a performance-based assessment that accurately evaluates teaching skills and allow the portability of credentials between states.

Improving Professional Development Opportunities (from TEACH Act)

This section establishes competitive grants for teacher centers based on proven models that provide teachers with high quality professional development, information on developments in curricula, assessments and educational research, and training for new teachers. Center activities include providing mentor support and training in classroom management strategies…

Part C – Partnerships for Math and Science Teacher Quality Improvement

Grants for Mathematics and Science Partnerships

This section provides funding to states to help them improve the academic achievement of students in math and science by helping institutions of higher education improve the education of math and science teachers; by bringing math and science teachers in elementary and secondary school together with scientists and engineers to increase their subject matter knowledge and teaching skills though the use of sophisticated laboratory equipment and computing facilities; to develop more rigorous math and science curricula; and to improve the training of math and science teachers, including training in the integration of technology into curricula. Authorized activities include the establishment of summer workshops or institutes for math and science teachers and the establishment of distance learning programs. This section requires coordination with the Director of the National Science Foundation on the conduct of summer workshops and the dissemination of information on model programs.

Part D – Math Success for All

Mathematics Success

Combines the Math NOW and Math Skills program currently authorized through the

COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69) into a single grant program.  Math Success for All provides grants to local educational agencies to provide targeted help to low-income students in kindergarten through secondary school who are struggling with mathematics and whose achievement is significantly below grade level.  In addition, grants may be used to provide in-service training for mathematics coaches who can assist elementary and secondary school teachers to utilize research-based mathematics instruction to develop and improve students’ mathematical abilities and knowledge, and assist teachers in assessing and improving student academic achievement…


(3) “Math is More” Forum now Available


Last week’s issue of COMET included information about “Math is More.” This week, the Math is More Team announced a new Web design, as well as a new forum:

“The purpose of the forum is to begin a conversation on the various ways Math is More can achieve its mission of improving U.S. Mathematics Education.  You will note that the forum is divided into eleven sub-forums, one for each of the 10 planks and one for a more general discussion.  You will also find an updated web site with a new home page. We plan several new features in the coming weeks.   But for now, you are welcome to visit us again on and join the conversation.”


(4) NASA Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber


Plant growth will be an important part of space exploration in the future as NASA plans for long-duration missions to the moon. NASA scientists anticipate that astronauts may be able to grow plants on the moon, and the plants could be used to supplement meals.

In anticipation of the need for research into lunar plant growth, NASA and the International Technology Education Association, or ITEA, present the NASA Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber for the 2007-2008 school year. Elementary, middle and high school students design, build and evaluate lunar plant growth chambers — while engaging in research- and standards-based learning experiences. Students participate in the engineering design process and learn how to conduct a scientific experiment.

Choose from three ways to participate in the challenge:

1. Design, Build and Evaluate a Chamber

2. Design and Evaluate a Chamber

3. Evaluate a Chamber

Educators who complete the challenge with their students can request cinnamon basil seeds that have flown in space on the STS-118 space shuttle mission. Students can compare plants grown from both space-flown and Earth-based control seeds, and test the designs of the lunar plant growth chambers. The seeds will be available to the first 100,000 registrants who must be residents of the United States, U.S. Territories and Outlying Areas.  Register early and check the above Web page often!


(1) 2008 NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition–Call for Volunteers

Source:  Diana Suddreth, Utah State Office of Education – (801) 538-7794,

The 2008 NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on April 9-12. Registration and Housing information will be available in November, but volunteers are being recruited now! Please visit for more information and to volunteer.

[from] The conference’s opening session will feature Malcolm Gladwell, author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Tipping Point and Blink.  Currently a staff writer for The New Yorker, Gladwell’s idea-driven narratives focus on the everyday and combine research and material that is more personal, social, and historical.

The closing session will feature Billy Mills. Born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Billy Mills was orphaned by the age of 12 and sent to boarding schools. He became involved in distance running and earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Kansas. Upon graduating, Billy was commissioned as an officer in the United States Marine Corps and continued to train for the Olympic Team. He made the Olympic Team in two events, the marathon and the 10,000 meter run; he had trained his body, mind, and soul for “Peak Performance.” Today, Billy is an accomplished businessman, author, and national spokesperson for Christian Relief Services, raising more than 500 million dollars for charities worldwide.


(2) Call for Conference Proposals: Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education

Source/Contact: Chris Rasmussen – San Diego State University – (619) 594-7241 (

The Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education (SIGMAA on RUME) is a professional organization with over 600 members. “The purpose of the group is to foster research on learning and teaching undergraduate mathematics and to provide a support network for those who participate in this area of research” (

SIGMAA on RUME presents its eleventh Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education from February 28 – March 2, 2008 in San Diego, CA.

This conference is a forum for researchers in collegiate mathematics education and includes the following themes: results of current research, contemporary theoretical perspectives and research paradigms, and innovative methodologies and analytical approaches as they pertain to the study of undergraduate mathematics.

Proposals are due November 5, 2007. For more information please visit the conference website at

Confirmed plenary speakers include the following:

John Mason, The Open University

Judith Grabiner, Pitzer College

David Hammer, University of Maryland

Anna Sierpinska, Concordia University

There will also be a special Panel on Doctoral Programs in Mathematics

Education with the following panelists:

Shandy Hauk, University of Northern Colorado

Karen King, New York University

Joanne Lobato, San Diego State University

Karen Marrongelle, Portland State University

Keith Weber, Rutgers University