COMET • Vol. 8, No. 23 – 27 September 2007

Source: California Department of Education

The California Department of Education is sponsoring an Achievement Gap Summit on November 13-14 at the Sacramento Convention Center. This summit will bring together educators from across the state to address a major crisis facing public schools in California and throughout the nation: the systemic gap between our highest- and lowest-performing students. In an effort to narrow this achievement gap, teachers, administrators, policymakers, and others are invited to hear from experts as well as to propose workable solutions for improving academic achievement for all students. This issue is a critical one for Californians. Please join us in this coordinated effort to improve student achievement at all levels and eliminate the achievement gap. (Visit the above Web site for details concerning the summit, including speaker and registration information.)

Keynote speakers include Chester Finn, Jr., Nicolina Hernández, Edward James Olmos, Douglas Reeves, Richard Rothstein, and Tavis Smiley. (See for speaker information.)

Featured speakers include Russlynn Ali, Michael Cohen, Linda Darling-Hammond, Jeannie Oakes, and many other educational leaders (see

For additional information about the achievement gap or to view Jack O’Connell’s State of Education Address, please visit


(1) New Research Indicates Kansas and Missouri Students and Parents Get the Importance of Math, Science and Technology Education Generally, but Not for Themselves URL (Public Agenda):

URL (Report): ot_for_me.pdf
URL (NSTA Press Release–below):

While leaders and experts across the country agree that schools must do more to ensure that students have strong skills in science, math, and technology, Kansas and Missouri parents and students surveyed for Public Agenda’s latest report said that these skills were crucial–but not for their own lives.

According to the report–titled Important, But Not for Me: Kansas and Missouri Students and Parents Talk About Math, Science and Technology Education–only 25% of Missouri and Kansas parents believe their children should study more science and math, and 70% said things “are fine as they are now.” The report points out that many parents’ general satisfaction with the curriculum and with the efforts of their children’s teachers underlies their feeling that improvements in science and math education are not urgently needed. Parents also tend to view the curriculum their children are studying to be much harder than what they were taught, causing them to think that their children are on track for the future.

The study shows that parents and students know that the nation’s standings in science, math, and technology education have slipped below those of other countries, and they are aware that students who succeed in advanced courses in these subjects can expect a bright future. But most of those surveyed said that they consider those subjects irrelevant to their personal interests and goals and seemed unaware that many future jobs will require significant understanding of math, science, and technology (MST). One student remarked that “science doesn’t matter unless you want to become a doctor or something like that,” for example.

Just 23% of parents and 24% of students surveyed said understanding of advanced sciences like physics is essential. Comprehension of calculus and other advanced math topics fared little better, with only the same percentage of parents and 26% of students considering it essential. In contrast, 92% of parents and 83% of students said basic reading and writing are “absolutely essential,” and 91% of parents and 79% of students said the same of basic math skills.

“Students would not be motivated to take MST courses by abstract notions of international competitiveness, but could be convinced to take higher-level classes if they believed they were essential for the career and college opportunities to which they aspire,” said Jean Johnson, Public Agenda’s executive vice president and director of its Education Insights division…

The report is part of a three-year public engagement project on science, math, and technology education conducted by Public Agenda, a nonprofit opinion research organization, and funded by The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Public Agenda based its findings on focus groups with parents, teachers, and students in the Kansas City region; interviews with local education, business, and community leaders; and phone interviews with a random sample of 1,472 parents of children in grades 6-12 in Kansas and Missouri public schools and 1,295 public school students in the same grade band.

The complete text of the report is available at the above Web site.


(2) Commerce Department Holds Summit on American Competitiveness

Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Legislative Update – 24 September 2007

On September 18, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and the Commerce Department hosted a National Summit on American Competitiveness at the Reagan Center Amphitheater in Washington, DC. The Summit was designed to convene the nation’s premier leaders of business, government, academia, and research to address the four key economic drivers behind economic leadership and competitiveness in the 21st Century: the role of the private sector; education and workforce issues; energy independence; and partnerships in innovation. Each of these drivers was addressed by separate panels of both government and private sector experts.

Panelist Dr. Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel, discussed the importance of U.S. educational organizations partnering with private industries both in the United States and worldwide as a way to maintain and increase American competitiveness. According to Dr. Barrett, the country also needs to focus on the improvement of American education, specifically in mathematics and science…

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings called for more feedback on federal education programs in an effort to ensure that proper progress is made in improving these programs and their results. Dr. Barrett supplemented Secretary Spellings’ remarks and called for an increased investment in education and support for innovation in the workforce. These factors, according to Barrett, will greatly improve U.S. competitiveness in the worldwide arena. Secretary Gutierrez delivered closing remarks expressing strong support for continued investment into education, specifically science and mathematics, and making these fields more appealing to American students in an effort to increase competitiveness and success.

For more information, visit


On June 21, 2007, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), along with the U.S. Senate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Caucus, hosted a Congressional Briefing on “Preparing STEM Teachers: The Key to Global Competitiveness” in Washington D.C.

Valdine McLean (NV) and Lisa M. Suarez-Carabello (OH), two exemplary secondary STEM teachers, shared their successes in the classroom and provided recommendations to policymakers on how to address the critical shortage of effective STEM teachers. Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University provided an overview of how other nations invest in the preparation of their STEM teachers in order to sustain a competitive economy. Her talk is available at  Robin Willner of IBM provided an business perspective on the critical need for effective STEM teachers to educate the nation’s future workforce.

Speaker testimonies are available at  Speaker biographies are available at  

AACTE released a publication, “Preparing STEM Teachers: The Key to Global Competitiveness,” which highlights 50 teacher preparation programs across the country dedicated to increasing the number of effective K-12 STEM educators. (Programs from the following California universities are highlighted: Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, CSU-Fullerton, San Jose State University, Sonoma State University, the University of San Diego, and the University of Southern California.)

The volume is available at pdf  An excerpt appears below:

“Well-known shortages of qualified math and science teachers continue to exist in most states and districts across the country. Thus, unprepared teachers are assigned to teach math or science ‘out of field,’ although research shows that students learn more from mathematics and science teachers who studied teaching methods in the subject they teach than from those who did not.  In 2002, between 17 and 28% of public high school science teachers (depending on their field) and 20% of math teachers lacked full certification in their teaching field, and the problem was proportionally higher for middle grades. In addition, the annual turnover rates of both math and science teachers (16%) are the highest of all fields…

“Schools, colleges, and departments of education are very much aware of these challenges and are rising to the occasion to produce more and better teachers in the STEM fields. AACTE is proud to present this volume of concrete examples of the ongoing efforts of 50 schools of education across the nation that are addressing these critical needs. As the profiles illustrate, a variety of efforts are under way; one single model does not prevail. However, it appears that a greater emphasis on STEM content knowledge–increasingly involving partnerships between education schools and schools of arts and sciences–is stimulating a transformation in many teacher preparation programs. Further, it is clear that enhanced and extended clinical experience in diverse classrooms is a key component of most of the STEM teacher education efforts…”


(4) Summary of NAEP Results for Mathematics and Reading

Source: IES Newsflash – 25 September 2007

“The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2007” and “The Nation’s Report Card: Mathematics 2007” report national and state-level performance of fourth- and eighth-graders in these two subject matter areas. National data are compared to previous assessment results from 2005 for both subjects and from 1992 in reading and 1990 in mathematics.

Findings from 2007 include the following:

(a) Mathematics:

*  Fourth- and eighth-graders scored higher than in all previous assessment years.
*  White, Black, and Hispanic students at both grades (4th and 8th) demonstrated a better understanding of mathematics compared to all previous assessment years.
*  The White-Black score gap narrowed at grade four when compared to 1990 and at grade 8 when compared to 2005.
*  Fifteen states (14 states and Washington, DC) improved at both grades, with fourth-graders in an additional eight states, and eighth-graders in 11 states scoring higher.
* Although both males and females showed increases in 2007, male students scored 2 points higher on average than their female counterparts. The gap between the two groups in 2007 was not significantly different from the gaps in 2005 or 1990. Differences in performance between male and female students in 2007 varied somewhat when examined by content area. Male students scored slightly higher on average than female students in Number Properties and Operations, Measurement, Data Analysis and Probability, and Algebra. Females scored slightly higher than males on Geometry.

(b) Reading:

*  Fourth-graders scored higher than in all previous assessment years.

*  Eighth-graders scored higher than in 2005 and 1992.
*  At both grades, White, Black, and Hispanic students all scored higher than in 1992. However, only the White-Black gap at fourth-grade was smaller compared to 2005 and 1992.
*  Four states had higher scores at both grades, with 14 additional states improving in just fourth grade and two states scoring higher in just eighth grade. Two states had lower scores at grade 8 than in 2005.
* Patterns in improvement for male and female students varied by grade. Scores for both male and female students increased since 2005 at grade 4, but not at grade 8. In 2007, female students scored 7 points higher than male students at grade 4 and 10 points higher at grade 8. These gender score gaps were not significantly different from the gaps seen 15 years ago.

For complete results and to download the report or view the press release held on September 25, visit   Direct links to the two Report Cards are available below:

“The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2007”:

“The Nation’s Report Card: Mathematics 2007”:


Related link (comment on California NAEP scores):


(5) Interpreting 12th-Graders’ NAEP-Scaled Mathematics Performance Using High School Predictors and Postsecondary Outcomes From the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) Statistical Analysis Report

Source: National Center for Education Statistics – September 2007
URL (Report):

[From the Executive Summary] The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)–the Nation’s Report Card–is the best known measure of student achievement in the country. Yet interpreting in practical terms what attaining a particular score or achievement level on NAEP means can be difficult, if not controversial…

Recently, the search for an understandable reporting format has led the National Assessment Governing Board to explore the possibility of measuring and interpreting student performance on the 12th-grade NAEP in terms of readiness for college, the workplace, and the military… As Porter writes (2004, p. 4), “National 12th-grade NAEP reports percentages of United States 12th-graders that are advanced or proficient, but advanced and proficient are abstract ideas. Perhaps a more powerful 12th-grade NAEP indicator would be to know the extent to which high school seniors are ready for college.” Yet validating a NAEP college or labor market readiness measure requires information about post-high school outcomes that are not available in NAEP and that only a longitudinal study could supply.

Thus, this report attempts to explore the meaning and utility of the NAEP achievement levels in a new way. It interprets 12th-grade NAEP-scaled mathematics performance using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88). NELS:88 followed a cohort of spring 1988 8th-graders through high school and thereafter until 2000 (when they were about 26 years old). The 1992 round of data collection included a battery of achievement tests.

Results include a NELS:88 12th-grade mathematics score expressed on the NAEP scale. NELS:88 student and parent survey data, as well as data both from high school and postsecondary transcripts, are used to explore what achievement on the NAEP mathematics scale might mean relative to both student, family, and high school factors as well as later education outcomes–in particular, postsecondary access and attainment…

[Sample findings follow below.]

12th-Grade NELS:88 NAEP-Scaled Mathematics Performance and Predicted Postsecondary Outcomes

This report explored the relationship between NELS:88 NAEP-scaled mathematics performance and four postsecondary education outcomes–postsecondary attendance by 1994 (2 years after seniors’ scheduled high school graduation), highest degree attained by 2000 (8 years after seniors’ scheduled high school graduation), number of remedial mathematics courses taken in postsecondary school, and selectivity of first postsecondary school attended. Concerning postsecondary attendance by 1994, findings were as follows:

* For those with NAEP-scaled performance at less than Basic, some 46 percent had had no postsecondary attendance 2 years later. In contrast, 2 percent of those who scored at Advanced and 5 percent of those at the Proficient level registered no postsecondary enrollment. Some 98 percent of those who scored at Advanced had entered a postsecondary institution; indeed, for the Advanced group, 94 percent had enrolled in a 4- year postsecondary institution within 2 years of senior year (and 4 percent in a 2-year institution). About 84 percent of those at the Proficient level recorded 4-year postsecondary attendance.

With respect to baccalaureate attainment by 2000, the findings were as follows:
* Over 91 percent of NELS:88 seniors at the Advanced level for NAEP-scaled mathematics performance had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 18 percent of the below-Basic group, 50 percent of those at Basic, and 79 percent of those at the Proficient level.

With respect to selectivity of institution first attended, findings showed the following:

*  Of those examinees who scored at the NAEP Advanced mathematics level in NELS:88 in 1992, 72 percent had enrolled (by 1994) in either highly selective (32 percent) or selective (40 percent) postsecondary institutions. Of those who scored at below Basic or Basic, about 1 percent of each of these two groups enrolled in a highly selective institution, while 9 percent of those at the Proficient level did so…