COMET • Vol. 8, No. 29 – 11 November 2007


(1) State Board of Education Approves Mathematics Programs

Source: California Department of Education

The California State Board of Education took action at its November 8 meeting to determine which of the mathematics instructional materials submitted for state adoption would be approved. A chart listing the newly-adopted mathematics programs (and also those not selected for adoption) is available at the above Web site. Materials are grouped according to the following three program types: Basic Grade-Level (K-8), Intervention, and Algebra Readiness.

A publisher bulletin and post-adoption timeline are available at  According to the timeline, newly-adopted materials should be added to the online price list ( in December and January.


(2) “Organization uses Innovative Methods to Reach At-Risk Students” by Pat Sherman

Source: San Diego Union Tribune – 9 November 2007
URL: tes.html

Although bureaucrats often eye arts programs first when trimming public education budgets, Merryl Goldberg believes the arts can save at-risk students from falling through the cracks by helping them improve their communication, critical thinking and life skills.

The Cal State San Marcos professor is so dedicated to her belief that in 2003, she formed Center Artes. The organization helps teach history, language arts, science and math to at-risk students by using art and theater projects. Center Artes educators work with North County middle and high school students enrolled in Advancement Via Individual Determination [AVID], a program for at-risk students.

“When we integrate the arts or teach something through the arts, we hear from a lot of teachers [that]… students who were underperforming are doing so much better,” Goldberg said. “What it tells me is that those students weren’t necessarily underperforming or low achievers; it’s just that now they have this other way to express themselves.”
Last month, Goldberg’s San Marcos-based organization received a $9,600 grant from the California Arts Council. The funding will allow Center Artes to visit additional middle schools in San Marcos and Vista and work with as many as 900 students. It currently sees between 300 and 500.

Middle school is considered a turning point, beyond which it becomes increasingly difficult to alter an at-risk student’s educational trajectory.

“Some of the middle school principals are concerned that if we don’t catch kids in the sixth grade, they have a lot higher chance of falling out of school,” Goldberg said. “Sixth grade seems to be a real key place”…

“A lot of schooling these days is so much about rote learning,” Goldberg said. “These kinds of skills, learning to communicate and think critically, you can’t learn by rote.”

Incorporating the arts into lessons also allows teachers to view their students in a different light, Goldberg said. She recalled working with a San Marcos elementary school student who had been branded a class bully. His evocative poem about wanting to soar like an eagle changed her perception of him.

“It has broadened teachers’ notions about who their kids are,” Goldberg said. “They see kids succeed who haven’t been succeeding, (but) they also see kids who have been succeeding maybe doing things in a way that they’ve never seen before–both academically and interpersonally”…


(1) “No Child [Left Behind] Education Law Not Coming up for Consideration in Senate This Year”by Nancy Zuckerbrod

Source: The Associated Press – 3 November 2007

The top two lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee said [on November 2 that] they are putting off consideration of a new No Child Left Behind law until next year.

Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., have decided that there’s not enough time this year to complete work on the legislation, which has not yet been formally introduced.

The five-year-old law, up for a scheduled rewrite, requires math and reading tests in grades three through eight, and once in high school. Schools that miss testing benchmarks face increasingly stiff sanctions. The law, originally passed in 2001, is among President Bush’s top domestic policy priorities.

Kennedy, the panel’s chairman, had previously said he wanted a bill before the Senate this year. He now is aiming, however, to bring a bill up for consideration early next year, said his spokeswoman, Melissa Wagoner.

“We have additional work to do on key issues, but are confident that we can put forth a responsible package for consideration early in the new year that will enjoy strong support of the Senate,” Wagoner said…

“No Child Left Behind is important to our children’s future. We will not and cannot rush it,” Enzi said in a statement. “Sen. Kennedy and I have agreed that our goal must be to produce solid legislation – not to meet an arbitrary deadline.”

House lawmakers have not decided whether to keep trying to bring a bill to the floor in what little time is left in this calendar year. They, too, say time is running out.

“It is growing less likely that we will get a bill off the House floor in 2007,” said Tom Kiley, a spokesman for Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House education committee. “We continue to work hard on the bill. Discussions with Republicans and education organizations continue.”

Lawmakers in both parties–along with the Bush administration–are pushing for important revisions to the law. If the law isn’t revised by Congress, the existing law stands.

There is broad agreement that the law should be changed to encourage schools to measure individual student progress over time instead of using snapshot comparisons of certain grade levels.

There is consensus, as well, that the law should be changed so that schools that miss progress goals by a little don’t face the same consequences as schools that miss them by a lot.

Deep divisions remain over some proposed changes, including merit pay for teachers and whether schools should be judged based on test scores in subjects other than reading and math.


(2) “Alexander NCLB Bill Offers Pilot Project on Flexibility” by David J. Hoff

Source: Education Week – 8 November 2007

A leading Republican has introduced a bill to create a pilot project to give states greater flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act, even though it has become clear that the Senate won’t pass a bill to reauthorize the law this year.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee proposed giving 12 states wide latitude in devising accountability systems and intervening in schools that fail to meet their NCLB achievement goals. In exchange, the states would agree to increase the rigor of their subject-matter standards.

“In other words, instead of saying: ‘Do it exactly this way’ to the states,” Sen. Alexander said on the Senate floor when introducing the bill Nov. 6, “the federal government would be saying: ‘Give us results, and we will give you more flexibility.’ “

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings promptly announced her support for the plan offered by Sen. Alexander, who was education secretary under President George H.W. Bush and is the senior Republican on the Children and Families Subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

“This legislation is a reasonable and responsible step forward as Congress moves toward reauthorizing No Child Left Behind,” Secretary Spellings said in a Nov. 6 statement…

Sen. Alexander’s bill seeks to respond to criticisms that the NCLB law is too prescriptive, while also maintaining the law’s goal of improving student achievement.

To participate in the pilot program, a state would have to agree to make its standards more challenging than they are now. To qualify, the state would need to align its standards to national and international exams, or to the admissions requirements of its public universities.

After doing so, the state would be allowed to define what it would take for schools to achieve adequate yearly progress, and how the state would intervene in schools that failed to meet AYP goals.


Related article:

“No Quick Fixes to ‘Poverty Gap’ Under NCLB”


(3) No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Articles in U.S. News and World Report


The November 2 issue of U.S. News and World Report contained a number of articles on No Child Left Behind that may be of interest to COMET readers. Listed below are the titles and links to these articles:

— “Room to Improve [No Child Left Behind]” html

— “Failing Schools are Hard to Fix”

— “For Talented Students, Challenges to Grow” tml?s_cid=related-links:TOP

— “One Standard Fits All”


(4) “Study Questions U.S. Shortfall in Math, Science” by Sheila Riley

Source: EE Times – 6 November 2007

It’s been said often [that] uninterested U.S. students aren’t keeping up in science, technology, engineering and math, ultimately leading to a decline in skilled workers and U.S. competitiveness.

But new research contradicts the conventional wisdom, asserting that U.S. students are doing well compared to their foreign counterparts. Moreover, the U.S. is educating a sufficient number of scientists and engineers to maintain its current global competitiveness, according to an Urban Institute report.

International test rankings for U.S. students are often cited as evidence of national math and science weakness, and these data inform national educational policy. But the tests themselves are flawed, said Hal Salzman, senior research associate at the Washington-based organization and co-author of the report.

U.S. students have taken more math, science and foreign language courses over the past ten years than in previous decades, the study found. In 1990, only 45 percent of high school students took chemistry. By 2004, the percentage had risen to 60 percent.

The proportion that hit the math books for three years jumped from 49 percent in 1990 to 72 percent in 2004, while those taking math for four years increased from 29 percent to 50 percent.

SAT math and science scores showed similar gains, according to the Institute’s report, “Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand.”

But the skills that testing evaluates may not be the ones needed for innovation in a global economy. “Japan, Singapore and [South] Korea do have the kind of education that leads to [better] test performance, but does that lead to more innovation, better jobs and a better economy?” Salzman asked.

For example, Singapore is promoting a national “creativity initiative” because the Asian city-state’s leaders realize the need to de-emphasize its narrow educational approach, Salzman said. But for now, he added, it makes little sense to compare math and science scores in tiny Singapore with the sprawling U.S.

Indian policy makers have argued against connecting overall educational success to economic performance. The study notes that the Indian subcontinent has a 39-percent illiteracy rate and high school enrollment of under 50 percent. It owes it success to a small percentage of its citizens, Salzman said. “The use of average rates across a diverse group of nations and diverse populations is of limited use in drawing conclusions about global standing economically or educationally,” the report concluded.

There is support for the criticism of testing methods, even from those who disagree with the study’s conclusions. “When you’re testing a broader selection, it’s going to put the U.S. at a disadvantage,” said George Haley, director for the Center for International Industry Competitiveness at the University of New Haven.

Lower-performing students reduce the U.S. average. In other countries, they wouldn’t even be eligible to take the tests, Haley said.

But Haley takes issue with the study’s broader conclusion that the U.S. isn’t falling behind in math and science education. Other recent studies show that the very top percentage of U.S. students is beginning to drop in comparison to students from other countries, he said.

“The problem arises with the comparison of our top-performing students to those in other countries,” Haley said.

There’s another element to consider in the education debate: the nature of U.S. society. “The U.S. stands alone in having more challenges to its educational system than any of the advanced industrial countries,” Salzman said.

For one thing, there’s a stronger relationship between a school’s economic situation and its success, or what some have called the “zip code determines education quality” phenomenon. Other countries do a better job of compensating within a school system for students’ disadvantages, according to Salzman.

“This is what tends to get lost” in the debate, he said.

The report also questions whether there is indeed a shortage of U.S. engineering graduates. “The standard labor market indicators do not indicate a shortage,” Salzman asserted, adding that a shortage would result in lower unemployment for engineers and rapidly increasing wages, similar to what occurred during the dot-com era, he said.

The U.S. science and engineering workforce currently stands at 4.8 million, according to the study.

>From 1993 to 2002, U.S. colleges awarded some 380,000 science and engineering bachelor’s degrees, over 70,000 master’s degrees and, on average, nearly 20,000 engineering doctorates.

“Rather than a supply problem, we probably have a demand problem,” Salzman said Tuesday (Nov. 6).

The math and science backgrounds of foreign and U.S. students appear similar, at least at one top U.S. engineering school. While acknowledging that his students may not represent a true cross section of a typical U.S. high school, Joe Helble, dean of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, said he sees surprising uniformity.

“When I look at incoming graduate students at Dartmouth and I compare the ones who are U.S.-educated and those [educated overseas], I don’t see huge differences,” he said.

What Helble sees “are differences in creativity. I would say that the U.S. students are among the most creative and innovative.”

Although some Asian students may have better raw quantitative skills, that doesn’t necessarily make them better engineers or scientists, Helble said. “You have to look at their ability to tackle a problem without a clear solution.”

Some Dartmouth engineering grads end up in other fields, including financial services and investment jobs where they are valued for their ability to think quantitatively and analyze technologies, the Dartmouth dean noted.


(5) 11 Year-Old is “America’s Top Young Scientist”

Out of an original field of more than 79,000 middle school students across the United States, 11 year-old Erik Gustafson from Cortland, NY, was chosen on October 24 as “America’s Top Young Scientist of the Year” by a panel of judges at the 9th annual Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge (DCYSC).
Gustafson, the youngest student to win this title, was also the youngest student in this year’s competition. He was selected as the grand prize winner from an elite group of forty of the top young scientists in the nation and was awarded a $20,000 college scholarship. In addition to showing exemplary science communication skills at the Challenge, Erik completed an innovative research project closely related to this year’s green theme, tracking the pH level in the stream behind his house and the effect of rainfall in increasing the acidity of the water.
The second-place winner in the competition was 14 year-old Katherine Strube of Glendale, Missouri, and the third place winner was 14 year-old Ambrose Soehn of Boulder, Colorado. The best team in the competition, composed of Shalom Rottman-Yang (TN), Samantha Gonzalez (TX), Alyssa Chan (CA), Ambrose Soehn (CO), and Rick Schaffer (FL), won a research trip to Grand Teton National Park
In addition, Erik Gustafson, Brandon Shih (NY), Alyssa Chan, and Catherine Haber (CA) will participate in an upcoming episode of the Discovery Channel’s hit programMythbusters with hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.
“These are tremendously bright and talented students,” said Head Judge Steven Jacobs. “They undertook experiments in the past few days to address some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our day–from using alternative energies for transportation to mitigating global warming.  I hope they continue to pursue their love of science and look forward to hearing about their successes in the future.”
The DCYSC is the nation’s premier science contest for students in grades 5-8. Created by Discovery Communications and Science Service, DCYSC provides students with the opportunity to not only test their knowledge and push their limits as they explore the world of science, but the competition encourages them to be able to be great science communicators and share what they know with others, a core objective of Discovery’s efforts.
The theme of this year’s DCYSC, “Operation Green” presented the 40 students with a series of environmentally themed challenges, each requiring the young scientists to rely on their broad range of scientific knowledge in order to explore and understand today’s climate issues. The students worked on a wide range of experiments to test their science skills, from powering a car with alternative energy to solving America’s trash problem.
The 40 finalists, and contenders for the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist,” hailed from 22 states. The top states represented were California, Florida, and Texas with 5 finalists each, followed by Arizona (3). States that sent two finalists to this year’s challenge were Illinois, New York, Oregon, and Texas. Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington each sent a representative to the competition. The finalists were chosen based on their written essays about science fair projects that each had presented at their local science fairs across the country.
During the DCYSC finals, the finalists presented their research to judges and the public, using their communication skills and creative thinking as science communicators to explain the complexities of their research. The full list of 40 finalists, their hometowns and schools and the titles of their winning entries can be found at: 
More information about the Discovery Channel Young Scientist’s Challenge can be found in the School Resources section of Discovery Education’s website: 

Discovery Communications, Inc. is the number-one nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 170 countries. Through TV and digital media, Discovery’s 100-plus worldwide networks include Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, The Science Channel, Discovery Health and HD Theater. For more information please visit

Science Service is the non-profit organization that administers the DCYSC. Based in Washington, DC, Science Service is dedicated to advancing the understanding and appreciation of science around the globe through its publications, outreach, and educational programs. A leading and widely respected organization advancing the cause of science, Science Service has a sterling reputation for producing high-quality competitions on the national and international level, including the Intel Science Talent Search and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Science Service also publishes Science News magazine, reaching over 1 million readers weekly, as well as the online, interactive Science News for Kids ( For more information about Science Service, its programs, and publications, please



Conference Announcement: “Models in Developing Mathematics Education”

Source: Alan Rogerson –

The Mathematics Education into the 21st Century Project and the University of Applied Sciences in Dresden announce the 10th International Conference, “Models in Developing Mathematics Education,” to be held 11-17 September 2009 in Dresden, Saxony, Germany in full cooperation with the Saxony Ministry of Education.

The international organizers are Dr. Alan Rogerson, Coordinator of the Mathematics in Society Project (Poland) and Prof. Fayez Mina, Faculty of Education, Ain Shams University (Egypt). The chair of the Local Organizing Committee is Prof. Dr. Ludwig Paditz of the Dresden University of Applied Sciences.

You are warmly invited to attend and present a paper at this conference in the heart of the historic the beautiful city of Dresden.  A link to the conference flyer containing this information is available for download at
For all further conference details and updates, please email Alan Rogerson: