COMET • Vol. 8, No. 06 – 24 February 2007


(1) Content Review Panel (CRP) Members are Still Being Sought: Application Deadline is March 6

Source: Charles Munger, Chair, Mathematics Subject Matter Committee, Curriculum Commission
Contact: Mary Sprague – – 916-319-0510

The Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission) continues to seek additional Content Review Panel (CRP) members for this year’s mathematics adoption. The deadline has been extended to noon on March 6, a critical deadline since approved names will be sent to the State Board of Education for consideration at the March 7-8 meeting (see the meeting agenda at IMAP (Instructional Materials Advisory Panel) and CRP training will be held on 26-29 March 2007.  CRP applicants must have an advanced degree in mathematics or a related field (e.g., physics or engineering). The application to serve on a CRP is available for download from the above Web site.

A list of those approved so far by the State Board of Education for service on an IMAP or CRP is available at



(1) “Math and Science Education: Critical Skills for the 21st Century”
 – Webcast now Available Source: U.S. Department of Education

URL (archived webcast):
URL (show details):

The webcast for the hour-long show, “Math and Science Education: Critical Skills for the 21st Century” is now available online at the above Web site (RealPlayer or Windows Media required to view). This episode of “Education News Parents Can Use” was first aired on February 20.

Guests include U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings; Dr. Larry Faulkner, Chair of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel; Kathy Cloninger, CEO of the Girl Scouts-USA; administrators and teachers from schools with at-risk populations; and other educators. The American Competitiveness Initiative and the goals of the National Math Panel are discussed.  Film clips from schools with highly effective mathematics and science programs that are helping all children to be successful in these subjects are a highlight of the program.

(2) President Bush Nominates Williamson (Bill) Evers as Education Assistant Secretary

Source: U.S. Department of Education

President George W. Bush has nominated Williamson Evers to serve in his Administration…[sending] the following nomination to the Senate [on February 8]:

“Williamson Evers, of California, to be Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Department of Education, vice Tom Luce, resigned.”

Evers has most recently served as a research fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Evers received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford.

[From 1996 to 1998, Evers served on the California State Commission for the Establishment of Academic Content and Performance Standards, during which time he was primarily involved in the development of the standards for mathematics and science.]


Related story:

“From ‘Math Wars’ to the Political Trenches?” by Alyson Klein and Sean Cavanagh
Source: Education Week – 21 February 2007

Williamson M. Evers, an advocate for providing students with a strong foundation in core math content in the early grades, has been tapped to fill a high-level federal policy position at a time when the Bush administration has put forward a number of proposals revamping math and science nationwide.

Mr. Evers would become the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, if confirmed by the Senate. He has been a research fellow since 1995 at the Hoover Institution, a conservative-leaning think tank at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. He’s also served as an education policy adviser in Iraq, and on both of President Bush’s presidential campaigns.

During the 1990s, Mr. Evers was a strong and frequent critic of what he and others described as weak and vague forms of instruction in math, which they believed emphasized conceptual understanding and overly abstract principles at the expense of students learning basic computation skills.

Mr. Evers participated in that debate, often referred to as the “math wars,” when he served on a California state commission charged by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, with establishing statewide academic standards.

Mr. Evers and others partly blamed what they viewed as substandard math curricula on the voluntary standards published in 1989 by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, a Reston, Va.-based organization whose work influenced curricula in states and districts. The NCTM has argued that its standards were aimed at helping students move beyond rote memorization and drills to learning to solve math problems in different settings and contexts…

President Bush’s nomination of Mr. Evers comes at a significant time for math and science instruction. The president has for the second straight year proposed a number of measures to improve math and science teaching and coursework. In addition, the administration last year formed the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, a 17-member group charged with identifying proven strategies for improving math instruction. The official who Mr. Evers is slated to replace, Mr. Luce, was a non-voting member of the panel and took an active role in its work…

Although Mr. Evers has primarily focused on studying curriculum, testing, and accountability issues, he has waded into other controversial areas of education policy. As a school board member for the 250,000-student Santa Clara County, Calif., school district in 2005, Mr. Evers supported a state ballot resolution that would have made it easier to terminate tenured teachers…

From July to December 2003, Mr. Evers served as a senior education adviser in Iraq, where he helped create a teacher-training program and oversee the development of new textbooks. Mr. Evers wrote in a Jan. 15, 2004, essay inThe Wall Street Journal that he was recruited by the White House and the secretary of defense’s office, and approved by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

In the essay, he wrote that “Iraqi children and grown-ups smile, always say ‘Welcome’ and wave” and that “Iraqi parents love standardized testing and were fervently concerned not to let either the war in March and April [2003], or the subsequent guerrilla skirmishes, interfere with the nationwide testing program.”

‘Very Demanding’

He was one of the 13 specialists on Mr. Bush’s education policy advisory committee during the 2000 presidential campaign, along with now-Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and her predecessor, Rod Paige. Mr. Evers also worked as an education adviser on the president’s 2004 re-election campaign, according to published reports.

Some who have dealt with Mr. Evers describe him as difficult to work with. Delaine Eastin, a Democrat, who as California superintendent of public instruction worked with Mr. Evers when he served on the state education standards panel, plans to write a letter urging the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to reject his nomination.

“He’s a my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy,” she said in an interview. “He was the kind of person that just interrupted people and tried to dominate the conversation.”

But Leslye A. Arsht, the deputy under secretary of defense for military community and family policy in the Department of Defense, offered another view.

“Bill has a very sharp mind, he is demanding, but he is a great colleague to work with,” said Ms. Arsht, who served alongside Mr. Evers in Iraq and helped facilitate some of the California commission’s discussions. She said that while the panel was “contentious at times,” its work resulted in standards that are “among the best in the country.”


(3) NAEP 2005 12th-Grade Reading and Mathematics Assessments and High School Transcript Study Results Just Released

Source: Institute of Education Sciences – 22 February 2007; California Department of Education Press Release
URL:  and

Results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2005 twelfth-grade reading and mathematics assessments and the 2005 NAEP High School Transcript Study (HSTS) were just released.

The twelfth-grade reading and mathematics report provides national results on the performance of America’s high school seniors on NAEP.

The Nation’s Report Card: America’s High School Graduates presents information about the types of courses 2005 high school graduates completed, how many credits they earned, and the grades they received.  Information on the relationships between high school academic records and performance on the NAEP mathematics and science assessments is also included.

Both reports examine results for student groups including race/ethnicity and gender.

Reading findings include:

*  Decline in scores and the percentages of students at or above Proficient and at or above Basic compared with 1992.  There have been no significant changes at these levels since 2002.

*  No significant change in the White-Black or White-Hispanic gap compared with previous years.

Mathematics findings include:

*  Sixty-one percent performed at or above Basic, and 23 percent were at or above Proficient.

*  NOTE: Due to changes to the framework for 2005, results can’t be compared to previous years.

High School Transcript Study findings include:

*  Graduates in 2005 completed more rigorous curricula than previous graduates.

*  The overall grade point average (GPA) has been climbing since 1990 and was 2.98 in 2005.

*  Graduates with stronger academic records obtain higher NAEP scores.

The full results are available at

To download, view and print the publications as PDF files, please visit: (Transcript Study)  (12th grade Reading and Math)

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell released the following statement:

“While the data released on this latest national assessment of high school seniors is not specific to California, the decline in reading scores and persistent achievement gaps it shows underscore two of my highest priorities for California schools. We must increase rigor for all students, particularly in our middle and high schools, and focus as never before on closing the achievement gaps that threaten the future of our state…

“Schools report their seniors are taking more rigorous courses and are getting better grades, yet the NAEP results indicate that there are persistent disparities in performance on these tests. I encourage districts to review these results and assure that they are offering enough sufficiently rigorous courses, and that the grades accurately reflect student performance.”


Related Story:

“Grades Rise, but Reading Skills Do Not” by Diana Jean Schemo

SourceNew York Times



(4) First Woman Receives Prestigious Turing Award

Source: Association for Computing Machinery – 21 February 2007

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, has named Frances E. Allen the recipient of the 2006 A.M. Turing Award for contributions that fundamentally improved the performance of computer programs in solving problems and accelerated the use of high performance computing.

This award marks the first time that a woman has received this honor. The Turing Award, first presented in 1966, and named for British mathematician Alan M. Turing, is widely considered the “Nobel Prize in Computing.” It carries a $100,000 prize, with financial support provided by Intel Corporation.

Allen, an IBM Fellow Emerita at the T.J. Watson Research Center, made fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of program optimization, which translates the users’ problem-solving language statements into more efficient sequences of computer instructions. Her contributions also greatly extended earlier work in automatic program parallelization, which enables programs to use multiple processors simultaneously in order to obtain faster results. These techniques have made it possible to achieve high performance from computers while programming them in languages suitable to applications. They have contributed to advances in the use of high performance computers for solving problems such as weather forecasting, DNA matching, and national security functions.

“Fran Allen’s work has led to remarkable advances in compiler design and machine architecture that are at the foundation of modern high-performance computing,” said Ruzena Bajcsy, Chair of ACM’s Turing Award Committee, and professor of Electrical and Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. “Her contributions have spanned most of the history of computer science, and have made possible computing techniques that we rely on today in business and technology. It is interesting to note Allen’s role in highly secret intelligence work on security codes for the organization now known as the National Security Agency, since it was Alan Turing, the namesake of this prestigious award, who devised techniques to help break the German codes during World War II,” said Bajcsy, who is Emeritus Director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) at Berkeley…

Allen joined IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center in 1957, to teach FORTRAN, a revolutionary high-level programming language, to the scientists at IBM. FORTRAN allowed scientists and engineers to write programs that closely resembled the mathematical formulas they normally relied on. Allen recognized the opportunity to address a grand challenge of high performance computers – delivering the performance potential of computers to solve problems without exposing the underlying computer infrastructure…

In 1989, Allen was the first woman to be named an IBM Fellow. In 2000, IBM created the Frances E. Allen Women in Technology Mentoring Award, naming her as its first recipient. As her Turing Award citation notes, she has been an inspirational mentor to younger researchers and a leader within the computing community. She is an Advisory Council Member of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, whose goal is to increase the participation of women in all aspects of technology…

ACM will present the Turing Award at the annual ACM Awards Banquet on June 9, 2007, in San Diego, CA.

About the ACM A.M. Turing Award 
The ACM A.M. Turing Award was named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing, and who was a key contributor to the Allied cryptanalysis of the German Enigma cipher during World War II. Since its inception, the Turing Award has honored the computer scientists and engineers who created the systems and underlying theoretical foundations that have propelled the information technology industry. For additional information, click on



(1) Third Annual Northern California Undergraduate Mathematics Conference

Source/Contact: Brigitte Lahme, Department of Mathematics, Sonoma State University,

Purpose: This is the annual conference for undergraduate mathematics students and faculty from Northern California and Southern Oregon. Undergraduate mathematics students present expository talks and original research.

Location: Darwin Hall, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California

Dates/Times: April 21, 2007; 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Key Speakers: Undergraduate mathematics students from Northern California and Southern Oregon. Student speaker registration deadline is March 30, 2007. Special keynote talk by Frank Farris, Santa Clara University on “Visual Geometry”

(2) Critical Issues in Education: Teaching Teachers Mathematics

: Deborah Ball (University of Michigan); Jim Lewis (University of Nebraska); Chair, Ruth Heaton (University of Nebraska)

Sponsor: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) – (Contact for more information)


Location: MSRI – Berkeley, CA;

Dates/Times:  May 30 – June 1, 2007

Audience: mathematicians, mathematics educators, classroom teachers and education researchers who are concerned with improving teachers’ opportunities to gain the mathematical knowledge needed for teaching

Purpose: This workshop will focus concretely on courses, programs and materials that aim to increase teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching. Both courses and programs that lead to initial certification and professional development of current teachers will be examined at the workshop. In addition, the workshop will examine efforts by colleges, universities, school districts, professional organizations and funding agencies to support people who teach these courses or lead these workshops.

These questions guide the workshop design:

1. How can courses and programs for teachers be designed and structured so as to increase teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching? What are the features, strengths, and drawbacks of different approaches?

2. What materials exist for use in teaching teachers mathematics? What are their features? What is known about their usability and effectiveness?

3.  Who teaches teachers mathematics and how is their work supported? What can we learn about the factors that enhance the teaching of mathematics for teachers?

The workshop will showcase courses, programs and curriculum materials whose goal is to increase teachers’ knowledge of mathematics and examine how the mathematical education of teachers relates to the many other aspects of teachers’ professional training and education.

MSRI and the workshop organizers are especially interested in encouraging mathematicians to participate in this workshop, as mathematics departments often have primary responsibility for offering mathematics courses aimed at developing teachers’ mathematical knowledge–yet mathematicians are among the most vocal critics of teachers’ knowledge of mathematics. This workshop offers the opportunity to learn more about programs that are successful at teaching teachers mathematics.