COMET • Vol. 9, No. 01 – 18 January 2008


(1) Gov. Schwarzenegger Joins U.S. Education Secretary Spellings to Discuss Improving Student Achievement


This morning, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings visited Otay Elementary School in Chula Vista, CA, a school that was once low-performing but improved to meet federal targets under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. (A video of their visit, which includes a number of remarks from the Governor and Secretary about their goals and plans for education, is available at the above Web site.)

In 2004, only 16% of students at Otay Elementary School were proficient in English/Language Arts, but last year this increased to 43%. In 2004, only 32% were proficient in mathematics, but last year this increased to 58%. The school increased its Academic Performance Index score by more than 100 points over the last two years.

“Otay Elementary is a perfect example of how No Child Left Behind can work and serve as a great tool to track student performance and increase accountability,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “There is no magic bullet for Otay’s success. It’s about hard work, dedication and changing the way money is spent, which means restructuring and changing priorities.”

Secretary Spellings added, “Schools like Otay Elementary are helping to cultivate a culture of success and innovation that proves the goals of No Child Left Behind are within reach. Now is the time to build on the momentum. Six years after No Child Left Behind changed the education game in this nation, we can be proud of where it has brought us. The law’s core principles now guide our conversation on education. Now all 50 states and the District of Columbia have assessment systems, report disaggregated data, and target federal resources to serve their neediest students.”

Governor Schwarzenegger believes that California’s system must ensure that students have the skills and knowledge needed for success; that parents, teachers and policymakers have access to accurate educational data; and that classrooms have highly qualified teachers to educate the next generation of Californians.

“I have always said the education system needs more than money to succeed. Just because it is a tough budget year doesn’t mean we can sit on our hands when it comes to our kids,” said Governor Schwarzenegger.

In his State of the State Address on January 8, the Governor announced the following:

— California will be the first state to use the powers given under the NCLB to turn challenged districts around. The Governor’s proposal includes allocating a higher percentage of NCLB funds in districts that need the greatest assistance and intervention.

— Reforms will be implemented that value local control and assist school districts based on their needs. The problems driving underachievement in each school district are different, so a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. In determining the state’s response, the administration is using a “differentiated assistance” model to analyze each district individually and assign it the most appropriate intervention to improve student achievement and progress.

— High-performing schools and districts have the opportunity to apply to the State Board of Education for waivers from provisions of the Education Code. Waivers granted by the State Board of Education will give these schools and districts flexibility to budget and operate in ways that continue to improve student achievement.

— Immediate actions will be taken to improve the quality and accessibility of information available to parents, educators and policymakers and address critical shortages of teachers in California’s classrooms.

The Governor’s administration is working with teachers, administrators, parents, elected officials, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to create a sustainable architecture for accountability that helps school districts meet federal standards and improve student achievement.

Funding for education initiatives will be tight, though. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell expressed concern over Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for 2008-09 in a January 10 statement (see

“At a time when California must make substantial investment in schools in order for our young people to survive and succeed in the global economy, the Governor’s budget takes a giant step backward. I fear that the ‘year of education’ will become the year of education evisceration. This budget will not help us close the achievement gap that threatens the futures of our students and our state. It will not help us effectively prepare the well-skilled workforce our state desperately needs to remain competitive…

“While I realize we have a serious budget shortfall that must be addressed, improving our education system is the key to ensuring that California will have the well-qualified workforce that will secure a healthy economy in the future. I am committed to making improvements to our system regardless of our fiscal difficulties, but we must have a conversation about how to secure the long-term investments our students and our state need to succeed…

“Just this week, Education Week’s comprehensive report card of public school systems nationwide gave California a grade of D+ when it comes to funding our schools. It reported that California spends $1,892 per pupil less than the national average. New Jersey and New York annually spend more than $5,000 per pupil in excess of what our state invests in our students, even taking into consideration regional cost differences. At the same time, California’s student population is the most challenging in the nation with more than half our students coming from families that are struggling economically and a quarter learning the English language. As abundant research makes clear, we simply need to invest more–not less–in preparing these students to succeed.”


(2) California Teacher of the Year is Finalist for Nation’s Top Teaching Honor


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said he is thrilled and proud that Lewis Chappelear, a 2008 California Teacher of the Year and the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year, has been selected as one of four finalists for the nation’s top teaching honor.

“Lewis Chappelear is an enthusiastic, dynamic educator who symbolizes what teaching is all about. He teaches, he engages, he challenges his students to try, to persevere, to succeed. He sees their potential long before they discover it in themselves. He is truly an inspiration for California and would be for the nation as well. I wish him the very best.”

Chappelear is a ninth through twelfth grade engineering and design teacher at James Monroe High School in North Hills, California (Los Angeles Unified School District). He has taught a total of eight years and been an educator at Monroe, a school of 3,207 students, for seven years He was selected in November as one of five California Teachers of the Year for 2008 and was nominated by O’Connell to compete for the prestigious National Teacher of the Year honor.

In his application for California Teachers of the Year, Chappelear wrote: “My philosophy on teaching is very simple: I make emotional connections with every student and make the learning relevant. I truly believe that everything in the classroom has to be interdisciplinary. I am not just a robotics teacher; I teach English, math, science, and history. I am also a mentor, a guide, and a critical link in my students’ lives…

“Teaching is about being an ambassador for humanity. There are moments when we are all teachers–the news reporter on television, the mother showing her child how to tie shoes, the store clerk counting money behind the counter, and the grandparent telling stories about the ‘good ol’ days.’ These moments are important in forming the collective personality of our society. We teach those around us as we walk down the street, have conversations with peers and interact with strangers. Imagine what our world would look like if everyone set aside their differences, prejudices, and pride to just take a moment and honestly tune in to the needs of others.”

Chappelear earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering from Boston University in 1994, a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University in 1995, and a California Clear Teaching Credential in math, physics, and electronics in 2001. He received National Board Certification in 2005. (He can be reached at James Monroe High School, 818-830-4200.)

Since the National Teacher of the Year Program began in 1952, California has had six National Teachers of the Year, including the first National Teacher. The 2008 winner is expected to be named by April.

Additional information regarding the National Teacher of the Year Program is available through the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Web site (


(3) Twenty-fifth Anniversary Celebration of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) – January 26-30, 2008


MSRI (Mathematical Sciences Research Institute) started in dreams of a new center for research in the mathematical sciences on the West Coast more than twenty-five years ago and held its first scientific programs in 1982. Formed by Shiing-Shen Chern (the first Director) with Calvin Moore and Isadore Singer in response to a National Science Foundation Request for Proposals, the fledgling institute in Berkeley, CA, quickly established itself with science and scientists of the highest quality.

Conceived from the first as a community-sponsored organization, a consortium originally of 9 universities, it grew and expanded very rapidly into the internationally recognized center that it is today. The mission of the Institute has evolved and expanded to support mathematical research through a broad range of activities, not only for the top active researchers but also for students–the researchers of the future–and for the public.

We hope that you will join us for the Anniversary celebration on January 26-30, 2008. As befitting the broad mission of the Institute, the celebration will include not only mathematical exposition by some of the leaders who have been and are about to be involved with MSRI programs, but also an opening program of mathematics and music and some panels to reflect on the most important directions for future development.

The formal program is presented on the above Web site. But we also look forward just as much to the multitude of conversations that accompany MSRI activities that make it possible for people from many backgrounds to participate, and that make the Institute such a fertile ground for intellectual work.

In addition to the events on January 27-30 (all are free to the public except for the banquet on January 29), there will also be a free musical event and reception on Saturday January 26, beginning at 4:00 p.m.: pianist Christopher Taylor in conversation with David Benson, author of the book Music: A Mathematical Offering, and Robert Osserman, Special Projects Director at MSRI. For more information on this event, please visit 



(1) “The Turnaround Challenge: How to Help Low-Performing Schools”–Live Chat on Tuesday, January 22

Source: Education Week

Next Tuesday (January 22), 8:00-9:00 a.m. PST, Education Week is hosting an online chat at addressing ways that chronically low-performing schools can improve. Recently, the Mass Insight Education & Research Institute released “The Turnaround Challenge,” the result of a two-year study that examined school improvement efforts in low-performing schools. The study, which has generated much discussion, found that the turnaround strategies used in most failing, largely high-poverty schools have had little impact on raising academic achievement.

However, an emerging list of high-performing, high-poverty schools offers lessons for how struggling schools can turn themselves around. The Mass Insight study distills lessons from these high-performing schools and urges states, districts, and schools to act on those lessons.

In preparation for the online chat, please read: (“‘Turnaround’ Work Needs Rethinking, New Report Says,” Nov. 14, 2007) and (“The Turnaround Challenge,” from Mass Education & Research Institute Inc.

Submit questions in advance at

Chat Guests:

– Andrew Calkins, senior vice president, Mass Insight Education & Research Institute Inc.
– Joseph F. Murphy, Professor of Education, Vanderbilt University
– Executive Director, Academy for Urban School Leadership


(2) “No Child Left Behind: Student Achievement on the Rise” Webcast

Source: U.S. Department of Education

The January 15 edition of “Education News Parents Can Use” showcased three No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools, featuring video stories of their classrooms in action and conversations with award-winning principals and education experts about how having high expectations for all students; analyzing student data to track progress; identifying individual student needs and improving instruction; providing a rich curriculum aligned with state standards; and using professional development to improve teachers’ skills is raising the bar as never before.

The show addressed the following questions:

– How do we know that No Child Left Behind is working?
– What are the core principles of the law and what do they mean? How do they help students learn?
– How can the reforms of the law be extended to high school and beyond, and why is this important to American competitiveness?
– What kinds of options does No Child Left Behind offer to parents, especially those of students struggling in school? How can parents better take advantage of these choices or find out more about them?
– What are some examples of award-winning schools that have all children learning at grade level today, and what can other schools learn from their examples?
– What new ideas have strengthened No Child Left Behind over the years, such as growth model pilots, teacher incentives, and other initiatives?

A webcast of this show is now available at


(3) President Bush Nominates Four to National Board of Education Sciences

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Earlier today, President Bush nominated four individuals to serve on the National Board of Education Sciences (NBES). Three of the nominations are reappointments and one is a new appointment. All require Senate confirmation.
The following individuals were nominated:

– Jonathan Baron of Maryland (reappointment), Executive Director, Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, The Council for Excellence in Government
– Frank Philip Handy of Florida (reappointment), CEO of Strategic Industries
– Sally Shaywitz of Connecticut (reappointment), Yale University Professor of Pediatrics
– Joanne Weiss of California, Partner and COO at NewSchools Venture Fund

Weiss began her career as Vice President of Education R&D at Wicat Systems, where she was responsible for the development of nearly 100 multimedia curriculum products for K-12 schools. She has a passion for education, and has spent much of her career pioneering innovative ways of using technology to increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning processes. She holds a degree in biochemistry from Princeton University. (For more, see

The National Board of Education Sciences is the Presidentially-appointed advisory panel of the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education. The board performs a host of duties, ranging from reviewing and approving the research priorities of the Institute to advising and consulting with the director on the policies of the Institute. It reviews and regularly evaluates the work of the Institute to ensure that its research, development, evaluation, and statistical analyses are consistent with the standards set out in the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002.

In September 2005, the National Board approved priorities for the Institute of Education Sciences: “The long-term goals associated with the Institute’s priorities are fourfold: First, to develop or identify a substantial number of programs, practices, policies, and approaches that enhance academic achievement and that can be widely deployed; second, to identify what does not work and what is problematic or inefficient, and thereby encourage innovation and further research; third, to gain fundamental understanding of the processes that underlie variations in the effectiveness of education programs, practices, policies, and approaches; and fourth, to develop delivery systems for the results of education research that will be routinely used by policymakers, educators, and the general public when making education decisions. By providing an independent, scientific base of evidence and promoting and enabling its use, the Institute aims to further the transformation of education into an evidence-based field, and thereby enable the nation to educate all of its students effectively…”

For further information on the NBES, visit


(4) “Psychologists to Advise President Bush on American Math Instruction”

Source: American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology – January 2008

Psychology is poised to shape the future of math education, with six psychologists among the 19 education experts that comprise the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Two of the panels’ five ex-officio members are also psychologists.

President George W. Bush has charged the panel with advising him and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings on the best use of research to advance the teaching and learning of mathematics. Their specific focus is on algebra, the gateway course to higher math classes, says Rena Subotnik, Ph.D., director of APA’s Center for Psychology in Schools and Education.

The panel has met 10 times to review more than 16,000 studies and public testimony from 63 organizations, and will present formal recommendations to President Bush next month.

Psychologists, with their extensive research on cognition and its application to education, are well-suited to design instructional processes and recommend courses of action that strengthen instruction, says ex-officio panel member Grover (Russ) Whitehurst, PhD, director of the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.

“The field of evidence-based education is one that is growing, and contributed to substantially by psychologists,” adds Whitehurst.

For more information on the panel, visit


(5) American Stars of Teaching

Source: U.S. Department of Education

American Stars of Teaching recognizes and honors superior teachers with a track record of improving student achievement and using innovative instructional strategies. One teacher from each state and the District of Columbia will be selected as representatives of the many teachers who are making a difference in the lives of their students. Officials from the U.S. Department of Education will again be visiting the classes of each American Star to congratulate them on their success.

Please consider nominating a teacher by completing the official nomination form located at the above Web site. Nominations will be accepted through March 31, 2008. Winners will be announced this fall.