COMET • Vol. 9, No. 14 – 4 May 2008


(1) State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Congratulates Outstanding Math Teacher Chosen As Presidential Award Winner

Source: California Department of Education

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell congratulated Jeffrey Mark Luscher as a 2008 award winner for the prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) Program.

“The Presidential Award is the highest recognition that a mathematics teacher can receive,” said O’Connell. “I am pleased that this outstanding mathematics teacher from Santiago High School in Corona will be honored as one of the nation’s best. Jeffrey Luscher was selected because he teaches a wide range of mathematics courses from sheltered mathematics to advanced placement calculus. He brings incredible energy and enthusiasm to his teaching and always relates mathematics directly to the life experiences of his own students. Through his sense of humor, he makes learning mathematics appealing to his diverse population of students. He breaks down barriers and motivates all of his students to succeed. California can be proud of this accomplished teaching professional.”

Luscher is a high school mathematics teacher at Santiago High School in the Corona-Norco Unified School District, Corona, Riverside County. He has served as department chair since 1995. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and earned a teaching credential at the same university. He has won numerous teaching awards and is also an avid motorcycle enthusiast and a charter member of the Inland Empire Harley Owner’s Group.

Luscher was one of two California mathematics teachers selected as 2007 California State PAEMST nominees in mathematics. His application was reviewed by a state panel of content experts and outstanding teachers by the California Mathematics Council and forwarded to the National Science Foundation that coordinates the national PAEMST Program on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

On April 26, Luscher flew to Washington, D.C. for a week-long celebration of his accomplishments and professional development activities. Ninety-eight other middle school and high school math and science teachers were also honored as PAESMT recipients. Each winner received a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, in addition to the trip to Washington and the week’s special activities.

In the citation from President Bush, winners were commended “for embodying excellence in teaching, for devotion to the learning needs of the students, and for upholding the high standards that exemplify American education at its finest.”
Last week’s activities included a day with scientists and science educators at NSF; meetings with members of Congress and federal agency leadership; and a reception and dinner at the U.S. Department of State featuring guest speaker Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, a NASA Astronaut-Mission Specialist.

“We are delighted to have an opportunity to honor the teachers with these events,” said NSF Director Arden L. Bement, Jr. “Excellent teachers are crucial to our children’s success in science and mathematics, and they have a tremendous impact on their students’ future interests and pursuits. As a nation, our future innovation and competitiveness depends upon young people who have a solid foundation in these disciplines and an interest in further study.”

Visit for more information.


(2) Proposed New Science Credential: General Science (Foundational-Level)–Your Opinion is Requested

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC)

[The following is an excerpt from Item 2H on the April 2008 CCTC Agenda–See Web site above for more details. An audio recording of Teri Clark’s presentation of this item is available at]

At the December 2007 Commission meeting, the possibility of a General Science (Foundational-Level) credential was introduced.  For the first-time credential candidate, this credential could be earned by passing the two CSET General Science subtests and completing an approved teacher preparation program.  This level of content knowledge would allow an individual to teach general science or introductory science, but not a departmentalized Biology, Chemistry, Geoscience, or Physics course [on the UC/CSU approved list. It is expected that the majority of individuals who earn this credential would teach in the elementary or middle schools.]

To provide additional assignment options, an individual with a single subject teaching credential in a different subject (mathematics, social science, English, art…) would be able to add a General Science (Foundational-Level) authorization to his or her credential by passing the two science subtests.  An individual with a multiple subject credential would be able to earn a single subject credential in General Science (Foundational-Level) by passing the two CSET subtests and completing a single subject pedagogy course.

Teachers who are credentialed via this route and who teach courses within this authorization would be considered “Highly Qualified” for the purpose of No Child Left Behind as they would have been required to demonstrate subject matter competence through examination. Furthermore, if an individual were to earn the General Science (Foundational-Level) credential, he or she would be able to earn a full science authorization by passing one of the Concentration subtests (subtests 120-123)…

When the specialized science credential was developed in 2003, a Foundational-Level
Mathematics credential was also developed. The Foundational-Level Mathematics credential authorizes an individual to teach [general mathematics, all levels of algebra, geometry, probability and statistics, and consumer mathematics–see]. The total number of mathematics credentials awarded in 2006-07 [was 1416 — 484 Foundational-Level and 932 full Math.  Thus,] Foundational-Level credentials comprised 34.2% of the mathematics credentials that were issued in 2006-07.

These numbers suggest that this new pathway has been successful in increasing the pool of qualified individuals available to teach Foundational-Level Mathematics.  It is impossible to predict how many individuals would choose to earn a General Science (Foundational-Level) credential if it were available. However, providing a new pathway would allow for the possibility of increasing the pool of qualified individuals to teach General Science…


NOTE:  California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing would like feedback from educators regarding the need for and appropriateness of a General Science (Foundational-Level) credential.  To express your opinion, go to Click on the survey link on the home page in “New and Featured Information.” [The survey is directly available by going to]

Survey responses are due by Tuesday, May 20.

(Three letters of support for this proposed credential can be found at




(1) Margaret Spellings Marks 25th Anniversary of A Nation at RiskReport by Broadening the National Dialogue on the State of American Education

Source: U.S. Department of Education – 2 May 2008
URL (Report):

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings marked the 25th anniversary of the ground-breaking A Nation at Riskreport by broadening the national dialogue on the state of the American education system. Over the next several months, Secretary Spellings will pose various questions on the Department’s website related to the state of education in the U.S. in an effort to spur ideas, discussion, debate and, ultimately, action to better serve America’s students.

“I have spent a lot of time talking with students, parents, teachers, business leaders, policymakers and others about their education experiences, how they think the public education system is serving America’s children and how we can better partner to make sure all children receive a quality education,” said Secretary Spellings. “I want to broaden that discussion to a much larger and more interactive forum by continuing it on the Internet. I look forward to the public’s thoughtful and candid responses and to engaging in this interactive national dialogue.”

To advance the dialogue, Secretary Spellings also released an issue paper entitled ‘A Nation Accountable,’ which examines America’s response to the warnings of the 1983 national report on education, A Nation at Risk.

“In 1983, A Nation At Risk delivered a wake up call for our education system. The report described stark realities such as the significant number of functionally illiterate high school students, plummeting student performance and the increasing competition from international competitors. It was a warning, a reproach and a call to arms,” said Secretary Spellings. “’A Nation Accountable’ examines what has changed 25 years later.”

“A Nation Accountable” indicates that the American educational system has not fully learned the lessons of A Nation at Risk and continues to deal with the consequences. At the same time, A Nation At Risk inspired some state-level pioneers to think about standards and accountability in education and put them into practice. Now, because of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, across the nation the progress of students of every race and income level is being measured, the nation is holding itself accountable for all students’ performance and the system is finally producing and sharing data to determine what works.

“Accurate, honest information is helping to show us the way forward, but it’s also revealing disturbing realities–like grave inequities between students of different races and income levels. As a result, the accountability movement to raise student achievement has reached a tipping point,” said Secretary Spellings. “Will we hide from tough problems or redouble our efforts to help every student achieve their potential? Twenty-five years after A Nation at Risk, it’s time to review the progress we have made since the report’s release. We remain a nation at risk but are also now a nation informed, a nation accountable and a nation that recognizes there is much work to be done.”

To participate in Secretary Spellings’ national dialogue on the state of the American education system, please visit


(2) NSF to Bestow Waterman Award to UCLA’s ‘Mozart of Math’

Source:  National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is proud to announce that 32-year-old Terence Tao, a professor of mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles, will receive its 2008 Alan T. Waterman Award. Called a “supreme problem-solver,” and named one of “the Brilliant 10” scientists by Popular Science (October 2006), Tao’s extraordinary work, much of which has been funded by NSF through the years, has had a tremendous impact across several mathematical areas. He will receive the award at a black tie dinner program at the U.S. Department of State on Tuesday, May 6.

The annual Waterman award recognizes an outstanding young researcher in any field of science or engineering supported by NSF. Candidates may not be more than 35 years old, or seven years beyond receiving a doctorate, and must stand out for their individual achievements. In addition to a medal, the awardee receives a grant of $500,000 over a 3-year period for scientific research or advanced study in their field.

Terence Tao was born in Adelaide, Australia, in 1975. His genius at mathematics began early in life. He started to learn calculus when he was 7 years old, at which age he began high school; by the age of 9 he was already very good at university-level calculus. By the age of 11, he was thriving in international mathematics competitions. Tao was 20 when he earned his doctorate from Princeton University, and he joined UCLA’s faculty that year. UCLA promoted him to full professor at age 24. Tao now holds UCLA’s James and Carol Collins Chair in the College of Letters and Science. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Sciences (corresponding member).

Nicknamed “the Mozart of Math,” Tao’s areas of research include partial differential equations (PDE), combinatorics, number theory and harmonic analysis. Harmonic analysis is an advanced form of calculus that uses equations from physics. Some of this work involves, in a colleague’s words, “geometrical constructions that almost no one understands.” Tao also works in a related field, nonlinear partial differential equations, and in the entirely distinct fields of algebraic geometry, number theory and combinatorics, which involves counting.

In addition to the prestigious Waterman award, Tao has received a number of other awards, including the Salem Prize in 2000; the Bochner Prize in 2002; the Fields Medal, often touted as the “Nobel Prize for Mathematics” and SASTRA Ramanujan Prize in 2006; and the MacArthur Fellowship and Ostrowski Prize in 2007.


(3) “Woman Becomes Youngest College Professor” by Bob Considine

Source: MSNBC – 24 April 2008

Perhaps in Alia Sabur’s wildly advanced studies she came across a famous quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Knowing is not enough. We must apply,” the German writer once observed.

That could serve as explanation for what prompted the 19-year-old to become the youngest college professor in history.

Armed with prodigious wisdom, Sabur told TODAY’s Ann Curry on Wednesday [(April 23)] that knowledge is power–especially when sharing it.

“I really enjoy teaching,” said Sabur. “It’s something where you can make a difference. It’s not just what you can do, but you can enable a lot of other people to make their changes.”

Sabur, from Northport, N.Y., has clearly been ahead of the learning curve since an early age. She started talking and reading when she was just 8 months old. She had elementary school finished at age 5.

She made the jump to college at age 10. And by age 14, Sabur was earning a bachelor’s of science degree in applied mathematics summa cum laude from Stony Brook University–the youngest female in U.S. history to do so. Her education continued at Drexel University, where she earned an M.S. and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering.

With an unlimited future ahead of her, Sabur directed her first career choice to teaching. She was three days short of her 19th birthday in February when she was hired to become a professor at Konkuk University in Seoul, Korea.

This distinction made her the youngest college professor in history, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, beating the previous record held by Colin Maclaurin in 1717. Maclaurin was a student of physicist Isaac Newton. Sabur said she is merely gravitating toward putting what she has learned to good use.

“I really feel I can help a lot of people,” she said.

At Konkuk University, Sabur said she will take part in classroom instruction, but will also focus on research into developing nanotubes for use as cellular probes that could help aid in cures for diseases.

Although she doesn’t start until next month, Sabur has taken up teaching math and physics courses at Southern University in New Orleans, which is still struggling from the devastation left in Hurricane Katrina’s wake in 2005.

“Some people come and they do Habitat for Humanity and they build houses, but I don’t think I would be very good,” she said. “So I tried to do what I’m good at. I was particularly interested in this university because they are still in trailers after Hurricane Katrina. And I thought it could be something I do to help.”

In New Orleans, Sabur is old enough to teach, but not to join her fellow professors in a bar after work. In Korea, where the drinking age is 20, she might have more luck. In traditional Korean culture, children are considered to be 1 year old when they are born, and add a year to their age every New Year instead of their actual birthday, so in Korea Sabur is considered 20.

Varied interests

On top of her unprecedented academic achievements, Sabur has a black belt in the Korean martial art of tae kwon do and is also a music prodigy. She has been playing clarinet with orchestras since her solo debut at age 11, playing with recording artists Lang Lang and Smash Mouth.

“You can reach a lot of people with music,” Sabur told Curry. “It’s never been really a hobby to me. It’s always been on equal par with my academics”…

[Visit to view a video of this interview. For more on Alia Sabur, visit]