COMET • Vol. 9, No. 15 – 10 May 2008


(1) NAEP Websites Offer New Features

Source: IES Newsflash

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) websites (a) and (b) have recently added helpful new features that include videos for teachers and students, data tools, and reference guides. Below are some of the new features:


Information for selected schools has been updated to include videos for teachers and students, as well as fact sheets for teachers:


How many students and schools were in the sample for NAEP assessments, and how many students and schools did those small samples represent? See

How are students with disabilities and English-language learners included in NAEP? See


To view a list of all NCES NAEP reports released in 2007 and 2008, visit

To read what NAEP assessments are planned for 2009, and what was assessed in 2008, visit


For a one-stop portal to NAEP tools, quick data tables from the most recently reported assessments, and Quick Reference Guides for the Questions Tool, Item Maps, State Comparisons, and Data Explorer, visit


See releases from 2005 through 2007, and subscribe to the NCES NewsFlash to keep informed about recent releases:


(2) National Academies Convocation on “Rising above the Gathering Storm” Two Years Later:  Accelerating Progress toward a Brighter Economic Future 

Sources: National Academies; “Legislative Update” – National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
URLs: and

A national convocation on April 29 brought leaders from government, business, and education together in Washington, D.C., to weigh how much progress has been made in bolstering math and science education and strengthening the nation’s research enterprise in recent years.  Speakers at the event included three U.S. cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. (Agenda:

In 2005, the National Academies’ landmark report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future” (RAGS; visit to download free or read online) warned that the U.S. risks losing its position in an increasingly competitive global economy unless it takes aggressive steps to foster both basic research and stronger math and science achievement by American students. The April 29 convocation, hosted by the Academies with support from the National Math and Science Initiative (, brought leaders from government, business, and education to assess what has and hasn’t been accomplished in the two years since the report’s release.

“Many other nations have responded more swiftly to Gathering Storm’s recommendations than the U.S. itself has,” said Norman Augustine, chair of the committee that wrote the report and former CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp.

“They are building new research universities, funding scholarships for students in science and engineering, and boosting their investment in R&D.  America’s leaders are clearly concerned about the problem, but what remains is to follow through with action.”

Secretaries of Education, Energy, and Commerce addressed the standing-room only crowd, as did renowned competitiveness advocates Norm Augustine (former CEO of Lockheed Martin and chair of the panel that authored “Rising Above the Gathering Storm”) and Craig Barrett, Chairman of the Board of Intel. The day was packed with insights and comments from over thirty representatives of industry, education, and policy.

To date, major accomplishments that address issues identified in the report include the August 2007 passage and enactment of the bipartisan America COMPETES Act, as well as the implementation of a number of state initiatives and private sector efforts. In addition, the issues of competitiveness and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and research have been discussed on Capitol Hill, at the White House, and in federal and state agencies. A number of participants pointed out that the general public is still not wholly engaged in the debate or the issue. Representative Rush Holt (D-N.J.) said that stakeholders have to “help [the public] feel it at their kitchen table,” noting that a sea change “has to come from outside” Washington and the realm of federal policy.

This frustration led many panelists to call on the audience to urge federal lawmakers to fund the many programs authorized by the America COMPETES Act, noting that while enactment of the law was encouraging, the absence of funding for most of the programs is disappointing. Audience members were asked to urge Congress to fund the programs authorized by the America COMPETES Act, but they were also encouraged to partner at the local, state, and federal levels to effect change and strengthen the country’s economic prospects.


(3) IBM Launches Effort to Address Shortage of Hispanic Students in Technology Careers

Sources: IBM – 5 May 2008; Jean Johnson, Executive Director, Education Insights at Public Agenda

On Monday, May 5, IBM convened a summit entitled “America’s Competitiveness: Hispanic Participation in Technology Careers.” This initiative brought together leaders in business, education, government, and community organizations to find ways to increase the number of Hispanic students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math in the United States.

The effort is aimed at a looming problem resulting from the significant decline in the numbers of Hispanic students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This decline could affect America’s competitiveness in the increasingly global market. Demographic data show that the Hispanic community is expected to constitute 25% of the overall U.S. population by mid-century, making the U.S. home to the largest Hispanic population in the world. Hispanic youth already account for more than 34 percent of the total U.S. Hispanic population and more than 18 percent of the total U.S. youth population. Meanwhile, the high school dropout rate for Hispanic students is 24%, and participation in STEM careers is very low.

To address the issue, IBM along with ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin, Univision, and 150 other leaders met on May 5-6 in New York to examine ways the Hispanic community can improve their participation in STEM.

“The Hispanic community is one of the fastest growing in the country and young Latinos are rapidly joining our workforce,” said U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. “It is important that they have the option to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, not only so they can fully develop their potential, but also so they can become professionals in areas that are vital to our economy, our security, our future as a nation. I salute IBM for this important initiative and hope this summit will open up new roads to success for our Hispanic youth.”

The magnitude of the nation’s STEM career gap is most apparent in the field of engineering where the need for talent is increasing at three times the rate of other professions. This demand is countered by trends that demonstrate few American students are entering STEM-related studies.

“IBM is deeply committed to galvanizing the U.S. corporate sector and other stakeholders in addressing the serious shortage of professionals in STEM careers, particularly in the Hispanic community,” stated Nicholas M. Donofrio, Executive Vice President, Innovation and Technology. “This summit is a call to action to challenge business leaders to address an issue that could undermine the country’s leadership in today’s global economy.”

Participants of this strategic gathering were presented with newly released reports commissioned by the IBM International Foundation from research organizations like the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) and Public Agenda. These reports outline the challenges and opportunities for the nation’s Hispanic community and their partners regarding the pursuit of STEM careers. Public Agenda released the following reports:

(a) “A Matter of Trust: Ten Key Insights From Recent Public Opinion Research on Attitudes About Education Among Hispanic Parents, Students and Young Adults” — Among the key findings reported in “A Matter of Trust” was a deep-seated anxiety within the Hispanic Community about attaining a college education, despite it being a requirement for a good job and middle-class life. The reasons identified in the study including the following:
* Nearly half of Hispanic parents say it is a serious problem that students are not taught enough math and science.
* Less than half of Hispanic young adults believe that qualified students can find a way to pay for college.
This report is available online at

(b) “Out Before the Game Begins: Hispanic Leaders Talk About What’s Needed to Bring More Hispanic Youngsters Into Science, Technology and Math Professions” is based on in-depth interviews with 19 key leaders from vastly different fields and backgrounds. Nearly all of the interviewees said that when it comes to Hispanic and Latino students, the education pipeline is all but broken. The report is available online at

As a means of enabling Spanish-language-only parents to better communicate with teachers–one of the needs outlined in “A Matter of Trust”–IBM announced that it will provide its automatic two-way English-Spanish e-mail translation and web translation software called ¡TradúceloAhora! to all U.S. schools at no cost.

Additionally, schools and nonprofit organizations will be given unlimited use of this software. Hispanic older adults and those with disabilities can access the free translation software along with other free software called AccessibilityWorks that helps them view web pages in a customized format for easier and more effective reading and navigation on the web.

And, according to TRPI, which released the report “STEM Professions: Opportunities and Challenges for Latinos” at the Summit, the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. also suffers from a worse gender gap in STEM careers than Asians and African Americans.

In response to the need to provide mentors for Hispanic students, IBM has committed to expanding the MentorPlace program to focus on school districts in the U.S. with a significant number of Hispanic students, and matching them with IBM employees who can serve as their online mentors.

Additionally, IBM will expand its cascade mentoring program–now in its third year at the University of Arizona at Tucson–to at least 3 universities in California, New York and Texas. The cascading mentoring program is an internet based system that enables professional mentors, university students, and K-12 students to engage in a three-way mentoring relationship through secure online discussions. These discussions focus on past academic experiences and exploration of future goals and opportunities. The mentoring program in Tucson, Arizona has involved IBM employees, the University of Arizona SHPE (Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers) Student Chapter, and students from two high schools.

In addition, IBM is making further commitments aimed at bolstering early education resources with innovative technology tools for the classroom:
* IBM also will make a donation of 1,000 KidSmart units at early childhood centers in neighborhoods that support the Hispanic community in the cities of Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.
* IBM commits to expanding the Reading Companion grant program–a web-based, voice recognition technology that helps adults and children gain literacy skills–to any school district in the U.S. that is interested, with a special focus on school districts with a significant number of Hispanics.

At the Summit, key moderators and facilitators led attendees in highly focused work groups designed to encourage dialogue and develop actionable strategies to increase Hispanic participation in STEM-related curriculum. Moderators included Tom Luce (Chief Executive Officer, National Math and Science Initiative, Inc.), Irving Wladawsky-Berger (Chairman Emeritus, IBM Academy of Technology and Visiting Professor of Engineering Systems, MIT); Stanley Litow (President of the IBM International Foundation and Vice President, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, IBM Corporation); and Adalio Sanchez (Vice President of Corporate Strategy, IBM Corporation).

In keeping with its commitment to the development of STEM professionals for the future, IBM has been in collaboration with over 5,000 premier universities and over 100,000 business partners globally to prepare students with 21st century skills for jobs in the new IT workforce.

Students and future STEM professionals can access the IBM Academic Initiative online portal that provides access to FREE software and hardware as well as training and course materials:


(4) Edward Lorenz, Father of Chaos Theory, Dies at 90

Source: Math Gateway of the Mathematical Association of America – 6 May 2008

Edward Lorenz, whose training as a mathematician was critical to his discovery of the modern field of chaos theory, died on April 16 at the age of 90. His name will forever be associated with the idea of the “Butterfly Effect” because he was the first to identify chaotic behavior in the mathematical modeling of weather systems, in which small changes in dynamic systems can trigger unexpected results.

“As a boy,” he said, “I was always interested in doing things with numbers, and was also fascinated by changes in the weather.” After receiving a Bachelor’s in mathematics from Dartmouth College in 1938 and a Master’s in mathematics from Harvard in 1940, Lorenz studied meteorology at MIT.

Lorenz’s breakthrough theory was the result of weather experiments in 1961. During a series of calculations, he realized that small changes in variables resulted in varying weather scenarios. He published his findings two years later, in a paper for the New York Academy of Sciences. The idea behind chaos theory, he wrote, was that “one flap of a seagull’s wings could change the course of weather forever.” He later substituted the simpler and more poetic butterfly. His 1972 paper was entitled, “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set off a Tornado in Texas?”

The committee that awarded Lorenz the Kyoto Prize in 1991 noted that chaos theory represented “one of the most dramatic changes in mankind’s view of nature since Sir Isaac Newton.”

MIT said Lorenz’s early work “marked the beginning of a new field of study that impacted not just the field of mathematics but virtually every branch of science–biological, physical and social.” Moreover, according to the institution, “Scientists have since asserted that the 20th century will be remembered for three scientific revolutions–relativity, quantum mechanics, and chaos theory.”

[Visit for more details.]


(5) Summer Math Camps and Programs for High School Students

Source: American Mathematical Society

Visit the Web site above for an extensive listing of “summer programs that help high school students explore the world of mathematics research.