COMET • Vol. 9, No. 20 – 20 September 2008


(1) State Board of Education Recognizes Mendota Student Team that Placed First in National Engineering Competition

Source: California State Board of Education
URL (includes photo of students and SBE members):

Last week, the State Board of Education (SBE) recognized a student team from McCabe Junior High School in the rural farming community of Mendota for the team’s first place finish in the junior high school division of a national engineering design competition sponsored by the Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) program.

The competition called for students to design, build, and operate a trebuchet–similar to a catapult–and beat other teams in competitions involving accuracy, power, and distance. In addition, team participants had to submit papers, develop an exhibit, and provide oral presentations to demonstrate their knowledge of the principles behind their machine.

“These students have made their schools, their community, and the state very proud of their accomplishments. Their achievement will inspire other students to reach greater heights,” said Ted Mitchell, president of the State Board of Education.

At McCabe Junior High School, 99.7% of the students are enrolled in the free/reduced meal plan and 72% are English language learners, according to the California Department of Education.

“As Booker T. Washington said, ‘Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed,’ and these students have overcome obstacles to become the best in the nation,” said Mitchell.

MESA operates over 60 centers throughout the state, serving over 20,000 pre-college, community college and university students. Although most of the schools served by MESA are among the lowest performing in California, 62% of MESA students completed the UC and CSU academic college preparatory courses, compared to 32% of non-participants at the same schools. Of the African American, Latino American and American Indian students served by MESA, 29% are eligible to attend UC, compared to the statewide rate of 6.4%.

“Adelmo Alvarado, Edgar Juarez, Francisco Torres, and Angel Hernandez are amazing kids who succeeded despite the odds,” said Jack O’Connell, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Their victory at the MESA competition shows if you work hard enough and believe in yourself, you will succeed. Congratulations to them, their parents, their adviser David Sackrison, and the MESA program for their inspirational work.”


(2) CAHSEE Results for 2007-08 Now Available on the DataQuest Web Site

Source: State Board of Education
URL (Item 17):

Summary results from the 2007-08 administrations of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) were publicly released on Tuesday, September 9, 2008, on CDE’s DataQuest Web site at Displayed are the following:

= Summary results for the July, October, November, and December 2007 administrations, as well as the February, March, and May 2008 administrations.

= Summary results at the school, school district, county, and state levels.

= Summary results for students by grade, gender, ethnicity, language fluency, socioeconomic status, and special education program participation.

= Summary reports by economic status and ethnicity by county and district.

Note: The DataQuest Web site contains an impressive amount of searchable data related to California education (school performance, test scores, student demographics, school staffing, student misconduct and intervention, technology, etc.).


(3) Minutes from the July 2008 State Board of Education Meeting: Algebra Testing Decision (Item 10)

Source: California State Board of Education

Minutes have been posted online from the July 10, 2008 meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE) at which the motion was approved to require that all 8th graders in California take the state Algebra I assessment. Item 10 from the minutes is excerpted below:

Item 10
Subject: Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR): “Revised General Mathematics Blueprint”

Type of Action: Action, Information
[California Department of Education] Deputy Superintendent of Assessment & Accountability Deborah Sigman presented on this item. According to Ms. Sigman, last March the SBE unanimously approved a contract amendment with ETS to move forward to develop a new test to substitute for the general math exam which was found to be out of compliance with NCLB because it tested sixth and seventh grade standards for eighth grade students. In the process of that work, the CDE sought advice from the assessment review panel about the blueprint for the new exam. The CDE then requested that SBE approve the revised mathematics blueprint. According to Ms. Sigman, the blueprint presented meets the federal U.S. Department of Education requirements for a blueprint that is aligned to the state’s Algebra I Standards and is instructionally sensitive to those students that have not yet taken an Algebra I course.

Public comment was received from Melonie Doug, consultant; Jim Burteind, Ishi Aliis Middle School; Margaret DeAmond, California Math Council; Priscilla Cox, CSA; Ann Desmon, PTA; Jim Lanich, CBEE; Cesar Diaz, State Building Trades Council; Jeff Freitas, CFT; Charles Munger; Shelley Kriegler, UCLA; Dr. Norma Baker VAAS & LAUSD; Ida Farid, BSMARTE; Eilene Cross; Fred Noteware, Silicon Valley Leadership; Diane Rude, California Council on Science; Jim Hawley, Tech Net; Teresa Cummings, Johnson High School; Cyris Walker, CAL SMAENA; Linda Gaillior, Bay Area Council; Fred Jones, California Business Education Association; Mark Sontac, Irvine Unified; Dr. Victoria Schumacher, Norwalk-La Mirada USD; Rae Belisle, Ed Voice; Russlyn Ali, The Education Trust-West; Christine Berianup, CSTA; Priscilla Cox, Elk Grove Unified School District; Holly Jacobson, CSBA; Pat Rucker, PTA; Christine Rios, California Council on Science & Technology; Glee Johnson; Ed Marquez, Sacramento Unified School District; Jeanne Ramos, LAUSD; John Hooper, California Chamber of Commerce; Juan Godinez, and, Sherry Griffith ACSA.

ACTION: Member Jones moved to do the following.

First, as the State Education Agency (SEA) the State Board of Education (SBE) directs SBE and California Department of Education (CDE) staff to work with the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) to develop a compliance agreement whereby the Algebra 1 end of course exam becomes the sole test of record for federal accountability purposes under the No Child Left Behind Act for eighth grade mathematics. Further, SBE and CDE staff will work with the USDOE to establish an agreement that provides a reasonable transition period during which the State can build capacity across the system to achieve our goal of Algebra mastery for all eighth grade students. The Board intends that the required federal hearings on such an agreement take place in the late summer or early fall and that the agreement be ready for SBE review at its September 2008 board meeting.

Second, the SBE and CDE will concurrently pursue a waiver request with the USDOE to allow scores from students who score proficient or above on the Algebra 1 end of course exam during 7th grade to be “banked” and included for federal accountability purposes the following school year. Additionally, SBE and CDE staff will assemble a work group to develop priorities for longer term discussions with the USDOE that will help continue the process of more fully accommodating California’s 8th through 12th grade end of course mathematics content standards and other State programs with NCLB.

Member Lopez seconded the motion. The motion was approved by a vote of 8-1. Members Bersin and Fisher were not available for the vote.


(4) “California Education Secretary Quitting” by Shane Goldmacher

Source: The Sacramento Bee – 12 September 2008

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fourth education secretary in five years resigned on [September 10], saying he was ready to start “a different chapter of my life.”

David Long, the former superintendent of schools in Riverside County whom Schwarzenegger touted as having “the most unbelievable experience” last March, lasted 18 months on the job…

When Long was tapped for the job in March 2007, Schwarzenegger had touted 2008 as the “year of education reform,” promising to overhaul both school funding and structure.

In his resignation letter, Long wrote that he took the job “because of the remarkable window of opportunity that existed for education.”

Bob Wells, the executive director the Association of California School Administrators, said, “He wanted to be the guy at the right hand side of this governor shaping that.”

But those grand plans fell by the wayside as the state slipped deeper into deficit. In January, Schwarzenegger proposed across-the-board cuts to education, though he later backtracked. The year of education was largely abandoned…

“Those things were completely clobbered by the budget crisis,” said Kevin Gordon, an education consultant.

In an interview, Long said that fact “didn’t enter one of my brain cells in my decision” and added that the state’s fiscal woes “shouldn’t stop the train and it didn’t.”

He said his relationship with the governor remained strong throughout his tenure: “I came to Sacramento for a reason, and his name was Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Long was Schwarzenegger’s fourth secretary of education, following Dick Riordan, Alan Bersin and acting-secretary Scott Himelstein.

It is a post fraught with bureaucratic infighting, as responsibility for public education is divided between the Board of Education, whose members the governor appoints, the elected superintendent of public instruction, and the education secretary.

“I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say there were some structural problems,” Long said. “I don’t know of any other state that has a system (like California).”

But he said his relationships with the leaders of the other education departments “overrode the structural problems.”

Long, a Republican, said he had been offered new “tremendous opportunities”–though they are not yet final…


(5) CSTA Legislative Update: State Bills Sent to the Governor this Week

Source: California Science Teachers Association

The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) maintains a Web page containing updates and analyses of proposed state Senate and Assembly bills. The current collection contains four bills that were sent to the Governor’s desk on September 18. Descriptions of three of these bills follow below:

Science, Math, and Special Education Teacher Salaries: SB 1660 (Romero; would allow districts to negotiate with unions a different salary schedule for math, science, and special education teachers in API Decile 1, 2, or 3 schools. CSTA opposes differentiated salaries for teachers within a district and urges that the funds being made available for this bill be redirected to improved science labs and equipment, guaranteed instructional minutes for science, and professional development for science teachers.

Instructional Materials: AB 2315 (Mullin; would revise the instructional materials adoption process by 1) extending the time that districts have to supply students with standards-aligned books from 24 months to 36 months; 2) requiring that the evaluations and recommendations of the teacher and expert review panels be made public; 3) eliminating the role of the Curriculum Commission from the adoption process; and 4) requiring districts, as a condition of receiving instructional materials funds, to submit the names of individuals being considered to serve on the evaluation and review of instructional materials submitted for grades K-8.

 This bill attempts to implement some of the recommendations of the Legislative Analyst’s office with regard to the adoption of instructional materials.

Content Standards: SB 1097 (Torlakson; would require the appointment of content standards review panels for English/language arts and history/social science to review and revise the standards as deemed necessary and forward them to the State Board of Education. The bill requires the State Board of Education to adopt or reject the standards within 120 days of receiving the standards from the review panels. The bill specifies the composition of the panels and how they are to be appointed.

The original bill included all subject areas in the standards review [including mathematics and science] and specified that panel members were to be appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. CSTA supported that bill. The state’s calendar for adopting instructional materials calls for the science framework and the instructional materials evaluation criteria to be revised by 2010. The framework and evaluation criteria are based on the current science standards, which were adopted in 1998, and will control the next textbook adoption in 2012. As the bill now excludes science from possible review prior to the 2010 updating of the framework, the1998 standards will form the basis of instructional materials to be adopted in 2012. Those materials will remain in effect until 2018, fully 20 years after the standards were adopted. Our students will be learning science content that is 20 years old. To say we [CSTA] are disappointed by the removal of the science standards from potential review is an understatement.


Related Note: The Sacramento Bee tracks California politics throughout the day at