COMET • Vol. 9, No. 24 – 19 October 2008


State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Congratulates California Teachers Chosen as Finalists for Mathematics, Science Awards

Source: California Department of Education

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell congratulated two outstanding California teachers selected by a national panel as state finalists for the prestigious 2008-09 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Charles Reynes is an itinerant elementary science teacher based at Marshall Elementary School in the Castro Valley Unified School District in Alameda County. Susan Marie Kunze is a second grade mathematics teacher at Elm Street Elementary in the Bishop Union Elementary School District in Inyo County.

“In order for today’s students to succeed in tomorrow’s competitive world economy, they will need a strong foundation in mathematics and science. These two outstanding elementary teachers have shown extraordinary commitment to ensuring that all of their students have the science and math skills necessary for future success,” said O’Connell. “The Presidential Award is the highest recognition a mathematics or science teacher can receive. I congratulate them for receiving this national distinction and wish them well in the rest of the process.”

All applicants to the Presidential Award program must complete an extensive written application and submit a 30-minute video of a classroom lesson. Application packets were first reviewed at the state level by an evaluation panel composed of content experts and outstanding mathematics and science teachers. The top-scoring applications were forwarded to the National Science Foundation, which coordinates the national program on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. After the Foundation’s review, Reynes and Kunze were selected as the two nominees to represent California.

Called “Dr. Science” by his superintendent, Charles Reynes teaches science at five separate elementary schools (each on a different day) and has developed his district’s hands-on science curriculum. He was a California Teacher of the Year in 2007.

Susan Marie Kunze has taught elementary school in rural Inyo County for nearly 25 years, working primarily with Native American students. She has written books for teachers and is active in the California Mathematics Council.

Presidential Award winners are honored during a ceremony at the White House, where they receive a citation from the President. Winners are also recognized at a gala dinner and receive a $10,000 award.

The Presidential Award program recruits outstanding mathematics and science teachers from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. territories, and schools operated worldwide by the Department of Defense.

As announced last week in COMET, recruitment has begun for the 2009-10 Presidential Awards, which will recognize outstanding secondary (grades 7-12) teachers. Nomination forms and additional information about the national program may be found at



(1) Teachers College Hosts Education Debate Between Obama and McCain Advisors

Source: Teachers College, Columbia University

On Tuesday, October 21, at 4 p.m. PT, Teachers College (TC) will host “Education and the Next President,” a debate between Linda Darling-Hammond, education advisor to Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, and Lisa Graham Keegan, education advisor to Republican nominee John McCain.
TC President Susan Fuhrman will moderate the debate, which will take place in the College’s 600-seat Cowin Conference Center. The audience will consist primarily of Teachers College faculty, students and staff. The event will be live-streamed by Education Week & at and by Teachers College at  Both Education Week and Teachers College will archive the Webcast of the debate. The Education Week Webcast is being supported by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Linda Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, where she has launched the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute and the School Redesign Network. She is a leading expert on school reform, teacher quality and educational equity. Darling-Hammond, who taught for many years at Teachers College before accepting a position at Stanford, is the author of The Right to Learn, which earned the American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award for 1998, and Teaching as the Learning Profession, co-edited with Gary Sykes.

Lisa Graham Keegan is a national leader in the area of education reform and accountability. Serving as Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction after two terms in the Arizona State Legislature, she won praise from The National Review for creating “the most effective charter school program in the country.” At the 2008 National Republican Convention, Keegan was vice chairman of the GOP’s political platform committee, and also spoke during prime time on education and disaster relief issues. The author of numerous articles for the Hoover Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Pioneer Institute, Keegan received the 1998 Milton Friedman Foundation Award for free enterprise innovation in education.

Susan Fuhrman is a nationally known expert on education policy–particularly state education standards–and on university-public school partnerships. As Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, she led the creation of a new university-assisted K-8 public school in West Philadelphia, and since assuming the presidency of Teachers College in 2008 has secured more than $8 million in funding to create partnerships between the College and local public schools, and also created new partnerships with education ministries and schools in India, Jordan, the Dominican Republic and other countries. Fuhrman also is the founding director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE), the nation’s first federally funded education policy center.  Fuhrman has publicly called for the Presidential candidates to focus greater attention upon education issues.
“If we’re serious about overcoming entrenched racial attitudes and barriers, let’s recognize how important education is to that conversation,” she wrote in Education Week earlier this year, adding that the candidates must address students’ lack of equal access to high-quality teachers, the need for expanded time spent on learning, and ways of creating a rich and broad curriculum for all students.


Information on the Presidential candidates’ education policies can be found on their Web sites:

* Senator Barack Obama:
* Senator John McCain:


(2) Classroom Resources

Source: National Science Foundation

Classroom Resources is a diverse collection of lessons and web resources for classroom teachers, their students, and students’ families. Materials are arranged by subject area to help [teachers] quickly find resources…and then use them to create lesson plans or at-home activities.

Most of these resources come from the National Science Digital Library (NSDL). NSDL is the National Science Foundation’s online library of resources for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. It was established by the National Science Foundation to capture improvements in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and organize them into one point of online access. Collaborating partner institutions such as universities, museums, professional organizations, government agencies, research laboratories and publishers create NSDL materials.

NSDL’s network of content-rich collections, educational resources, and technology-based information is intended to meet the needs of students and teachers at all levels: K-12, Higher Education, and Lifelong Learning (

Visit for links to a plethora of resources in a dozen different areas (e.g., mathematics:


(3) “Beyond Access and Achievement: Equity Issues for Mathematics Teachers and Leaders” by Rochelle Gutiérrez (Chair, AMTE Equity Task Force), Jennifer Bay-Williams  (President, AMTE), and Timothy D. Kanold (President, NCSM)

Source: NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) News Bulletin – October 2008

Equity issues were once considered the special province of schools and districts with large percentages of high-poverty students or students of color. Today, education leaders recognize that inequities exist in all contexts, and in mathematics education we realize that teaching and learning will improve when we give equity the same attention that we devote to curriculum, instruction, and assessment. For this reason, the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE), the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM), and NCTM have all made equity a priority.

Equity is one of four leadership principles in NCSM;s The PRIME Leadership Framework: Principles and Indicators for Mathematics Education Leaders (NCSM, 2008;, which draws on research to outline actions and responsibilities that will encourage focused professional conversations about equity.

Most inequities arise in the learning context and reflect deficiencies in the opportunities that a student has to learn in meaningful ways–not a lack of motivation or intellectual capacity. In fact, creating an equitable learning environment involves addressing and reinforcing four interrelated and essential elements (Gutiérrez, 2008):

Access–the resources that students and their teachers have available. Ensuring access involves support for professional development–supplies and adequate technology, a rigorous curriculum, a classroom environment that invites participation, and an infrastructure for learning outside class hours.

Achievement–the outcomes that all teachers and students attain. Achievement is more than test scores but also includes class participation, students; course-taking patterns, and teachers; professional development patterns.

Identity–the cultural assumptions that a teacher brings to the classroom and to his or her relationships with students and families. Issues related to a teacher;s identity might, for example, affect students; opportunities to draw on their cultural and linguistic resources (e.g., other languages and dialects, algorithms from other countries) in doing mathematics. The goal should not be to replace traditional mathematics with a predefined “culturally relevant” mathematics, but rather to reflect on oneself and others as a routine part of planning and teaching.

Power–social transformation in classrooms, schools, and the nation. Teachers and leaders should ask who are the types of teachers and students whose voices have earned respect inside and outside the math classroom. They should ensure that they and their students have opportunities to consider alternative perspectives and to conceptualize the field of mathematics as a more humanistic enterprise.

It is vital that the mathematics education community define effective teaching to include not only content knowledge and skill in managing the classroom environment but also expertise in developing and nurturing student, family, and community relationships. Effective teachers and leaders infuse their instruction with culturally relevant and engaging mathematics tasks that are rigorous, yet accessible. They constantly ask themselves questions like the following: Am I doing enough to engage my colleagues and my students in meaningful ways, drawing on their passions and future goals? When I have achieved some success, can I still do things differently so that I can persuade even more teachers and students of the importance of equity? By what standards, or whose, do I measure the success that I achieve? Placing these and similar considerations at the forefront ensures significant progress toward meeting the needs of all students.

We must advocate for equity in classrooms, schools, districts, and universities. Teachers and leaders can foster equity through a series of steps:

–  Becoming knowledgeable about issues and strategies related to equity.
–  Ensuring that schools and teachers create a climate of high expectations and a deep belief in the capabilities of each student.
–  Creating a results-driven culture that examines and addresses disparities in mathematics related to achievement, access, identity, and power for all student populations.
–  Seeking opportunities for teachers to collaborate with and learn from those with expertise about the needs of particular groups of students.
–  Developing and implementing relevant, challenging, and contextually appropriate curriculum and pedagogical skills that motivate and respect culture and language.
–  Eliminating policies and practices that close opportunities, such as tracking students in the primary grades or locking students into courses of mathematics study that limit access to college and careers.

All classroom environments improve when teachers have high expectations for, and give strong support to, all students.


Related Article:

“Equity: All Means ALL!” by Hank Kepner (President, NCTM)

This year, NCTM is making equity in mathematics education a special focus. The Council;s Professional Development Focus of the Year for 2008-09 is “Equity: All Means ALL.” Equity will be a theme at all NCTM meetings and highlighted in journal articles, research, Web site resources (, the NCTM News Bulletin, and other NCTM forums. This emphasis on equity builds on the Council;s Equity Principle, enunciated in Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.

In January 2008, NCTM released a position statement, “Equity in Mathematics Education,” calling for the creation of a culture of equity in the teaching and learning of mathematics ( Fostering a “culture of equity” in the mathematics classroom and beyond is essential, and we perhaps initiate the process most effectively when we examine our own biases. How do issues of gender, race, class, special needs, and language affect our own teaching and our students; learning of mathematics in our classrooms? Recognizing and grappling with our own biases–and acknowledging their influence on our instructional practices–help us view our students through the lens of equity…


(4) Doodle–A Free Online Scheduling Tool Useful for Educators


Doodle is a simple, free, Web-based application for scheduling meetings and other events. The person proposing the meeting will select possible dates and times, which will appear in an online matrix. Each person invited to the meeting will add his or her name to the list and select available dates and times. The choices of everyone invited will appear in the matrix, facilitating the selection of a date/time for the proposed meeting that is convenient for the majority of those invited. To start, go to the Web site above and click “create poll” under “Schedule an event,” then follow the directions from that point.


Related Web Application:

Socializr ( is a Web application for meeting (or other event) planners, allowing them to design and send e-invitations. Visit to view some sample invitation designs.Evite provides a similar service: