COMET • Vol. 9, No. 03 – 2 February 2008


(1) Recommendations from “Taking Center Stage-Act II: Closing the Achievement Gap for California’s Middle Grades Students”

Source: California Department of Education

California’s 1.42 million middle grades students (young adolescents ages ten to fourteen) require schools that are academically excellent, developmentally responsive, socially equitable, and organized for success. The California Department of Education, a member and partner in the California Middle Grades Alliance (CMGA) and the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, has led the California discussion of how to create the kinds of schools that the nation’s largest and most diverse state will need to prepare students for success in high school and beyond.

What has emerged from the original recommendations in Taking Center Stage: A Commitment to Standards-Based Education for California’s Middle Grades Students (2001) and the work of the CMGA are twelve recommendations that provide a coherent foundation for California’s standards-based, middle grades education. These recommendations are the basis of Taking Center Stage-Act II: Closing the Achievement Gap for California’s Middle Grades Students, currently in development for 2008.

* Academic Excellence

– Rigor. Hold high expectations and provide numerous avenues of support so that each middle grades learner succeeds…

– Instruction, Assessment, and Intervention. Engage middle grades students with challenging lessons and opportunities to think critically and demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways…

– Time. Institute flexible schedules that provide recommended and required instructional minutes for core academic classes and accelerated interventions. Provide sufficient time before, during, and after school so that each student …

* Developmentally Responsive Practices

– Relevance. Meet the needs of middle grades students by developing a rich set of curricular and co-curricular opportunities that infuse learning with technology, visual and performing arts, career/real-world connections, service- and project-based learning, and multicultural experiences…

– Relationships. Foster close relationships for accountability and engagement among students and with adults who share extended time through grade, content-area, or interdisciplinary small learning communities…

– Transitions. Work with elementary and high schools to inform students and families about academic and behavioral expectations and to promote seamless, articulated transitions.

* Socially Equitable Practices

– Access. Provide all middle grades students equal access to a well-prepared, qualified, caring staff and a rich learning environment that includes: grade-level standards-based instruction; academic interventions; learning resources; leadership and recognition opportunities; exploratory programs; sports, clubs, and enrichment activities; and, to the extent possible, placement in heterogeneous classes.

– Safety, Resilience, and Health. Create and sustain a fair, safe, and healthy school environment through a positive discipline policy; civic and character education; safe and engaging facilities; access to adult mentors and counseling; and school and community health and social services.

* Organizational Support and Processes

– Leadership. Foster distributed leadership, collaborative decision-making, and regular data analysis to realize and sustain a middle grades vision for focused learning and continuous improvement.

– Professional Learning. Build and sustain professional learning communities through recruitment, training, coaching, and interdependent collaboration. …

– Accountability. Organize all district, school, and community stakeholders to hold high academic and behavioral expectations for all middle grades students…

– Partnerships. Engage families, businesses, local and state agencies and organizations, higher education, and community members as partners in supporting middle grades student achievement…

The four subsections of the recommendations are from the four Schools to Watch components developed by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform ( The recommendations are adapted from Taking Center Stage (2001) and developed in cooperation with the California Middle Grades Alliance partners (


(2) Proposition 92 on the February 5 Ballot (California)

Source: CSU Leader – 1 February 2008

Proposition 92, the Community College Governance Initiative, will go before California voters on February 5, and would establish a guaranteed level of funding for California’s community colleges in addition to the current funding guarantees for K-14 education. This measure also would reduce community college fees and limit the size of future fee increases, as well as change the way community colleges are governed.

Specifically, the Community College Initiative would:

– Reduce student fees from $20 per unit (previously $26 per unit) to $15 per unit, effective fall 2008. It would also require a two-thirds vote to increase this fee in the future. [About one-quarter of all CCC students do not pay any educational fees. This is because current law waives the fees for resident students who demonstrate financial need. Most of these students are low- to middle-income. Generally, a community college student living at home, with a younger sibling and married parents, could have annual family income up to roughly $65,000 and still qualify for a fee waiver.]

– Establish a new Proposition 98 enrollment growth funding mechanism to provide the community colleges with a separate guarantee of funds.

– Require a state General Fund backfill guarantee for any community college district that experiences a property tax revenue shortfall, which is estimated to be $100 million.

Those who oppose Prop. 92 (see claim that it will redirect $1 billion from the state general fund to community colleges at the expense of the CSU and UC systems. The proposition leaves little discretionary revenues for other purposes, including funding the CSU, University of California, and state financial aid programs including Cal Grants. It could also force the state to increase student fees, cut enrollment or reduce programs and services for four-year universities, and locks in funding guarantees in the state Constitution…

Supporters of the initiative (see blame Proposition 13 for shifting funding decisions from local colleges to the state, and advocate that California’s Master Plan stipulates low fees at public universities, and no fees at community colleges. Because of repeated funding deficits, the legislature has shifted portions of Prop. 98 monies earmarked for community colleges to K-12, creating budget shortfalls for community colleges. Proponents note that current K-12 public growth will decline in the near future (while growth in CCs will increase), and there will be an even greater “squeeze” on available Prop. 98 funding.

For a detailed analysis of this proposition, visit, as well as

For information on other Propositions on the ballot, as well as statements from the Presidential candidates, please visit 



(1) The Math Forum


The Math Forum is “the leading online resource for improving math learning, teaching, and communication since 1992. We are teachers, mathematicians, researchers, students, and parents using the power of the Web to learn math and improve math education. We offer a wealth of problems and puzzles; online mentoring; research; team problem solving; collaborations; and professional development. Students have fun and learn a lot. Educators share ideas and acquire new skills.”

The Math Forum Web site includes “Ask Dr. Math,” a free and popular service for students (, discussion forums for teachers, resources, and the “Math Forum Internet News” (MFIN), a weekly electronic newsletter (to subscribe, see

This week’s issue of MFIN ( contains the following information on interesting Web sites:

(a) Teacher Education Materials Project (
The TE-MAT Project advances high-quality K-12 mathematics and science education by supporting the professional development providers of pre-service and in-service teachers…

(b) TME Online: The Mathematics Educator (

The Mathematics Educator (TME) is a student-produced journal published semiannually by the Mathematics Education Student Association (MESA) in the Department of Mathematics Education at the University of Georgia. MESA is a student affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

TME publishes a variety of types of manuscripts from students and other professionals in mathematics education…

(c) Geometer’s Sketchpad Files (
Nate Burchell, a mathematics teacher at Woodstock School in Mussoorie, UA, India, offers his Geometer’s Sketchpad Version 4 files [in calculus, functions, statistics, and trigonometry] free of charge for non-profit educational purposes….


(2) Tensor Foundation Grants for Groups Traditionally Underrepresented in the Field of Mathematics

Source: The Mathematical Association of America

(a) 2008 Grants for TENSOR-SUMMA Program: Strengthening Underrepresented Minority Mathematics Achievement
The Tensor Foundation has provided funding for the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) to award grants for programs designed to encourage pursuit and enjoyment of mathematics among middle school students, high school students, and/or beginning college students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the field of mathematics. College and university mathematical sciences faculty and their departments and institutions may submit proposals. They should collaborate with secondary and middle school mathematics faculty as appropriate depending on the focus of the project. Proposed programs may replicate existing successful programs, adapt components of such programs, or be innovative. The deadline for proposals February 12, 2008. For more information visit

(b) 2008 Grants for Women and Mathematics Projects
The MAA plans to award grants for projects designed to encourage college and university women or high school and middle school girls to study mathematics. The Tensor Foundation, working through the MAA, is soliciting college, university and secondary mathematics faculty (in conjunction with college or university faculty) and their departments and institutions to submit proposals. Projects may replicate existing successful projects, adapt components of such projects, or be innovative. The deadline for proposals is February 12, 2008. For more information visit


(3) Help Shape the Research Agenda in Mathematics Education

URL: and

As reported in an earlier issue of COMET, the 11th International Congress on Mathematical Education (ICME-11) will be held in on 6-13 July 2008 in Monterey, Mexico.

Whether or not you plan to attend the conference, your input on an important survey is strongly encouraged. The following is from the ICME Web site:

Plenary 2 Survey: What do we need to know? Does research in mathematics education address the concerns of teachers and policy makers? …

One of the plenary activities for ICME-11 will be a panel presentation addressing the question of whether research in mathematics education is providing the information that teachers and policy makers most need. The panel members are mathematics education researchers from different countries who will respond to teachers’ and policy makers’ questions submitted through this website…

To do this, we invite you to submit an important question that you think should be answered by research in mathematics education and also to indicate whether research has helped you in the past and, if so, how.

This is your chance to play a part in shaping the research agenda in mathematics education. To do this, please go to the Plenary Session 2 Web page ( and click on the Plenary 2 Survey link.

It is important that you and your colleagues make your views known and contribute to shaping the direction of mathematics education research internationally.

A report will be made available through the conference Web site of both the submissions and the responses of the plenary panel.


(4) Nominate a Teacher for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Source: National Science Foundation

Nominations are now being accepted online for 2008!

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are the Nation’s highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science. The Awards recognize highly qualified K-12 teachers for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.

Since 1983, more than 3,700 outstanding teachers have been recognized for their contributions to mathematics and science education. If you know great teachers, nominate them to join this prestigious network of professionals.

The application deadline for elementary school teachers is May 1, 2008. (Secondary school teachers are eligible to apply in 2009.)

For more information, visit

(In California, the following individuals serve as PAEMST state coordinators for mathematics and for science, respectively:

Ms. Sandra Gilliam
California Mathematics Council
P.O. Box 880
Clayton, CA 94517-0880
Phone: 831-596-8038

Dr. James J. Miller
California Department of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 4206
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-319-0600