COMET • Vol. 9, No. 32 – 20 December 2008

COMET will resume publication in mid-January when Fresno State’s Spring Semester begins. Best wishes for a happy and healthy winter break, and a fulfilling and fruitful new year!


(1) Mathematics Specialist Credential Addressed at Last Week’s CCTC Meeting

Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC)
URL (Audio):

At the December 11 meeting of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC), Teri Clark introduced an agenda item entitled, “The Mathematics Specialist Credential: Discussion of Current Authorization, Adopted Standards, and Possible Future Uses of this Authorization” (see

An audio recording of this discussion is available at recording includes Teri’s statements, as well as comments and perspectives offered by Commissioners and members of the public. The statement by Mike Lutz, President of CAMTE and CMC-S follows below:

“Commission Chair Pearson and Distinguished Members of the Commission:

“I am Michael Lutz, an associate professor in the Mathematics Department at CSU Bakersfield. I am here today as President of the California Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (CAMTE). CAMTE organized four years ago as an affiliate of the national organization, AMTE, and represents California mathematics teacher educators PK-16. We believe that CAMTE and the CCTC share many goals, with CAMTE’s goals being specifically related to mathematics. ‘CAMTE’s mission is to promote the improvement of mathematics teacher education in all its aspects in the State of California.’ Our membership includes university faculty (both four-year and two-year) in mathematics teacher preparation programs in mathematics departments and colleges of education and individuals involved in teacher professional learning at every level, including mathematics experts in county offices. Accordingly, we are very interested in Agenda Item 3G and are anxious to assist in any ways that we can such as providing relevant information, providing feedback as ideas are developed, making recommendations of people to serve on the Mathematics Specialist Credential Advisory Panel, and ultimately helping to implement the policy that is created. We believe that Appendices A and B of the Professional Services Committee’s 3G document describe a thoughtful first-step in this important process and that adding the expertise of our members to the process can help develop a plan that will move us toward the ultimate goal of having a larger and more competent population of mathematics teachers that leads to the mathematical success for all California students.

“I am also President of the Central Section of the California Mathematics Council (CMC). Accordingly, I am a member of CMC’s State Executive Board. CAMTE and CMC are both working to strengthen communication among professional organizations and government agencies in our quest ‘that all students become mathematically competent and confident through rigorous and challenging mathematical programs supported by high expectations.’ We see Agenda Item 3G as an important initiative and wish to maximize its effectiveness. Our membership provides the intense focus on mathematics education that is needed and the vast diversity of views that helps guarantee that every important issue is considered.”


(2) CSBA and ACSA Granted Injunction in Algebra I Mandate

Source: California School Boards Association – 19 December 2008

The California School Boards Association’s (CSBA’s) Education Legal Alliance and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) were granted a preliminary injunction on Friday in Sacramento Superior Court regarding their lawsuit against the State Board of Education (SBE). CSBA and ACSA were joined in the lawsuit by Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and the California Teachers Association. The lawsuit was filed against the SBE over its July 9 decision to mandate Algebra I for all eighth graders in California.

In October, CSBA and ACSA were granted a temporary restraining order that prevented the SBE from taking any action to implement the Algebra I mandate, including approving or executing a timeline waiver or compliance agreement with the U.S. Department of Education. Yesterday’s ruling makes that prohibition permanent, thus preventing the SBE from taking any action on that mandate until after a trial is held. A trial date has not yet been set and likely would not occur before next spring.

“We are pleased by the judge’s ruling and feel it further validates our belief that the SBE overstepped its authority,” said CSBA Executive Director Scott P. Plotkin. “Prior to making its decision, the SBE didn’t provide the public with an opportunity to express how such a change in policy will have significant ramifications for all aspects of the educational system. Now that the court has prohibited the SBE from acting on its decision, we call upon them and others who supported their action to enter into a coherent and sensible conversation about what our children need to meet the challenges of a complex world, particularly in this extremely difficult fiscal time for schools.”

In her ruling, Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang found that CSBA and ACSA were likely to prevail at trial on both of their claims–that the SBE violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act by failing to give adequate notice of its intended action and that it exceeded its authority by amending the state’s content standards.

On the first ground, the court found SBE’s contention that the public was “involved” in the decision since members of the education community were aware of the issue to be “unconvincing.” The court also agreed that, because the state’s content standards do not currently require that all eighth graders be instructed in Algebra I, the SBE’s action resulted in a change in the standards since all eighth graders would be required to take algebra in order to pass the Algebra I test.

The SBE argued that its July action did not require any immediate action by school districts because the testing requirement would not take effect until 2012. However, the court found that claim to be “shortsighted.” The judge agreed with CSBA and ACSA that the SBE’s decision would require California schools districts to make immediate, systemic changes–changes that would entail significant costs–to ensure students were prepared to take the Algebra I test.

The judge’s order is available at


(3) Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Announces Report Outlining Framework to Develop Comprehensive Education Data System

Source: California Department of Education – 18 December 2008
URL (Report):

On Thursday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced the release of a new report, “Framework for a Comprehensive Education Data System in California–Unlocking the Power of Data to Continually Improve Public Education.” The report recommends significantly expanding and linking information from California’s K-12 system to data from higher education, social services, prekindergarten, and the workforce. It also recommends improving the use of data to improve instruction and help policymakers to make better informed decisions about education policy.

“A comprehensive education data system will give parents, educators, and policymakers the information needed to better target often limited education resources,” O’Connell said. “A better data system is also a critical tool to improve student achievement and develop the highly skilled workforce needed by California employers to compete in the global economy,” said O’Connell.

The report was commissioned by the Office of the Governor and the California Department of Education and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. No taxpayer money was used. The framework outlined in the report builds on the work the state of California already has begun in developing the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System and the California Longitudinal Teacher Integrated Data Education System, which provide the ability to follow a student’s academic performance over time and track teacher qualification, preparation, and workforce trends.

In anticipation of the report’s release, the Governor and the State Superintendent have been working with a broad-based coalition committed to improving education data and creating a continuous learning system in California public schools. The coalition includes educators, parents, business leaders, researchers, and community-based organizations. While not every group has endorsed the full report, all have agreed to back a set of core principles reflected in the report.

“Workforce demands are changing rapidly and our schools need to keep up. Better data will guide our schools to truly prepare for 21st century jobs,” said Bill Hauck, president of the California Business Roundtable. “Furthermore, better data are needed to drive sensible education policy making in Sacramento.”

“Educators see the need for a more robust education data system,” said Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser.” Working with the Governor, the Legislature, and key stakeholders is the best way to achieve the education data system we need to do the best job we can for our students and to ensure that precious education funding is spent on the most effective programs.”

A national survey published in September 2008 by the National Center for Educational Achievement shows that California lags behind half of the states in terms of its data collection system. The survey studied 10 essential data elements and found that California’s data system had only six out of the 10. For more information, please see

The report recommends improving the quality of data collected by providing the appropriate training to responsible staff; using data more effectively to improve instruction and policymaking; collecting additional data about students, educators, and programs; and linking the K-12 information to data about preschool, higher education, social services, and the workforce.

A comprehensive data system would provide powerful information about what is working and what is not in our public schools. It would also better measure how effectively public schools are preparing students for college and careers. Across all the recommendations, the report stresses that the proposed enhancements to California’s data system can and should be done in such a way to protect student and teacher privacy and security while allowing for transparency and accountability system wide.

“We are all aware of the state’s budget challenges,” said O’Connell. “Improving our state’s data system may require investments in the future, but it requires vision now. During this budget crisis we can use recommendations from this report to lay the foundation for creating an improved education data system without spending any money. I also intend to work with the incoming Obama administration to seek federal support for investment in California’s data system.”

The report reflects more than a year of research and analysis by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, including in-depth interviews with parents, teachers, administrators, policymakers, and other advocates for students and schools in California and other forward-looking states.

Please go to to view a copy of the report, or to request a copy, please call the California Department of Education, Communications Division, at 916-319-0818.


(4) K-12 Mathematics Newsletter Produced by the San Diego County Office of Education

Source: Sandra Sincek

The Fall/Winter 2008 issue of the informative newsletter produced by Sandra Sincek of the Mathematics Unit of the San Diego County Office of Education is available online at the Web site above. Topics in this issue include the following: selecting instructional materials, SB 472 mathematics professional development, California’s Teacher of the Year (Alex Kajitani), the assessment component in textbook adoptions, pacing guides, an instructional television program, and more.

Additional mathematics-related information is also available on the Mathematics Unit Web site at



(1) President-Elect Obama’s New Education Advisor

URL (Obama Remarks):

On December 16, President-Elect Barack Obama nominated Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. For the past seven years, Duncan has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools, where he has earned a solid reputation for confronting pressing issues in public education such as transforming weak schools and increasing teacher quality. In 2006, the City Club of Chicago named Duncan Citizen of the Year. He comes from a family of educators; his mother founded and has run a notable Chicago tutoring program for 48 years.

Arne Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1987, majoring in sociology. He was co-captain of Harvard’s basketball team and was named a first team Academic All-American. From 1987-1991, he played professional basketball in Australia, where he also worked with children who were wards of the state.

Duncan returned to Chicago in 1992 to direct the Ariel Education Initiative, which seeks to create outstanding educational opportunities for inner-city children on the City’s South Side. In 1998, he joined the Chicago Public Schools, and in June 2001, Mayor Richard M. Daley named Duncan Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools.

California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell stated: “I am very pleased that President-elect Obama has selected Arne Duncan as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. Duncan has a solid record of working with educators across the ideological spectrum to create schools that work in the best interests of students. I believe he will be a strong and effective advocate for closing the achievement gap in our nation’s schools by holding high expectations not only of our students but their parents and all aspects of our education system. At the same time, as an experienced administrator of one of our nation’s most challenging school districts, he brings to this critical post a clear understanding that high expectations alone won’t prepare students for the demands of the competitive global economy. He shares my belief that nothing is more important to our nation’s economic future than a well-educated workforce, and creating that workforce will require immediate and sustained investments in effective teaching, in quality preschool, in better data systems, and in state and local district efforts proven by data to help students succeed.

“The fact that President-elect Obama has chosen a close confidant to serve in this position indicates that education will remain among the top priorities of his administration. At a time of national economic hardship and many pressing challenges facing the new administration, this bodes well for our nation’s public schools. I look forward to working with Secretary Duncan and President-elect Obama on the critical mission of providing all students with the world-class education they deserve.”


(2) True Loves to Face Most Expensive Christmas Ever as PNC Christmas Price Index Jumps 8.1 Percent in 2008

Source: PNC Wealth Management ( – 1 December 2008
URL (Press Release):
URL (Archived Chat):

The PNC Christmas Price Index (CPI) increased by a lavish 8.1 percent over last year, the second biggest leap in the history of the whimsical economic analysis by PNC Wealth Management based on the cost of gifts in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

According to the 24th annual survey, the cost of the PNC CPI is $21,080 in 2008, $1,573 more than last year. The PNC CPI exceeds the U.S. government’s Consumer Price Index–the widely used measure of inflation calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Consumer Price Index is up 3.7 percent this year. The core CPI has increased 2.2 percent since October of 2007.

The Seven Swans-a-Swimming proved to be a driver of this year’s index, carrying the greatest weight with a whopping 33.3 percent increase due to their scarcity. True Loves will spend $5,600 this year for Swans compared with $4,200 in 2007, accounting for $1,400 of the $1,573 increase. The Swans typically have the largest swings in price in the PNC CPI.

Much like the government’s CPI, the PNC CPI also measures a Core Index–up just 1.1 percent this year – that excludes the Swans. The core Consumer Price Index excludes volatile energy and food costs and is generally lower than the headline figure…

Each year, the Christmas Price Index reflects trends in the broader economy. This year, commodities prices, concerns about increased energy and shipping costs, jobs and a second straight minimum wage increase were major factors in the cost, according to Dunigan…

As part of its annual tradition, PNC Wealth Management also tabulates the “True Cost of Christmas,” which is the total cost of items gifted by a True Love who repeats all of the song’s verses. This holiday season, very generous True Loves will pay more than ever before–$86,609–for all 364 items, up from $78,100 in 2007, a staggering 10.9 percent increase.

For a historical look at PNC’s Index, please visit

Each year, educators across the country are using the Christmas Price Index to teach economic trends to students of all ages. With that in mind, this year’s site includes interactive activities, annual results and PNC CPI trends in a Flash presentation, MP3 download, games and much more. For the second straight year, Jim Dunigan presented an interactive live online video chat about this year’s results on December 16, 2008 (archived at

Educators who visit the site will also find sample lesson plans on the Christmas Price
Index from The Stock Market Game (SMG) program, America’s premier educational stock market simulation. Available in all 50 states for grades 4-12, the SMG program teaches children core academic and investment skills. Individually, or in teams, students invest a hypothetical $100,000 portfolio, choosing equities and mutual funds over a 10- to 15-week period.


Related Article:

Postscript: “State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Offers Top 10
 Gift Ideas on a Budget for Holiday Season”
Source: California Department of Education