2008 Archive‎ > ‎

Vol. 9, No. 10 - 30 March 2008

In This Issue...



ARTICLES & ANNOUNCEMENTS (CALIFORNIA FOCUS)

(1) SB 1097 -- "School Curriculum: Content Standards" (Review and Revision)

Source: California State Senate
URL: http://tinyurl.com/3btsz6

Senate Bill 1097 was introduced by Senator Tom Torlakson (http://tinyurl.com/3yqftl) on 14 January 2008 and was amended in the Senate on March 24. A portion of this bill follows below:

"Existing law...requires the State Board of Education to adopt statewide academic content standards and performance standards, based on the recommendation of the Commission for the Establishment of Academic Content and Performance Standards and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, respectively. Existing law authorizes the state board to modify any proposed content standard or performance standard prior to its adoption.

"This bill would delete the provisions allowing the state board to modify the recommended standards prior to adoption...

"60605.4.(a) The Superintendent shall [instead] appoint a content standards review panel for each subject area in which state content standards have been adopted by the state board, including, but not limited to, health, reading, writing, mathematics, history/social science, science, visual and performing arts, physical education, foreign language, and career technical education.
  (b) Each content standards review panel shall review the content standards established in its particular subject area and may revise the standards as it may deem necessary.
  (c) The Superintendent shall ensure that the appointment of each content standards review panel and the revision of any standards pursuant to this section are timed to coincide with, and provide a foundation for, the review and adoption of statewide curriculum frameworks and instructional materials.
  (d) In making appointments to each review panel, the Superintendent shall ensure that each review panel meets all of the following criteria:

     (1) A panel shall include only experts who possess a thorough knowledge of the academic content standards in the content area and grade level span in which they are appointed.
     (2) A panel shall include a wide range of experts on public schools, including, but not limited to, individuals with expertise on urban and rural schools, English language learners, and special education.
     (3) A panel shall include experts in various grade levels and from different geographic areas of the state.
     (4) A panel shall reflect the ethnic and gender diversity of California.

  (e) If a content standards review panel revises the standards in its particular subject area, it shall forward the standards to the state board, which shall hold hearings on the revised content standards. The state board shall adopt or reject the revised content standards within 120 days of their receipt from a content standards review panel..."

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Staff Comments include the following:

"...Previous legislation. Several previous measures have proposed to establish a procedure for review and updating of the standards. Two bills, AB 1454 (Richardson) and AB 1100 (Mullin) are currently held in committees, and at least three bills were  vetoed by the governor in past sessions.   The most recent veto was of AB 2744 (Goldberg) in 2004..."

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For more information on this bill, please visit http://tinyurl.com/3btsz6

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(2) Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Issues Statement Regarding Release of Committee on Education Excellence Report

URL (Governor's Office Press Release): http://gov.ca.gov/index.php?/press-release/9010/
URL (CDE Press Release): http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr08/yr08rel32.asp
URL (Students First): http://everychildprepared.org/

On March 14, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued the following statement regarding the release of the report from the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Education Excellence, called "Students First, Renewing Hope for California’s Future" (see http://everychildprepared.org/techreports.php).  Commissioned by Governor Schwarzenegger, the committee is a non-partisan, privately-funded group charged with examining K-12 education in California and recommending steps to improve the performance of public schools (see http://gov.ca.gov/index.php?/press-release/2066/).

"I asked 18 of California’s top minds in education to examine our system to see what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, and to make recommendations for the future.  The Committee’s report serves as an outstanding blueprint on how to make big, bold improvements to our education system.  The report shines a spotlight on a number of issues--from streamlining bureaucracy, to the need for more local control and having clear governance and real transparency, so there is accountability from top to bottom.

"I have directed Secretary Long to work with committee members to hold meetings and town halls across the state to build consensus for reform.

"I realize that providing a first-rate education system means having adequate resources. The report recommends additional funding spread out over the next decade and when our budget picture is brighter, as it surely will be, I will strongly consider that.  However, I also agree that more money must be tied to tangible reforms, because more money without reform would be a waste.

"Today with our formula-driven, feast-or-famine budget cycle, we spend every dime we get in the good years and have to make deep cuts when revenues go flat like right now.  All of this anxiety and all this uncertainty could be a thing of the past if our budget system were more dependable, predictable and stable. That’s why I am working so hard right now on true budget reform.

"To have healthy schools, you need real reforms and a healthy budget.  Let’s demand that we fix our budget, fix our schools and give our kids the future they deserve."

In response to the report's release, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell issued the following statement:

"I commend the Governor's Committee on Education Excellence for its thoughtful, comprehensive recommendations for education reforms to better prepare California's students for success. I appreciate the commitment of the Governor and the hard work of the Committee to seek ways to ensure that all our students have the opportunities, resources, and skills they need to compete in the competitive global economy.   

"I agree with the Committee's findings that California needs to significantly expand our education data system. In order to close the achievement gap, we must be able to provide educators and policymakers with information that will reveal what practices and materials are most effective, where and how we should intervene in schools, and how we might improve classroom instruction.

"I also agree that we must both invest significantly more in our schools, and change our funding system to directly focus resources on closing the achievement gap. I also concur that schools should be given more flexibility in how they spend their education dollars.

"It is a sad irony that on the day that this report acknowledges the need for critical investments in our public education system, school districts across our state are issuing pink slips to teachers and support staff as a result of the Governor's proposed $4.8 billion education budget cuts.

"While California has a serious budget shortfall that must be addressed, improving our education system is the key to ensuring that California will have the well-qualified workforce that will secure a healthy economy in the future. I am committed to making improvements to our system regardless of our fiscal difficulties, but we must have a conversation about how to secure the long-term investments our students and our state need to succeed. Once we weather this fiscal crisis, I look forward to working collaboratively with the Governor and Legislature to attain the kind of positive results that only effective comprehensive education reform will allow us to attain."   

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A summary of the recommendations may be found at http://everychildprepared.org/docs/appendixa.pdf

These include the following (please see Appendix A for the entire recommendations summary; note Recommendation 1.4.4):

Priority 1: Strengthen Teaching and Leadership

   Recommendation 1.1: Implement a Professional Model of Teaching in California 

   Recommendation 1.2: Implement a Professional Model of Education Leadership in California 

   Recommendation 1.3: Narrow the Teacher and Administrator Quality Gap
      1.3.1: Provide incentive pay
      1.3.2: Identify and plan to mitigate the disparity in educator quality
      1.3.3: Use targeted student-centered funds for promising practices
      1.3.4: Expand alternative teacher and administrator training programs to provide high-quality candidates
      1.3.5: Create a Teach for California program

  Recommendation 1.4: Improve the Quality and Expand the Supply of New Teacher Candidates
      1.4.1: Create an Integrated Teacher Training Program that incorporates the best traits of the teacher internships and traditional teacher training
      1.4.2: Create a teacher apprenticeship program in targeted schools
      1.4.3: Empower county superintendents to grant exceptional candidates an exemplary credential
      1.4.4: Support an EnCorps [http://www2.encorpsteachers.org/] program for math and science teachers
      1.4.5: Reform accreditation and credentialing processes and eliminate the Commission on Teaching Credentialing

   Recommendation 1.5: Expand and Strengthen Administrator Training
      1.5.1: Authorize county-district integrated training
      1.5.2: Create administrator "induction" support
      1.5.3: Develop a school turnaround training program

   Recommendation 1.6: Promote Efficiency in Recruitment and Training Efforts
      1.6.1: Create a college tutoring program to support struggling K–12 students 
      1.6.2: Evaluate all teacher training programs
      1.6.3: Transition the Peer Assistance and Review program into the new teacher professional practice model...

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(3) RFP Notice: California Mathematics and Science Partnership

Source: California Department of Education - 28 March 2008
Contact: Lisa Fassett: lfassett@cde.ca.gov or 916-323-4963
URL: http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fo/r12/camsp08rfa.asp and http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fo/profile.asp?id=1306

Funding Description: The California Mathematics and Science Partnership (CaMSP) program seeks to establish partnerships to improve the academic achievement of students in mathematics and science. The focus is to create opportunities for enhanced and ongoing professional development for mathematics teachers (grade three through Algebra 1) and science teachers (grades three through eight).

Required Eligibility Criteria: The essential partnership is between an eligible local educational agency (LEA) and eligible departments of institutions of higher education (IHE). County offices of education, individual schools, additional LEAs, IHEs, or other organizations concerned about mathematics and science education may also participate in the partnership. Only local educational agencies (LEAs) that are currently funded as a Cohort 4 partnership and continue to meet the 40 percent free and reduced lunch criteria may apply.

 

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ARTICLES & ANNOUNCEMENTS (NATIONAL FOCUS)

(1) "Math Education: Preparing Students to Succeed in the Knowledge Economy"

Source:  U.S. Department of Education - "Education News Parents Can Use"
URL (Announcement): http://registerevent.ed.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewer.description&intEventID=212
URL (Webcast): http://www.connectlive.com/events/ednews/20080318.html

In today's 21st century marketplace where "what you earn" is directly tied to "what you learn," knowledge of and proficiency in math has never been more important. Studies indicate that a strong foundation in mathematics--cultivated in the early grades, when children need to develop basic math aptitudes and the critical thinking skills needed to succeed in algebra--is absolutely essential if students are to succeed in college and the workplace.

To ensure our nation's future competitiveness, economic viability, and security, President Bush created the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMP) in April 2006. For the past two years, the Panel has examined the best scientific evidence on improving the teaching and learning of pre-K through 8th grade mathematics and now has presented 45 findings and recommendations to ensure all American students are prepared for and successful in learning algebra.  

[The March 18 episode of "Education News Parents Can Use" (produced by the U.S. Department of Education) was entitled "Math Education: Preparing Students to Succeed in the Knowledge Economy" and focused on the NMP's Final Report. The archived webcast of this program is available at http://www.connectlive.com/events/ednews/20080318.html COMET readers are encouraged to view this webcast, as well as the webcast of the NMP Final Report Briefing, held on March 27 (see below). Following are some of the features of the March 18 program:]

* A conversation with Ray Simon, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, about the nation's progress toward NCLB's goal of having every child doing math at grade level by 2014; the significance of the National Math Panel's Final Report and how it helps improve student mathematics achievement in the country; how the administration proposes to bolster math and science education through the American Competitiveness Initiative; and the tools, resources and assistance offered through the Department to ensure every student acquires the math skills and competencies necessary for  today's knowledge economy.

* A discussion with the Deputy Secretary and award winning educators about the current status of mathematics instruction in our nation's schools; professional development to improve math instruction; and the effective techniques and strategies proven to increase student mathematics achievement and algebra competency.

* A taped interview with Dr. Larry Faulkner, Chair of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, to discuss the Panel's findings.

* A round table dialogue with the Deputy Secretary; Francis (Skip) Fennell, Professor of Education at McDaniel College and President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; and Dr. Tasha Inniss, Professor of Mathematics at Spelman College, about the significance of the Panel's findings for parents; what children should be learning and doing in math at each grade level; the questions parents should ask teachers and school administrators to ensure their children are receiving high quality math instruction; how to encourage more girls and minorities to pursue math and science career fields; and the range of tools and resources available to help families encourage their children to be math literate and successful in the knowledge economy. 

* A video case study featuring Clark Middle School in Chickasaw, Alabama, and a public service announcement about the importance of mathematics education for all students.

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(2) National Math Panel: Final Report Briefing

Source: Ida Eblinger Kelley, Math Panel Staff - U.S. Department of Education
URL: http://www.connectlive.com/events/deptedumathpanel0308/

"Foundations for Success: Report of The National Mathematics Advisory Panel" (the Panel's Final Report that was formally approved on March 13) is available for download from http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf (PDF format) or http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.doc (MS Word format).

On the morning of March 27, Panel Chair Larry R. Faulkner and Raymond Simon, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, led a discussion on the report's principal findings and key messages; this included a series of interviews and conversations, videos, and call-in questions.

To access an archived webcast of this program, please visit http://www.connectlive.com/events/deptedumathpanel0308/

In addition, visit http://www.ed.gov/news/av/video/2008/larryfaulkner.html to watch a short videoclip of an interview with Dr. Larry Faulkner where highlights of the NMP Report are discussed.

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(3) "Essential Qualities of Math Teaching Remain Unknown" by Sean Cavanagh

Source: Education Week - 28 March 2008
URL: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2008/04/02/31math_ep.h27.html?tmp=1235913315

It is one of most widely accepted axioms in math education: Good teachers matter.

But what are the qualities of an effective mathematics teacher? The answer, as a recent federal report suggests, remains frustratingly elusive.

Research does not show conclusively which professional credentials demonstrate whether math teachers are effective in the classroom, the report found. It does not show what college math content and coursework are most essential for teachers. Nor does it show what kinds of preservice, professional development, or alternative education programs best prepare them to teach.

As a result, while the report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, released last month, offers numerous conclusions about math curriculum, cognition, and instruction, many of its recommendations about improving teaching are more tentative and amount to a call for more research.

"It is, in some ways, where the action has to come next," said Deborah Loewenberg Ball, the member of the panel who chaired its working group on teacher issues.

"We should put a lot of careful effort over the next decade into this issue so that we can be in a much different place 10 years from now."

The uncertainty about math teaching skills emerges at a time when policymakers at all levels see a need to boost students’ math and science achievement as a key to sustaining the nation’s future economic health and producing a skilled workforce.

One reason the panel found a paucity of evidence on effective math instruction is that it set a high standard for the type of research it would accept, as Ms. Ball acknowledged.

Yet its members found a deeper pool of research in other areas of math, such as how students learn in the subject, and how students’ confidence in their ability influences their persistence and engagement in math study.

Credentials and Content

The panel was also more confident in calling for "a more focused, coherent" curriculum in pre-kindergarten through 8th grade math--the primary age group studied--with a more logical progression from less difficult topics to more sophisticated subject matter.

But when it came to drawing conclusions about the necessary skills and preparation of educators responsible for delivering that content, the report’s authors said much less is known.

On the one hand, effective math teachers have an impact on student achievement, the panel found. It cited a study showing that differences in the quality of teaching accounted for 12 percent to 14 percent of variation in students’ math achievement in elementary grades.

But the 90-page report also says it is hard to determine what credentials and training have the strongest effect on preparing math teachers to teach, and teach well. Research has not provided "consistent or convincing" evidence, for instance, that students of certified math teachers benefit more than those whose teachers do not have that licensure, it found.

Similarly, a weak connection exists between teachers’ college math coursetaking and the achievement of their students at the elementary level, though there was a stronger link between that educational background and high school achievement, the panel found.

When it comes to the specific math-content knowledge teachers need, the available research is also sketchy, the panel concluded. But the report does offer some direction on that topic.

It emphasizes, for instance, the importance of educators’ having a solid grasp of "mathematics for teaching"--or an in-depth knowledge of the specific math needed for their classes and how to make it understandable to students.

Ms. Ball, the dean of the school of education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, conceived that concept, also referred to as "mathematical knowledge for teaching," along with a team of researchers. That work has been widely cited in education policy circles.

Classroom Know-How

Ms. Ball believes the emphasis on giving aspiring teachers more classroom-specific math skills must occur on several fronts.

Schools of education--ideally, entire networks of them--must devise courses and tests, in partnership with mathematics faculty, that provide "instructionally relevant" content knowledge for teacher-candidates, rather than just focusing on more generic math content, she said.

States, which license teachers, should produce certification tests that better measure math teachers’ knowledge of instructionally relevant content, Ms. Ball added.

Ideally, states would partner with each other to craft tests using similar standards to cover a wider swath of the teaching population, she said.

Cathy L. Seeley, a former president of the 100,000-member National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said she also favors emphasizing those classroom skills.

There is a growing recognition of the need to give aspiring math teachers, particularly those who will teach in the early grades, college coursework that is tailored more specifically to working with students, rather than simply piling on more advanced math, said Ms. Seeley, who was not on the math panel.

But shaping education school courses, professional development, and licensure tests around that concept takes time, she said.

"It’s a different kind of mathematics and an emerging area," said Ms. Seeley, now a senior fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. "It’s not about how much math you have--it’s about the particular math you know."

The working group of the math panel that studied teacher issues, like the panel as a whole, placed the greatest value on "scientifically rigorous" research, such as randomized controlled trials. The working group acknowledged, though, that conducting such rigorous studies in the area of teacher preparation and content knowledge is difficult.

Many researchers and scholars have bemoaned the lack of firm evidence, not just in mathematics but across subjects, about what preparation and credentials are most likely to produce high-quality teaching.

The dearth of strong research on the attributes of effective teachers applies to science, another high-need subject in many schools, said Heidi Schweingruber, the acting director of the board on science education at the congressionally chartered National Research Council.

Ms. Schweingruber co-directed a 2006 federal study on teaching and learning in K-8 science, which she says revealed a lack of high-quality research on effective teacher preparation and professional development in that subject.

Specialist Knowledge

Establishing a link between teacher preparation and student achievement in many ways represents "the holy grail" in teacher education research, Ms. Schweingruber said. But there are many factors affecting teacher preparation and student performance that can undermine such research, she said.

"Our sense was there was even less known in science than there was in math," she said. The best available knowledge about how to prepare and mentor science teachers, she said, is more commonly rooted in "professional wisdom" than definitive research.

The Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, is supporting a number of research projects on the characteristics and qualifications of effective teachers, and on effective practices in professional development, a spokesman said.

In addition, the IES recently issued a request for applications to set up a Center on Teacher Effectiveness to study the issue in greater depth, though it has not been determined which teacher subject-area would be its focus, the agency said.

On the topic of strategies to recruit and retain math teachers--who are in great demand in districts--the panel said evidence was generally favorable, though not conclusive, that financial incentives help.

Evidence was also mixed on the benefits of elementary school math specialists, who teach only that subject, as opposed to having to cover all subjects, as is common at that level of education. While specialists are used in China, Singapore, and Sweden, the panel’s report said, they are not widely employed in most high-performing nations.

Even so, the panel’s report urges that research be conducted on elementary-level math specialists, because the potential benefits are so great. Using specialists could be a "practical alternative" to attempting to raise the math skills of all elementary teachers, "a problem of huge scale," the report notes.

Cost is sometimes cited as a barrier to hiring specialists, but another hurdle is the belief that young students benefit from "the nurturing of a single teacher," rather than being taught by a group of them, said Ms. Seeley, who added that she does not buy that argument.

The possible upside of using specialists "is huge," she said. Today, most elementary teachers, as subject-matter generalists, are likely to have taken only one or two college math courses at most, she pointed out.

"I don’t care if you have math specialists or not--but I think you should guarantee you have someone teaching math who knows it and likes it," Ms. Seeley said. An elementary math specialist, she added, is more likely to be "someone who knows math and likes it."

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