COMET  Vol. 13, No. 9 - 19 June 2012

In This Issue...

Dear COMET Readers -- This is the final issue of COMET until school resumes in August. May you have a professionally and personally fulfilling and refreshing summer! ~ CFB


New California Common Core State Standards App for the iPhone and iPad

ContactJohn Magneson, Coordinator, Media & Technology Instructional Services,  Merced County Office of Education -- (209) 381-6638

The Merced County Office of Education, in collaboration with member county offices of education in the California County Educational Technology Consortium (CCETC –, has developed a free iOS (iPhone, iPad) app, CS CORE, that contains the California-adopted Common Core State Standards and related Common Core resources.  The information is organized by content area --> grade level --> domain/strand --> cluster --> standard.

To download, search for CS CORE in the iTunes store or link directly to the CS CORE app page at


Free Webinar on Wednesday: "Expanding Science Learning Opportunities During Out-of-School Time"


The third and final webinar in the "Advancing STEM Education K-8 in California" series will be held tomorrow (June 20) from 10:30 a.m.-noon PDT. The series focuses on high quality in-school and out-of-school approaches that are being used to expand science teaching and learning in California. 

This week's episode, "Expanding Science Learning Opportunities During Out-of-School Time," features the following speakers:
- Holly Jacobson (Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning--CFTL, WestEd)
- Kelly Stuart (Doing What Works, WestEd)
- Joan Bissell (California State University Chancellor's Office)
- Bernadette Chi (Lawrence Hall of Science)
- Jeff Davis (California Afterschool Network)
- Traci Wierman (GEMS/Seeds of Science Network; Lawrence Hall of Science)

Visit to register for this webinar. The audio for the webinar is available via telephone, which has worked well in the past two webinars. 

Archived videos of the first two webinars in the series, as well as related resources and presentation files, may be found on the following pages:

"The Status of Elementary and Middle School Science in California" (June 6):  

"Preparing California Elementary and Middle School Teachers in Science" (June 13): 

Related Articles

Related publication by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd:

"Lost Opportunities: The Status of Science Education in California Middle Schools"



STEM Task Force Web Pages to be Available Later this Summer

Source: Jim Greco, California Department of Education 

On May 24, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the creation of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Task Force to examine ways to improve learning and to engage more students in scientific and technical fields ( The Superintendent has named Jim Greco as Senior Fellow for his STEM Initiative. 

Later this summer, there will be a link to a STEM Task Force page from the Superintendent's Initiatives and Programs website at 

There will also be a STEM Task Force Community link under the header "The California Department of Education and State Superintendent Torlakson's Task Forces want to hear from you:" on the Brokers of Expertise main page: The public will be invited to contribute research, links, and other information to the Task Force via this Web site. 


"Learning about Spatial Relationships Boosts Understanding of Numbers" by William Harms

Source: University of Chicago - 13 June 2012

Children who are skilled in understanding how shapes fit together to make recognizable objects also have an advantage when it comes to learning the number line and solving math problems, research at the University of Chicago (UChicago) shows. 

The work is further evidence of the value of providing young children with early opportunities in spatial learning. Such experiences enhance their ability to mentally manipulate objects and understand spatial relationships, skills which are important in a wide range of tasks from reading maps and graphs to understanding diagrams showing how to put objects together. 

Earlier research at UChicago has shown that improved spatial understanding and higher achievement in geometry is related to working with puzzles and learning to identify shapes. The latest research connects robust spatial learning with enhanced comprehension of other aspects of mathematics.

"We found that children's spatial skills at the beginning of first and second grades predicted improvements in linear number line knowledge over the course of the school year," said Elizabeth Gunderson, a UChicago postdoctoral scholar who is lead author of the paper, "The Relation Between Spatial Skill and Early Number Knowledge: The Role of the Linear Number Line." The team also showed that better understanding of the number line boosted mathematics performance on a calculation task.

"Improving children's spatial skills may have positive impacts on their future success in science, technology, engineering or mathematics disciplines, not only by improving spatial thinking but also by enhancing the numerical skills that are critical for achievement in all STEM fields," Gunderson said.


Knowledge of Fractions and Long Division Predicts Long-Term Math Success

Source: Association of Psychological Science - 15 June 2012 

A research team led by Carnegie Mellon University's Robert Siegler found that fifth graders' understanding of fractions and division predicted their knowledge of algebra and overall math achievement in high school, even after statistically controlling for parents' education and income and for the children's age, gender, I.Q., reading comprehension, working memory, and knowledge of whole number addition, subtraction and multiplication. 

"We suspected that early knowledge in these areas was absolutely crucial to later learning of more advanced mathematics, but did not have any evidence until now," said Siegler. "The clear message is that we need to improve instruction in long division and fractions, which will require helping teachers to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts that underlie these mathematical operations. At present, many teachers lack this understanding. Because mastery of fractions, ratios and proportions is necessary in a high percentage of contemporary occupations, we need to start making these improvements now."
For the study, the team examined two nationally representative data sets, one from the U.S. and one from the United Kingdom. The U.S. set included 599 children who were tested in 1997 as 10-12 year-olds and again in 2002 as 15-17-year-olds. The set from the U.K. included 3,677 children who were tested in 1980 as 10-year-olds and in 1986 as 16-year-olds. The importance of fractions and division for long-term mathematics learning was evident in both data sets, despite the data being collected in two different countries almost 20 years apart.

For more information, view a short video of Siegler discussing the study and its implications at


Results from the "Science in Action" Component of the NAEP Science Assessment will be Released Today

Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress 

Today (June 19), The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) will release The Nation's Report Card: Science in Action: Hands-On and Interactive Computer Tasks From the 2009 NAEP Science Assessment at Grades 4, 8, and 12.

In 2009, students at each of these grade levels performed hands-on and interactive computer tasks designed to measure how well they were able to plan and conduct scientific investigations, reason through complex problems, and apply their scientific knowledge in real world contexts.

Three of the Hands-On Tasks and nine of the Interactive Computer Tasks will be made available to the public through The Nation's Report Card website ( in conjunction with the report release. 

A panel of education experts will discuss the results in a live webcast beginning at 7:00 a.m. PDT. View the event at


Free Webinar: "Revealing How Education Leaders Can Work Together on Common-Standards Implementation"

Source: Education Week 

Education Week is offering a free webinar entitled, "Revealing How Education Leaders Can Work Together on Common-Standards Implementation" on July 11 from 11 a.m.-noon PDT. To register, visit the Web site above.

Description: Principals have a pivotal role to play in turning the Common Core State Standards into good curriculum and instruction in their schools. They must learn about the new standards so they can oversee and guide teaching and help teachers assemble the right mix of instructional materials. They must know how to monitor teaching and learning and coordinate many other aspects of school life that will be affected by the Common Core. Webinar participants will learn what resources are available to guide principals and district leaders as they embrace this important role.


Median Salaries of New College Graduates--Computer Science and Engineering Graduates Command Top Salaries

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers 

The Salary Survey produced by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) details starting salaries for new college graduates as reported by employers. Data are listed by major, then industry and position. The April 2012 Executive Summary can be downloaded from the Web site above.

Findings include the following:

- Overall, the average starting salary for a Class of 2012 graduate is $44,442...the overall median salary for Class of 2012 graduates is up 4.5 percent over the median posted for the Class of 2011.

- EDUCATION: Of all the disciplines, those in the education fields saw the highest increase to their median starting salary, which rose 4.5 percent from $35,828 to $37,423. Within this group, starting salaries are highest for special education majors; their median salary now stands at $42,200, up 2.2 percent over last year.

- MATH AND SCIENCES:  The overall median salary for graduates earning math and sciences degrees has increased modestly by 2.5 percent to $40,939... All of their top-employing industries, construction firms, professional, scientific and technical services employers, and government employers reported average salaries that topped $55,000. While mathematics majors saw a 1.5 percent increase to their median starting salary, now standing at $47,000, they also had three of their top-employing industries paying average starting salaries of more than $50,000. 

- ENGINEERING: The current median salary for graduates in the engineering disciplines is $58,581... Computer engineering graduates are the highest paid of the engineering disciplines, with a median salary of $67,800... Right behind computer engineering graduates are aerospace engineering grads, with a median starting salary of $64,200. The median salary for civil engineering graduates is $55,300. Bioengineering and chemical engineering students' median starting salaries are $41,800 and $63,000, respectively. Electrical engineering graduates saw the largest increase of the engineering disciplines--a 2.7 percent increase, bringing their median starting salary to $57,300. The median starting salary of students majoring in mechanical engineering rose is $58,600.  

- COMPUTER SCIENCES Graduates within the computer sciences fields have starting salaries that are 2.4 percent higher this year; their overall median starting salary rose from $55,087 to $56,383. Employers in the information sector reported the highest number of new graduate entrants, with a starting salary of $64,400.


NSF Releases Report Detailing Substantial Growth in Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering in the Past Decade


A recent report released by the National Science Foundation found that graduate enrollment in science and engineering grew substantially in the past decade. (Download the report at

Approximately 632,700 graduate students were enrolled in science, engineering and health programs in the United States as of fall 2010. This was a 30 percent increase from 493,000 students in 2000, according to the National Science Foundation's Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

The growth in first time, full-time graduate student enrollment in science, engineering, and health programs over this time was even greater, with a 50 percent increase from approximately 78,400 students in 2000 to almost 118,500 students in 2010.

Enrollment in biomedical engineering, which increased by over seven percent between 2009 and 2010, continues to be one of the fastest growing science and engineering fields and has experienced 165 percent growth--the most rapid growth over the last decade--from approximately 3,200 graduate students in 2000 to 8,500 students in 2010.


President Obama Honors Outstanding Math and Science Teachers

Source: The White House - 11 June 2012 

Last week, President Obama named 97 mathematics and science teachers (grades 7-12) as recipients of the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Winners of this Presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion. They also are invited to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and for several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and the administration. This year, the educators will receive their awards on June 28. (Visit to view the full agenda.)

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is awarded annually to outstanding K-12 science and mathematics teachers from across the country. The recipients are selected by a panel of distinguished scientists, mathematicians, and educators following an initial selection process conducted at the state level. (Visit to locate state coordinators.) Teachers in grades K-6 may be nominated for even-numbered year awards (e.g., 2012); those teaching in grades 7-12 may be nominated for odd-numbered year awards. The nomination period for teachers in grades K-6 has closed for 2012. The next nomination window (for the 2013 award) will open in November 2012.

"America's success in the 21st century depends on our ability to educate our children, give our workers the skills they need, and embrace technological change. That starts with the men and women in front of our classrooms. These teachers are the best of the best, and they stand as excellent examples of the kind of leadership we need in order to train the next generation of innovators and help this country get ahead," said President Obama.

California's recipients of the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are Kentaro Iwasaki (Math)
 and Dean Baird (Science). Read more about these outstanding teachers below.

Related Articles

Profile of PAEMST (Science) Recipient Dean Baird


A graduate of the University of Michigan, Dean Baird has taught Physics and Advanced Placement Physics for more than 25 years at Rio Americano High School, where he also taught Pre-algebra, Physical Science, and Newspaper. Dean designed and implemented successful school-wide ad campaigns to increase enrollment in physics. Colleagues around the world access Dean's unique curriculum materials via the Web site he established in the 1990s ( He also shares ideas and analysis of physics teaching issues on his blog, where his whimsical collection of scientist valentines went viral.

Dean has served and been recognized by the American Association of Physics Teachers at the state and national levels, where he has presented novel demonstrations and conducted engaging workshops. He helped found Physics Teacher SOS to serve new teachers in northern California. California's State Board of Education appointed Dean to its Assessment Review Panel to evaluate the items and content used on statewide science tests. For the past decade, Dean has authored the lab manuals for Paul Hewitt's popular Conceptual Science textbooks.

Profile of PAEMST (Math) Recipient Kentaro Iwasaki


A Stanford graduate, Kentaro Iwasaki has loved teaching mathematics for 16 years and spent 13 years at Mission High School. He taught all levels of mathematics, from Algebra through Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus, and served as department head. Kentaro is a National Board Certified Teacher with a secondary teaching credential in mathematics and Japanese.

His passion for students led him to begin a Math Circle program at his school. He also taught summer sessions in Washington State for migrant students and in Medellin, Colombia for international students. As department head, he achieved a five-fold increase in AP enrollment of mathematics students, especially students of color.

Kentaro helped write the mathematics curriculum for Agile Mind through the Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He participated in two National Science Foundation projects, which led him to coauthor an article in a book produced by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:  "Empowering the Mentor of the Experienced Mathematics Teacher."

Kentaro now works at ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career in Berkeley, CA. He coordinates the mathematics curriculum and professional development for a Federal Investing in Innovation (i3) project and for the Math Design Collaborative.


The Common Core State Standards: Implications for Career and Technical Education

Source: Achieve 

Last month, Achieve released a policy document, Common Core State Standards & Career and Technical Education: Bridging the Divide between College and Career Readiness. The report outlines a set of strategies state and district leaders can leverage to ensure that the implementation of Common Core State Standards engages, informs, and benefits from the career and technical education (CTE) community, a critical partner in the broader college- and career-ready agenda. An excerpt from this report appears below:

"Today, 46 states and Washington, DC, are engaged in implementation of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which affects instructional materials, curricula, professional development and assessment. The CCSS identify the knowledge and skills students need at each grade level, providing potential opportunities for CTE educators to share their expertise around project-based learning and the application of content to their colleagues in mathematics, English and other affected disciplines. 

"In addition, the CCSS were designed to address the common criticism that state standards are 'a mile wide and an inch deep," with educators expected to cover a broad array of topics each year without having the opportunity to go deep in any of the topics. The CCSS include fewer topics each year, allowing teachers to focus on the most important content and help their students gain a deeper conceptual understanding of that content, including how it is applied in real-world contexts. The widespread adoption of the new standards, along with the systemwide changes states are making as they implement the more focused CCSS, provides the nation with the best opportunity to create academic and CTE classes that truly reinforce one another and provide students with multiple ways of mastering college- and career-ready knowledge and skills..."

The document can be downloaded free of charge from

Related Websites

ConnectEd Studios


ConnectEd Studios is an online platform providing students and teachers access to integrated curriculum units, multimedia resources, project planning tools, and industry professionals to support project-based learning in schools.

ConnectEd Studios is designed to help both teachers and students access a range of resources that will enhance teaching and learning in a Linked Learning pathway. Visit the Web site above for user guides, an information sheet, and a video about ConnectEd Studios.


COMET is sponsored in part by a grant from the California Mathematics Project.

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