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March 14, 2008 ED Review
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 March 14, 2008
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Math Education
NCLB Update
American Stars
Transforming Higher Education
Funding Opportunities
Intel Science Awards
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Math Education

Yesterday (March 13), the National Mathematics Advisory Panel released its final report. The panel, created by President Bush in April 2006, was charged with making recommendations to the President and the Secretary on the best use of scientifically based research to advance the teaching and learning of mathematics, with a specific focus on preparation for and success in algebra (grades PK-8). Why algebra? It is a "demonstrable gateway to later achievement," needed for higher math in high school. Also, completion of Algebra II correlates significantly with success in college and future earnings. Panelists, including mathematicians, cognitive psychologists, and educators, held 12 meetings across the country (receiving testimony from 200 individuals and 150 organizations), reviewed 16,000 studies, and scrutinized surveys from 743 algebra teachers. The result is 45 findings and recommendations on a range of items, including instructional practices, materials, assessments, and teacher professional development. Below are some highlights.

Core Principles of Math Instruction

  • The areas to be studied from pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade should be streamlined, and a well-defined set of the most important topics should be emphasized in the early grades. Any approach that revisits topics year after year—without brining them to closure—should be avoided.
  • Proficiency with whole numbers, fractions, and aspects of geometry and measurement are the foundations for algebra. Of these, knowledge of fractions is the most important skill not developed among American students.
  • Conceptual understanding, computational and procedural fluency, and problem-solving skills are equally important and mutually reinforce each other.
  • Students should develop immediate recall of arithmetic facts to free the "working memory" for solving more complex problems.
  • More students should be prepared for and offered an "authentic" algebra course in the eighth-grade. The major topics of school algebra include symbols and expressions, linear equations, quadratic equations, functions, polynomials, and combinatorics and finite probability.

Effective Instruction Matters

  • Teachers' regular use of formative assessments can improve student learning. The belief that children of particular ages cannot learn certain content because they are "too young" or "not ready" has consistently been shown to be false.
  • Explicit instruction for students who struggle is effective in increasing learning.
  • Gifted students should be allowed to accelerate their learning.
  • Publishers should produce shorter, more focused, and more mathematically accurate textbooks. The excessive length of some U.S. textbooks is not necessary for high achievement.

Other Findings

  • Much of the public's "resignation" about math education is based on the erroneous idea that success comes from inherent talent or ability, not effort. A focus on the importance of effort in learning will improve outcomes. If students believe that their efforts to learn make them "smarter," they show greater persistence in learning.
  • Teachers' math knowledge is important for students' achievement. The preparation of elementary and middle school educators should be strengthened. Also, the use of teachers who have specialized in elementary math could be an alternative to increasing all elementary teachers' content knowledge by focusing the need for expertise on a fewer teachers.
  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and state assessments in math should be improved in quality and should emphasize the most critical knowledge and skills leading to algebra.

The Department will convene a national summit based on the recommendations of the panel. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/mathpanel/.

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NCLB Update

Continuing her national tour, Secretary Spellings visited three more states to discuss critical issues in K-12 education: North Carolina (3/5), West Virginia (3/7), and New York (3/10). Moreover, maximizing the agency's outreach, Deputy Secretary Ray Simon visited four states: Arkansas (3/10), Colorado (3/12), North Dakota (3/13), and New Mexico (3/14). At each location, they presented state-specific No Child Left Behind information from a new tool recently unveiled by the Department (see http://www.ed.gov/nclb/accountability/results/progress/). These two-page "dashboards" provide statistics on state and NAEP test scores, graduation rates, schools making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), highly qualified teachers, parents taking advantage of choice and supplemental educational service options, state participation in flexibility options, and more. The simple format, with charts and graphs, reveals bright spots as well as concerns. Next week, using feedback from these visits, the Secretary will announce a series of assessment and accountability actions.

On March 6, the Secretary delivered poignant remarks at the Reading First State Directors Conference. "Just last week, we learned that, for the first time, more than one out of every 100 Americans is incarcerated," she said. "Reducing these numbers starts early. It starts with giving our young people the knowledge and skills to succeed in school and in the workforce. I don't need to tell you that reading opens the door to history, science, literature, geography, and more. Reading opens the door to opportunity. So, instead of cutting funding for programs that are proven to work, let's make them more available!" In Fiscal Year 2008, Congress cut funding for Reading First by 61%. President Bush has proposed restoring funding to $1 billion. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/03/03062008.html.

In a letter to Chief State School Officers (http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/saapr5.pdf), Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Kerri Briggs announced the Department's revised peer review process for science assessments. Responding to concerns that the process is not transparent and does not furnish timely feedback, she is offering states the opportunity to have face-to-face conversations with peers and receive technical assistance from these experts. Also, in keeping with changes made last fall, states may select one of the peers from the list of approved experts for the state's review. This is the first year science assessments are required to be administered once each in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. The assessments are not included in determinations of AYP.

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American Stars

The Department is still accepting nominations for its 2008 American Stars of Teaching awards, which recognize educators who are boosting student achievement—using innovative instructional strategies—and making a difference in the lives of their students. Anyone (students, parents, colleagues, administrators, etc.) can nominate an American Star. After the Department receives a nomination, a verification form is sent to the teacher's principal. One teacher will be recognized from each state and the District of Columbia. The deadline for nominations is March 31. For more information, please go to https://www.t2tweb.us/AmStar/About.asp.

Also: Applications for Teaching Ambassador Fellowship positions at the Department are due April 7. These positions offer highly motivated and innovative public school teachers the opportunity to contribute their knowledge and experience to the national dialogue on education. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/programs/teacherfellowship/.

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Transforming Higher Education

Today (March 14), Secretary Spellings testified before the House Committee on Education and Labor on the availability of federal student loans. "Recent volatility in credit markets has raised some concern about the continued availability of student loans," she said. "I want to reassure you that federal student aid—grants, loans through both the Direct Loan and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) programs, and work-study—will continue to be available to students and their families." For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/03/03142008.html.

Other higher education-related resources:

  • At the hearing, the Secretary released a new brochure, "Federal Aid First" (http://www.ed.gov/federalaidfirst/), which explains why students looking to borrow money for postsecondary education should apply for loans from the federal government first, before seeking assistance from private lenders.
  • The Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) Program Guide (http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/
    opeprogramguide.html
    ) organizes OPE's programs by primary purpose ("Helping All Americans Reach Postsecondary Education," "Improving Teaching at All Levels," "Supporting Undergraduate Students," etc.) and provides a summary of the program with a link to the main program page.
  • "Ten Years After College" (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2008155) examines college graduates' work experiences in 1994, 1997, and 2003, describing their status, employment stability and intensity, occupations and industries, salaries and benefits, and perceptions about their jobs.
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Funding Opportunities

Searching for dollars? Several grant competitions are in progress. For example, the Early Reading First Program supports local efforts to enhance the oral language, cognitive, and early reading skills of preschool-age children, particularly those from low-income families, through strategies, materials, and professional development. The competition is open to high-need school districts (http://www.ed.gov/programs/earlyreading/eligibility.html) and organizations (public or private) within those districts. The deadline for pre-applications is April 7, while the deadline for applications is June 10. Also, the School Leadership Grant Program assists in the development, enhancement, or expansion of innovative programs to recruit, train, and mentor principals and assistant principals for high-need schools. The competition is open to high-need districts and institutions of higher education in partnership with districts. A "notice of intent" to apply is due April 2, while the deadline for applications is May 2. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/GrantApps/.

Also: April 14 and 15, the Department is sponsoring four, one-hour technical assistance conference calls to assist states in applying for funding under the College Access Challenge Grant (http://www.ed.gov/programs/cacg/). These calls will focus on program requirements and the application process. To register for a conference call (at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. ET, each day), contact Karmon Simms-Coates at Karmon.Simms-Coates@ed.gov.

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Intel Science Awards

On March 13, Secretary Spellings joined Intel Chairman Craig Barrett to honor Intel Science Talent Search (STS) finalists. STS is America's oldest (1942) and most prestigious high school science competition. (Since 1998, STS has been sponsored by Intel.) More than 1,600 students entered the contest this year; the 40 finalists hailed from 19 states and 35 high schools. The top prize went to Shivani Sud of Durham, North Carolina, who developed a model that analyzed the specific "molecular signatures" of tumors from patients with Stage II colon cancer. She then used this information to identify those at higher risk for tumor recurrence and propose potentially effective drugs for treatment. She joins some esteemed alumni: six Nobel Laureates, three National Medal of Science winners, 10 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, and two Field Medalists. For more information, please go to http://www.intel.com/education/sts/.

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Quote to Note

"This [National Mathematics Advisory Panel] report represents the first comprehensive analysis of math education to be based on sound science. The panel's findings and recommendations make very clear what must be done to help our children succeed in math. We must teach number and math concepts early, we must help students believe they can improve their math skills, and we must ensure they fully comprehend algebra concepts by the time they graduate from high school. The panel's extensive work will benefit generations of American students."

        Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (3/13/08)

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Upcoming Events

Over the next two weeks, the Department will be exhibiting at the National Catholic Educational Association's Annual Convention in Indianapolis (March 25-28), the National Science Teachers Association's National Conference on Science Education (theme: Bridge to the Future) in Boston (March 27-30), and the National School Boards Association's Annual Conference in Orlando (March 29-April 1). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

Please feel free to contact the Office of Communications and Outreach with any questions:
Director, Intergovernmental Affairs—Rogers Johnson, (202) 401-0026, Rogers.Johnson@ed.gov
Deputy Director—Keith Brancato, (202) 401-6178, Keith.Brancato@ed.gov
Program Analyst—Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov
To be added or removed from distribution, or submit comments (we welcome your feedback!), please contact Adam Honeysett. Or, visit http://www.ed.gov/news/newsletters/edreview/index.html.


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Last Modified: 03/14/2008