The Education Innovator
Volume V
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The Education Innovator
 March 29, 2007 • Number 2
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Editor's Note: Beginning with this issue, The Education Innovator has a new editorial team. The Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) and the Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO) will now share the responsibility for the Innovator's research, writing and production. Our purpose - to highlight new and effective practices in education will remain essentially unchanged. The Innovator will continue to offer features on promising programs and practices, as well as information on innovative research, schools, policies and trends. Meanwhile, our editorial focus will expand in order to keep readers informed about key Departmental priorities and activities. Contributing significantly to this new collaboration is Sherry Schweitzer of the Office of Communications and Outreach, who will serve as the new Editor-in-Chief. Sherry and her colleagues in OII and OCO will continue to work together so that we may bring you the important ideas and information you expect from The Innovator.

What's inside...
California Academy of Mathematics and Science, Los Angeles, California
What's New
Innovations in the News

The California Academy of Mathematics and Science: High Expectations Put Students on the Path to College
In the global economy of the 21st century, it is becoming increasingly clear that a college degree is essential to achieving the American dream of success, satisfaction, and prosperity. Studies show that while two-thirds of the high-growth, high wage jobs of the future require a college degree, only a third of Americans have one.

One community that is acutely aware of these developments is the Long Beach Unified School District. The vast majority of the low-income and minority youth who populate the Los Angeles basin don't take a challenging, college preparatory curriculum, and they drop out of schools at higher rates and attain college degrees in much lower numbers than their peers. Faced with the problem, business and community leaders, and educators decided to take action. They created a new magnet high school based on the premise that, given support and rich opportunities, students can master the math and science fields critical for success in the future.

The California Academy of Mathematics and Science (CAMS) opened on the California State University at Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) campus in 1990, the product of partnerships among CSUDH, the California State University's Chancellor's Office, a consortium of 11 local school districts, and high-tech and aerospace industries. Its strategy of providing a diverse student population with an accelerated curriculum that engages them intellectually and prepares them for higher education and careers in math, science, and technology is clearly bearing out its founders' premise. Today, students-particularly minorities and females-with talent in and passion for math and science are entering careers where they've been previously under-represented, and CAMS ranks as one of the top high schools in California.

A major contributor to CAMS' success has been its physical location on the CSUDH campus. Through an agreement between the University and the school district, high school juniors and seniors may enroll in college courses tuition-free, and most CAMS students graduate with 22 or more college credits-nearly ready to begin their sophomore year in college.

Rigor and Relevance

Rigorous coursework is stressed throughout a student's time at CAMS. Designed to expose students to science and math less as a subject than as a way of thinking, the CAMS curriculum prescribes four years of math and the equivalent of six years of science classes. Requirements include a ninth grade engineering science survey class that, as intended, often motivates female students to continue their engineering studies. All students must pass calculus by the end of 12th grade, often a stumbling block for minority and female students who wish to take college level math and science courses. Accelerated English, social sciences, computer science, and two years of required languages (with recommended third and fourth years) complete the core curriculum. Most CAMS students take and pass multiple Advanced Placement (AP) classes as part of the accelerated curriculum.

Industry professionals and CSUDH professors teach CAMS classes, and CAMS' corporate and academic partners-including Boeing, Honeywell, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Honda, and CSUDH-have contributed much to its success by providing internship opportunities for students and helping them find mentors working in the fields that interest them most.

"Most of our internships are in the summer with engineering firms," said Cindy Bater, Internship and Mentor Program Director for CAMS. "This is a great opportunity for our students because they really get to experience what each engineering field means - what it is. One boy came in after his summer internship at Northrop Grumman and was just on fire - he had learned what it meant to be a systems engineer, and he said it was everything he loved to do. It's an awesome experience for them," she said.

The CAMS Approach

CAMS is not a magnet school that accepts only the most gifted students. Unlike similar magnet schools that admit students only from the top 10 percent of their eighth grade class, CAMS accepts applications from students in the top 30 percent of their class. They recruit from 11 area district middle schools and always accept two or three students from each middle school, so the students reflect the student demographic of the Los Angeles basin. Two-thirds of CAMS' approximately 600 students come from inner-city schools, and many meet the commonly accepted definition of at-risk students: low--income (42 percent on free or reduced-priced meals) and/or coming from non-English-speaking homes (44 percent speak a language other than or in addition to English at home).

Everyone at the school is committed to student success. From day one, the students are divided into small groups of about 30 students known as "cohorts." The cohort system is key to the support structure at CAMS because with 170 ninth grade students entering from approximately 75 middle schools spread over a 600 square-mile-area, the challenge to help people get to know one another is daunting. Students stay with their cohort for the year as they go to classes and activities together. The following year the cohort composition changes, so eventually students get to know everyone in their class. This student support is essential because in their next four years they are faced with an extremely demanding curriculum.

All CAMS students are expected to take math, science, English and social science each year. The school emphasizes mathematical/scientific literacy and reading/writing literacy equally and, because there is only one section of each discipline per grade level, academic content, assessment, and standards are identical for all students.

The math program that all students take is a specialized program called the Interactive Math Program or IMP. It was designed as a standards-based curriculum using real-world problems as themes for most units. At CAMS, it has been tailored and accelerated so students will complete it by the end of their junior year. After three years of IMP, students are prepared for university calculus in their senior year. In IMP, students work in collaborative groups, discussing problems, using writing to clarify their thinking, expressing complex mathematical ideas, and presenting their findings to the rest of the class.

The science curriculum blends integrated coursework and traditional science courses, which gives students the chance to experience a number of scientific methodologies. All students complete six years, including honors biology, honors chemistry, and university-level physics, as well as engineering science, integrated science I, and integrated science II. Electives include anatomy and physiology and robotics.

The English curriculum is an accelerated and standards-based program of honors English, AP English, and electives. Students demonstrate their mastery of English content in accordance with Long Beach Unified School District guidelines, using traditional and computer-based methods for organizing, collecting, analyzing, and/or presenting information learned. Through tests, written assignments, and oral presentations, students must demonstrate proficiency in reading comprehension, writing skills, oral and written language conventions, and learning and speaking strategies.

Graduates from CAMS also complete social studies coursework mandated by the state of California; at least two years of a foreign language, including Spanish as a foreign language, Japanese as a foreign language, and Spanish for students from Spanish-speaking families; and interactive lesson plans in which art media and techniques and art history are taught simultaneously.

Teaching and Learning Across the Curriculum

Each grade level assigns an interdisciplinary project (IDP). Each IPD is based on a theme. For example, in ninth grade the students travel back in time; in 10th grade they participate in a "Halls of Justice" program; as juniors they are involved in a look at the urban experience through examining Los Angeles; and as seniors they invent real products and come up with marketing plans for them. Each teacher explains his or her component of the project and how it will be graded. Teachers judge all of the IDPs. In addition, junior and senior projects are evaluated by outside jurors who have experience in the field.

"The point is that when they get into the workforce they will need to understand that they often will need to get everyone on board to do a project. We want them to understand real world experiences," reflected Bater, who in her dual role as dean of admissions is closely involved in all aspects of the school.

Not only do students benefit from the small classes that are part of their cohort, but teachers use the team approach to teaching as well. There are four or five teachers who teach all core subjects to a grade level. Teachers meet weekly to discuss their curriculum and to plan interdisciplinary lessons. They assess student progress regularly, and any students needing extra help can request peer tutoring or be assigned to an academic support class during elective periods.

CAMS teachers are selected for their interest in working in teams, their passion for innovation, and their experience with interdisciplinary curriculum. New teachers enter into a peer collaboration process that allows them to discuss the many unique aspects of CAMS. In many instances, the assignments they make are group projects. Classes often include a great deal of collaboration, small group discussions, and work in teams outside of the core school day.

The Results

CAMS' unique approach to teaching and learning helps create an environment where student achievement is paramount. Students have consistently exceeded district and state performance on numerous metrics. CAMS ranks among the top schools in California on the NCLB Academic Performance Index, and its students score well above state and national averages on the math and verbal SATs. Attrition is less than 5 percent, as opposed to a 50 percent dropout rate in some local high schools, and 95 percent of CAMS students go on to four-year colleges and universities, including the most selective and prestigious in the nation. Upon graduation, CAMS graduates easily meet University of California entrance requirements. And, when applying to colleges, approximately 70 percent of CAMS graduates have declared majors in math, science, engineering, and technology-related fields.

CAMS has received numerous awards and considerable recognition for its students' success and, in 2004, it was named a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and was cited by the U.S. Department of Education as one of six Blue Ribbon schools profiled for their high degrees of achievement despite socioeconomic challenges and ethnic diversity.

Key Resources: Top

What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings unveiled a new online tool, the FAFSA4caster, to help students and families financially prepare and plan for college before a student's senior year of high school. It provides students with an early estimate of their eligibility for federal financial aid. (Mar. 21)

On behalf of the President's 2008 budget for education, Secretary Spellings testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education. President Bush is requesting $56 billion in discretionary appropriations for the U.S. Department of Education in fiscal year 2008. (Mar. 14)

Secretary Spellings highlighted aspects of her action plan to make higher education more affordable, accessible, and consumer-friendly for families, as well as new policy proposals for reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) this year, in her keynote remarks to the American Enterprise Institute's (AEI) Higher Education after the Spellings Commission: An Assessment seminar in Washington, DC. (Mar. 13)

Recognizing the important role that arts play in our schools, Secretary Spellings made a statement on the celebration of 2007 Arts Advocacy Day (Mar. 12)

Secretary Spellings released a statement on Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Effectiveness , authored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Center for American Progress, where she welcomed the data in the report and input from these groups as the Department works with Congress to reauthorize NCLB. (Feb. 28)

Secretary Spellings met with business leaders and toured Tampa's Dunbar Magnet School, where curriculum focuses on math, science, art, music, and foreign language. Dunbar is a Gifted and Talented Development Academy in which teachers are selected by committee and receive extensive training. (Feb. 22)

Secretary Spellings met with business and higher education leaders during a visit to New York City to discuss America's higher education system and the business community's role in preparing students to compete in the 21 st century. The Secretary also stressed the importance of reauthorizing NCLB in order to better prepare students for college and the workforce. (Feb. 15)

A study from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveals the types of courses 2005 high school graduates took during high school, how many credits they earned, and the grades they received. Entitled the 2005 NAEP High School Transcript Study, it presents i nformation on the relationships between high school records and performance in math and science on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). (Feb. 22)

The "Nation's Report Card" for 12th-grade reading and math offers results of the 2005 NAEP in those subjects. In a statement on the NAEP results, Secretary Spellings said, "These reports…show that we have our work cut out for us in providing every child in this nation with a quality education…The NCLB Act is working to improve our nation's elementary and middle schools, and we must act now to increase rigor in our high schools and improve graduation rates." (Feb. 22)

The March "Education News Parents Can Use " television program (originally broadcast March 20, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET) featured award-winning educators, university leaders, and students discussing the Secretary's Commission on the Future of Higher Education's final report download files PDF, (2.20MB) and the Secretary's ensuing Action Plan for Higher Education. Guests explored how parents, schools, higher education institutions, and the U.S. Department of Education can put the Commission's recommendations into action to better prepare students for college, to help students succeed once enrolled, and to make college affordable. (To watch the archived web cast, go to

The April broadcast of "Education News Parents Can Use" (to air April 17, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET) will look at how public charter schools and choice options can help to raise student performance. April's show will spotlight innovative options--such as charter schools, free tutoring programs, public school choice and private school scholarships for students in low performing schools--and discuss how these alternatives can empower parents to ensure that their children have access to a high-quality education, regardless of their race, income or zip code. In addition, the April broadcast will feature high-performing charter schools and district-wide school choice programs from across the country. (To learn about viewing options, including webcasts, visit the Education News Parents Can Use website or call toll-free, 1-800-USA-LEARN).

The U.S. Department of Education has named 23 cities as the sites for its popular Teacher-to-Teacher summer workshops The regional workshops provide opportunities for teachers to learn first-hand from prominent fellow educators and district officials who share research-based practices they have successfully applied in their schools and classrooms. Registration for the workshops begins April 9.

From the Office of Innovation and Improvement

The following grant competitions currently are open:

Voluntary Public School Choice Program: This program supports efforts to establish or expand intra-district, inter-district, and open-enrollment public school choice programs to provide parents, particularly parents whose children attend low-performing public schools, with expanded education options. The application deadline is April 2. (Feb. 1 Federal Register)

Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program: These grants would allow eligible entities to leverage funds, through credit enhancement initiatives, to assist charter schools in using private sector capital to acquire, construct, renovate, or lease academic facilities. The application deadline is April 2. (Feb. 1 Federal Register)

Magnet Schools Assistance Program: These grants assist in the desegregation of public schools by supporting the elimination, reduction, and prevention of minority group isolation in elementary and secondary schools with substantial numbers of minority group students. Projects support the development and design of innovative education methods and practices that promote diversity and increase choices in public education programs. The application deadline is April 27. Individuals interested in serving as peer reviewers for this competition are encouraged to send a copy of their résumés, via e-mail, to Joan Scott-Ambrosio. In order to ensure full consideration, your résumé should arrive not later than Monday, May 7, 2007. (Mar. 9 Federal Register)

The Office of Innovation and Improvement will host the 2007 National Charter Schools Program Showcase from April 5 - 6 in Washington, D.C. The showcase will highlight U.S. Department of Education programs, initiatives, and resources to help build states' capacity and expand high-quality charter schools. Space is limited for this conference. Registration and information can be found online or you may email the Charter Schools Program Director, Dean Kern.

American History

The History Channel is launching a grant competition for the 2007-2008 cycle. This year, $250,000 is available to fund hands-on projects that teach students about their local history and actively engage them in its preservation. Elementary, middle, and high school teachers are eligible to apply. Applications are available online and are due by June 1.

Arts Education

Deborah B. Reeve, Ed.D., has been named executive director of the National Art Education Association (NAEA). Reeve, who is presently deputy executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, begins her new position June 1. NAEA is also implementing a new strategic plan, which was developed by the Board of Directors with the input of NAEA leaders and members. This new strategic direction places a higher priority on advancing the profession of art education in the 21st century. (Mar.12)

Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently confirmed U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings as a keynote speaker for its upcoming charter schools conference in New Mexico from April 24 - 27. Other speakers include Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham and former professional basketball star and founder of St. HOPE Public Schools (Calif.) Kevin Johnson. More information is available online. (Mar. 2007)

A $65-million grant to the Knowledge Is Power Program download files PDF, (201KB) (KIPP) will make it the largest charter school organization in the country and allow it to create 42 schools in Houston, the city in which KIPP began 13 years ago. A combination of private funders, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Houston Endowment, are providing the support. (Mar. 20)

Leadership/No Child Left Behind

The Commission on No Child Left Behind, a project of the Aspen Institute, has released its final recommendations for the reauthorization of NCLB. The 75 recommendations focus on making sure teachers and principals are effective, improving accountability measures, bolstering school improvement and student options, implementing rigorous standards, and strengthening high schools. Upon the release of the report, Secretary Spellings issued a statement. (Feb. 2007)

Raising Student Achievement

A new initiative from the National Academy of Sciences,, offers free online resources and content to help promote an interest in science among middle school students, especially girls. Lia, the teenage cartoon character who hosts the site, guides visitors through interactive activities, science labs, games, and a parent-teacher guide. The website is a companion to the Women's Adventures in Science book series. (Mar. 8)

The College Board has released its Advanced Placement Report to the Nation download files PDF, (5.06MB) Among the findings, the report shows that there has been an increase in the proportion of minority students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams and that AP exams continue to expand in U.S. schools. (Feb. 2007)

School Facilities

The American Architectural Foundation (AAF) and Target are pleased to announce the launch of Redesign Your School: A Contest of Scholarly Proportions one part of AAF's Great Schools by Design program. Open to ninth through 12 th grade students nationally, the contest challenges students to submit their visions of ideal places to learn in the 21 st century. Scholarships up to $10,000 and Target gift cards will be presented to winners, eight of whom will also be invited to Washington, D.C., to share their winning ideas. The contest began March 1 and will run through June 30. For more information, visit:


Innovations in the News

Charter Schools & Choice
The Senate recently launched a Senate Charter School Caucus that will be co-chaired by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Nelson Smith, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, supports the caucus, saying "Some of the schools that are actually successful at closing the achievement gap are public charter schools.... This is especially important when we're talking about reauthorizing a bill called No Child Left Behind." (Mar. 5)

Have you ever used what you learned in high school to get a job? Ask the graduates of Central Educational Center (CEC) in Coweta County (Ga.) and you'll likely get a resounding "yes." The CEC charter school was begun in response to a county study group examining the needs of area businesses and now offers "courses such as welding, graphic communications, electronics, computer networking and health occupations." The school also "integrates higher academic standards with higher levels of technical and career proficiency." Supporters "point not only to the immediate benefits to businesses and young people, but to the broader educational and economic impact of career technical education." [More-CNN Education With Student News] (Mar. 7)

Education Reform
A Center on Educational Governance study download files PDF, (846KB) examines two midsize urban districts and two nonprofit charter management organizations that have records of improving student achievement over time and of grounding their decision-making in data. The study finds that data-driven decision making was made much easier for the school systems studied when clear, grade-by-grade curricula were adopted system-wide, high-quality materials were aligned to the curriculum, and pacing guides clearly described the breadth and depth of content. The study cautions, however, that school systems must strike a balance between a core curriculum and enough flexibility for educators to use different instructional strategies based on what the data tell them. [More-Education Week] (Feb. 14 paid subscription required)

Raising Student Achievement
Students at three Allen County (Ind.) schools eligible for free tutoring under NCLB are taking advantage of the law's Supplemental Educational Services at rates exceeding the national average. At the Fairfield and Bloomingdale elementary schools in Fort Wayne Community Schools and Village Elementary in East Allen County Schools, participation rates range from 30 to 45 percent of the eligible students for the tutoring services. Administrators in the districts employed a combination of strategies to explain the tutoring program to both teachers and parents. [More-Fort Wayne Journal Gazette] (Mar. 19)

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston released the findings of a three-year study of the effects on the thinking skills of elementary school students who made multiple educational visits to the museum as part of an art education program. Supported by an OII Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant, the Gardner Museum and Boston's Tobin and Farragut schools employed the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) methodology, with opportunities for students to observe and interpret works of art that they selected. According to the project's researchers, the participating students showed statistically significant improvements in such skills as associating, comparing, and thinking flexibly. [More-Boston Globe] (Mar.12)

Lamar Elementary School continues to receive top honors from the Texas Education Agency "for consistently strong academic performance while educating large populations of impoverished students during the three previous school years". This year marks the second consecutive year, and the ninth of the last 10 years, in which TEA has recognized Lamar Elementary as a "distinguished performance school". The school met six indicators established by TEA's NCLB division. [More-Sulphur Spring News Telegram] (Mar. 7)

More autistic students are seeking college degrees, according to David R. Johnson, director of the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition. A t the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University in Huntington, the ever-increasing number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders has spawned a new challenge: parents and autistic students want improved access to college. [More-Herald Dispatch] (Mar. 5) /

Six schools slated to open in the fall could help alleviate some of Michigan's critical career shortage areas by allowing high school students to simultaneously receive high school diplomas as well as associate's degrees in areas where the state faces a lack of qualified workers. The schools - known as middle colleges and early colleges - will focus on health care careers, where Michigan faces a critical shortage. In other states, such schools emphasize fields like technology and international studies. There are now 129 early colleges nationwide, and that number is likely to increase to about 300 during the next five years, according to the Early College High School Initiative./ [More-The Detroit Free Press] (Feb. 22)

The New York City school system will open its first public school dedicated to the Arabic culture and language in September, with half of its classes eventually taught in Arabic. The school is opening in partnership with New Visions for Public Schools, a nonprofit group that has helped to create small schools in recent years, and the Arab-American Family Support Center, a Brooklyn social service agency. The Khalil Gibran International Academy, which will serve students in sixth through twelfth grade, is one of 40 new schools that the state Department of Education is opening for the 2007-2008 academic year. [More-The New York Times] (Feb.13 paid subscription required)

Future bricklayers, electricians, and experts in computer-aided design are receiving an education not only in their preferred trades, but also in challenging core academic subjects at Burlington's Construction Career Academy, a "school within a school" in Wisconsin. The U.S. Department of Labor and the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin fund the school. Students enter the academy in their sophomore year and take required college preparatory classes alongside the tailored curriculum in various trades. The academy might be the answer to lagging workforce development in Racine County where nearly one-third of the population aged 18 to 24 lacks a high school diploma or its equivalent. [More-The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel] (Feb. 12)

Teacher Quality and Development
Founded in 1990 by then-college student Wendy Kopp, Teach For America (TFA) has prepared 17,000 teachers for assignments in underserved parts of the United States through a program that includes an intensive summer training institute coupled with student teaching. Teach For America occasionally has had its recruits assigned to pre-kindergarten classes in the past, but last summer was the first time the organization specifically trained recruits to work in public pre-kindergarten classrooms. According to Catherine Brown, the director of Teach For America's early childhood initiative, the new addition of a pre-kindergarten component reflects both a growing demand for early childhood teachers and a demand from TFA corps members themselves. Over the years, she said, corps members assigned to higher grade levels have often said of their students, "‘If only I could have gotten to them younger…" [More-Education Week] (Feb. 9 paid subscription required)

More high schools around the country are teaching students how to do cutting-edge research in a time "when Americans fret that colleges are no longer producing as many graduates willing to make the financial sacrifices of lives in science." The impetus is Intel, which supports "more than a gimmicky contest that garners publicity for its chipmaker sponsor. It genuinely prompts hundreds of students to plunge into vanguard research." [More-New York Times] (Mar. 7 paid subscription required)

Nearly one million students in kindergarten through high school are enrolled in online learning throughout the country, according to the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL). Enrollment, counted as the total number of seats in all online classes, not the number of students, has grown twenty-fold in seven years. NACOL expects the numbers to continue to jump 30 percent annually. Nearly half the states offer public school classes online, and last year Michigan became the first to require students to take an online course to graduate from high school. To deal with such growth, the University of California is launching an effort to ensure applicants' online high school courses are on par with traditional classroom instruction. The U.S. Department of Education plans to release a study about the prevalence of online schooling later this year. [More-The Boston Globe] (Feb. 18)

A recent report from the New Media Consortium and the nonprofit group EDUCAUSE identifies six emerging technology trends that could have a significant impact on education in the next one to five years. The Horizon Report is part of an annual series aimed at helping school leaders understand emerging trends. This year, the things to watch out for are: user-created content, social networking, mobile phones, virtual worlds, new scholarship and emerging forms of publication, and multiplayer educational gaming. While some of the trends in the report have been identified in previous years, their real impact on teaching and learning is yet to be seen. [More-eSchool News] (Feb. 13)


Office of Innovation and Improvement
Morgan S. Brown, Assistant Deputy Secretary

Office of Communications and Outreach
Lauren Maddox, Assistant Secretary

John McGrath
Doug Herbert
Executive Editors

Sherry Schweitzer

Cynthia Cabell
Sr. Production Editor

Dramon Turner
Production Editor

Margarita L. Meléndez
Copy Editor

Issue Reviewers
Todd May
Tiffany Taber
Doug Herbert
Pamela Allen
Stacy Kreppel

Article Submissions
Tiffany Taber
Doug Herbert
Todd May


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Last Modified: 05/20/2009