News from the Far West
Sara Munshin, Western 2 Regional Director
Winter 2010/2011


The first exciting piece of news is that the election results have been posted and Californian Hope Bjerke will be taking over the reins as W2 Director this coming April at the conclusion of our Indianapolis conference. I have worked with Hope in several capacities and know that she will continue to be an energetic supporter of all that NCSM does, particularly as it impacts the states and leaders in W2. Welcome, Hope!

Speaking of conferences, NCSM once more will be having an outstanding conference for your needs as leaders in whatever capacity that occurs. As one who has been to the Indiana 500 auto race in my youth, the racing car motif always reminds me of power and skill. Thus, this year's theme: "On Track for Student Success: Mathematics Leaders Making a Difference," promises to give us the power and skill we all need in these challenging times. An added bonus is the fact that it will be held in brand new hotels near the Convention Center. View our Conference pages to read more about the keynote speakers and the topics for this year's event. I hope to see you there, especially at the W2 Caucus, on Tuesday afternoon.


With most of our state conferences concluded in the fall, I want everyone who reads this to know that, despite the economic cutbacks education now faces, our volunteer organizations continue to provide outstanding opportunities for extended learning and professional networking for teachers and those who work with them. Some samples follow.

  • After a successful leadership conference in October for close to 70 people, the California Mathematics Council-South had an outstanding conference in Palm Springs the first weekend in November. The attendance held steady from the previous year, a very good sign of the resourcefulness of teachers who value what this conference provides for them.
  • The Northwest Math Conference also occurred in October. A unique feature of that conference is the "Math-a-Rama" where pre-service teachers present short math lessons for each other.
  • The California Mathematics Council-North also had a successful conference at its traditional location in Pacific Grove, California on the Monterey Peninsula.

Value-added teacher evaluation is a topic that has received a lot of press recently. There are many emotional responses as well as factual data regarding the relationship between teacher effectiveness and student test data. A paper that I found helpful in sorting out the elements of this issue is: "Problems with the use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers, a Briefing Paper of the Economic Policy Institute" ( in Washington, DC. This paper, based upon input given by many scholars, presents a thorough analysis of the issue. The 29-page document is downloadable in PDF format.

The "opportunity gap" is a term that is now being used in many places instead of the achievement gap. Some believe this terminology is preferable as it tends to help educators and others focus on solutions. One of the people associated with writing about the opportunity gap, especially as it applies in mathematics, is Rochelle Gutiérrez of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her recent article, "Context Matters: Equity, Success, and the Future of Mathematics Education," delves into this important issue that impacts not only mathematics educators, but also our entire nation. The 18-page article can be downloaded from the Internet, or you may contact me for an electronic copy.

As you move into the second semester of the school year, it is my hope that you continue to find joy in your work and that you find colleagues with whom you can share your joys and your challenges and work toward effective solutions to your issues.

^ Top