Conference MaterialLetter from Parents Criticizing the Connected Math Program (CMP)
Responses to Four Parents’ Concerns About North Penn School District's Connected Mathematics Program June 3, 2002 Background: On April 19, 2002 a group of four parents from the North Penn School District distributed a memo to other parents making various claims, raising questions and expressing concerns about the Connected Mathematics Program. These parents derived at least part of their information from the website http://mathematicallycorrect.com. As the director of The Greater Philadelphia Secondary Mathematics Project (GPSMP) at LaSalle University, a National Science Foundation funded "Local Systemic Change" project, we are responsible for providing professional development in CMP to North Penn’s teachers. To assist North Penn in responding to these claims, questions, and concerns, this memo was distributed to our colleagues from around the country for their input. Their comments are inserted in the memo in bold italics, followed by their initials. The following people responded:
For ease of reference, the paragraphs in the parents memo below has been numbered. The entire memo has been included to prove a fuller sense of the manner of expression of these parents. April 19, 2002 Dear Parents:
(There are currently 2, 462 school districts using CMP. See http://www.math.msu.edu/cmp/Overview/ImplementationMap.htm In the Greater Philadelphia region, these include Bethlehem, Quakertown, Penn Ridge, Ridley, North Burlington Regional, Haddon Township, Pennsauken and Southeast Delco school districts. See http://www.gphillymath.org/Schools/ActiveSchools.htm -FJM (This decision is well-supported by research, expert panel reviews and international studies. The Third International Mathematics and Science Study amply documented that American eight grade mathematics students were not competitive internationally—even the better students werea not as competitive when matched with other industrialized countries’ better students, See: http://www.rbs.org/mathsci/timss/index.shtml. This gap in performance has been a long standing concern. See "A Nation at Risk" report in 1983 http://www.gphillymath.org/NationalResearchStudies/NationRisk.pdf The National Council of Teacher of Mathematics (NCTM) first published their Curriculum and Evaluation Standards in 1989 in response to these international studies. The standards call for more algebra, geometry, statistics and probability in the middle grades focused on students performing complex problem solving and developing mathematical reasoning. These NCTM standards were updated in 2000. See http://standards.nctm.org/ In January 1999, Pennsylvania State Board of Education adopted state mathematic standards similar to those of NCTM. See http://www.pde.state.pa.us/k12/cwp/view.asp?a=85&Q=74000#CHAP4 An expert panel review commissioned by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) performed and exhaustive review of middle school mathematics text books. Only four were rated highly. Connected Mathematics was the top rated. See. http://www.project2061.org/tools/textbook/matheval/default.htm -FJM
(CMP covers tradional "pre-algebra" and much more. For a description of the units and what they cover see http://www.math.msu.edu/cmp/Curriculum/Units.htm) - FJM (This overview of CMP might help clear up some confusion http://www.math.msu.edu/cmp/Overview/Glance.htm . In addition, parent math nights can be very helpful. -FJM (We recommended to the district to pilot two replacement units, one from each of two top rated curricula and those most widely in use in this region: Connected Math (CMP) and Math-in-Context (MiC). After a year of exploration, North Penn teachers thought CMP was better suited for their district - FJM (The CMP web site suggests this implementation process. http://www.math.msu.edu/cmp/ImplementingCMP/Preparing.htm We elaboated on this change process http://www.gphillymath.org/AdminInfo/StagesofChange.pdf North Penn followed the recommended implementation process. See # 3 above for example) - FJM (This claim is contradicted by a US Department of Education Expert Panel which judged CMP to be "exemplary." http://www.enc.org/professional/federalresources/exemplary/promising/document.shtm? input=CDS-000496-496_10 - FJM (The data, research, expert panel reviews and adoption of CMP by other local school district speak speaks for itself. Educators must made decisions that provide the greatest opportunities to learn for the most children) - FJM (Actually, the program has only 8 books per year; 24 altogether.) - DB (Actually, topics taught in one unit ARE used in subsequent units. That is why the program is called Connected Mathematics.) -DB (Connected Mathematics units address mathematics topics not traditionally taught in middle school. Completing 5 of the units will give students a better foundation for Algebra 1 than a traditional pre-Algebra course. See http://www.project2061.org/tools/textbook/matheval/default.htm -DB (According to Liping Ma and her research mathematics lessons in this country are not conceptually based. Teachers did not learn it conceptually and they are not teaching conceptually to their students. Where teachers learned mathematics conceptually and then teach in the similar manner the students are successful. Learning conceptually may take more time in the beginning and at the same time it builds the blocks for learning future lessons… Because students take time to learn a concept is not a fault.) – JA (This is a surprise to me. My understanding is that CMP was designed on the assumption that students had a traditional K-5 experience. The content of grade 6—which is fairly traditional content (though teaching methods differ) so that even if their children had a traditional grade 6 program, they should be prepared for grade 7 CMP) . See http://www.math.msu.edu/cmp/Curriculum/Units.htm ) -DB Other local school districts, North Brlington and Haddon Township begin CMP in 7^{th} grade. Articulation with Everyday Math in 6^{th} grade should not be a problem as both are similarly designed and both are rated exemplary -FJM (Grade 8 CMP is a pre-algebra class—in fact, a very rigorous one! See the algebra strand at http://www.math.msu.edu/cmp/Curriculum/Algebra.htm - DB With more universities requiring higher levels, of high school math for acceptance into many popular college majors, we need to get more of our students into Algebra sooner. (CMP begins algebraic units in 6^{th} grade. See http://www.math.msu.edu/cmp/Curriculum/Algebra.htm - FJM (Most of those "pre-calculus skills" needed to pursue a "wide range of University majors" includes heavy doses of statistics and probability which were largely absent and not taught in pre-NCTM standards curriculum. CMP begins covering these topics in sixth grade, See http://www.math.msu.edu/cmp/Curriculum/UnitGoals.htm - FJM (What makes anyone think CMP is not the correct path? Is there any evidence to that effect. To the contrary, there is evidence that it is the right path—see below.) - DB (Contact Beth Ritsima for the Travers City data which shows that students who had grade 7 and 8 CM and Core Plus in high school had more students taking AP calc. And higher AP calc grades than students who came through previous programs.) - DB children’s confusion with the Connected Math program. School districts all across the country are battling parents about this issue. If the program is so beneficial, why does so much controversy surround it? (The oft-cited Texas suit expressed only the anger of a small group of parents. It was not successful, and the district under attack has continued to use CMP with test scores remaining at the high level the district expects. To suggest that CMP is experimental is to deny the reality of very widespread adoptions over the past 5-7 years. In fact, CMP is the best-selling middle school mathematics text published by Prentice Hall) – JF (This is very confusing. NSF funds projects on the basis of external panels of experts. NSF is required to have experts review each proposal. Clearly there is little understanding of NSF or of the review process.) – DB ( NSF, as established and overseen by Congress, funds most of the mathematics and science research in this country) – DB (Who are these experts? The CMP authors and NSF have no financial interest in adoptions since none of the royalties from book sales go to authors or to the NSF. The charge that test results used to support CMP adoption are unreliable because the data were collected by CMP loyalists assumes that folks involved in the research have no intellectual integrity. In the same way that pharmaceutical companies do research used to support approval of their products (research subject to standards of scientific practice), educational researchers can study the fruits of their ideas by following accepted standards of research practice- JF (It is the critics of CMP who have not done research of any kind that is at all comparable to studies such as that reported in the JRME on the Massachusetts study (not done by CMP fans). - JF (Unless you do a study with only one child, you will have to use "different" children) - FJM (What specific "independent" research is being referring to? In District 2 in NYC our scores did NOT decline. They remained steady and in the third year showed a very slight gain in 8th grade. We have no evidence that indicates our children are less prepared for Algebra or higher level mathematics. It is my understanding that the results in District. 2 are more typical of how this program is playing out across the country. Our eighth grades as a whole are out scoring the children in other NYC districts and NYS districts on average. For other studies around the country, see http://www.phschool.com/math/cmp/research_evaluation/report_student_achieve.html – LW (In District 2 in NYC, it is true that some parents provide tutoring for their children, but there is no information as to how many and whether this information has increased over the years. Also, it is not clear whether parents are having kids tutored as a result of the high stakes testing environment or because they perceive the program to be inadequate). -LW (North Penn teachers spent over one year undergoing training, piloting and exploring different math curriculum. They followed our guidelines for proper implementation. See previous references. Upon what grounds is the claim based that it was NOT properly piloted?) - FJM (The lack of "worked examples" is part of the CMP instructional philosophy that aims to get students more responsible for their own learning and thinking. It is not wrong unless results of student achievement studies were to show that students taught from this approach learn less than students taught from a traditional demonstration and practice approach. There will undoubtedly be some school situations where test scores decline after CMP adoption (though even in those reported situations one has to be careful to check that no plausible alternate explanations for decline are present). However, the experiences in many school district across the country do not in any way support the claim that a decline in test scores is the normal or even common consequence of CMP adoption). - JF Continue to Page 2 of this letter |