Joe Merlino, Diane Briars, Steve Kramer, Lucy West, James Fey
Perhaps your district has received letters from parents or organized advocacy groups attacking standards-based, progressive curricula. It is not always easy for teachers and administrators to answer such "attacks" in a timely fashion. Joe Merlino has asked colleagues for input in answering one such letter that was received from parents criticizing CMP curriculum in the North Penn school district of Pennsylvania. We provide the letter that was received as well as carefully crafted responses by Judy Anderson, Diane Briars, Jim Fey, Steve Kramer, Joe Merlino, and Lucy West. This document will be of great value to all LSCs as they address the increasingly important subject of public engagement in order to keep parents on board with an LSC's vision.
Thank you to Joe Merlino (Greater Philadelphia Secondary Mathematics Project) who, through this effort, drew on the strengths and resources available within the LSC community to address such an important topic and who then realized the importance of sharing such a document with the entire LSC community through LSC-Net.
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34. North Penn is currently looking at expanding this standards based system into the high school levels of math curriculum. Our children will be given a choice whether to go into the traditional math programs or the new standards programs. Given the fact that the majority of colleges require good SAT results, and SAT testing is based on the traditional math courses, it is probable that most children will choose the traditional math, how will they survive when they haven't been taught the important foundation and proper formula solving methods? Children who want the traditional math programs, should not be put into Connected Math. This teaching method will only serve to confuse them.
(Actually, there is no evidence I've seen that traditional math courses lead to better SAT scores. I know of two studies that attempt to review SAT scores for IMP. One by one of the Mathematically Correct folks (Milgram?) looked at scores in California, but did not clearly identify which kids were in IMP and which traditional; in general there was little difference between schools with some IMP and those with no IMP in how SAT scores changed over time. I haven't reviewed Milgram"s study in detail, so I can't speak about it with as much confidence as I speak about Webb's. A study by Norm Webb is summarized below.
Webb addressed the question of mathematics course taking by examining the transcripts of 1,121 students who graduated from three high schools in California in 1993. At the time, they were the only schools at which students had had an opportunity to complete three years of IMP, generally in Grades 9 through 11. All three high schools served diverse student populations and offered a full range of mathematics courses, from basic mathematics to Advanced Placement Calculus. All three schools offered students the option of enrolling in IMP or traditional mathematics, so at all three schools the IMP students were volunteers. Webb used prior test scores or course grades to ensure that students in the IMP group demonstrated prior mathematics ability that was basically comparable to that of students taking traditional mathematics courses.
Webb also looked at standardized test scores reported on student transcripts. At each school where data was available, Webb compared SAT mathematics test scores and/or Grade 11 CTBS mathematics achievement test scores of students who took IMP in ninth grade to those of students who took Algebra 1 in ninth grade, and of students who took IMP in tenth grade to those of students who took Algebra 1 in tenth grade. Results varied widely among the three schools, but only one contrast was statistically significant. At one of the schools, students who enrolled in IMP in ninth grade scored significantly higher than did those who enrolled in Algebra 1 in ninth grade on SAT mathematics. This was true despite the fact that a larger percentage of students who enrolled in ninth grade IMP eventually took the SAT (34% for IMP students, versus 26% for Algebra 1 students).
Webb also addressed a question of great concern to parents in the school communities: Were students of particularly high ability likely to be harmed by IMP? To do so, at the school that had Grade 7 CTBS scores available, he created a matched sample of high-ability IMP students and high-ability Traditional students. For each group, Webb selected students who scored at the 76th percentile or higher on the Grade 7 CTBS, and were enrolled in their respective mathematics curriculum (IMP or Traditional) for at least 2.5 years. Fortuitously, this yielded 58 high-ability students in both the IMP and Traditional groups.
Regarding SAT scores, although differences between the two high-ability groups were not statistically significant, a larger percentage of IMP than of Traditional high-ability students took the SAT (83% versus 74%). Further, the IMP students had a higher mean SAT score, 544.8 versus 530.9. The high ability IMP students also had a higher grade point average than did the high ability Traditional students, both in mathematics and in all subjects excluding mathematics. Webb interpreted this to mean that involvement in IMP might be helping students in other courses as well. An equally likely possibility is that the difference in grade point averages indicates that, even though the two groups had similar prior test scores, there was some difference in attitude or ability that both made students more likely to volunteer for IMP and more likely to do better at school.
Webb, Norman L. (in press). The impact of the Interactive Mathematics Program on student learning. In S. Senk and D. Thompson (Eds.) Standards-oriented school mathematics curricula: What does the research say about student outcomes? Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum - SK
35. A group of parents had a meeting with North Penn Administrators to discuss concerns about the negative impact this program will have on our children. Parents presented and validated all of these concerns. North Penn had no answers to any of our questions. They said they would do research and get back to us, but have not as of this date. Dr. Venema did tell us that modifications to the Connected Math program will be made however, this will be done over the summer-months. Teachers do not work over the summer and will not be a part of this modification process. Modifications are not what our children need. We need our children in a strong traditional math program by next year. We strongly agree with the school district that problem-solving skills are vital to our childrens success, but we disagree just as strongly to the ability of Connected Math achieving this goal. There are better programs that would help North Penn achieving this important goal. We can not afford to waste these important math years, on a program that will do such harm to their math education. We, as the taxpayers and parents, should not be asked to fund a program that experts say will do irreparable mathematical harm to our children. We need to hold North Penn liable for the selection and implementation process.
- We feel that this situation of changing math curriculum is urgent and can not be corrected with modifications over the summer. Our 7th grade children have lost a whole year of valuable math education. Will they be prepared for higher mathematics by 9th grade? How many gaps will they have if allowed to continue with this program? If only half of the books are completed, how will they attain the knowledge that is presented in these uncovered books? How is this program preparing them for their SATs? We do not feel that the answer to these questions can be found in modification over the summer.
- A Stanford University Math Professor, has stated that our childrens "futures will be permanently curtailed. They will be so far behind by high school that they will never by able to recover". This statement is in reference to the Connected Math program and how implementation is being done at North Penn.
(And what is his evidence??? His data???? ) - DB
(The reference to Jim Milgram (Stanford professor) is only a reference to his opinion. There is no evidence to suggest that students using CMP in middle school will be irreparably damaged by any result of that experience).-JF
- North Penn administrators point to Abington School District as an example of a district Using Connected Math. When we checked with the Math Supervisor of Abington School District, he stated that he would also be concerned as to how North Penn is implementing the program. He advised us that Abington has had Everyday Math in their schools for 9 10 years and just implemented Connected Math this year with their 7th graders. These students completed seven years of the Everyday Math program before entering this new Connected Math program. He also stated that Abington has not had an opportunity to judge whether this program will be successful for their students for another two to four years when PSSA scores and SAT scores are completed. At that time, they will again reevaluate the program to determine if it is indeed successful.
- We, as parents and taxpayers in the North Penn School District, need to voice our opinion! There will be two important meetings coming up in North Penn. They will be April 30th at 6:00 p.m. (you may speak under public comment but Connected Math is not on the agenda) and May 20 (which is a Board Action meeting) at 7:30. Both meetings will be held at the Educational Service Center, 401 East Hancock Street, Lansdale. There may be additional meetings that you may wish to attend. Please let us know if there are other meetings that we have not listed here which would benefit our children.
- Our children did not create the problem of timing to implement this new curriculum and should not be penalized for it. Therefore, we strongly urge that North Penn return to the previous format of Math Education for this group of students. This would include an offering of traditional Pre-algebra to our 8th grade students. Educating our children is a great responsibility and we respectfully ask that North Penn adhere to the high standards that we have become accustomed. The future of our children depends on the choices that are made now!
- You may also call Dr. Venema at North Penn 215-368-0400 and voice your concerns.
Websites for you to gather more information are http://mathematicallycorrect.com/ and http://mathematicallycorrect.com/programs.htm.
(See instead http://www.mathematicallysane.com/home.asp) - FJM
(Again what about success rate of the traditional programs? The algebra series that is recommended as #2 on the mathematicallycorrect web site was adopted my Moreno Valley Unified school district
Now the data from the classes that are using the textbooks for algebra is unacceptable. 60% of the students are getting Ds and Fs at Moreno Valley High school and other high schools within the district.
Who is the Mathematically Correct group? Who are their members??? What are their goals?? This is one group that is very difficult to find out about
We only know a few of the founding members. The fact is that in California
with terrible standards. If your parents or board needs proof just take in a set of grade 5 standards
most of which were refined and written by Stanford Mathematics Professors.. Most of the decisions around mathematics (Standards, Framework, STAR Assessment items) were made by people who claim in one way or another to be a member of Mathematically Correct group. 85% of the decision makers were in someway connected to the MC group. CMC has a paper with the exact numbers. Why are these people such good sources for guidance or direction? Just a few were ever in the classroom teaching real students
and most of the experience of these few was at the high school level. - JA
Our input as parents is critical to the decision making process. Please take a moment to call, write, attend meetings or all of the above.
DISTRUBING QUESTIONS AND FACTS ABOUT THE CONNECTED MATH PROGRAM FOR
NORTH PENN MIDDLE SCHOOL
- The Connected Math program was not properly piloted at North Penn. 7th grade teachers piloted segments of 6th grade material, and 8th grade teachers piloted segments of 7th grade Connected Math material. How was such a radical change implemented with such little data? Why?
- Why were no public meetings held to discuss this change in curriculum?
- When going through the selection process, why did the district only look at two programs?
- Why was a program chosen that the majority of teachers did not rate satisfactory?
- Why were the higher level (level 6) children not affected by this change in programs?
- The reading level and lack of examples in the booklet are very difficult for some of the children. They are not given the concrete foundation that they need to be successful with math. There are no examples to help the children self-teach themselves.
- How will our children master the skills that are presented in the many booklets that they will not have time to cover?
- The format of the book is confusing, and we are finding that children cannot perform the mathematical skills they have spent months trying to learn.
- Testing methods this year were and are inaccurate. Good grades were sometimes given without the mastery that should have been attained. The books form tests often could not be used because of difficulty.
- There are children values are better understand the basic skills that will be needed to feature higher math?
- If a child does not get started on the correct path in middle school, their choices will be a limited for college majors. Is North Penn willing to decide our childrens future so early in their lives? We believe they getting as many children as possible into Algebra by 8th grade should be a priority for North Penn. This Connected Math Program is not set up to do this, and because of this should not be used.
- A group of Texas parents brought a federal lawsuit against their school district do their childrens confusion with the Connected Math program. Parents across the country are battling their school boards about this issue. Bad press and negative publicity surrounds this program. If the program is so beneficial, why does so much controversy surround it?
- The Directorate for Education and Human Resources of the National Science Foundation (NSF EHR) funded the development of this program. However, a science and math background is not needed to be or the decision making team. This group also funded the study that is used to sell this program to school districts. The NSF EHR should never have funded the study that looked at their own product. This makes the results suspicious due to financial interest. Furthermore, when reviewed independently by experts, the study was bouncing had many flaws.
- Independent research of school districts that switched to Connected Math show a decline in standardized test scores and a higher failure rate in Algebra and other higher math classes. It also shows a high rate of tutoring costs for parents. Was this information presented to North Penn?
- How will Level 6 7th graders who did not test into Algebra do in this program since they have no exposure to it?
- In ninth grade, our children will be given a choice whether to go back into traditional math programs or continue with the new standards type programs. Given the fact that the majority to colleges require good SAT results, and SAT testing is based on the traditional math courses, it is probable that most children will choose the traditional math course? How will they survive? Why are they not given this choice in the middle school?
- Many validated facts and concerns were presented by parents at a meeting with the Assistant Superintendent. Administration had no answers to any of our questions. They said they would do research and meet with us but have not as of this date. We were told that modifications would be made to the program over the summer. Modifications are not what our children need. We need our children in a strong traditional math program by next year.
- Our 7th grade children have lost a whole year of valuable math education. Will they be prepared for higher mathematics by 9th grade? How many gaps will they have been if allowed to continue with this program? If only half of the booklets are completed, how will they attain the knowledge that is presented in these uncovered books? How is this program preparing them for their SATs? We do not feel that the answers to these questions can be found at modifications over the summer.
- We strongly agree with North Penn administrators, that problem solving skills are vital to our childrens success, but we disagree just as strongly that Connected Math is the program that will help our children achieve this goal .
- A Stanford University Math Professor has stated that our childrens "future will be permanently curtailed. They will be so far behind by high school that they will not be able to recover". The statement is in reference to the Connected Math program and how the implementation is being done by North Penn.
- Our children did not create the problem of timing of implementation of this new curriculum and should not be penalized for it. Educating our children is a great responsibility, and we respectfully ask that North Penn adhere to the high standards that we have become accustomed. That future of our childrens math depends on the choices that are made now!
- ITS URGENT THAT YOU CALL YOUR SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS AND SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS TO VOICE YOUR COMMENTS NOW!