Saturday, February 28, 2009

Elementary Math Curricula .. A New Study

{subtitle: How Seattle spends lots of time and piles of money to get worse results.}

Here is recent research worth reading.

Achievement Effects of Four Early Elementary School Math Curricula: Findings from First Graders in 39 Schools.

The four curricula are TERC/Investigations in Number, Data, and Space; Math Expressions; Saxon Math; and Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics. First-grade math achievement was significantly higher in schools randomly assigned to Math Expressions or Saxon Math than in those schools assigned to Investigations in Number, Data, and Space or to Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics.

Some interesting pieces from the research report:

The purpose of this large-scale, national study is to determine whether some early elementary school math curricula are more effective than others at improving student math achievement, thereby providing educators with information that may be useful for making AYP.

A small number of curricula dominate elementary math instruction (seven math curricula make up 91 percent of the curricula used by K-2 educators), and the curricula are based on different theories for developing student math skills.

This study will help to fill that knowledge gap. The study is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education and is being conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR) and its subcontractor SRI International (SRI).

Curricula Included in the Study:
A competitive process was used to select four curricula for the evaluation that represent many of the diverse approaches used to teach elementary school math in the United States.

The process for selecting the curricula began with the study team inviting developers and publishers of early elementary school math curricula to submit a proposal to include their curricula in the evaluation. A panel of outside experts in math and math instruction then reviewed the submissions and recommended to IES curricula suitable for the study. The goal of the review process was to identify widely used curricula that draw on different instructional approaches and that hold promise for improving student math achievement.

My comment:
So why was the most widely used Elementary Math series in the USA .. NOT included? Everyday Math where are you?

Either the panel of experts felt EDM did not hold enough promise for improving student math achievement or another selection adequately demonstrated the instructional approaches that are used in Everyday Math.

Math Expressions and Saxon Math were the two programs that showed the significantly better results in this study. Neither of those programs is in anyway similar to Everyday Math.

It now appears that districts like Seattle that are devoting large expenditures to Everyday Math and advocate a strict "Fidelity of Implementation" to the EDM pacing plan are really off the mark. The NMAP recommendations are not followed by EDM.

In the study the average instructional time per week was 4.8 hours for the non-Saxon three and 6.1 hours per week for Saxon. Saxon = 366 min/ 5 day week = 73 minutes per week.

In Seattle EDM is used 75 minutes / day (big increase in math time with EDM use) and on the 4th grade Math WASL the results were worse in 2007-2008 than in the year previous when far less time was spent on Math and EDM not used.

Seattle in 2008-2009 chose to follow the EDM pacing plan rather than heed the newly adopted State Math Standards. This decision to consciously ignore the WA State Standards based Math Grade Level Performance Expectations posted on the SPS website is yet another example of the failing SPS direction for math. Interesting also is the fact that this following of the State Math standards was to be immediate action (Superintendent's Strategic Plan of June 2008 p.17) that was to happen in 2008-2009, but did NOT.

Seattle WASL pass scores:
Grade 4 Hispanics down from 43.5 to 33.5

Grade 4 White students down from 79.8 to 73.9

Grade 4 Black students down from 32.0 to 27.6

After a decade of an expanding math achievement gap in Seattle it appears the only thing that has changed is more money is being thrown at the problem.

Is it time for a civil rights lawsuit?

EDM costs in terms of annual expenditures for consumables and teacher coaching more than any other program. In comparison with Saxon and Math Expressions about 50% to 100%+ more annually.

James includes another possible explanation for the non-participation of EDM:
Why EDM was not included in the study?

Maybe EDM was considered for the study by the researchers and the EDM folks choose not to participate.

hmmm... why? The EDM folks wouldn't be able to control the research and the outcome? real research---maybe they knew the program would not withstand the scrutiny of real research...

(Since I spent considerable time looking at EDM in the Spring of 2007 ... I find James' thought very plausible.)

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