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On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness: Judging the Quality of K-12 Mathematics Evaluations
Providing districts with training on how to conduct feasible, cost-efficient, and scientifically valid studies of curricular effectiveness.
At the district and local levels, such actions include:
Improving methods of documenting curricular use and linking it to student outcomes;
Maintaining careful records of teachers’ professional development activities related to curricula and content learning; and
Systematically ensuring that all study participants have had fair opportunities to learn sufficient curricular units, especially under conditions of student mobility.
Finally, the committee believes there is a need for multidisciplinary basic empirical research studies on curricular effectiveness. The federal government and publishers should support such studies on topics including, but not limited to:
The development of outcome measures at the upper level of secondary education and at the elementary level in non-numeration topics that are valid and precise at the topic level;
The interplay among curricular implementation, professional development, and the forms of support and professional interaction among teachers and administrators at the school level;
Methods of observing and documenting the type and quality of instruction;
Methods of parent and community education and involvement, and
Targets of curricular controversy such as the appropriate uses of technology; the relative use of analytic, visual, and numeric approaches; or the integration or segregation of the treatment of subfields, such as algebra, geometry, statistics, and others.
The committee recognizes the complexity and urgency of the challenge the nation faces in establishing effectiveness of mathematics curricula, and argues that we should avoid seemingly attractive, but oversimplified, solutions. Although the corpus of evaluation studies is not sufficient to directly resolve the debates on curricular effectiveness, we believe that in the controversy surrounding mathematics curriculum evaluation, there is an opportunity. This opportunity should not be missed to forge solutions through negotiation of perspective, to base our arguments on empirical data informed by theoretical clarity and careful articulation of values, and to build in an often-missing measure of coherence to curricular choice, and feedback from careful, valid, and rigorous study. Our intention in presenting this report is to help take advantage of that opportunity.