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On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness: Judging the Quality of K-12 Mathematics Evaluations
evaluations of the NSF-supported curricula and UCSMP than about the evaluations of the commercial programs. We suggest that three factors account for this uneven distribution of studies. First, evaluations have been funded by the NSF both as a part of the original call, and as follow-up to the work in the case of three supplemental awards to two of the curricula programs. Second, most NSF-supported programs and UCSMP were developed at university sites where there is access to the resources of graduate students and research staff. Finally, there was some reported reluctance on the part of commercial companies to release studies that could affect perceptions of competitive advantage. As Figure 5-1 shows, there were quite a few comparative studies of Everyday Mathematics (EM), Connected Mathematics Project (CMP), Contemporary Mathematics in Context (Core-Plus Mathematics Project [CPMP]), Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP), UCSMP, and Saxon.
In the programs with many studies, we note that a significant number of studies were generated by a core set of authors. In some cases, the evaluation reports follow a relatively uniform structure applied to single schools, generating multiple studies or following cohorts over years. Others use a standardized evaluation approach to evaluate sequential courses. Any reports duplicating exactly the same sample, outcome measures, or forms of analysis were eliminated. For example, one study of Mathematics Trailblazers (Carter et al., 2002) reanalyzed the data from the larger ARC Implementation Center study (Sconiers et al., 2002), so it was not included separately. Synthesis studies referencing a variety of evaluation reports are summarized in Chapter 6, but relevant individual studies that were referenced in them were sought out and included in this comparative review.
Other less formal comparative studies are conducted regularly at the school or district level, but such studies were not included in this review unless we could obtain formal reports of their results, and the studies met the criteria outlined for inclusion in our database. In our conclusions, we address the issue of how to collect such data more systematically at the district or state level in order to subject the data to the standards of scholarly peer review and make it more systematically and fairly a part of the national database on curricular effectiveness.
A standard for evaluation of any social program requires that an impact assessment is warranted only if two conditions are met: (1) the curricular program is clearly specified, and (2) the intervention is well implemented. Absent this assurance, one must have a means of ensuring or measuring treatment integrity in order to make causal inferences. Rossi et al. (1999, p. 238) warned that:
two prerequisites [must exist] for assessing the impact of an intervention. First, the program’s objectives must be sufficiently well articulated to make