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On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness: Judging the Quality of K-12 Mathematics Evaluations
pectation and methodology. Given the importance of the topic of equity, it should be standard practice to include such analyses in evaluation studies.
In summarizing these 26 studies, the first consideration was whether representative samples of students were evaluated. As we have learned from medical studies, if conclusions on effectiveness are drawn without careful attention to representativeness of the sample relative to the whole population, then the generalizations drawn from the results can be seriously flawed. In Chapter 2 we reported that across the studies, approximately 81 percent of the comparative studies and 73 percent of the case studies reported data on school location (urban, suburban, rural, or state/region), with suburban students being the largest percentage in both study types. The proportions of students studied indicated a tendency to undersample urban and rural populations and oversample suburban schools. With a high concentration of minorities and lower SES students in these areas, there are some concerns about the representativeness of the work.
A second consideration was to see whether the achievement effects of curricular interventions were achieved evenly among the various subgroups. Studies answered this question in different ways. Most commonly, evaluators reported on the performance of various subgroups in the treatment conditions as compared to those same subgroups in the comparative condition. They reported outcome scores or gains from pretest to posttest. We refer to these as “between” comparisons.
Other studies reported on the differences among subgroups within an experimental treatment, describing how well one group does in comparison with another group. Again, these reports were done in relation either to outcome measures or to gains from pretest to posttest. Often these reports contained a time element, reporting on how the internal achievement patterns changed over time as a curricular program was used. We refer to these as “within” comparisons.
Some studies reported both between and within comparisons. Others did not report findings by comparing mean scores or gains, but rather created regression equations that predicted the outcomes and examined whether demographic characteristics are related to performance. Six studies (all on NSF-supported curricula) used this approach with variables related to subpopulations. Twelve studies used ANCOVA or Multiple Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) to study disaggregation by subgroup, and two reported on comparative effect sizes. In the studies using statistical tests other than t-tests or Chi-squares, two were evaluations of commercially generated materials and the rest were of NSF-supported materials.
Of the studies that reported on gender (n=19), the NSF-supported ones (n=13) reported five cases in which the females outperformed their counterparts in the controls and one case in which the female-male gap decreased within the experimental treatments across grades. In most cases, the studies