A comparative study was defined as a study in which two (or more) curricular treatments were investigated over a substantial period of time (at least one semester, and more typically an entire school year) and a comparison of various curricular outcomes was examined using statistical tests. A statistical test was required to ensure the robustness of the results relative to the study’s design.

We read and reviewed a set of 95 comparative studies. In this report we describe that database, analyze its results, and draw conclusions about the quality of the evaluation database both as a whole and separated into evaluations supported by the National Science Foundation and commercially generated evaluations. In addition to describing and analyzing this database, we also provide advice to those who might wish to fund or conduct future comparative evaluations of mathematics curricular effectiveness. We have concluded that the process of conducting such evaluations is in its adolescence and could benefit from careful synthesis and advice in order to increase its rigor, feasibility, and credibility. In addition, we took an interdisciplinary approach to the task, noting that various committee members brought different expertise and priorities to the consideration of what constitutes the most essential qualities of rigorous and valid experimental or quasi-experimental design in evaluation. This interdisciplinary approach has led to some interesting observations and innovations in our methodology of evaluation study review.

This chapter is organized as follows:

  • Study counts disaggregated by program and program type.

  • Seven critical decision points and identification of at least minimally methodologically adequate studies.

  • Definition and illustration of each decision point.

  • A summary of results by student achievement in relation to program types (NSF-supported, University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP), and commercially generated) in relation to their reported outcome measures.

  • A list of alternative hypotheses on effectiveness.

  • Filters based on the critical decision points.

  • An analysis of results by subpopulations.

  • An analysis of results by content strand.

  • An analysis of interactions among content, equity, and grade levels.

  • Discussion and summary statements.

In this report, we describe our methodology for review and synthesis so that others might scrutinize our approach and offer criticism on the basis of

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