An anonymous commenter on one of my recent posts accused me of not providing data backing up my criticisms of Reform Math. I explained that I see my main contribution to the debate about Reform Math as being in my side-by-side comparisons of Reform Math with Singapore Math and pre-1960's U.S. math.
Detailed comparisons of particular problems sets and elicited skill sets also have their role, and help to ground such concepts as "higher level thinking," "conceptual understanding," and "mathematical challenge."I also noted that, "for a combination of practical, ethical, and ideological reasons," the kind of randomized study Anonymous was requesting are not as not as abundant as one might wish.
Meanwhile, my new friend Leigh Lieberman has been digesting and disseminating tons of what data there is. For example, she's shared with me a November, 2007 Washington Post article on the "unusual approach" of performance-based grouping, as conducted in Rock View Elementary, a low-income school with limited resources in Montgomery County MD. From the article:
The Kensington school's 497 students are grouped into classrooms according to reading and math ability for more than half of the instructional day.There groupings, the article notes, are "fluid and temporary:"
Students are tested regularly in multiple areas and are promoted to more challenging course work as their skills improve. No one is ever demoted.The results:
While some other Montgomery County schools serving low-income populations have posted higher test scores, few have shown such improvement or consistency across socioeconomic and racial lines.Leigh writes:
What I find most exciting about this case, besides the dramatic speed and degree of success in just a few years of use, is what happened the year when it was banned and then subsequently restored.From the article:
In the 2005-06 academic year, Roberson [Rock View's principal] was instructed to halt performance-based grouping, for at least one year, "to see if it really had an impact on student performance." Students returned to mixed-ability classrooms. Test scores fell. The next fall, performance-based grouping resumed. Scores rebounded to all-time highs.Leigh also notes that "Many of the reform movement's so-called 'successes' cannot be readily reproduced elsewhere (very few schools fall in their economic and professional parent range)."
I'll be sharing more of Leigh's data/links here on this blog. To start us out, here is a study she's forwarded me that examines how Michigan State students who used the Reform Math Core-Plus program in high school fared in comparison with those who didn't:
A Study of Core-Plus Students Attending Michigan State University (Richard Hill and Thomas Parker).