Sunday, April 12, 2009

National Math Panel Part2

The National Math Panel report continues to get huge "play" by the anti-reformists.  However the report is far from accurate.  Another critique of the report can be found by Jere Confrey (pictured), Alan P. Maloney, and Kenny H. Nguyen entitled Breaching the Conditions for Success for a National Advisory Panel. Confrey, Malonet and Nguyen identify six conditions for success for the work of high-level national panels and identify breaches in these conditions in the recent Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008). They question the trustworthiness, validity, and intellectual integrity of its findings and advice to the nation because of (a) an inappropriate composition of Panel expertise and biased selection of literature (Condition 1); (b) failure to appropriately and consistently apply methodological standards (Condition 2); and (c) inconsistencies between the task group and subcommittee reports and the final report (Condition 6). In asking what difference these breaches make, the authors recount recent events suggesting that these breaches have already contributed to degrading the national discussion of curriculum standards for K–12 mathematics education.

First, they review the composition of the panel members as follows:
The responsibility for the composition of the NMAP was unusual, considering the charge. The chair of the Panel was a chemist and distinguished emeritus university president. The other Panel members included six psychologists, four mathematics educators (one of these added during the final year), four mathematicians, one special educator, one middle school mathematics teacher, one policy researcher, and one reading researcher (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). This means that, of 19 members, only 5 (the mathematics educators and the mathematics teacher) regularly had sustained interactions with mathematics instruction at the K–12 level; fewer than half the Panel members had documented academic preparation in mathematics.

And what about the research cited by the report:
Despite the NMAP report’s focus on the learning of mathematics, of the total of 466 journal articles referenced in the task group’s report, mathematics education articles constituted only slightly more than 10%, whereas psychological accounts (i.e., those published in journals on psychology, child development, and educational psychology) constituted approximately 70% of the references. Of the 10 journals with 10 citations or more each, 9 (90%) were psychology-oriented.3 Only one leading research journal in mathematics education had more than 10 citations.

And the recommendations & conclusions:
Perhaps even more fundamental, however, are the ways in which the breaches of the conditions for success may have distorted the particular recommendations in the report. It will take much more time and a variety of critical reviews to discern the extent of the damage in this regard. Because the U.S. Department of Education was responsible for the composition and the oversight of the NMAP, it should be held responsible for breaching the conditions for success of the Panel and, in effect, undermining the potential benefits to the country of this endeavor. The result was a loss of opportunity for improving mathematics education in our nation.

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