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Topic: Standards Recommendations lack Research Support (part 4 of
Open Letter)

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Frank Allen

Posts: 17
Registered: 12/6/04
Standards Recommendations lack Research Support (part 4 of
Open Letter)

Posted: Dec 7, 1995 1:25 PM
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4. What would you, as President of the Council, say to a school
superintendent who asks for a basis in research or experience that supports
the recommendations contained in the Standards? (See Enclosure 4 The
NCTM's own Research Advisory Committee says that Standards recommendations
lack research support).

Enclosure 4 Report of the NCTM Research Advisary Committee

In the section on "Next Steps" in the Standards (p. 251- ) we are
told that our teachers and mathematics educators must now trace out the
"coherent network of relationships (that) exists among the identified
topics" in order to "develop curricula based on the Standards/" We are
assured that the "nodes" of this network have been identified. (What more
could one ask?) We are also informed that new tests must be devised to
"assess" these new curricula. In short, after all this fanfare, we have
no curriculum for school mathematics and we have no tests defining
mathematical competency. Nor do we have "a scope and sequence chart" or a
"listing of topics by grade level". These mundane but rather essential
items are pointedly omitted from the Standards (p. 252) which offer only
"a framework for curriculum development". (What kind of charge was given to
the Standards Committee by the board?)
Those who must produce the new curricula and accompanying tests
face a gargantuan task. The Standard's writers did the easy part, namely
produce a precis' of Math Education 405. Moreover, impartial review
reveals that they really didn't do this easy part very well. Their
framework and their sweeping, loudly proclaimed recommendations are largely
baseless insofar as cited research is concerned. The following statements
by the NCTM's own Research Advisory Committee support this view. They
appeared in our "Journal for Research in Mathematics Education" for July,
1988. While they pertained to the draft version of the Standards, they
apply with equal force to the final version. "The Standards document
contains many recommendations, but in general it does not provide a
research context for the recommendations even when such a context is
available." The Committee asks "For which curricular and instructional
recommendations made in the draft version of the Standards document does
there exist substantial research support?" The committee continues "Of
course, it is also important to consider research evidence that might
refute any of the recommendations made in the document. For example, the
research base needs to be identified and clarified both for curricular
recommendations, such as delaying and decreased emphasis on fraction
computation, and also for instructional recommendations, such as the use
of calculators with students at all grades K-12, extensive utilization of
cooperative learning groups, the importance of work with manipulative
materials, and emphasis on student inquiry and investigation".
I submit that these same remarks would apply to many of their other
recommendations, such as the integrated curriculum, suppression of oral
exposition by the teacher and their grotesquely complicated assessment
procedures which Paul Greenberg might describe as "One more clarion call
for vague incoherence."
To summarize: Most of the major recommendations in the Standards have
nothing to support them other than the consensus of the authors and the
conventional wisdom harbored by some of our more vocal mathematics
educators. How dare these writers propose sweeping changes including a
complete restructuring of the school mathematics curriculum on such flimsy

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