Summary: Evaluation of Mathematics with Meaning and Textual Power through Student Achievement Analysis


Student achievement depends on an array of factors within and beyond the classroom environment. Even within classrooms, a complex interplay of factors affects achievement. These factors include not only the curriculum but also teaching practices. Reform in the classroom entails both new teaching materials and new instructional strategies that are associated with the curriculum. In this era of accountability, we need to know if reforms actually work and are not based on ideals that are challenging to implement, and demonstrate no measurable gains. Districts adopting reform programs need to know if they have the promise to promote improved student achievement.

In this paper, we are interested in two associated pilot programs, consisting of professional development, instructional strategies, and curricular materials and how these programs impact student achievement. Specifically, we examine the effectiveness of the Mathematics with Meaning and Textual Power pilot programs developed by the College Board. Mathematics with Meaning is used in mathematics classes while Textual Power is used in English classes. These programs are separated into middle school and high school. The high school pilot programs were piloted in 2000-2001 while the middle school programs were piloted in 2001-2002. However, these programs do not constitute full curriculum but are supplementary programs that include professional development instructional strategies, and planned classroom materials.

The main premise of both programs is that students learn within meaningful contexts. Instead of relying on traditional teaching straight from the textbooks, these programs emphasize the use of materials and real-life situations to teach lessons. Theoretically such programs, that are based on the premise that learning with meaning, should work because it follows one of the guiding principals of constructivism where children learn best within meaningful context. If teachers who attended the professional development fully implemented the programs by successfully engaging their students in the academic matter, an increase in comprehension, interest, and achievement of students is possible. However, how do these reform-based supplementary programs hold up in practice? To investigate the link between Mathematics with Meaning and Textual Power and student achievement, we need to conduct a well-designed study that matches students exposed to the programs with comparable students not exposed to the programs. It is only through comparison with a well-matched group that we are able to draws valid conclusion about the programs' effectiveness. Achievement on state assessments as an outcome measure is the focus of this study because it is one of the main, if not singular, emphases in school and district accountability.

There are two purposes in this paper: To evaluate Mathematics with Meaning and Textual Power and to present a valid method for the evaluation that is based on well-matched comparisons.