Monday, March 26, 2007


Key Curriculum Press Release

National Mathematics Advisory Panel Preliminary Report Disappoints

Devoid of any substance or even preliminary findings, The National Mathematics Advisory Panel’s Preliminary Report is a major disappointment, Key Curriculum Press President Steve Rasmussen said Tuesday. Like many individuals and organizations, Key offered testimony during the Panel’s public hearings.

Released to the public six weeks after it was due, the fifteen-page report provides a scant two paragraphs containing any new information. And even those don’t reveal much. “It is premature for the Panel to convey major findings and conclusions,” the document concludes.

Rasmussen sharply responded to the report:

By failing to offer any insight into its preliminary view, the Panel denies the public the opportunity to respond and comment thoughtfully throughout the next stage of the Panel’s deliberations prior to its final report. This is unacceptable.

Those of us devoting our careers and energies to making positive differences for our nation’s children deserve useful guidance and support. We deserve to hear from Panel members, even if they offer differing opinions. Undoubtedly, they are learning a lot from the data and testimony they have received. I hope we too get to learn from their experience. Our country needs a discussion of the critical issues facing mathematics educators.

Perhaps the Panel is too divided to issue a meaningful report. Perhaps politics has gotten in the way of their mission. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel was, after all, established by an administration with a highly questionable track record of using scientific evidence to make policy. The sad fact is that, over the past six years, politics has consistently trumped science in such areas ranging from global warming (Federal Climate Research) to education (Reading First). Given this record, and given the
composition of the Panel, it is entirely reasonable to raise serious questions about the Panel’s work. Despite the presence of highly respected individuals on the Panel, I worry that its final report will reflect the educational views of the administration that appointed it.

It is critical that Panel members whose views are not clouded by politics offer us their opinions, even if they contrast those held by other members. Meaningful proposals that could have a profound impact on the lives of students will not come without rigorous, un-politicized debate.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Very Sad Joke

The Preliminary Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel is a SAD JOKE!

What does the President’s Executive Order call for?

Section 4: A preliminary report not later than January 31, 2007, and a final report not later than February 28, 2008. BOTH REPORTS shall, at a minimum, contain recommendations, based on the best available scientific evidence, on the following:
a) the critical skills and skill progressions….
b) the role and appropriate design on standards and assessment…
c) the processes by which students of various abilities and backgrounds learn mathematics;
d) instructional practices, programs, and materials that are effective….
e) the training, selection, placement, and professional development of teachers of mathematics;
f) the role and appropriate design of systems for delivering instruction…
g) needs for research…
h) ideas for strengthening capabilities to teach children and youth basic mathematics…
i) such other matters.

What does the 16-page preliminary report, dated January, 2007 and not released until March 16, 2007 include?

- 3 pages of general background and reiteration of the panel’s charge;
- 2 pages listing the panel members, their affiliations and the staff;
- 2 pages on the fact that meetings were held and how they were organized and the membership of the 4 panel task groups;
- 13 lines on “Current Status” – see below;
- 6 references;
- 3 pages of Appendix presenting the Presidential Executive Order (obviously to pad the report and provide primary source material for the first 3 pages of the report;
- 3 pages of Appendix summarizing the dates, locations and organizations providing comments of the Panel’s Meetings

What is the substance of the Preliminary Report after millions of dollars and 8 months?

III. Current Status

At the time this report was accepted by the Panel at its New Orleans meeting in January 2007, progress was described as follows:

All four task groups are deeply engaged in their tasks, and are in the process of examining relevant literature and materials. The findings of the task groups will inform each other and will ultimately be aligned in forming conclusions. Accordingly, it is premature for the Panel to convey major finding and conclusions.

The Subcommittee on Standards of Evidence has made good progress toward a guide for use by task groups as they address their issues and the pertinent evidence. However, the Panel believes that methodological principles and details still must be refined as the members use them in reviews of the research. The Subcommittee of the Survey of Teachers has developed goals for the planned survey.

As the present agenda unfolds, the Panel expects to take up parts of the President’s charge that cannot be covered with the current task groups.

What are the inevitable questions that arise from this state of affairs?
- Is the Panel just not capable of reaching even a few general conclusions in 8 months?
- Is the Panel so divided that there is no substantive agreement yet?
- Why is the clear language of the Executive Order about the content of the Preliminary Report being ignored?
- Has the Panel, in fact, done so little that there is nothing to report?
- Is the Panel just hiding from input and criticism that the Preliminary Report was supposed to generate in order to craft a stronger Final Report?

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