Plano Star Courier, January 2, 1999

Connected Math Inquiries Yield Clueless Responses

The textbooks of Connected Mathematics Program (CMP) have been weighed in the balance and found to be wanting. Its nationwide adoption status as well as its substantial non-conformity to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) raise serious questions whether our kids learn the essentials. Written and verbal inquiries to CMP developers regarding which states and school districts are using CMP and which states have adopted the textbooks have yielded clueless responses. They referred me to the publishers who were also unable to shed any light. Does this lack of monitoring indicate anything? Perhaps there are no federal funds for curriculum evaluation and revision. So I was left with the option of surfing the internet and using the phone to find out the answers.

Twenty two states have a statewide textbook adoption policy where the state reviewers evaluate textbooks and recommend eligible ones for use in the state. The other states simply allow local school districts to make the judgment. Out of the 22 textbook adoption states, only Texas and Florida have adopted CMP. California and North Carolina have rejected it outright. Due to various reasons limiting my ability to get responses, I have not been able to get in touch with every state board of education.

In a recent nationwide appraisal of state mathematics standards published by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, California and North Carolina are two of three states which received an 'A' rating. Texas is one of nine 'B' states. Florida received a 'D'. Each state's written standards are rated based on four qualities: Clarity, Content, Reason, and Negative Qualities.  (you can read this report at: Since textbook evaluation are based on state standards, a state's evaluation of a text is as good as its standards. If two states with excellent math standards have evaluated and rejected CMP, then common sense should lead us to re-examine the  weaknesses of this text.

Our state's standards are spelled out in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Three state reviewers submitted their detail evaluation of CMP textbooks dated September 15, 1998 and concluded that about 40% of the TEKS are not covered at each grade level. The tables show their edited comments for each requirement not met by the textbook.

One is appalled that considerable amount of basic skills are not addressed in CMP. Ratios, rates, negative numbers and square roots are not taught. Operations involving fractions are missing so are conversions of decimals, fractions and percents. Students do not learn about obtuse and acute angles nor complementary and supplementary angles. The most glaring omission is the absence of problem solving models and strategies throughout the three years.

The substantial omission defies the casual contention that the textbooks cover TEKS but at different grade levels, for example, 6th Grade text addressed some of  7th Grade TEKS. The reviewers seem to have taken that into consideration when they noted that one of the requirements for 7th grade Geometry and Spatial Reasoning was covered in the 6th grade text and, under Probability and Statistics, mean and median are also noted to be covered one grade ahead. A careful consideration of CMP developers' agenda leads one to surmise that many of the omissions could actually be deliberate.

Texas Education Agency affords the opportunity for publishers to challenge their evaluation. Two months after the evaluation, CMP was officially placed on the non-conforming list of textbooks on November 13th apparently without any objections from the publishers. While conforming textbooks have to cover 100% of the TEKS, textbooks which cover 50%-99% of the TEKS are classified as non-conforming. This wide margin makes it difficult to differentiate between those slightly non-conforming text and those substantially non-conforming ones unless one has the detail report.

There is an attempt to make a distinction between state standards and PISD's curriculum. The theoretical premise is this: If the curriculum is covered, then it would not matter if the textbook is non-conforming since a Plano teacher, following the curriculum, would find other means to fulfill the curriculum requirements. We would indeed expect our curriculum to exceed state standards. If so, it would mean that a considerable amount of supplementary material would be needed to compensate for the extensive areas left out by CMP. By using up our allotment of state funds to purchase a substantially non-conforming text, where will we get the resources for additional materials? Does it not make more sense to select one of five conforming middle school text approved by the state in November 1998? If CMP is so outstanding, then where is the data to justify this departure from a common sense solution?

Parents have every right to know why their children's textbooks are not meeting state standards by such a substantial margin. We need specific and detailed answers because we do not want our kids to be shortchanged.

Timothy Soh

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