Analysis of CMP

A) Lack of Empirical Support

Since the margin of improvement is used as a yardstick to measure the efficacy of CMP, it would not be unreasonable to compare it with the previous cohorts who does not have CMP. We are kind of limited in how far back we can make comparison of TAAS scores since there were changes made in the 1993-94 school year. So we can only look at the two cohorts prior to CMP (see Appendix B). We find that the margins of improvement are much greater than during CMP with one sole exception.

It is appropriate to note the Wilson has most consistently demonstrated its "most valued-added" status regardless whether they have CMP or not. Ironically, almost every school did much better before CMP in terms of margin of improvement.
In the PISD brief on CMP,  it states:

"CMP and non CMP students have performed equally well on ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills).We have also checked with schools that have been using CMP for several years (Traverse City, Michigan, and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan) to see how their students perform in high school. All of the schools we have contacted report that CMP students do very well in high school. " 

No results (i.e. ITBS or other schools) were presented. One can reasonably suspect that they may be less than consistently glowing. The state scores for the two Michigan schools cited are even less persuasive (see Appendix C).

There can be two possible reasons why TAAS scores for previous cohorts were not presented. It could be that administrators already knew about it but chose to hide it. Or it could be that it did not occur to anyone to validate the argument of better growth. Personally, I have reasons to believe the latter is more probable.
I could also think of two possible reasons why ITBS scores were not presented. It could be that there is no significant difference proving CMP's efficacy. Or the scores are so complicated that they could not have it presented in a form that parents could grasped.

Given the resources and connections available to the administration, there seems to be a lack of effort in getting empirical data from the many schools that have used CMP and providing them for parents to evaluate its effectiveness. There is a lack of thoroughness in objectively establishing the premise that CMP works. As parents, we bestow our trust and good faith in the professionals to be objective and thorough in the choice of curriculum for our children. We can at least conclude that they have not been as objective and thorough as they should be.

B) Its Strengths

CMP is not without its strengths. Having reviewed two of the modules in the algebra strand, it is clear that innovative real-life applications are used to motivate kids to learn mathematical concepts in an interesting manner. Their creativity can also lead to increasing teachers' motivation in teaching what can be a boring subject.

Another of CMP's strengths is that it capitalizes on an important phase in a child's developmental process. During the period of 6th through 10th grade, a child goes through the dialetic stage where they tend to like to talk, debate and discuss. The use of a such learning format meshes well with the child's development.

For students who are more verbal and relational, the cooperative learning process would certainly be more attractive to them. Somehow, traditional teaching tends to appeal to analytical, auditory and visual learners and tends to neglect the bodily kinestatic and tactile learners (who unfortunately tend to be labeled as troublemakers and medicated as ADHD).

One also finds that the CMP text is structured to provide more focused and coherent, both qualities are found in Japanese 8th Grade classrooms. In the TIMSS video study of classroom instruction in Japan, Germany and US,  it was found that German and American teachers stresses problem solving as a goal whereas Japanese teachers stresses understanding. Japanese students spent more time inventing new solutions and engaging in conceptual thinking about mathematics than German and American students. The CMP texts seeks to emulate the Japanese model in these aspects. For more information on the video study, please go to:

C) Its Weaknesses

The developers of CMP admit that there are philosophical differences in what constitutes a good curriculum and have made certain sacrifices which parents in Plano should be well aware of before choosing CMP. The following statement is taken from their website in answer to the question: "How well is CMP working for students"

"Because the curriculum does not emphasize arithmetic computations done by hand, some CMP students may not do as well on parts of standardized tests assessing computational skills as students in classes that spend most of their time on practicing such skills. We believe such a trade-off in favor of CMP is very much to students' advantage in both the world of work and in continued study of mathematics."

Are we prepared to "trade-off" the upper 90s percentage passing TAAS Math scores? We must go into this with our eyes open to the weakness of any program.

1) Short on Practice

With the CMP developers' statement, the following statement issued in PISD brief just does not tally. "Basic skills are a vital part of CMP. In addition to the basic skills practice embedded in CMP, Plano teachers developed a set of worksheets to reinforce basic skills through drill and practice. These worksheets are assigned on a weekly basis." CMP may "value" students developing such skills, they "focus on making sense of operations and when they are useful to solve a problem." CMP developers denies having what the PISD's brief maintains is a "vital part of"  and "embedded in" the program.

Speed and accuracy have been the key qualities in doing well in any tests. In the real world, there is no such luxury of having 45 minutes to solve one mathematical problem. Practice - or to use the more pejorative term, "drills" - should still constitute a vital part of math instruction. Although the TIMSS study found that, in terms of assigned mathematics homework, US students have higher than above international average in both 4th and 8th grades, almost all Asian students have a substantial amount of more out-of-class math practice, the thriving sale of math workbooks attests to this fact. So it would be erroneous to conclude that practice is not an important factor in the good performances of Asian students or that American students have enough practice.

"Since the focus of CMP is on developing  understanding, rather than on memorizing rules and processes to apply in response to instructions such as "simplify" or "solve," a simple checklist of concepts or skills that appear in CMP and in traditional programs is not particularly relevant."

The reluctance of PISD to admit the self-acknowledged deficiencies of CMP is indeed suspicious and could undo years of hardwork by our dedicated teachers. The natural consequences of such denial will be to ignore open and constructive ways to deal with the weaknesses.

In fact, a healthy dose of additional practice is provided to kids in the honor program in CMP pilot schools in PISD. To a large extent, CMP assumes that kids already have the basics nailed down in the elementary years which I feel is already lacking in PISD. Many kids who are doing well in mathematics are probably doing so due to a large amount of parental involvement and extra tuition outside classroom setting. Only with the proper foundation, can CMP's strengths be capitalized. Without it, the superstructure will eventually collapse.

2) Not Conforming to State's Standards

During the meetings with parents, CMP was touted to be state-approved. However, after reviewing the CMP textbooks, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) issued the following preliminary assessment:

Grade 6: 14 of 37 TEKS not addressed (38%)
Grade 7: 19 of 41 TEKS not addressed (46%)
Grade 8: 19 of 42 TEKS not addressed (45%)

The reports dated 15 September 1998 can be viewed at this website:

Since TEKS spell out only the minimum requirements, how can PISD justify selecting a curriculum that does not meet 40% of the minimum requirements for the grade appropriate levels? Why does the school district decide on this curriculum even before the state has reviewed it?
It behooves us to take time to evaluate what is lacking in this curriculum so that we can be wiser in our next selection. Being objective, letting the chips fall where they may, is so important because our children's future is at stake and I speak this to both administrators and parents. We can be so content with the "tried and true" that we refused to venture out to sample new ideas and techniques that will make the learning of mathematics more interesting and motivating. Or we can readily adopt any innovative fad and reject all that had worked in the past.

3) Poor Choice as a Core Curriculum

The CMP program was implemented in Okemos School District in 1996. Okemos is a suburb right next to Michigan State University. Thus the teachers here should have more support both from the authors residing at MSU and from one of the teacher-authors (Jackie Stewart) of the CMP booklets. Jackie Steward co-ordinates the math program in the Okemos School Districts and is one of the strong proponents for the change.

After just one year, a substantial number of parents were unhappy with the CMP and petitioned to the school board to review the math program in the middle schools. In response to the parents' concerns, the school board implemented a number of changes including:

  1. Purchase of additional math books (traditional math) for each grade (6th, 7th and 8th) to supplement the CMP booklets.
  2. Creation of options classes for advanced kids
  3. Allowing advanced 8th graders to take math in high school

The experience of CMP at its birthplace is one strong convincing argument that CMP alone is not sufficient to address the needs of all students.
Dr. Betty Tsang, a nuclear physicist at Michigan State University, has personally experienced what CMP has done in the Okemos School District. She has kindly given her consent to release her written review of the 6th and 7th grade CMP textbooks (see Appendix F  and Appendix G) documenting her daughter's experience with CMP before Dr. Tsang decided to pull her out and place her in an accelerated math program at the university. For verification of Dr. Betty Tsang's credentials please visit:



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