Mathematics Federal File

Adding Up Report From Math Panel

By Sean Cavanagh — April 03, 2007 1 min read
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When President Bush signed an executive order creating a National Mathematics Advisory Panel a year ago this month, his intent seemed plain enough.

The 17-member expert body was expected to produce a preliminary report by the end of January 2007 and a final report by the end of February 2008. Both of those reports, the order stated, were to contain recommendations based on “the best available scientific evidence” about strategies for improving math education, in areas such as instruction, testing, teacher training and placement, and help for students of different abilities and backgrounds.

Yet critics have noted that the 16-page preliminary report the panel released in January includes no such recommendations—only an overview of its mission, membership, and the process it has followed so far. (“Math Panel Issues Its First Report, But Holds Off on Policy Proposals,” Jan. 17, 2007.)

A “Very Sad Joke,” reads a headline about the report on National Math Panel Watch, a Web site, at http://mathpanelwatch.blogspot.com, created by Steven Leinwand, a principal research scientist at the American Institutes for Research, in Washington.

“It raises real questions about what they’re going to be able to do for us,” Mr. Leinwand said in an interview, calling the report “16 pages of dribble.”

The site also includes comments from Steve Rasmussen, the president of Key Curriculum Press, a California-based education publishing company, who wondered whether internal disagreements were delaying the panel.

Issuing such a slim report “denies the public the opportunity to respond and comment thoughtfully” before the final report, Mr. Rasmussen wrote.

But math panel Chairman Larry R. Faulkner said the group was reluctant to put forward recommendations before completing its research, which he noted covers a broad list of topics. It is that workload, not any intrapanel division, that explains the brief initial report, he said.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and White House officials have told him they are satisfied with the panel’s progress, he added.

“It’s not of any service to convey recommendations we’re not secure about,” said Mr. Faulkner, the president of the Houston Endowment, a Texas philanthropy. “The value that the panel has is going to rest entirely on the quality of that final report.”

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For more stories on this topic see Curriculum and Learning and our Federal news page.

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A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2007 edition of Education Week


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