## A Math Purchase You Should Care AboutPublication Date: 2004-11-18 I wish the time and money were available to uncover every article written about education. Here we have a seemingly simple announcement of a district purchasing a math program. A very cursory look at a few details shows that it isn't simple at all. I am not an investigative reporter and I don't pretend to have more than scratched the surface. But I hope that what I did reveal raises questions. For starters, I hope people ask questions about pedagogy, about professionalism, and about profiteering. Those of us who care about education must ask these questions of every item we read.
The program is a complete education software system that has been recognized by the US Department of Education. It began by teaching Algebra to 200 students in an inner-city school in New Orleans during the 1994-95 school year. Today the I CAN Learn program has expanded to cover 15 states and over 50,000 students. Its range is also expanding to include school grades K-12 and Colleges. What do you think existing workforce means? If it were teachers, wouldn't they just say teachers?
I CAN Learn Education Systems is a comprehensive mastery based math program for all learners. It is especially effective for use in training the existing workforce for the needs of the future. Here, I CAN Learn inserts credentialed teachers into their promo material:
Credentialed Teachers. Hmmm. How does this claim square with the ad below? A high school graduate will work in lab with and without an instructor present.
When offered the opportunity to add keywords for a searchable database, sales people know what to do. It is worthwhile to study this list. How many are weasel words? How many are code words for something else? Individual tutoring, Small group interaction, Mathematics, Algebra, Pre-Algebra, Math basics, Math Resources, Learning Center, Education Center, Tutoring, Tutoring Services, Integrated Math, Assessment, Skills Assessment, Educate, Education, Online Resources, Education Programs, Teachers, Certified Teachers, Personalized Programs, Standardized Tests, Learning Objectives, Learning Goals, Motivational Program, Learning Resources, Motivation, Educational Software, Computer Assisted Instruction, Accountability, Quantitative Metrics, Daily Assessment, Proven Effective for low income, at risk students using Scientifically Based Research, Recognized by the US Department of Education as a ?Promising Mathematics Program?. http://tinyurl.com/3k5aw Don't miss who praises the product: ?The patented I CAN Learn? system delivers a complete course curriculum while tracking the progress of each student. It also handles such mundane tasks as taking attendance assigning homework and administering and grading tests.? I find it interesting that nowhere on the I CAN Learn site could I find any talk about pedagogy. Nowhere did I find an evaluation or a blurb from a math expert. Nowhere could I find who wrote the material presented to students. The product is listed on the government's What Works Clearinghouse site, and you'll find the report below the teacher's letter.
This letter from a New Orleans teacher to a member of the school board (herself a former teacher and administrator) is on the I CAN Learn website, along with a copyright notice.
Results - What They're Saying, Letter #1 Here is how the product is listed on the U. S. Department of Education site What Works Clearinghouse. A brief description is accompanied by this lengthy report that obfuscates as much as it reveals. I know we're supposed to care about the distinction between quasi-experimental studies and randomized controlled trials, but it's a hard sell. Disturbing to me is the fact that when you click on the studies, you get a message in red Coming. What is provided are U. S. Department of Education summaries. Well, we trust these guys, don't we? This becomes an issue when you realize that the four studies critical of the I CAN Learn? Mathematics Curriculum do not meet the federal government's evidence screens. Big Brother decides what works and what doesn't work.
The I CAN Learn? Mathematics Curriculum is an interactive software system for pre-algebra and algebra. It consists of 326 lessons from basic mathematics to advanced algebra concepts. Designed for students to learn at their own pace, the I CAN Learn? program is intended primarily for use in grades 7 through 10 by ethnically diverse, inner-city students. |

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