**Questions about
Impact and Attribution: Are Better Results Really Due To The New Curriculum?**

It is difficult
to construct and administer a single test or measure that can conclusively
demonstrate superior student achievement using IMP *and* show that it was due to IMP and IMP alone. We have heard a
variety of concerns regarding the impact of IMP and issues involving
attribution, that is, related to cause and effect. For example, **“maybe you got better results because…”**

1. You “stacked the
deck.” The IMP students were better students to start. They were brighter, or previously had more
math courses in middle school, or were somehow different, which biased the
results in favor of IMP.

2. You had the
school’s better teachers teach the new curriculum.

3. IMP teachers graded
their students more leniently. Students
could get wrong answers and still pass the course because you used “alternate
assessments,” which don’t test for right answers.

4. The gains in
student achievement were due to increased professional development of the IMP
teachers. If you give teachers who teach pre-standards curriculum the same
amount of professional development you gave IMP teachers, how do you know you
would not get similar results?

5. The effect is
due to the use of collaborative learning groups, not the curriculum per se.

6. It could be the
“Hawthorne effect.” You got better results because it was new and students and
teachers were getting increased attention.

7. The IMP teachers
have reductions in course load.

8. You selected
only those test questions that favored the new curriculum.

9. You got the
results because you tested only low achieving students. The higher achieving
students don’t need IMP.

10. You got the
results because you only tested IMP with the
“better” students [delete ‘kids’].
Lower ability students would not be able to do this kind of math.

11. Colleges may not
accept these new programs such as IMP, rather than “algebra.” And if they do,
students will not be adequately prepared for a traditional college math course.
Most colleges do not let students use graphing calculators so they will be at
disadvantage.

12. Students who
take these new curricula in high school are regularly placed in remedial math
class in college because their basic skills are so low.

All of the above statements have
plausible validity even if they have no basis in fact. They need to be taken
seriously and addressed. In addition, different constituencies will value
different indicators of success more than others. In short, the type of data
collected has to be “psychologically real” for each constituent group to be
accepted by that group. For example, a principal of a special admission school
said he would only consider IMP successful if it could raise SAT scores by 30
points. Another principal expressed concern about attendance rates and
preventing school dropouts, while another was concerned about scores on the Pennsylvania System of Student Assessment
(PSSA).

In response to
these methodological issues and the different values placed on different
measures of success, our strategy has been to collect student achievement data
from a variety of sources using a variety of indicators. At the same time, we
have attempted to control or compensate for as many biasing factors as
possible. Our goal was and is to determine whether there is a convergence of
the data in any one direction that could be used to answer the bottom line
question of the costs and benefits of using a standards-based curriculum, such
as IMP *.*

We began collecting data during the
first year of IMP’s implementation in Philadelphia in May 1994. Since then, we
have used a variety of measures, which are listed in the Appendix under Student
Achievement Measures There are several reasons to
believe the superior results of NCTM standards-based curriculum and student
centered instructional methods as shown with IMP in Philadelphia are actually * under*stated.

1. All of the
results documented herein were from pre-publication draft versions of IMP.

2. All of the IMP
teachers were teaching the curriculum for the first time.

3. None of
Philadelphia’s most able students were permitted to enroll in IMP at each
school.

4. None of the 9^{th} grade students had previous
been exposed to standards-based k-8 materials.

5. Most of the
results were based on students using IMP for only 2 and 2/3 years.

6. IMP teachers did
not operate in a “reform teaching culture,” but were often isolated in their
departments. The same was often true for IMP students.

7. Parents were
unfamiliar with a standards-based curriculum and some did not know how to help
their children.

Based on our experience, we hypothesize
that significantly greater student achievement results would accrue if high
school students who are taught using the IMP materials:

a) were first
taught using a k-8 standards-based mathematics curriculum,

b) use the finished
published version of the IMP text,

c) are taught by
teachers who had several years of experience teaching the same level of IMP,

d) are enrolled in
a school that had adopted a standards-based mathematics program for all its
students.