Wow, it's hard not to get involved in this discussion. I have been using one
of the standards-based math programs, Connected Math Project (CMP), for three
years. I agree with David that there is more reading required than with the
more traditional arithmetic based program that I taught a lifetime ago.
(Let's see, as I recall a typical assignment would be twenty five long
division problems on the page and the only words would be "Find the
Quotients.") Yes, poor reading skills has been a problem, but CMP was
actually a motivator (in our school) for beginning language enhancement
classes for 7th and 8th graders who tested significantly below grade level
for reading. Students in language enhancement classes (which meet everyday)
also attend a heterogeneously grouped English class each day.
We also have made other accommodations. We have an accelerated algebra class
for 8th graders (and some 7th graders) and a pre-algebra class for 7th
graders. Last year we found it necessary to address the problem of students
with math skills that were way below grade level and so we began two math
skills classes. One class has 7th and 8th graders who have 2nd or 3rd math
skills, the other class 4th or 5th grade skills. I don't blame CMP for
making these classes necessary. The problem has always been there, but CMP
made it more obvious that we needed to address the problem. These classes are
taught outside of core time so that our other subject area classes can still
be mixed abilities. And there has been movement between levels. I have
students in CMP this year who were in math skills or pre-algebra last year.
I am excited about the mathematics we do with CMP. Yes, it seems to move a
bit slowly at times but that repetition works. We "cover" fewer topics
because we are not doing the "mile wide/ inch deep" curriculum of the past.
My students by and large have real understanding of the topics we study. At
the end of each year, I ask my students to write an informal evaluation: what
worked, what didn't work, etc. For the past two years, my students have
written about how much they liked and felt challenged by CMP. (In the past,
the remarks usually centered on me as a teacher with little or no mention of
the curriculum we used.)
Teachers should not be expected to jump into any standards-based program
without proper training. (And that means more than one inservice day.) We
had a week long class taught by teachers who had been using CMP for a couple
of years. I would not want to have tackled this program without that.
Sorry this has been so long.