If educators/administrators/parents are looking for evidenced-based research on math, reading, science, and social skills instruction (and more!), they may head to the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). This site, run by the Institute of Education Sciences, provides an analysis of studies on various instructional approaches. A publisher may say that their math program helps all students achieve 95% proficiency, but who analyses that data? WWC does! Here’s an overview of their process:
You can search programs by topic and examine the available evidence as analyzed by the WWC. At first glance, it seems pretty simple to rule out “dud” programs. But take a closer look. Here’s a snippet of the WWC analysis of math programs and strategies for elementary through high school students by degree of effectiveness (note the ++ symbols and improvement index).
Now check out the extent of evidence (ranging from small to medium and large) upon which the conclusions were based:
You will see that different programs or approaches are ranked first, depending upon which factor is being analyzed. I examined a spreadsheet which lists exactly how many studies were conducted, which schools and states were included, the number and race/ethnicity of students, and how many of these studies met WWC standards with reservations. In analyzing the spreadsheet of all the study data, Saxon Math had a whopping number of students included in their studies (over 15,000, with an average of 2,228 for other studies but a median of about 200) and over 50 studies of their program. The number of schools using Saxon Math (in these studies from 2011-2013) was over 500. Houghton-Mifflin reported 800 schools in 2007 (with no mention of student numbers) but only 4 studies (and 2 of these studies met WWC standards with reservations).
What am I concluding? If I want to select an effective, research-based math program, I can’t skim the first Mathematics Achievement chart that pops up. Guess what? Saxon Math is published by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt. Have I ever worked in a public school district which adopted this 30+ year-old program? No, I have never used Saxon Math, which appears to be more effective than any program adopted by schools in my career. If you Google “Saxon Math,” what words are associated with every listing of this program on the first two pages of results? Homeschooling.
Hmmm…. I think it’s time for some homeschooling moms and dads to tell me more about Saxon Math!