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Frequently Asked Questions
Are these high school programs designed for students who have had similar programs in their previous years of schooling?

~In short, no. None of these high school programs assume that students will have had "reform" curricula at a previous level in school. In fact, these programs anticipate the need to accommodate an increase in the level of student expectations and classroom dynamics for students entering these programs from more traditional programs. (That was the status quo during the development of these programs.)

There are advantages, of course, for students who have had standards-based curricula in middle or elementary school, particularly if the experience was with integrated curricula and students were actively involved in the classroom. The NSF-funded elementary and middle school programs provide excellent examples of such curricula. For more information on these curricula at the other school levels, go to Resources.

Won't it be difficult for students who for some external reason must transfer into (or out of) the middle of one of these programs from (or to) a more traditional program?

~ Let's begin by facing facts. A transition between any curricula is hard for a student. These curricula do not alleviate the situation. It will be hard for a student in a more traditional program to transfer into the "middle" of one of these standards-based curricula, because expectations are higher and there may be material that a student has not had (e.g. material in probability and statistics). There is one ameliorating factor, however. All of these programs involve some group work and it has been the experience of the program developers that in classes where new students enter, the "older" students are more willing to help the newer student.

This is effective not only because the newer student is being helped by peers, but also the "older" students tend to gain greater understanding of the mathematics material as they communicate it to the newer student. Comparatively, experience indicates that it will be easier for a student in one of the COMPASS-affiliated curricula to enter a more traditional curriculum because of the habits of mind engendered by these curricula. That is, students in the COMPASS-affiliated curricula tend to be more independent learners, and more willing than their traditional counterparts to tackle problems they have not had before.

Will students in these programs be prepared for Advanced Placement (AP) classes?

~ In field test situations, students who have completed three years of these programs do at least as well as their traditional counterparts in AP Calculus. Students who have completed four years of one of these programs do even better. As with any curricular change, schools that implement one of these new programs must communicate changes in content materials to AP teachers.

For example, in some of these curricula a student may have had some experience with linear slope as a rate of change, the concept of limits, and/or the concept of the derivative. On the other hand, in some programs students may not have had formal experience with logarithmic functions. Students in the COMPASS-affiliated programs do far better than their traditional counterparts in AP statistics. (One reason is that the students are already familiar with much of the statistics content.)

Do the students from these new integrated programs have difficulty with college acceptance by admissions officers who aren't familiar with such programs?

~There is a large and growing number of colleges and universities that have become familiar with the programs and who accept them in the normal part of their admissions process. Even though these programs are reaching or have reached the commercial market fairly recently, they were field-tested in a large number of schools which have sent their graduates on to college.

Please e-mail COMPASS if you want more specific information or assistance.

There is a lot more reading in these materials than in traditional programs. Is this an additional obstacle to success?

~ It has always been the case that reading comprehension is correlated to success in mathematics. These materials may simply be highlighting the issue. It is a myth that removing words from mathematics textbooks somehow increases understanding of mathematics.

Indeed, there is evidence to suggest the reverse. The reading level has not been an issue in field-test experience (see the next question). In fact, the reading seems to increase student interest and attention.

These curricula were supposed to be developed for all students. Do they really work for all students?

~ Yes. All of these programs have been tested in heterogeneous classes, both in terms of socio-economic status and ability grouping. That is, they have been tested in inner city, suburban, and rural settings. Field-test classes had a mix of students who might have been grouped differently had they been tracked.

Students have been successful in these settings and there is evidence to suggest these students often voluntarily take additional mathematics courses.


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Last revision: 04/26/06