U.S. Education Department Gives RAND $6 Million Grant to Evaluate Math Curriculum of Carnegie Learning
April 5, 2007
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the RAND Corporation a $6 million grant to conduct a five-year study of the effectiveness of a technology-based mathematics curriculum created by Carnegie Learning, Inc., of Pittsburgh.
RAND researchers will examine the impact of Carnegie Learning's Cognitive Tutor Algebra I curriculum. The curriculum supplements classroom instruction with a software program that adapts to individual students' understanding of algebraic concepts to improve their problem-solving skills.
The grant to RAND is the largest available under the Department of Education grant program for scientific assessment of academic courses.
Carnegie Learning is a leading publisher of core, full-year mathematics programs as well as supplemental intervention applications for middle school, high school and postsecondary students. The company's Cognitive Tutor programs are currently used by more than 475,000 students in 1,300 school districts across the United States.
The math programs of Carnegie Learning are based on cognitive science research at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where researchers study how students think, learn and apply new knowledge in mathematics.
The RAND study will be led by researchers in the nonprofit research organization's Pittsburgh office. The work will be carried out by RAND Education, which conducts research and analysis on a variety of topics, including school reform, educational assessment and accountability, and trends among teachers and teacher training.
The algebra readiness, Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II curricula of Carnegie Learning are already being used in several high school transformation initiatives in large urban school districts in Los Angeles, Miami-Dade County, Chicago and elsewhere.
Carnegie Learning was selected for the study because its Algebra I program is one of a few math courses that meet the Department of Education's grant requirement for strong prior evidence of effectiveness.
RAND researchers will examine how students using the Carnegie Learning curriculum fare on a standardized algebra assessment as compared with peers who receive traditional classroom instruction.
“This study will contribute to the evidence base that educators use when making math curriculum decisions,” said John Pane, a RAND research scientist who will lead the study. “Improving math education is a priority for the United States, in part because our economy needs future graduates with strong math and science backgrounds. Finding ways to leverage technology is a strategic way to help get there.”
Pane said RAND researchers will use rigorous experimental methods to examine what he called a “very promising technology-based math curriculum” and how well it works in a diverse set of public schools around the country.
Classrooms in participating school districts will be randomly assigned to use either Carnegie Learning Algebra I or the school's existing Algebra I course. The new study will show whether the Cognitive Tutor curriculum is effective for a wide range of students and environments.
“We are tremendously proud to be selected as the curriculum for this important study,” said Dennis Ciccone, chief executive officer of Carnegie Learning. “Our company was founded on the guiding principle that research-based programs are the best tools to equip our teachers and students for success in the classroom.”
“No Child Left Behind was established to measure effective teaching and learning, and this study is a model for the accountability that we believe will improve education in this country,” Ciccone added. “We welcome an honest and objective analysis of the effectiveness of our curriculum as a means to better understand what we are doing well, and how we can serve our students better.”
The study is part of a growing national trend to rigorously test educational programs using experimental methods, and is designed to further the evidence-base for mathematics instructional materials and practices.