The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades.
Arkansas relies on both coursework requirements and its standards for teacher preparation programs as the basis for articulating its requirements for the mathematics content knowledge of elementary teacher candidates.
The state requires all teacher candidates to complete three credit hours in college algebra or an equally sophisticated course. Arkansas has also articulated teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary mathematics content. According to these standards, candidates must have "knowledge of content" that includes mathematics. Unfortunately, these standards lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates.
Arkansas requires that all new elementary teachers pass a general subject-matter test, the Praxis II. This commercial test lacks a specific mathematics subscore, so one can likely fail the mathematics portion and still pass the test. Further, while this test does cover important elementary school-level content, it barely evaluates candidates' knowledge beyond an elementary school level, does not challenge their understanding of underlying concepts and does not require candidates to apply knowledge in nonroutine, multistep procedures.
Arkansas Code 6-61-218 Early Childhood Competency Areas http://www.arkansased.org/teachers/competency.html www.ets.org/praxis "No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools," NCTQ, June 2008 http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/nctq_ttmath_fullreport.pdf
Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Although Arkansas requires knowledge in some key areas of mathematics, the state should require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers. This includes specific coursework in foundations, algebra and geometry, with some statistics.
Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
Arkansas should assess mathematics content with a rigorous assessment tool, such as the test required in Massachusetts, that evaluates mathematics knowledge beyond an elementary school level and challenges candidates' understanding of underlying mathematics concepts. Such a test could also be used to allow candidates to test out of coursework requirements. Teacher candidates who lack minimum mathematics knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.
Arkansas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it has begun discussions with ETS to develop a more rigorous four-section (math, science, social studies and English) test for teachers in grades K-4. Each section would have an individual cut score.