Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Mathematics Test Requirements: Arizona requires all elementary teacher candidates to pass the National Evaluation Series (NES) Elementary Education content test, which consists of two separately
scored subtests. Mathematics counts for 50 percent of subtest two and is
combined with other subject areas, specifically, science and the arts,
health and fitness. Because the test does not report a specific math
score, a teacher candidate could answer many math questions incorrectly
and still pass the test.
The framework for Arizona's test covers numbers and operations, data analysis, and basic concepts of geometry and algebra, but the standards are not specifically geared to meet the needs of elementary teachers.
However, new legislation in Arizona allows candidates to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge with a bachelor's degree or higher in elementary education or passage of the test described above.
NES Test Requirement www.nestest.com August 4, 2017 State Board of Education meeting documents https://azsbe.az.gov/file/2394/download?token=6ac3SbR9
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
Arizona 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.
Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Arizona must ensure that new teachers are prepared to teach the mathematics content required by the state's college- and career-readiness standards. Although Arizona's subject-matter test requires some knowledge in 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 coursework.
Arizona recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis; however, this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.
2B: Teaching Elementary Mathematics
Required math coursework should be tailored in both design and delivery to the unique needs of the elementary teacher. Aspiring elementary teachers must acquire a deep conceptual knowledge of the mathematics that they will teach, moving well beyond mere procedural understanding. Their training should focus on the critical areas of numbers and operations; algebra; geometry; and, to a lesser degree, data analysis and probability.
To ensure that elementary teachers are well trained to teach the essential subject of mathematics, states must require teacher preparation programs to cover these four areas in coursework that is specially designed for prospective elementary teachers. Leading mathematicians and math educators have found that elementary teachers are not well served by courses designed for a general audience and that methods courses also do not provide sufficient preparation. According to Dr. Roger Howe, a mathematician at Yale University: "Future teachers do not need so much to learn more mathematics, as to reshape what they already know."
States' policies should require preparation in mathematics of appropriate breadth and depth and specific to the needs of the elementary teacher. Reports by NCTQ on teacher preparation, beginning with No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools (2008) and continuing through the Teacher Prep Review, have consistently found few elementary teacher preparation programs across the country providing high-quality preparation in mathematics. Whether through standards or coursework requirements, states must ensure that their preparation programs graduate only teacher candidates who are well prepared to teach mathematics.
Many state tests offer no assurance that teachers are prepared to teach mathematics. An increasing number of states require passage of a mathematics subtest as a condition of licensure, but many states still rely on subject-matter tests that include some items (or even a whole section) on mathematics instruction. However, since subject-specific passing scores are not required, one need not know much mathematics in order to pass. In fact, in some cases one could answer every mathematics question incorrectly and still pass. States need to ensure that it is not possible to pass a licensure test that purportedly covers mathematics without knowing the critical material.
The content of these tests poses another issue: these tests should properly test elementary content but not at an elementary level. Instead, problems should challenge the teacher candidate's understanding of underlying concepts and apply knowledge in nonroutine, multistep procedures. The MTEL test required by both Massachusetts and North Carolina remains the standard bearer for a high quality, rigorous assessment for elementary teachers entirely and solely focused on mathematics.