Elementary Teacher Preparation in
Mathematics: Colorado

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Mathematics: Colorado results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/CO-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Mathematics-6

Analysis of Colorado's policies

Colorado 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 teachers.

All teacher candidates in Colorado must complete coursework in mathematics. The state does not specify a minimum number of credit hours, the requisite content of such courses or that the courses must meet the needs of elementary teachers. Colorado has articulated elementary teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use. These standards indicate that all elementary teacher candidates must be "knowledgeable" in mathematics but lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates.

Colorado requires that all new elementary teachers pass either the state's PLACE (Program for Licensing Assessments for Colorado's Educators) assessment or a general subject-matter test, the Praxis II. Neither test provides a specific mathematics subscore, so one can likely fail the mathematics portion and still pass the test. Further, while these tests cover important elementary school-level content, they barely evaluate candidates' knowledge beyond an elementary school level, do not challenge their understanding of underlying concepts and do not require candidates to apply knowledge in nonroutine, multistep procedures.


Recommendations for Colorado

Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Although Colorado requires some knowledge in 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.
Colorado 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.

State response to our analysis

Colorado recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state noted that it has adopted the Common Core Standards, and teacher preparation programs are in the process of aligning their programs with these standards. 

Research rationale

For evidence that new teachers are not appropriately prepared to teach mathematics, see NCTQ, No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools (2008) at:

For information on the mathematics content elementary teachers need to know, see National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, "Highly Qualified Teachers: A Position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics," (July 2005). See also Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, The Mathematical Education of Teachers, Issues in Mathematics, Vol. 11, (American Mathematical Society in cooperation with the Mathematical Association of America, 2001), p. 8.

For evidence on the benefits of math content knowledge on student achievement, see Kukla-Acevedo "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review, 28 (2009): 49-57; H. Hill, B. Rowan and D. Ball "Effects of Teachers' Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching on Student Achievement," American Educational Research Journal (2005).

For information on where states set passing scores on elementary level content tests for teacher licensing across the U.S., see chart on p. 13 of NCTQ's "Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Removing the Roadblocks: How Federal Policy Can Cultivate Effective Teachers?" (2011).