Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades.
Georgia requires that all new, early childhood teachers pass its general subject-matter test, the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE). Although the GACE requires passing scores on both subtests that comprise the overall test, one subtest combines mathematics; science; and health, physical education and the arts, so one can answer many mathematics questions incorrectly and still pass the test. Further, Georgia posts only a limited number of sample questions, and a review of this material calls into question the rigor of its test; the test items representing early childhood content assess understanding at too superficial a level.
Georgia has articulated teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in early childhood mathematics content. Teacher candidates must "know, understand and use the major concepts, procedures and reasoning processes of mathematics that define number systems and number sense, geometry, measurement, statistics and probability, and algebra in order to foster student understanding and use of patterns, quantities and spatial relationships that can represent phenomena, solve problems and manage data." However, these standards lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to early childhood teacher candidates.
GACE Test Requirements www.gace.ets.org Georgia Rules 505-3-.16
Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
Although Georgia is on the right track in requiring an elementary assessment with subtests, the state's efforts fall short by combining math with other subjects and not reporting a specific subscore for math. Georgia should strengthen its policy by testing 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.
Georgia must ensure that new teachers are prepared to teach the mathematics content required by the Common Core State Standards. Although Georgia 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.
Georgia asserted that it requires early childhood education (P-5) teachers to pass the state-approved content assessment in that field, which includes a mathematics domain. Subscores in mathematics—not only at the subarea but also at the objective level—are provided to the examinees and program providers. With the transition to ETS, Georgia is developing even more rigorous, authentic assessments that include mathematics for 6-12, middle grade mathematics, and early childhood education (P-5). Multiple-item and full-length practice tests will be available.
Georgia also noted that candidates must pass a program admission assessment, which consists of a separate mathematics test, for which subscores and objective-level data are provided to the examinees and providers. Assessments are customized to state P-12 and program approval standards and are developed by educators and those that prepare educators in Georgia.
Georgia is on the right track but does not yet have a test in place ensuring that teachers are not licensed without sufficient knowledge and skills to teach mathematics. Subscores are provided for informational purposes; candidates are not required to specifically pass a stand-alone science of reading assessment.
Required math coursework should be tailored in both design and delivery to the unique needs of the elementary teacher.
Aspiring elementary teachers must begin to 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 it 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."
Most states' policies do not require preparation in mathematics of appropriate breadth and depth and specific to the needs of the elementary teacher. NCTQ's reports on teacher preparation, beginning with No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools in 2008 and continuing through the Teacher Prep Review in 2013 have consistently found few 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, 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 and middle school content but not at an elementary or middle school level. Instead, problems should challenge the teacher candidate's understanding of underlying concepts and apply knowledge in nonroutine, multistep procedures. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the tests currently in use in most states. The test required by Massachusetts remains the standard bearer for a high quality, rigorous assessment for elementary teachers entirely and solely focused on mathematics.
Elementary Teacher Preparation in Mathematics: Supporting Research
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:http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/nctq_ttmath_fullreport_20090603062928.pdf
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 S. Kukla-Acevedo "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review, Volume 28, 2009, pp. 49-57; H. Hill, B. Rowan and D. Ball "Effects of Teachers' Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching on Student Achievement," American Educational Research Journal, Volume 42, No. 2, Summer 2005, pp. 371-406.
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 "Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Removing the Roadblocks: How Federal Policy Can Cultivate Effective Teachers," (2011).