Elementary Teacher Preparation in
Mathematics: Georgia

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Mathematics: Georgia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/GA-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Mathematics-6

Analysis of Georgia's policies

Georgia relies on its standards for teacher preparation programs and its subject-matter testing requirements as the basis for articulating its requirements for the mathematics content knowledge of early childhood teacher candidates.

The state does not specify any coursework requirements regarding mathematics content. However, the state 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.

Georgia requires that all new, early childhood teachers pass its general subject-matter test, the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE). GACE's standards appropriately address content in mathematics foundations, but although they outline areas such as algebra, geometry and data analysis, the standards are not specifically geared to meet the needs of early childhood teachers. In addition, 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.

Finally, although 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 likely answer many mathematics questions incorrectly and still pass the test.

Citation

Recommendations for Georgia

Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
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. 

Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
Georgia 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

Georgia stated that its Framework, adopted in 2005, defines quality teaching. It describes the knowledge, skills and dispositions identified by research that effective teachers display when they have a positive impact on student learning. The state added that the six Framework domains and accompanying indicators are inherent to good teaching practices and align with state and national standards utilized by many teacher education programs.  "As such, the Framework is designed to help ensure that all teachers from pre-service to veterans demonstrate a strong knowledge of content area(s) appropriate for their certification levels."

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:
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 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).