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 Content Test Requirements: 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 it may be possible that 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 the test. Also, the test items representing early childhood content assess understanding at too superficial a level.
Mathematics Preparation Standards: 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 and procedures that define number and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, and data analysis. In doing so they consistently engage in problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, connections, and representation." 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.
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 effort falls short because it combines math with other subjects and does not report a specific subscore for math. Georgia should strengthen its policy by testing mathematics content with a rigorous assessment tool, such as the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) mathematics test, which 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. To help ensure that all students are taught by a teacher who has demonstrated adequate mathematics content knowledge, teacher candidates who lack this knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
Georgia should assess mathematics content with a rigorous assessment tool, such as the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) mathematics test, which 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. To help ensure that all students are taught by a teacher who has demonstrated adequate mathematics content knowledge, teacher candidates who lack this knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.
Georgia stated that NCTQ's conclusions related to the portions of the early childhood education content assessment related to mathematics are incorrect. The mathematics items comprise 53 percent of one of the two early childhood education content assessments, while Science items comprise 30 percent and a combination of items related to health, physical education, and the arts comprise 17 percent. The state noted that six mathematics objectives reflect mathematical concepts ranging from cardinality, measurement, and fractions to algebra and geometry. The state then referenced the Test At A Glance document.
Additionally, the state noted, to help ensure the GACE assessments sufficiently measure the content area for the grades bands covered in the area of certification, the GACE assessments were developed by diverse and representative test development, bias review, and standard setting committees of Georgia educators in the content field and those that prepare educators in the content field. Each content area GACE is aligned with the state's P12 content standards (Georgia Standards of Excellence), the GaPSC program approval content standards, and national standards. Georgia also indicated that to further increase the rigor, in November 2017, the Commission approved raising the passing standard of content assessments, including all containing math, by 1 (one) Standard Error of Measurement (SEM) effective September 1, 2019.
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.