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 2017 and 2020.
Mathematics Content Test Requirements: Massachusetts requires all elementary teacher candidates to pass any of the following Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) math tests: elementary, middle school, mathematics, or the General Curriculum test, which includes a separately scored math subtest. Candidates may also take the Elementary Math, Middle School Math, or the secondary Mathematics assessment to meet the math subtest requirement.
Mathematics Preparation Standards: Massachusetts has also articulated elementary teaching standards that this content test must address; these standards cover numbers and operations, functions and algebra, geometry and measurement, and statistics and probability. Importantly, Massachusetts specifies that candidate learning in these topics must meet the needs of elementary teachers. The state also requires that "candidates shall demonstrate that they possess both fundamental computation skills and comprehensive, in-depth understanding of K-8 mathematics. They must demonstrate not only that they know how to do elementary mathematics, but that they understand and can explain to students, in multiple ways, why it makes sense."
Massachusetts also specifies coursework requirements regarding the following mathematics content: numbers and operations, functions and algebra, geometry and measurement, and statistics and probability.
Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional and Emergency Licensure, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.
Test Requirement http://www.doe.mass.edu/mtel/testrequire.html Guidelines for the Mathematical Preparation of Elementary Teachers http://www.doe.mass.edu/mtel/mathguidance.pdf 603 CMR 7.06
As a result of Massachusetts's strong mathematics teacher preparation policies, no recommendations are provided.
Massachusetts recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also noted that it has issued new (released in 2018 and updated again in 2019) Subject Matter Knowledge requirements outlining content expectations for each license area:
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.