The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades.
North Dakota 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 teacher candidates.
The state requires all teacher candidates to complete general studies that include mathematics. However, North Dakota neither specifies the requisite content of these classes nor that they must meet the needs of the elementary teacher.
North Dakota has also articulated teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary mathematics content. The state's standards appropriately address content in mathematics foundations, but although they mention such areas as algebra, geometry and statistics, the standards lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver this mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates.
North Dakota requires that all new elementary teachers pass a general subject-matter test, the Praxis II. This commercial test lacks a specific mathematics subscore, so one can likely fail the mathematics portion and still pass the test. Further, while this test does cover important elementary school-level content, it barely evaluates candidates' knowledge beyond an elementary school level, does not challenge their understanding of underlying concepts and does not require candidates to apply knowledge in nonroutine, multistep procedures.
Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Although North Dakota requires knowledge in some 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.
North Dakota 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.
North Dakota recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it is in the process of discussions regarding elementary teacher preparation and the Common Core Standards.