Elementary Teacher Preparation in
Mathematics: Nebraska

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.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Mathematics: Nebraska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NE-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Mathematics-6

Analysis of Nebraska's policies

Nebraska relies on its coursework requirements as the basis for articulating its requirements for the mathematics content knowledge of elementary teacher candidates.

The state requires elementary teaching candidates to earn a minimum of six semester hours of credit in mathematics. However, Nebraska specifies neither the requisite content of these classes nor that they must meet the needs of elementary teachers. 

Unfortunately, the state has yet to adopt subject-matter testing requirements—as a condition of licensure—for any of its teachers.

Citation

Recommendations for Nebraska

Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Although Nebraska requires some mathematics coursework, 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.
Nebraska 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

Nebraska was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also contended that it does specify that coursework in the area of mathematics must meet the needs of elementary teachers and that student standards are included in the preparation coursework. 

Last word

The state's academic coursework guidelines are too vague to ensure that mathematics content will be specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers. Further, although Nebraska requires that teacher preparation programs prepare elementary teacher candidates to teach to the state's elementary student standards, it is quite hard to monitor or enforce, absent a licensing test that 1) is directly aligned to state student learning standards and 2) reports teacher performance in each subject area, so that teachers cannot fail a subject area or two and still pass the test. 

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).