The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades.
New Jersey 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 that all teacher candidates complete a minimum of 60 credit hours of general education with "some study" in the area of mathematics. However, New Jersey specifies neither the requisite content of these classes nor that they must meet the needs of elementary teachers.
New Jersey has also articulated teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary mathematics content, but these standards lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates. Finally, New Jersey 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 include 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.
New Jersey Administrative Code 6A:9-10.2 and 6A:9-3.3 www.ets.org/praxis "No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools," NCTQ, June 2008 http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/nctq_ttmath_fullreport.pdf
Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Although New Jersey 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.
New Jersey 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.
New Jersey asserted that it requires study of the teaching of numeracy for both traditional and alternate route candidates. Traditional route programs must have their programs reviewed through a national accreditation agency (either NCATE or TEAC), be approved through the state program approval process in which the national standards for elementary education (ACEI) are used and ensure alignment with the core content standards for students.
New Jersey also contended that for candidates entering the profession through the traditional route, the state requires a sequence of courses to the teaching of numeracy that are aligned with the national standards from ACEI. Candidates entering through the alternate route must complete a minimum of 45 hours of study in the teaching of mathematics. Approved programs must align with the Professional Teaching Standards, which contain subject-matter standards that address numeracy, as well as with the core content standards for students.
The issue is that the standards New Jersey relies on do not provide the specificity to ensure that elementary teachers get content of the appropriate breadth, depth and relevance. For example, ACEI algebra standards state that teacher candidates should "know, understand and apply algebraic principles," but they make little mention of the actual knowledge that might contribute to such an understanding.