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 2015 and 2017.
Mathematics Content Test Requirements: New Mexico requires all elementary teacher candidates to pass the National Evaluation Series (NES) Elementary Education content test, which consists of two separately
scored subtests. Mathematics counts for 50 percent of subtest two and is
combined with other subject areas, specifically, science and the arts,
health and fitness. Because the test does not report a specific math
score, a teacher candidate could answer many math questions incorrectly
and still pass the test. The framework for New Mexico's test covers
numbers and operations, data analysis, and basic concepts of geometry
and algebra. However, the standards are not specifically geared to meet
the needs of elementary teachers.
Mathematics Preparation Standards: Although elementary teaching candidates must earn at least nine semester hours of credit in mathematics, the state specifies neither the requisite content of these classes nor that they must meet the needs of elementary teachers. New Mexico has also articulated teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary mathematics content. These standards outline key areas in mathematics, such as two- and three-dimensional geometry and "elements of algebra including elementary functions." However, these standards lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates.
NES Test Requirements http://www.nestest.com/PageView.aspx?f=GEN_NewMexico.html New Mexico Administrative Code 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206
Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
Although New Mexico is on the right track in requiring an elementary assessment with subtests, the state's efforts fall short because it combines math with other subjects and does not report a specific subscore for math. New Mexico 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 teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
New Mexico must ensure that new teachers are prepared to teach the mathematics content required by college- and career-readiness standards. Although New Mexico requires some coursework in 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 coursework. To help ensure that all students are taught by a teacher with adequate mathematics content knowledge, teacher candidates who lack this knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.
New Mexico recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it appreciates the feedback regarding the math content assessments for our elementary candidates and will continue to examine areas that can be improved. In addition, New Mexico noted that in order for elementary teachers to obtain the historical HQT status in math they are required to take the Middle Grade Mathematics (NT203) assessment.
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.