Elementary Teacher Preparation in
Mathematics: New York

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades.

Meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Mathematics: New York results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NY-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Mathematics-69

Analysis of New York's policies

New York requires all elementary teacher candidates to pass the New York State Teacher Certification Examination (NYSTCE) Multi-Subject: Teachers of Childhood test, which includes a separately scored math subtest. 


Recommendations for New York

As a result of New York's strong mathematics teacher preparation policies, no recommendations are provided.

State response to our analysis

New York stated that The Multi-Subject CST is not the only test Childhood Education 1-6 candidates must pass that measures their skills and knowledge of mathematics instruction. The state also requires the edTPA for Elementary Education for Childhood Education 1-6 certification, which assesses a candidate’s skills and knowledge of literacy and mathematics instruction.

New York stated that when completing the NYS Elementary Education edTPA, candidates must complete and submit the Elementary Mathematics Assessment Task. In order to complete this task, teacher candidates:

  • Must develop or adapt a relevant assessment of student learning, analyze student work, and design re-engagement instruction to develop mathematics understanding.
  • Must respond to this task  in a way that reflects a balanced approach to mathematics, including opportunities for students to develop conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and mathematical reasoning/problem-solving skills as well as to communicate precisely about their mathematical understandings.
This task centers on two high-leverage teaching practices: using assessments to analyze student learning and re-engaging students to develop their understanding of specific mathematical concepts.

New York also described the efforts to assist the state's public higher education institutions with assimilating the new information on teaching and learning, including the incorporation and implementation of the CCSS into their programs. Race to the Top funding was used to provide $10 million total to SUNY, CUNY, and the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, and in 2013, an additional $1.5 million was spent on faculty professional development.

New York also indicated that it has provided a wealth of resources to support practicing teachers, teaching candidates and teacher preparation programs with the implementation of the CCSS.

Research rationale

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 it 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."

Most states' policies do not require preparation in mathematics of appropriate breadth and depth and specific to the needs of the elementary teacher. NCTQ's reports on teacher preparation, beginning with No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools in 2008 and continuing through the Teacher Prep Review in 2013 and 2014 have consistently found few 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 test required by Massachusetts and now by North Carolina as well remains the standard bearer for a high quality, rigorous assessment for elementary teachers entirely and solely focused on mathematics.

Elementary Teacher Preparation in Mathematics: Supporting Research
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 S. Kukla-Acevedo "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review, Volume 28, 2009, pp. 49-57; H. Hill, B. Rowan and D. Ball "Effects of Teachers' Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching on Student Achievement," American Educational Research Journal, Volume 42, No. 2, Summer 2005, pp. 371-406.

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 "Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Removing the Roadblocks: How Federal Policy Can Cultivate Effective Teachers," (2011).