Teaching Mathematics: New York

Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy

Goal

The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades. This goal was consistent between 2017 and 2020.

Meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2020). Teaching Mathematics: New York results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NY-Teaching-Mathematics-90

Analysis of New York's policies

Mathematics Content Test Requirements: New York requires all elementary teacher candidates to pass the New York State Teacher Certification Examination (NYSTCE) Multi-Subject:Teachers of Childhood (Grade 1-Grade 6) test, which includes a separately scored math subtest. 

Mathematics Preparation Standards:
New York does not have articulated teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary mathematics content and areas such as algebra, geometry and statistics.

Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Because provisional and emergency licensure requirements are scored in Provisional and Emergency Licensure, only the test requirements for the state's initial license are considered as part of this goal.

Citation

Recommendations for New York

Ensure that teacher preparation programs require mathematics content geared towards the needs of elementary teachers.
New York should require teacher preparation programs to train candidates in key areas of mathematics, including specific coursework in foundations, algebra and geometry, with some statistics coursework. Doing so helps ensure that all teachers are well prepared in mathematics instruction before entering the classroom.

State response to our analysis

New York stated that it has articulated teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary mathematics content and areas such as algebra, geometry and statistics. The teaching standards are driven by the State Learning Standards. Early Childhood Education candidates must be prepared to teach the State Learning Standards in mathematics identified in Part 100 of the Commissioner's Regulations.
Specifically, the content core for preparation in childhood education (grades 1-6) is found in Part 52.21(b)(3)(ii)(a):

(a) Content core. In addition to meeting the general requirements for the content core prescribed in clause (2)(ii)(b) of this subdivision, the content core shall be a major, concentration, or the equivalent in one or more of the liberal arts and sciences, which, in combination with the general education core and pedagogical core, ensures that the candidate has a knowledge base for teaching to the State learning standards for students in the following areas of the childhood education curriculum: the arts; career development and occupational studies; English language arts; health, physical education, and family and consumer sciences; languages other than English; mathematics, science and technology; and social studies, as prescribed in Part 100 of this Title.

Updated: February 2020

How we graded

2B: Teaching Elementary Mathematics

  • Content Knowledge: The state should require:
    • All elementary teacher candidates to pass a rigorous elementary math content exam in order to attain licensure.
    • Teacher preparation programs to deliver elementary math content coursework of the appropriate breadth and depth to all elementary teacher candidates. This coursework should build a strong conceptual foundation in elementary math topics and should align with recommendations of professional associations such as the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Content Knowledge
The entire goal score may be earned based on the following:

  • Full Credit: The state will earn full credit if it requires new elementary teachers to pass a math content test or separately scored math subtest prior to obtaining licensure. 
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if it requires elementary teachers to pass a math content test or separately scored math subtest prior to obtaining licensure. but also allows exceptions, or delays passage of tests for any reason. 
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires elementary teachers to pass a math content test or separately scored math subtest prior to obtaining licensure, but also offers multiple elementary licenses with differing requirements.
  • One-quarter credit: If the state does not require a math content test, but adequate math teacher preparation standards exist, it is eligible for one-quarter of a point.



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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.


[1] For evidence on the benefits of math content knowledge on student achievement, see: Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Do teacher characteristics matter? New results on the effects of teacher preparation on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 28(1), 49-57.; Hill, H. C., Rowan, B., & Ball, D. L. (2005). Effects of teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching on student achievement. American educational research journal, 42(2), 371-406.
[2] For information on the mathematics content elementary teachers need to know, see: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2005, July). Highly qualified teachers: A position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.; See also: Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences. (2001). The mathematical education of teachers (Vol. 11). American Mathematical Society.
[3] For evidence that new teachers are not appropriately prepared to teach mathematics, see: Greenberg, J., & Walsh, K. (2008, June). No common denominator: The preparation of elementary teachers in mathematics by America's education schools. National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/No_Common_Denominator_NCTQ_Report
[4]  National Council on Teacher Quality. (2016, December). Landscapes in teacher prep: Undergraduate elementary. National Council on Teacher Quality's Teacher Prep Review. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/UE_2016_Landscape_653385_656245
[5] 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: National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/nctq_eseaReauthorization.pdf
[6] National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2005, July). Highly qualified teachers: A position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.