The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades.
Oklahoma relies on coursework requirements, national accreditation standards for teacher preparation programs and its framework for subject-matter testing as the basis for articulating its requirements for the mathematics content knowledge of elementary teacher candidates.
The state requires elementary teaching candidates to earn at least 12 semester hours of credit in mathematics. However, Oklahoma specifies neither the requisite content of these classes nor that they must meet the needs of elementary teachers.
Oklahoma has also adopted NCATE's ACEI (Association for Childhood Education International) standards for approving its elementary programs. ACEI standards address content in mathematics foundations, but these standards lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver other mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates. For example, ACEI algebra standards state that teacher candidates should "know, understand and apply algebraic principles," but these standards make little mention of the actual knowledge that might contribute to such an understanding.
Oklahoma requires that all new elementary teachers pass the Oklahoma Subject Area Test, which includes content specifications for mathematics, including "principles and properties of geometry" and "linear algebraic relations and functions." However, these specifications are not geared to meet the needs of elementary teachers. In addition, Oklahoma posts only a limited number of sample items, and a review of this material calls the rigor of its test into question; the test items representing elementary school content assess understanding at too superficial a level. Finally, although the state subject-examination test requires passing scores on both of its subtests, one subtest combines mathematics, science, health and fine arts; it may be possible to answer many mathematics questions incorrectly and still pass the test.
Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Although ACEI standards require some knowledge in key areas of mathematics, Oklahoma 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.
Oklahoma 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.
Oklahoma asserted that to qualify as an elementary generalist, candidates must document competency in mathematics, as identified in the NCATE curriculum guidelines and the state's subject-matter competencies. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education also requires candidates to complete 12 hours of professional education in mathematics, science, language arts and social studies. Oklahoma noted that although its Commission for Teacher Preparation does not specify which courses must be taken, the rule does articulate that candidates must document competencies as identified by NCATE and the state for elementary education, "ensuring that coursework is geared to the area of knowledge needed by teachers in each of these areas."
Oklahoma also contended that all new elementary teachers must pass the Oklahoma Subject Area Test, which includes specific math content geared to meet the needs of elementary teachers: number sense, numerations and operations, algebraic patterns and relationship, geometry, measurement, statistics, probability, problem solving and mathematical representation. The state added that although sample test items are posted, they are not intended to reflect the rigor of actual test items. Oklahoma added that subscore data for the subject test is reported to both examinees and preparation programs.
Finally, the state noted that ACEI standards for math content are explicit and do contain the specifics needed. For example, the standards specify that when "candidates know, understand and apply algebraic principles," they must at the bare minimum, be able to explore and analyze patterns, relations and functions; work comfortably with equality, equations and inequalities; and recognize and analyze mathematical structure.
ACEI standards address necessary knowledge in mathematics foundations, but they lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver elementary mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates. In the example of algebraic principles, for example, they do not distinguish between the knowledge that would be acquired in a college algebra course and that acquired in an elementary mathematics course designed for teacher candidates.