Elementary Teacher Preparation in
Mathematics: Oregon

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


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

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Elementary Teacher Preparation in Mathematics: Oregon results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/OR-Elementary-Teacher-Preparation-in-Mathematics-6

Analysis of Oregon's policies

Oregon relies on its standards for teacher preparation programs and its subject-matter testing framework as the basis for articulating its requirements for the mathematics content knowledge of elementary teacher candidates.

The state does not specify any coursework requirements regarding mathematics content. However, Oregon has outlined a broad set of standards that require teacher preparation programs to prepare elementary teacher candidates to teach to the state's elementary student curriculum. 

Oregon also requires that all new elementary teachers pass the Oregon Educator Licensure Assessment (ORELA) Multiple Subject Examination. The examination's framework appropriately addresses content in mathematics foundations, but although it outlines such areas as algebra, geometry and data analysis, the framework is not specifically geared to meet the needs of elementary teachers. In addition, Oregon posts only a limited number of sample items, and a review of this material calls the rigor of the examination into question; its items representing elementary school content assess understanding at too superficial a level. Further, the examination requires passing scores on both of its subtests, but the subtest covering mathematics, science, health and physical education combines scores on these areas, so it may be possible to answer many mathematics questions incorrectly and still pass the examination.

Unfortunately, the state allows "alternative assessment," in which candidates who have twice failed the content test can petition for a waiver of the subject-matter requirement.


Recommendations for Oregon

Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Oregon 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.
Oregon should require a passing score specifically in math for its content assessments to ensure that teacher candidates have adequate mathematics knowledge and understanding of underlying mathematics concepts. Such a score could be used to allow candidates to test out of coursework requirements. Teacher candidates who lack minimum mathematics knowledge should not be eligible for licensure. Oregon should also reconsider its waiver for subject-matter testing.

State response to our analysis

Oregon recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it has completed an analysis of the current ORELA multiple-subjects test and will be examining the results at the November 2011 Commission meeting. The Commission will consider the adoption of a test more closely aligned with the Common Core State Standards. 

Oregon also noted that in the 2010-2011 academic year, only eight new program completers out of 1,903 obtained first licensure through alternative assessment. These candidates must show comprehensive coursework, a GPA of 3.0 or better and evidence that some of the coursework was completed recently. 

Research rationale

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:

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 Kukla-Acevedo "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review, 28 (2009): 49-57; H. Hill, B. Rowan and D. Ball "Effects of Teachers' Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching on Student Achievement," American Educational Research Journal (2005).

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