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: South Dakota requires candidates to pass one of the following elementary tests: Praxis Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects (5001), Content Knowledge for Teaching (7801) test, or the Early Childhood Education (5025) test. The 5001 test is a sufficient content test. The 7801 test is currently under review by NCTQ to determine whether its separately scored subtests sufficiently assess candidates' content knowledge. The 5025 test only provides a composite score for the core content areas of math, English language arts, science, and social studies. The Multiple Subjects (5001) is the only test option that include a separately scored math subtest.
Mathematics Preparation Standards: South Dakota relies on NCATE/CAEP standards, suggesting that it uses Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) 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.
Require teacher candidates to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment as a condition of initial licensure.
South Dakota's use of the Multiple Subjects test is a step in the right direction. However, it is undermined by the state's policy that allows teacher candidates other test options that do not include an individual subscore in mathematics. This puts students at risk of having teachers without sufficient mathematics content knowledge. Additionally, South Dakota also allows teacher candidates to pass the Content Knowledge for Teaching test, which NCTQ is currently reviewing to determine whether its separately scored subtests sufficiently assess candidates' content knowledge in math, we have no specific recommendations at this time.
Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
South Dakota must ensure that new teachers are prepared to teach the mathematics content required by the Common Core State Standards. Although ACEI standards require some knowledge in key areas of mathematics, South Dakota 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.
South Dakota declined to respond to NCTQ's analyses.
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.