2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy
The state should ensure that new elementary teachers have sufficient knowledge of the mathematics content taught in elementary grades.
Virginia relies on both coursework requirements and its standards for teacher preparation programs as the basis for articulating its requirements for the mathematics content knowledge of elementary teacher candidates.
The state requires that all elementary teacher candidates complete a major in interdisciplinary studies or in Virginia's core academic areas, which includes mathematics. However, Virginia specifies neither the requisite content of these classes nor that they must meet the needs of elementary teachers.
Virginia has also articulated teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary mathematics content. The state's standards appropriately address content in mathematics foundations, but although they mention such areas as algebra, geometry and statistics, the standards lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver this mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates.
Finally, Virginia requires that all new elementary teachers pass a general subject-matter test, the Praxis II. This commercial test lacks a specific mathematics subscore, so one can likely fail the mathematics portion and still pass the test. Further, while this test does cover important elementary school-level content, it barely evaluates candidates' knowledge beyond an elementary school level, does not challenge their understanding of underlying concepts and does not require candidates to apply knowledge in nonroutine, multistep procedures.
8VAC20-542-110 www.ets.org/praxis "No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools," NCTQ, June 2008 http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/nctq_ttmath_fullreport.pdf
Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Although Virginia requires knowledge in some key areas of mathematics, the state 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.
Virginia 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.
Virginia asserted that it requires programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers because programs must address the Standards of Learning student standards. The Regulations Governing the Review and Approval of Education Programs specifically require that programs must include understanding of the mathematics relevant to the content identified in the Standards of Learning and how the standards provide the foundation for teaching mathematics in elementary grades.
Although Virginia requires that teacher preparation programs prepare elementary teacher candidates to teach to the state's elementary student standards, it is quite hard to monitor or enforce, absent a licensing test that 1) is directly aligned with state student learning standards and 2) reports teacher performance in each subject area, so that teachers cannot fail a subject area or two and still pass the test.