2017 Elementary Teacher Preparation Policy
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: Kansas requires that all new elementary teachers pass the Praxis II Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment (5017) test. This commercial test lacks a specific mathematics subscore, so it may be possible to 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.
Mathematics Preparation Standards: Kansas has articulated new teaching standards that its approved teacher preparation programs must use to frame instruction in elementary mathematics content. These standards require teacher candidates to understand and use "the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of mathematics (counting and cardinality, operations and algebraic thinking, number and operation in base ten and fractions, measurement and data, geometry, ratios and proportional relationships, statistics and probability)." In addition, teacher candidates must be able to: "describe, and use appropriately, a variety of instructional strategies and materials to impact student learning in elementary mathematics, [and] stimulate student reflection on prior content knowledge, links new concepts to familiar concepts, and makes connections to students' experiences, as applied to mathematics."
Although the standards mention areas such as algebra, geometry and data analysis, they lack the specificity needed to ensure that teacher preparation programs deliver mathematics content of appropriate breadth and depth to elementary teacher candidates.
Praxis Test Requirement www.ets.org Regulations and Standards for Kansas Educators http://www.ksde.org/Agency/DivisionofLearningServices/TeacherLicensureandAccreditation/Licensure Licensure Program Standards for Elementary Education Educators, K-6 http://www.ksde.org/Portals/0/TLA/Program%20Standards/Elementary%20K-6%20Standards%2007-11-2017.pdf
Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
Kansas should assess mathematics content with a rigorous assessment tool, such as the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) mathematics test, which 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. To help ensure that all students are taught by a teacher who has demonstrated adequate mathematics content knowledge, teacher candidates who lack this knowledge should not be eligible for licensure.
Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Kansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
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.