Teaching Mathematics: Oklahoma

2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

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.

Meets a small part

Analysis of Oklahoma's policies

Mathematics Content Test Requirements: Oklahoma requires all new elementary teachers to pass each of the two subtests that comprise the Certification Examinations for Oklahoma Educators (CEOE) general elementary content test. The state 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. Although the state subject-examination test requires passing scores on both of its subtests, one subtest combines mathematics, social studies, science, and health, fitness and the arts.

Mathematics Preparation Standards: Oklahoma also 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.

Further, the framework for Oklahoma's elementary content test covers numbers and operations, data analysis, and basic concepts of geometry and algebra. However, the standards are not specifically geared to meet the needs of elementary teachers. And because the test does not report a specific math score, a teacher candidate could answer many math questions incorrectly and still pass the test.

Citation

Recommendations for Oklahoma

Require all teacher candidates who teach elementary grades to pass a rigorous mathematics assessment.
Although Oklahoma is on the right track in requiring an elementary assessment with subtests, the state's efforts fall short by combining math with other subjects and not reporting a specific subscore for math. Oklahoma should strengthen its policy by testing 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.

Require teacher preparation programs to provide mathematics content specifically geared to the needs of elementary teachers.
Oklahoma 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, 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 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.

State response to our analysis

Oklahoma indicated that the content area exam for licensure for elementary candidates is aligned with the state standards for elementary mathematics, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics elementary standards as well as ACEI. In addition, the state noted, 41 percent of Subtest 2 for Elementary Education certification consists of items pertaining to Algebra, Geometry, Functions, Data Analysis, Number Operations, Linear Equations, Measurement and Probability.

How we graded

2B: Teaching Elementary Mathematics

  • Content Knowledge: The state should require:
    • All elementary teacher candidates to pass a rigorous elementary math content exam in order to attain licensure.
    • Teacher preparation programs to deliver elementary math content coursework of the appropriate breadth and depth to all elementary teacher candidates. This coursework should build a strong conceptual foundation in elementary math topics and should align with recommendations of professional associations such as the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Content Knowledge
The entire goal score may be earned based on the following:

  • Full Credit: The state will earn full credit if it requires new elementary teachers to pass a math content test or separately scored math subtest prior to obtaining licensure. 
  • One-quarter credit: If the state does not require a math content test, but adequate math teacher preparation standards exist, it is eligible for one-quarter of a point. 

Research rationale

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.


[1] For evidence on the benefits of math content knowledge on student achievement, see: Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Do teacher characteristics matter? New results on the effects of teacher preparation on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 28(1), 49-57.; Hill, H. C., Rowan, B., & Ball, D. L. (2005). Effects of teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching on student achievement. American educational research journal, 42(2), 371-406.
[2] For information on the mathematics content elementary teachers need to know, see: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2005, July). Highly qualified teachers: A position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.; See also: Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences. (2001). The mathematical education of teachers (Vol. 11). American Mathematical Society.
[3] For evidence that new teachers are not appropriately prepared to teach mathematics, see: Greenberg, J., & Walsh, K. (2008, June). No common denominator: The preparation of elementary teachers in mathematics by America's education schools. National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/No_Common_Denominator_NCTQ_Report
[4]  National Council on Teacher Quality. (2016, December). Landscapes in teacher prep: Undergraduate elementary. National Council on Teacher Quality's Teacher Prep Review. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/UE_2016_Landscape_653385_656245
[5] 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: National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/nctq_eseaReauthorization.pdf
[6] National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2005, July). Highly qualified teachers: A position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.