No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by Americas Education SchoolsReport as inadecuate

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National Council on Teacher Quality

The nation's higher goals for student learning in mathematics cannot be reached without improved teacher capacity. To accomplish these goals an analysis of current teacher preparation in mathematics is necessary, along with the development of an agenda for improvement. Based on groundwork laid during a meeting in Washington, D.C. in March 2007, the eight members of this study's Mathematics Advisory Group guided the National Council on Teacher Quality's evaluation of the mathematics preparation of elementary teachers. The Mathematics Advisory Group consists of mathematicians and distinguished teachers with a long history of involvement in K-12 education. The study sample included 77 institutions representing programs of all types and in 49 states and the District of Columbia (excluding Alaska), constituting more than 5 percent of those institutions offering undergraduate elementary teacher certification in the United States. The rubric for rating elementary content courses considered two dimensions: (1) breadth, meaning whether programs covered all 12 essential topics discussed in the report; and (2) depth, meaning whether programs devoted adequate time to these topics taken as a whole. The authors conclude they are confident that the education schools that rose to the top in their evaluation process are preparing teachers relatively well compared to the majority of education schools in this study, which rated so poorly. Their teachers stand readier than most to forestall the frustrations of youngsters leaving the familiar world of the counting numbers and dealing with the debut of division with fractions. Nonetheless, the standards against which these education schools were judged only lay a solid foundation. Further improvement is still necessary. A deeper understanding of elementary mathematics, with more attention given to the foundations of algebra, must be the new common denominator of our preparation programs for elementary teachers. We are only at the beginning of the process of seeing how that new measure might be calculated. Tear-out test, Exit with Expertise: Are You Qualified To Teach Elementary School Math? is included. The following are appended: (1) Biographies of the NCTQ Mathematics Advisory Group; (2) Rating programs; (3) Consensus on recommended mathematics topics that elementary teachers must understand; (4) Rubric for rating elementary mathematics textbooks, textbook scores, and descriptions of selected textbooks; (5) Sample elementary mathematics course syllabi and how they were scored; (6) Rubric for evaluating mathematics methods course textbooks; textbook evaluations; (7) The difference between mathematics courses intended for a general audience and those designed for teachers; (8) Sample practice teaching assignments from syllabi for mathematics methods courses; and (9) Additional questions showing the difference between mathematics problems for children and those for teachers. (Contains 115 footnotes.)[Additional funding for this report was provided by: The Brookhill Foundation, The Louis Calder Foundation, and the Searle Freedom Trust.]

Descriptors: Teacher Education Curriculum, Teacher Effectiveness, Textbooks, Course Descriptions, Elementary School Teachers, Mathematics Education, Program Evaluation, National Surveys, Schools of Education, Elementary School Mathematics, Mathematics Instruction, Scoring Rubrics, Teacher Competencies, Educational Policy, Teacher Improvement, Teacher Qualifications, Evaluation Criteria, Preservice Teacher Education, Pedagogical Content Knowledge

National Council on Teacher Quality. 1420 New York Avenue NW Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-393-0020; Fax: 202-393-0095; Web site:

Author: Greenberg, Julie; Walsh, Kate


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