Teacher Preparation

Aspiring Primary Teachers May Be Tested in Math

By Sean Cavanagh — May 15, 2009 1 min read

Elementary school teachers lay the foundation for students’ knowledge in many subjects, including mathematics—an area in which they may have little background.

To address that concern, Massachusetts is preparing to require all elementary educators to pass a math-specific test for state licensure, as opposed to simply mandating that they notch a general passing score across all subjects.

Commissioner of Education Mitchell D. Chester said he expects to bring the proposal before the state board of education this week. He believes Massachusetts would become the first state to approve a math-specific test for elementary licensure, rather than an all-subjects score as is typical in most states.

Until now, aspiring teachers “have been able to do poorly on the math, but they’re able to meet the licensure requirement,” Mr. Chester said in an interview. “That’s been a concern.” The new mandate, he added, would be a “pretty substantial standard.”

The proposal grew out of guidelines for elementary teachers’ math preparation that the board approved in 2007. Mr. Chester said he would recommend a three-year grace period for teacher-candidates who struggle to pass the math test. The requirement would apply to teachers in grades 1-6, and special education teachers of children with moderate disabilities in pre-K-8, a spokesman for the education department said.

Massachusetts’ proposal is consistent with other effective teacher-preparation policies in the state, including strong math-course requirements at teacher colleges, said Julie Greenberg, a senior policy director at the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality, which advocates improved teacher preparation. While she said it’s unclear whether other states would adopt similar teacher-licensure policies, given the pressure they face to find and retain teachers, she commended Massachusetts for setting a high standard.

“The inclination of most states is to lower the standards,” she said, “rather than raise them.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 20, 2009 edition of Education Week as Aspiring Primary Teachers May Be Tested in Math

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