Thursday, June 26, 2008

Teacher Preparation ??? Math for Elementary School Teachers

Dave Orbits has this to report:

This is an extraordinary report.
See their web page for the executive summary.

The people trying to tell everyone how to teach K-12 students don’t seem to know how to teach their own college students so they can competently teach elementary school math. After 100+ years of compulsory educations the uneven quality of math instruction in elementary schools is just stunning. It appears the root of that problem is in the ed schools. It makes you want to cry. I’ve pasted the 8 findings from the exec summary below. Neither UW or WSU were among the sample of 77 ed schools they considered. Too bad, I wonder how they would have measured up? I also wonder what OSPI is doing in terms of establishing teacher training standards? The combination of findings 4 and 5 (see below) along with the high math remediation rates of HS grads suggests that some teachers may only have the math competency of a middle school student.

Finding 1:

Few education schools cover the mathematics content that elementary teachers need. In fact, the education schools in our sample are remarkable for having achieved little consensus about what teachers need. There is one unfortunate area of agreement: a widespread inattention to algebra.

Finding 2:

States contribute to the chaos. While most state education agencies issue guidelines for the mathematics preparation of elementary teachers, states do not appear to know what is needed.

Finding 3:

Most education schools use mathematics textbooks that are inadequate. The mathematics textbooks in the sample varied enormously in quality. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the courses use no textbook or a textbook that is inadequate in one or more of four critical areas of mathematics. Again, algebra is shortchanged, with no textbook providing the strongest possible support.

Finding 4:

Almost anyone can get in. Compared to the admissions standards found in other countries, American education schools set exceedingly low expectations for the mathematics knowledge that aspiring teachers must demonstrate.

Finding 5:

Almost anyone can get out. The standards used to determine successful completion of education schools’ elementary teacher preparation programs are essentially no different than the low standards used to enter those programs.

Finding 6:

The elementary mathematics in mathematics methods coursework is too often relegated to the sidelines. In particular, any practice teaching that may occur fails to emphasize the need to capably convey mathematics content to children.

Finding 7:

Too often, the person assigned to teach mathematics to elementary teacher candidates is not professionally equipped to do so. Commendably, most elementary content courses are taught within mathematics departments, although the issue of just who is best qualified and motivated to impart the content of elementary mathematics to teachers remains a conundrum.

Finding 8:

Almost anyone can do the work. Elementary mathematics courses are neither demanding in their content nor their expectations of students.


Anonymous said...

Be aware of who your source is - the board of the NCTQ includes Bersin and he is no friend of teachers nor immigrants, so you can be sure this organization is a conservative enterprise. Bersin had no choice but to resign his former position as education czar for California.

Anonymous said...

This is criticism from charter school advocates - privatizing is aligned to the goals of NAFTA. I disagree that teachers leave TEP programs ill-prepared. Teachers have a four-year college degree and an extra two years of education classes, followed by a Masters Program. Teachers, more than any other profession, believe in the importance of college.

Classrooms take more than a knowledge of content area only.

Charter schools are treated differently than public schools.

If you raise the bar on teacher standards, you will either create a shortage of public school teachers or have fewer qualified teachrs. You have to provide an incentive that's worthwhile.