Monday, February 9, 2009

National Council on Teacher Quality

How bad are things? This bad...

The National Council on Teacher Quality speaks.....

From the Mathematics preparation for elementary school teachers

Standard 3:
As conditions for completing their teacher preparation and earning a license, elementary teacher candidates should demonstrate a deeper understanding of mathematics content than is expected of children. Unfortunately, no current assessment is up to this task.

Are you kidding me? No current assessment is up to the task.

Well take a weekend and write one.

We are talking Elementary school math content knowledge ... I'll settle for an understanding of the math content that can be demonstrated. I would like it demonstrated through Algebra and Geometry. We are going to have end of course testing in those subjects for High School students .. is it a reach to expect the same of elementary teachers?

Since in Washington 2/3 of elementary schools are using TERC/Investigations or Everyday Math it is unlikely that the teachers will learn much math content while teaching. If other districts are like the SPS then teacher professional development will center on the process of how to organize the games and skip the math content.

It is odd that the effectiveness of the teacher correlates quite well with teacher math content knowledge and yet the school districts do little if anything to improve teacher math content knowledge.

Take a look at all that teacher training that took place last summer to explain the math standards to the teachers, any content happening??? Very little is done to improve teacher content knowledge of mathematics ... why??

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.

We suspect that in several decades we will look back on the current landscape of the mathematics preparation of elementary teachers and have the benefit of hindsight to realize that some education schools were poised for significant and salutary change. These are the schools that now have the basic “3/1” framework already in place for adequate preparation, that is, three mathematics courses that teach the elementary mathematics content that a teacher needs to know and one well-aligned mathematics methods course. Our recommendations here are addressed to professionals responsible for elementary teacher preparation: professional organizations, states, education schools, higher education institutions, and textbook publishers. We also propose initiatives that would build on the 3/1 framework in order to achieve a truly rigorous integration of content and methods instruction.

My observation is that content instruction is minimal and methods instruction often centers on best practices that in fact are not best practices. In short much of this preparation is largely a waste of everyone's time.

“This report should help counter the common belief that the only skill needed to teach second-grade arithmetic is a good grasp of third-grade arithmetic. Our education schools urgently need to ensure that our elementary teachers do not represent in the classroom the substantial portion of our citizenry that is mathematically disabled. We must not have the mathematically blind leading the blind.”
— Donald N. Langenberg ...Chancellor Emeritus, University of Maryland

I wonder what D. N. Langenberg would have to say about central office administrators that make decisions about math curriculum. Sure looks like the blind leading the blind in Washington State and certainly in Seattle. The Seattle School Board has an opportunity to begin turning this sorry mess around by adopting Prentice Hall mathematics.

1 comment:

HiDefMathFan said...

If a test of teacher competence isn't available, at least it could be. I think we're in deeper trouble right here:

Standard 2:

"Education schools should insist upon higher entry standards for admittance into their programs. As a condition for admission, aspiring elementary teachers should demonstrate that their knowledge of mathematics is at the high school level (geometry and coursework equivalent to second-year algebra). Appropriate tests include standardized achievement tests, college placement tests, and sufficiently rigorous high school exit tests. "

While it is clear that this is what should be the case, we might as well ask for an end to hunger or a lasting peace in the Mideast. Currently our high schools can't graduate enough students capable of meeting this requirement to go on to technical careers promising higher pay and status! If Ed schools were to change their admission requirements overnight according to this statement, their halls would be empty very soon. Why? Because the system of Ed schools / K-12 is caught in a feed-back loop that resonates with mathematical mediocrity. Ed schools MUST admit students with weak qualifications to keep their lights on. The set of students that have good math skills and the set of students that wish to be K-12 teachers are disjoint. The Ed school standards for math proficiency start low and stay low. They will process and graduate these folks and send them out to work where they will perpetuate our national numeracy crisis.

Look at the syllabus for Math 100 and 102 at UW.
These are V. Warfield's courses for "students admitted with a deficiency in mathematics", covering topics comprised of topics that belong in grades 5-8, and offered for college credit in the school of Ed. A description of requirements for admission to the UW school of Ed lists only Math 170. This is not a math course. It is a V Warfield Math Ed course, also described in the link above. There is no advanced content here, just grade-school fundamentals with a heaping helping of empty-calorie pedagogical fluff. Surely somewhere there is a school of Ed where this is situation is different (the NCTQ report has praise for a few programs), but I suspect that the pattern entrenched at UW is common across the nation.