Teacher certification: HB 1467 (2012)

Cornerstone Action supports HB 1467, relative to educational requirements for  teacher certification in New Hampshire.

I believe there are two areas in education that would improve the quality of education for all students in New Hampshire.  The first would be improving the curricula, programs and textbooks used in many of our classrooms. Some programs have significant gaps of knowledge to fully prepare students to compete with their global peers.

The other area that is oftentimes overlooked is teacher preparation as they work towards a teaching degree.  While this legislation addresses teacher preparation, it would also have a significant impact on the poor quality of materials used in many classrooms.

One can read from experts who’ve analyzed math textbooks where many of the gaps exist.  Without a teacher fully educated in math content, those teachers may not have the knowledge they need to fill those gaps.  However, if those teachers are properly educated in academic content, they will have a better chance of educating students where weak programs would fail them.

A recent study addressed the fact that U.S. teachers are not prepared to teach mathematics.  Teacher Education Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M) was an international study funded by the National Science Foundation that examined how math teachers at both elementary and middle school levels are trained.

According to the study, middle school mathematics teacher preparation is not up to the task.  TEDS-M studied the performance of 81 public and private universities and colleges in 39 states that prepare elementary and middle school mathematics teachers.  Nearly 3,300 future teachers were surveyed about their coursework, knowledge of mathematics and their knowledge of how to teach the subject.

According to William Schmidt, Ph.D., the Michigan State University Distinguished Professor of Education and Statistics who directed the study, “Our future teachers are getting weak training mathematically and are not prepared to teach the demanding curriculum needed for U.S. students to compete internationally.”

According to an article on this study entitled U.S. Teachers Not Prepared to Teach Mathematics, Study Finds, U.S. middle school teacher preparation is done through three types of certification programs:

  1. elementary programs receiving K-8 certification
  2. middle school programs providing certification for grades 6-8 or 7-9
  3. secondary school programs certifying future teachers to teach grades 6 and 7 through 12

TEDS-M revealed that differences in middle school teacher certification have a great impact on the mathematical teaching capabilities of middle school teachers.

According to the Study, future middle school mathematics teachers prepared in programs focused on secondary schools (grades 6 and above) had dramatically and significantly greater mathematics knowledge scores than future middle school mathematics teachers prepared in other types of programs like those including certification in grade levels below grade 5.  This finding underscores an important policy issue for states: how to define what is acceptable, or required, of those to be certified to teach mathematics at the middle school level.

Dr. Schmidt warned, “Such non-standardized teaching preparation of middle school teachers has major implications with respect to what future teachers have, in terms of opportunities both to learn mathematics and how to teach it. With respect to mathematics content and pedagogical content knowledge, future teachers prepared in secondary school programs substantially outperformed those in the other two programs – by almost a full standard deviation.”

Dr. Schmidt advises, “The solution to U.S. teacher and student improvement is a three-fold approach.  First we need recruitment and inducement for potential teachers with strong quantitative backgrounds, especially at the middle school level.  Also, teaching certification programs must be standardized at the state level.  Additionally, we need to implement standards with more demanding curricula, especially in mathematics for all preparation programs and institutions.”

TEDS-M http://usteds.msu.edu/MT21Report.pdf

Massachusetts has set the bar for the rest of the country.  Their students continue to outperform students across the country, even with the the many challenges faced by students from diverse backgrounds.

The Mass. Ed. Reform Act of 1993-1994 required teacher tests of skills and academic knowledge.  The Act raised the bar with the academic standards Massachusetts set for the students and the quality of teachers they licensed.  The results speak for themselves.

Among the causes of the gains in K-12 student achievement in the past decade are the improvements in teacher preparation that can be directly linked to the implementation of the MTEL, beginning with the first administration of the Communication and Literacy Skills Test and and the subject-area tests in 1998.

Most of the New England states use PRAXIS tests, and not one of those states is noted for having a stronger pool of teachers or higher scores on the NAEP than Massachusetts.   The reason why the Connecticut Board of Education adopted the Massachusetts Foundations of Reading test for all its prospective elementary and early childhood teachers is that Connecticut’s reading scores on NAEP have been plunging downward for the past decade.

This web site is from the Pioneer Institute titled: Why MTEL, Not PRAXIS, Will Maintain Teacher Quality in Massachusetts.

http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/0904_csr_mtel.pdf

The future teachers are doing everything that we would expect from them.  However, if the State along with colleges and universities set the bar too low, would it not be wise to address the root cause and seek ways to make significant improvements?  This in itself will help the quality of education future teachers receive, which would ultimately help them in the classroom and in their career path.

This bill is an attempt to improve the quality of education a teacher receives, which translates into an improvement of quality education students will receive in the classroom.  This is not only pro-teacher but pro-education.

For these reasons, we encourage the passage of HB 1467.

—Ann Marie Banfield for Cornerstone Action