kitchen table math, the sequel: Rudbeckia Hirta on teacher education

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Rudbeckia Hirta on teacher education

from the comments thread to Singapore Math in Israel:

My understanding is that under NCLB that people who want to become teachers need to major in an academic discipline (an "arts and sciences" field -- not business or architecture or some other professional field). Their education training is typically a minor in education followed by a "professional year" in which they do coursework as well as their student teaching / internship.

Thus, a future teacher's math courses are determined by his or her undergraduate major. If someone majors in chemistry in preparation for becoming a high school science teacher, then he or she will have taken calculus and more from the math department.

However, if a potential elementary school teacher chooses to major in psychology (one of the most common majors at my institution) or English or some other field that is not particularly quantitative at the undergraduate level, then the only math that he or she might take would be the intro-level gen-ed courses required for the bachelor's degree. These courses are often taught by the lowest rank instructors in the math department.

At some universities, the pre-service elemenary school teachers are funneled into a "math for elementary ed" course. Depending on the university, this might be taught by either the math department or by the education department. At my own institution, for many years it was primarily taught by an education grad student.

I have also taught this course. The experience made it clear to me that many of the people who wish to teach elementary school do not have the necessary math background to do an excellent job at it unless they have a lot of support and well-written instructor's guides.

I'll repeat my question here.

"Math dad" tells me that in the state of NY all teachers 6-12 must have majors in liberal arts disciplines.

Are there special math majors for people planning to go into teaching?

I remember a few years back I was thinking about becoming a science teacher in the middle grades. I'm a science writer; I figured I can teach science.

It turned out that I would have to go back to college for a full major in a science. I remember figuring that if I took one course each semester and in the summer I would be certified by the age of 60, at which time I would become the most employable 60 year old on the planet.

I met with the head of the Science Education program at NYU who told me that this requirement was going to be impossible to meet, and that she anticipated colleges & universities would create special science majors for future teachers.


Exo said...

At Brooklyn college future math teachers (grades 7-12 certification) were MATH majors, ed minors. But in ed school courses group of math teachers and group of science teachers were the smallest ones - 6 people in math group and 10 in science, when English and Social studies groups were the largest - 110 in english, 80 in SS (again, secondary ed.) Middle school was not a category to have a minor in - it is 5-9 certification, so elementary teachers (1-6) or HS teachers (7-12) can teach there. Middle school certificate doesn't require to major in a subject you teach.

Rudbeckia Hirta said...

I think that this "rule" about majoring in the subject is somewhat flexible. I think that it's part of what NCLB calls "highly qualified" and that states have some leeway in how they deem teachers "highly qualified."

I could be wrong; these rules are fairly complicated.

LynnG said...

I think most states have a very popular "alternative" route to certification, to encourage people with actual expertise in the world to switch into education without having to go back to school.

This has become extremely popular here in Connecticut. Many, many teachers come through the "alternative" route.

I'm curious if these alternative route teachers actually come from a profession or if this is just a backdoor way into teaching if you don't want to do the whole ed school thing.

Catherine Johnson said...


I think the alternative route is still pretty uncommon, isn't it??

NY doesn't have it; NJ does.

Catherine Johnson said...

Ed schools (and, I believe, unions) lobby against it.

I'm sure majorities of taxpayers in every state want alternate route certification, but interest group politics are such that getting such a law passed is a struggle.

Catherine Johnson said...

Yes, as I understand it, under NCLB states can define what "certified" means.


Math dad insisted to me that all middle school math teachers have math majors.

He seemed to think this had been true for some time.