**R U 4 teachers knowing Arithmetic?**

**By Jerome Dancis**

Do we countenance surgeons
practicing for a few years and then ease out those with an excess of dead
patients or do we set high or at least reasonable, standards for licensing
surgeons? Pres. Obama
and Sec Duncan repeatedly call for easing out ineffective teachers. I am unaware of either even hinting at
raising licensing standards.

Now is the time to place the
issue of teachers being able to add fractions on the table for discussion.

ObamaÕs stimulus program includes $100 Billion for education. About $95 Billion is for three main pieces: scholarships, Math-Sci partnerships and money for states for education. Much of this money is being used to reduce disruptions to current school district programs due to budget cuts.

There is about $5 billion for improvement, called **RACE
TO THE TOP (RTTT).**

The public letter
below calls for
allocating some RTTT money to states to use in the raising of licensing
standards to include requiring that Grade 1-8 teachers AND their math
supervisors be fluent in Arithmetic. This public letter (then with 16 signatures) was
one of the 3000 comments on criteria for awarding RITT money submitted to the
U.S. Dept. of Education.

There
is easily a forum a week on improving education in Washington, usually
sponsored by an education think tank.
It is rare that teachersÕ content knowledge is mentioned, and when
mentioned, it occurs in a single sentence, with no follow up or comment -- the exceptions are press releases of
the National
Council on Teacher Quality and questions from the audience by me, like the one
that prompted the following remark:

As Secretary of Education Arne
Duncan said (May 11 at Brookings Institution):

You all well know that it is hard
to teach what you don't know. When we get to 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, we see a
lot of students start to lose interests in math and science, and guess why,
because their teachers don't know math and science so it is hard to really
instill passion and a love for learning if you are struggling with the content
yourself. So I agree we can use a ton of these resources to send teachers back
to schools and universities to get the endorsement to get the content and
knowledge they need and the knowledge they need to be able to teach.

[For teachers to] know the content is a step in the right
direction. A great great use of one-time money is to give teachers content
knowledge they need that will stay with them forever. And we will have a huge
opportunity to do that in the next couple of years.

Yes, he said ÒgreatÓ twice. Stimulus package money, including the $5 Billion
education Race to the Top (RTTT) money is one-time money.

What Sec. Duncan did NOT say was
that any money is specifically allocated for giving teachers content
knowledge. States will be
submitting proposals for RTTT money. I expect that it will be the rare state proposal which
will list giving teachers content knowledge. I expect proposals for professional development (PD) in
pedagogy for teachers.

My comment on May 11 at Brookings Institution
also included an abbreviation of this:

**Problem**. Certified teachers with insufficient knowledge of course
content, that is Math teachers who do not know the Math. Many states have no
specific certification for middle school teachers; there is a general K-8
certification to teach all of math, English, science __and__ social
studies. With low Math standards
for teachers, states canÕt help setting low Math standards for students.

**NCLB to the attempted rescue**.
Teachers must be "highly qualified".

**Loophole**. States get to set the standards as low as they please for "highly
qualified".

**Wishful thinking**. When NCLB is reauthorized, it will
require states to
raise standards for the "highly qualified" endorsement to include that Grade 1-8
teachers and their math supervisors be fluent in Arithmetic. *Not* on the table currently.

Relatedly: Maryland and a dozen other states use
the absurdly low-level Praxis II Middle School Math Content Exam as a criteria
for their designating "highly qualified" Middle School Math Teachers. But, middle school Math teachers get to
use calculators on this exam, so no need for "highly qualified"
Middle School Math Teachers to be fluent or even knowledgeable in
Arithmetic.

Massachusetts: Aspiring
elementary school [Grades 1-5] teachers will now need to pass a *math-specific* test to earn their teaching
license, making. Massachusetts is the
first (or second) state in the
country to do this. The
Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted this new
regulation on May 19, 2009. The
cut score for passing was 60%.
More than a quarter (27%) of the aspiring teachers, who took the exam in
March, passed.

Massachusetts new Math content standards for its *elementary*
school teachers (Grades 1-5); are *higher* than MarylandÕs (and many
statesÕ) Math content standards for its endorsement as a Òhighly qualifiedÓ *middle*
school Math teacher.

These math standards are discussed in: ÒMaking the grade: New math standards for teachers -- Standards in teacher training are key
in ensuring an elementary school teacher's knowledge of mathematics." on
Boston.com, Sep 11, 2009
To read this, click on the link below or cut and paste it into a Web
browser:

The author of
this article, Richard Bisk Chair Mathematics Department at Worcester State College, teaches a Professional Development Math Content Course.
He notes: ÒIn my number and operations course for teachers, I
use Singapore Math books from grades 3, 4,
5, and 6.

At
the beginning of the course, many teachers canÕt do many of the problems.

At the end of the course, many
wish they were using these texts in their classrooms.Ó [ÒSingapore
Primary Math Textbooks -- An OverviewÓ on BiskÕs website,
ÒSingapore Math Implementation ProjectÓ wwwfac.worcester.edu/smip]

Bisk
also wrote: Most teachers will say up
front that they want the implementation knowledge and *not* the math as they *don't*
realize how their limited math background affects their ability to teach well.
I've been fairly successful in convincing them that the math needs to come
first.

**Our children deserve teachers, who know
Arithmetic****.**