Keeping poor math performance at Bay

It's no great secret that math is not the archetypal elementary teacher's forte. In fact, among the many subjects taught by all-in-one primary instructors, math is usually their weakest. Massachusetts, following in its laudable tradition of rigorous standards, is taking matters into its own hands and separately grading the beefed-up math portion of the elementary teacher licensure exam. Heretofore, since the math score was rolled in with literacy, social studies, etc., it was possible to pass the Bay State licensure exam for elementary teachers without answering a single math question correctly. This disturbing fact may only be surpassed by the even-more-distressing verity that nearly seventy-five percent of prospective elementary school teachers failed this new math requirement this spring. In response, state education commissioner Mitchell Chester has agreed to allow a 3-year grace period in which those who barely missed the passing score will still receive an initial license, pending a second attempt--and passing score--at the test within five years. This provision increases the passing rate from a dismal 27 percent to a depressing 42 percent. Considering that Massachusetts teacher candidates are likely among the best educated in the country, we can't help but wonder what the numbers might look in other states if they adopted similar policies.

"Aspiring teachers fall short on math," by James Vaznis, The Boston Globe, May 19, 2009