June 20, 2001 Vol. 12, No.8

Commission Presents Mathematics Report

Recommends New Teaching Certificates at Elementary, Middle Levels

The Maryland Mathematics Commission, appointed in late 1999 by State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, delivered its report to the State Board of Education, recommending new certification for elementary and middle school teachers of mathematics, regularly scheduled, meaningful professional development opportunities in mathematics for all teachers of mathematics, and more mathematics instruction for all students.

Chaired by Dr. Francis (Skip) Fennell of Western Maryland College, the 32-member commission said all students in each year of their education should be instructed by a fully certified mathematics teacher, and they recommended two new mathematics teaching certificates.

Two New Certificates Recommended

An elementary mathematics specialist certificate, similar to the reading specialist certificate already in place in the state, would be offered at the graduate level. This would create a cadre of elementary classroom teachers with mathematics education expertise who could teach across or within grade levels and help direct school-wide mathematics intervention programs for students.

The Commission recommended a teaching certificate in middle school mathematics to allow elementary certified teachers to become certified to teach middle school mathematics.

Elementary teachers would need to take an additional 21 credits in mathematics and a methods course focusing on the teaching and learning of middle school mathematics. The certificate would require course work in algebra, geometry, statistics and probability, and number and operations. All middle school mathematics would then be taught by a teacher certified in middle school or certified in secondary mathematics.

"Teacher quality is the key to raising achievement levels in mathematics."
Dr. Nancy S.Grasmick
State Superintendent of Schools

Emphasizing the need for a balanced mathematics curriculum pre-K through grade 12, the group urged MSDE and local school systems to ensure that algebraic concepts and skills are developed throughout the K-12 mathematics curriculum. They also recommended that all students receive one hour of mathematics instruction per day and that students be required to study mathematics each year of high school.

Surveys indicate that more than 60% of Maryland businesses expect their need for workers with technical knowledge and experience to increase.

Professional Development Important for Teachers

The Commission said teachers should have access to regularly scheduled, meaningful professional development opportunities in mathematics, including opportunities to develop a repertoire of teaching strategies to help students become competent problem solvers and critical thinkers. Teachers must be supported in their efforts to provide instruction that "facilitates mathematical proficiency _ factual knowledge, procedural fluency, and conceptual understanding."

The Commission supported the implementation of the Maryland High School Assessments and recommended the Maryland Functional Mathematics Test be eliminated as a high school graduation requirement.

They also recommended that all mathematics students have appropriate access to calculators, computers, and internet connections for both class work and homework.

Board Raises Score for Praxis II

Beginning July 1, elementary teacher candidates in Maryland will have to receive a qualifying score of 142 on the Praxis II Elementary Education Content Knowledge Test to be certified to teach in the state.

The State Board of Education adopted the new qualifying score, up from the 136 set in December 1999, after reviewing the performance of Maryland elementary teacher candidates who have taken the test since it became a requirement July 1, 2000.

The original score of 136 was set by the State Board based on the recommendation of a panel of Maryland educators who looked at the test to validate the content and recommend a qualifying score. Since the test had not yet been administered nationally, the State Board agreed to reconsider the qualifying score at a later time.

The assessment focuses on the four subject areas of language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.

Dr. Larry Leak, Assistant State Superintendent, Certification and Accreditation, said three states are currently using the new test, each requiring a different qualifying score: Maryland, 136; New Jersey, 133; and Pennsylvania, 142 as of September 1, 2001.

Elementary Teachers Can Now Test Out of Reading Courses

The Maryland State Board of Education adopted the Praxis II assessment Reading Across the Curriculum: Elementary as a means of allowing incumbent elementary teachers to "test out" of reading course requirements that were adopted by the board in 1998.

Elementary teachers who take the test will have to achieve a score of 173 to quality.

The elementary teachers will be able to substitute the Praxis for the four reading courses, a total of 12 semester hours, that were required for elementary teachers in the 1998 regulations.

Secondary teachers will have to wait longer for a test-out option. Changes are still being made in the secondary test to make it appropriate for the reading instruction that occurs in the secondary subject matter areas.

Members of the staff of the Maryland State Department of Education have been working with Educational Testing Service (ETS) to develop the two reading assessments that are based on the International Reading Association standards and Maryland's reading course content.

Each test consists of 60 multiple choice questions and three constructed response questions.

State Moves Ahead On Web-based Learning Project

Moving ahead to provide web-based courses for students and professional development for teachers, the State Board of Education accepted a report and implementation plan from the Steering Committee for Web-based Learning appointed in the fall.

All of the state's 24 school systems have expressed a need for web-based courses and 10 are currently offering them.

The committee's recommendations include establishing the Maryland Virtual Learning Community that will give students access to challenging high school curricula aligned to the Maryland Content Standards and the Core Learning Goals.

The implementation plan focuses on three major aspects: creating a web portal or single point of entry that will provide services, resources and information; web-based courses for students; and online professional development for educators.

Barbara Reeves, Director of Instructional Technology for MSDE, said the committee is also coordinating its work with what local school systems are doing and will be serving in an advisory role supporting school systems interested in using online courses.

Teachers will begin reviewing courses this summer that are already available online and that local school systems have said they need the most.

MSDE Bulletin
School & Community Outreach Office
Maryland State Department of Education
200 W. Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Web site: www.msde.state.md.us

Ronald Peiffer
Assistant State Superintendent

Sandy Sheperd