|Action||Comprehensive Revision of the Licensure Regulations for School Personnel|
|Comment Period||Ends 11/6/2015|
Response to changes in Middle School Mathematics Specilist Endorsement
To: Licensure Division, Virginia Department of Education
From: The Virginia Council of Mathematics Specialists
Date: October 10, 2015
Subject: Proposed change to the licensure requirement grade 6-8 Mathematics Specialists
The Virginia Council of Mathematics Specialist (VACMS) is presenting a response to a proposed change to the licensure requirement for grades 6-8 Mathematics Specialists to require that they have grades 6-12 mathematics endorsement. The Virginia Council of Mathematics Specialist strongly supports the quest for more rigorous mathematics programs at all levels. However, we do not support requiring a secondary mathematics credential for the middle school mathematics specialist endorsement as the way to increase middle school students' learning and achievement in mathematics.
The VACMS concurs with the position of the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition (VMSC) that middle school mathematics teachers certainly need to be familiar with the content of both elementary and high school mathematics. As the Coalition states, the course work to prepare teachers of high school mathematics is not appropriate to prepare middle school mathematics specialists. Professional society recommendations are very clear on this point. From the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, Mathematical Education of Teachers: “Teachers of middle grades students must be able to build on their students’ earlier mathematics learning and develop a broad set of new understandings and skills to help students meet these more sophisticated mathematical goals. Teaching middle grades mathematics requires preparation different from preparation for teaching high school mathematics.” And from the Mathematical Association of America, Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics: “A teacher preparation program for high school mathematics teachers is generally not adequate for preservice teachers who are planning to teach middle school mathematics. The mathematics topics taught in middle schools are substantially different from those taught in high schools, and the needs and mathematical sophistication of the students are substantially different.” The appropriate way to view preparation as a middle grades mathematics specialists when compared with secondary licensure is as advanced training with a different focus, not as training that is less advanced. Requiring a secondary endorsement for middle grades specialists is a distraction from the primary goal of achieving the most sophisticated mathematical knowledge appropriate for the middle grades curriculum.
The Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition (VMSC) formed a task force in the spring of 2008 to study the role and responsibilities of middle school mathematics specialist. Their purpose was to make recommendations about how the preparation for mathematics specialists to work in elementary schools should be changed to prepare well-qualified middle school mathematics specialists. A group of Virginia mathematicians, mathematics educators, and school division mathematics leaders made up the task force. Committee members noted in the task force report that teachers preparing to be middle school mathematics specialists need opportunities to understand deeply the mathematics that underpins the middle school curriculum. Specialists must also have a deep understanding of the mathematics that students have already learned, and be able to make connections to those ideas as they extend their learning to more sophisticated mathematics in high school. Furthermore, middle school mathematics specialists must be able to support teachers to answer the call to meet the needs of all students. Middle school mathematics teachers require a skill set to work with a wide range of students with different academic needs. In some cases, students have not yet adequately mastered content introduced in the elementary grade curriculum. In other cases, students need additional opportunities to explore a mathematical topic at a more sophisticated level. More generally, the task force noted that teachers must find ways to teach sophisticated middle school mathematical concepts effectively—concepts that they may not know how to present to their middle school students.
The VMSC led task force, as well as the members of the Virginia Council of Mathematics Specialists (VACMS), agree that much of the course work to prepare K-5 mathematics specialist is appropriate for middle school mathematics specialists. VACMS is in agreement with the task force recommendations of the adaptions and changes in the K-5 preparation program for preparing middle school mathematics specialists. That is to include a special middle school focus in the mathematical educational leadership courses and research courses accompanied by additional coursework in algebra and geometry beyond that required for the K-5 mathematics specialist preparation.
The Virginia Council of Mathematics Specialists recognizes the importance of developing middle school students' proportional reasoning ability and other foundational algebraic understandings. The Virginia Council of Mathematics Specialist recommends that the Virginia Board of Education consider requiring the Algebra I Add-on endorsement as one of the requirements for the Middle School Mathematics Specialist Endorsement. The coursework required to secure the Algebra I Add-on endorsement will prepare middle school specialists to help middle school teachers of all students as well as those who are teaching Algebra and Geometry for Carnegie Units at the middle school.
We appreciate the Virginia Board of Education's consideration of the Virginia Council of Mathematics Specialists position on the requirements for the Middle School Mathematics Specialist Endorsement.