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The Preparation Gap: Teacher Education for Middle School Mathematics in Six Countries


William H. Schmidt et al




International Study, Teacher Preparation, Middle School Mathematics, Mathematics Teachers


MT21 is a cross-national study of the preparation of middle school mathematics teachers. Countries participating include Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Korea, Bulgaria, Germany, Mexico and the United States. The preparation of middle school teachers in the U.S. is accomplished through three routes: (a) elementary programs, (b) secondary programs or (c) middle school programs. Data were collected from teachers in their last year of preparation by sampling institutions in each country. Future teachers were questioned on their (1) backgrounds, (2) course taking and other program activities, (3) knowledge relevant to their teaching – mathematical and pedagogical, and (4) beliefs and perspectives on content and pedagogy.

Ten years ago a report was issued which showed that the United States middle school students performed below the international mean on a test of mathematics among some 40 countries. Additionally, the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) indicated that one of the major factors related to that low performance was a middle school curriculum in the U.S. that was unfocused, lacking coherence, and not particularly demanding or rigorous. The study also showed that the top- achieving countries had the opposite type of curriculum. Many states and districts in response have recently increased the rigor of their standards as well as their focus and coherence. The important question then becomes– how shall we prepare our future teachers to teach a more rigorous curriculum to all students? The MT21 project was designed to answer that question by examining how other countries prepared their middle school teachers.

The results clearly suggest that teacher education as defined by the learning opportunities provided likely has an impact on what future teachers know and believe as they leave their teacher preparation program. The differences across the countries, combined with the differences across the three programs of preparation within the United States, all point in that direction.