According to the latest National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) rating of 875 of the nation's undergraduate programs that prepare elementary school teachers, only 5 percent require teacher candidates to take sufficient courses in literature, science and history/social studies.
The subject of math is an apt example: Only 13 percent of programs require coverage of topics deemed critical by mathematicians.
"Elementary school education is foundational, and if you want to understand how important elementary math is, look no further than today's PISA scores," said Kate Walsh, NCTQ's president, referring to new figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Program for International Student Assessment. They found that 15-year-old U.S. students score below the global average on math.
"If we're trying to figure out why kids are performing so badly in mathematics," Walsh added, "there's no subject more reliant on foundational skills from kindergarten on up. Yet we're looking at what programs do in math and they're all over the map; they do not expect elementary school teachers to master topics found in the elementary curriculum. And if you have a weak grasp, it may be that you are able to solve a fraction but not able to teach it."