TAMPA, FL. A proposed new bill aims to help fill Florida’s classrooms with more teachers by easing certification requirements and the time it takes candidates to prove they deserve that teaching certification.
“We have very, very good teachers, and we want to keep those very good teachers in the classroom and give them time to hone their craft,” said Sen. Cory Simon, a Tallahassee Republican who first introduced the bill. Account includes provisions that extend the validity of temporary teaching certificates for teachers from three to five years and give aspiring teachers more opportunities to prove they are qualified to teach.
In addition, the proposed bill allows candidates to not take the mandatory but controversial General Knowledge (GK) exam if they have received a teacher rating of “effective” or “very effective” from a school principal. consecutive years.
The changes, if approved, would represent the most dramatic changes to Florida’s teacher certification process since our two-year, award-winning investigation first uncovered the problems.
Beginning in 2016, Florida investigative reporter Kathy LaGrone and photographer/editor Matthew Apthorpe discovered the frustrations of current and aspiring teachers in Florida who met all the requirements in the classroom but repeatedly failed the Florida Teacher Certification Exam (FTCE), which includes GK exam. The GK part tests the candidate’s general knowledge of the core subjects, even those not taught by the novice teacher.
After the state tightened teacher certification exam requirements in 2015, LaGrone and Apthorp found passing rates plummeted, forcing many districts to fire teachers they rated as effective or very effective.
Although this new proposed bill did not spark any debate among lawmakers before they approved it during their first committee hearing on Tuesday, members of the public quickly got involved.
“The solution to find people is not to reduce the requirements, but to increase the respect and pay of teachers,” said one concerned member of the public.
“I hope we don’t lower the requirements,” said another.
“I want to make sure I have someone who is fully credentialed and well qualified to teach in the classroom,” Andrew Spar, head of the Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teachers union, said when asked if the changes were making a difference. the bill makes it too easy to become a teacher.
Florida’s teacher shortage is still more than 5,000 as of January, according to the FEA, but Spar said revising teacher certification requirements is not the way to bring in more teachers.
(The Florida Department of Education disputes the FEA’s teacher shortage numbers and puts the number at 4,442, which represents 2.4% of the September 1, 2022 teacher shortage, according to the state agency.)
While Spar agrees with changes to the certification process that would end, for example, the disqualification of an English teacher from teaching if they fail a general math test, Spar is concerned that the bill is still too vague to truly understand its benefits and potential consequences.
“We want to make sure that we keep the requirements that you have to demonstrate an understanding of the content that you’re teaching, you have to understand the underlying principles of learning, practices and pedagogy. These are things that we think are vitally important for people coming into the profession,” Spar explained.
“We’re not getting rid of the exam, we’re just giving them more time,” Senator Simon said of the bill.