Pinellas School Board candidate Fonda Huff failed her teacher certification exam three times before passing it in 2001, state records show. She also initially failed the reading portion of another exam that she needed to become certified.
Huff, a high school math-science coach, is running for the at-large District 2 seat.
According to Florida Department of Education records, Huff failed her subject area exam — for math, Grades 6-12 — in January 2000, August 2000 and October 2000. She passed it in January 2001.
The records also show that in October 1999, she did not pass the reading portion of the College Level Academic Skills Test, an exam associated with college students that Florida teachers had to pass to become certified between 1988 and 2002.
Huff passed the other three portions of the test (math, language skills, essay) on the first try. She passed the reading portion when she retook it in May 2000.
Huff said she did not recall failing the test more than once. She said she fell short because it had been years since she had taken trigonometry and calculus classes. She earned her bachelor's degree in math and PE education in 1993.
"I guarantee you, you go to any math teacher who hasn't taken calculus since college, it's tough," she said.
Huff said she was too busy to brush up because she was working as a teacher with a temporary license and taking care of elderly parents. As for why she failed the reading exam, Huff said, "I must not have been paying attention, because I can read."
Pass rates on the math 6-12 certification exam are among the lowest of any subject-area exams for Florida teachers. In 2000, the first-time pass rate for that exam was 63.6 percent, while the pass rate for all takers of that exam was 58.5 percent.
In the 1999-2000 school year, 67 percent of those taking the CLAST for the first time passed the reading portion. Most of them were college students who had to pass the test to prove they had mastered college-level math and communication skills.
As for the other Pinellas School Board candidates:
District 6 candidate Brian Hawley — a language arts teacher at Largo Middle School — passed his certification exams the first time, records show.
Three former teachers — Terry Krassner, who is Huff's opponent in District 2; Greg Hunsinger in District 3; and Lew Williams in District 7 — became teachers in Florida before certification exams were required.