Advertisement
  1. Gradebook

Florida House takes steps to eliminate controversial teacher test

The General Knowledge exam “has probably outlived its usefulness," sponsor Rep. Byron Donalds says.
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, introduces legislation March 7, 2019, to make it easier for Florida teachers to keep their state certification without passing a General Knowledge test. [The Florida Channel]
Published Mar. 7

Since its requirement about four years ago, the Florida Department of Education’s General Knowledge Exam for teachers has been a job killer.

Educators have complained that it tested them on topics they never used, and if they didn’t pass, they couldn’t keep working. Department leaders insisted, though, that the assessment ensured that teachers had the basics needed to instruct students.

Nearly 1,000 Florida teachers lost their positions over the summer after failing. They often were second-career teachers on temporary certificates while working to complete their state license.

Now the Florida House is moving to get rid of the test, with leaders suggesting it stands in the way of keeping otherwise strong teachers in their classrooms where students need them. Subject area tests would not be affected.

“We feel the General Knowledge test has probably outlived its usefulness,” state Rep. Byron Donalds, the Naples Republican who leads the House PreK-12 Quality subcommittee, said Wednesday as he presented a bill to create alternatives to the exam. “We have an opportunity to make some corrections.”

Donalds’ proposed committee bill, which won strong bipartisan support, would extend the length of time teachers have to pass the GK test, while reducing the cost of any retakes. For teachers who do not pass, it would offer districts the opportunity to waive the score for teachers who complete a two-year mentorship program and get their principal’s recommendation to remain.

The bill also would require teacher preparation programs to provide more specific training on how to manage classrooms filled with a wide range of students, including those from low-income areas, both urban and rural. It further would have those preparation programs include courses on how to incorporate state standards into teaching, and not just to know about the standards.

“This is an important piece of legislation, especially giving school districts an alternate pathway to giving certification to teachers who are doing a great job in the classroom," said Rep. Jennifer Webb, the committee’s ranking Democrat.

Rep. Melony Bell, R-Fort Meade, suggested the proposed changes could help reduce Florida’s growing shortage of teachers who apply for job vacancies. It follows what teachers have asked for, Bell noted.

“I think this is going to resolve a lot of issues in the state of Florida and make our education system better than what it is now,” she said.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, called Donalds’ bill a “great solution” to the state’s “crisis and ... exodus.”

“I also do think we need to be able to pay our teachers better," Eskamani added.

The state Senate has placed a similar, but not as far reaching, proposal in its priority education legislation SB 7070. For anything to take effect, the two chambers would have to agree upon identical language.

Related coverage: Tutoring the teachers: School districts work to coach those who struggle on state tests

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Pasco County school district is considering adopting a policy for student medical marijuana use on district property. [Getty Images]
    The rule will not change the district’s current approach to the touchy topic.
  2. Shown in 2002, Carolyn Hill, then the principal of Kenly Elementary School in east Tampa, celebrated after 78 of her students improved their state scores and were treated to lunch at The Colonnade Restaurant. Hill, now deceased, might be honored Tuesday as the Hillsborough County School Board considers naming a school for her in the SouthShore area. STAFF  |  Tampa Bay Times
    School Board members will select a name on Tuesday
  3. Alachua County school superintendent Karen Clarke welcomes the crowd at a "listening session" Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 to discuss changes in the Florida's education standards. A similar session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at Jefferson High, 4401 W Cypress St. in Tampa. The Florida Channel
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  4. The Pinellas School Board recognized James Krull as the district's bus Driver of the Year at its meeting Tuesday. From left are board members Bill Dudley, Eileen Long, Carol Cook, Rene Flowers, Krull, and board members Nicole Carr, Joanne Lentino and Lisa Cane. Pinellas County Schools
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  5. In this image from a telecast by The Florida Channel, Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran speaks to a Gainesville crowd that came to discuss revisions to the state's education standards this past week. “We’re going to end up with the world’s best standards,” Corcoran said. The Florida Channel
    The effort, ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis, aims to transform the way students learn in public schools. A “listening session” is set for Tampa’s Jefferson High.
  6. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times  Florida Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr., R- Hialeah; Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, watch the passage of the school voucher bill Tuesday in the Florida House.
    The new program, designed to eliminate waiting lists for tax credit scholarships, is likely to be challenged in court.
  7. A research group has raised concerns that Florida's plan to track student social media usage and collect other data will compromise children's privacy.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. Sigfredo Garcia rubs his eyes as he prepares to hear the closing arguments on Thursday in his trial on charges he killed Florida State University law professor Daniel Markel in 2014. The case went to the jury later in the day, and they will resume deliberations Friday. Tallahassee Democrat
    Florida State University law professor Daniel Markel was killed in 2014. Prosecutors blame his ex-wife, but only the hitman and his girlfriend stand trial.
  9. Gov. Ron DeSantis greets local officials at Dunedin High School on Oct. 7, 2019, part of a swing around the state to announce his plan to boost starting teacher pay in Florida to $47,500. MEGAN REEVES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Veteran teachers aren’t included. The governor can’t set teacher salaries. And a host of other concerns.
  10. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is scheduled to lead a listening session on the state's education standards review. CHRIS URSO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Watch the discussion on the Florida Channel.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement