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. Chanell Newell, a reading teacher at Woodson K-8 School, is a finalist for Hillsborough Teacher of the Year. HCPS  |  HCPS
    The winners will be announced on Jan. 23.
  2. A school bus travels the early morning streets of Pasco County on the way to the first day of classes in 2017.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  3. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  4. Representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco, on the left, present their latest pay request to the district's bargaining team during talks on Oct. 24, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    Teachers have yet to reach a deal on their contract.
  5. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. It has met just once more since then. The Florida Channel
    Lawmakers have yet to set an aggressive agenda beyond talk of teacher pay as the 2020 legislative session nears.
  6. FILE - In a Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 file photo, transgender teen Drew Adams, left, leaves the U. S. Courthouse with his mother Erica Adams Kasper after the first day of his trial about bathroom rights at Nease High School, in Jacksonville, Fla. The transgender student's fight over school bathrooms comes before a federal appeals court Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Drew Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, won a lower court ruling in 2018 ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. (Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP, File) WILL DICKEY  |  AP
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  7. A bird's-eye view of USF St. Petersburg, which this week announced a new member of the Campus Board. She is Melissa Seixas, a Duke Energy executive who earned her master's degree at USF.
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  8. An LGBTQ Pride march participant walks under a large rainbow flag in New York earlier this year. School Board policy regarding LGBTQ students has been a frequent topic of discussion in recent months in Pasco County. CRAIG RUTTLE  |  AP
    The discourse is more civil and respectful, two weeks after a session that many deemed hate-filled and vile.
  9. The Florida Legislature so far has has left Gov. Ron DeSantis to set most education policy priorities for 2020.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. "Miss Virginia," a film about school choice, will be screened at the Tampa Theatre on Dec. 10.
    “Miss Virginia” will be playing at the Tampa Theater on Tuesday.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement