Over 200 South Florida teachers fired after failing state certification

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - South Florida teachers are speaking out after a poor performance on the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations caused more than 200 of them to lose their jobs.

Hundreds of local teachers are unable to teach this school year because they failed their FTCE. A total of 171 Broward County teachers and 52 Miami-Dade teachers were fired.

The FTCE is a group of tests. Which of the tests teachers have to take depends on the subjects they teach and how long they’ve been on the job. All rookie teachers are tested on general knowledge.

Exasperated educators took to social media to vent their frustration.

“Failed the professional ed again! For the 4th time … that’s $660 just on taking this test,” read a Facebook status.

“Hello everyone! I need advice. I had a deadline in my school and did not pass. I was terminated for this,” read another status.

A new teacher who asked not to be identified or show his face on camera said teaching is a vocation for him.

“It’s a calling. Education has always been a part of what I’ve wanted to do,” he said.

This teacher said he left a job in communications to teach math.

“I just want to give back to the community and give the kids an experience that I wasn’t able to have,” he said.

But this experience has been quite the lesson for him. Teachers have to pay to take the test, and he has spent more than $2,000 trying to pass. He has taken a test in teaching strategies seven times and a math test four times.

A company called Pearson Vue has a $57 million contract with the state of Florida to create and administer the tests.

When asked whether the state’s teachers ought to be able to pass rigorous tests, the unidentified teacher replied, “You might want to make tests rigorous for educators. I’m all for it, but the way that a question presented on a test is much different than how I know it and how I can apply it and teach it and deliver the information.”

The testing structure changed in 2015, and the passage rates dropped. Experts differ on what makes the exams so much harder.

Teachers have to take tests in subjects they don’t teach, and more theory questions have been added.

Jason Ample, the owner of the FTCE prep company The Learning Liaisons, spoke about the difficulty levels of the revised exams.

“If you’re a person who has an engineering degree or an education degree — and you can be an amazing teacher — but if you don’t have that educational theory or background, it makes it a lot more difficult to pass those subjects of their exams,” he said.

Ample said the current FTCEs are not necessarily an accurate gauge of an educator’s teaching aptitude.

“These tests are not indicative of how well of a teacher they are or how smart they are. It’s all just about how you prepare and get ready to take these exams,” he said.

A biology teacher who asked not to be identified said she is now out of a job. She did not mince words when asked what she thought of the FTCEs

“It’s a game,” she said.

This teacher said she was fired, even though her students were doing well. She was unable to pass her FTCE’s essay portion, even though she used to write professionally.

“My background is in writing. I’ve done marketing, public relations. I’ve worked with the governor’s office. I’ve drafted legislation in the past,” she said, “so to be able to tell me that I can’t teach because I don’t know how to write, I find it interesting.”

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said something needs to be done to get the best teachers in the classroom.

“We don’t want to continue to be in that position where we’re losing some of our good teachers,” he said, “so we really need to take a step back, work with the state and see if there’s a way we can make some adjustments to those requirements without, obviously, minimizing the quality of the certification process.”

Teachers in other states like Indiana are North Carolina are reporting similar problems.

Florida Department of Education spokesperson Audrey Walden sent 7News a statement that reads in part, “In Florida, we have taken steps to ensure that, as we raised standards for students, teacher certification exams also became more rigorous, ensuring newly certified teachers have the necessary skills and knowledge.”

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