Orlando Sentinel: Higher passing bars on science teacher certification exams will worsen teacher shortage

From Sunday’s Sentinel article:

The passing rate for the biology-teacher certification exam, for example, is predicted to fall from 87 percent to 68 percent, the Florida Department of Education said. The rate for the middle-school general-science exam is projected to fall from 78 percent to 58 percent.

“Of course, we applaud anything that increases rigor,” said Sherry Southerland, a science-education professor at Florida State University and co-director of FSU-Teach, a program that aims to train more math and science teachers.

But middle- and high-school science teachers are always on Florida’s list of “critical teacher-shortage areas,” meaning there aren’t enough of them to fill all the open jobs.

Tougher certification exams “will only exacerbate the problem,” Southerland said.

And they don’t get at the “larger issues,” she added, which is that many college students with talent and interest in science don’t pursue teaching careers. Those who do, she said, often find they can earn more at public schools in other states, including neighboring Georgia.

And a personal testimony from Brandon Haught of the Florida Citizens for Science:

I can’t afford to be a teacher. Not now and most likely not anytime soon. I have my college degree in biology education. I have my teacher certification in biology and middle school math, too. All I need to do is apply for jobs. But I simply can’t cross that finish line that I started toward about six years ago.

My student loan repayments have kicked in, so there is that massive extra financial burden now. I’m certainly not making tons of money right now, but even so, I would be taking a pay cut to become a new teacher. I simply can’t afford to do it.

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