Florida House and Senate heading toward agreement on permanent certifications for teachers in STEM subjects with content area masters’ degrees

Update (Thursday afternoon):  The House passed HB 189 by a 100-11 vote.

Florida’s House and Senate seem poised to approve a proposal in which teachers in STEM subjects who hold masters’ degrees in their subjects and who have been rated highly effective teachers can be awarded a permanent certification while skipping steps that other teachers need to follow to earn such a certification.

The House will hold a floor vote on HB 189 today.  An identical bill in the Senate (SB 432) is ready for consideration by the chamber’s Appropriations Committee – its last stop before a floor vote.

While it is straightforward to obtain a temporary certificate to teach in Florida, a set of courses on education is presently required for a holder of a temporary certificate to earn a permanent certificate.  The bills under consideration would eliminate this course requirement for the select group of instructors who have earned the “highly effective” rating and who hold a master’s degree in a STEM field – not an education master’s degree, but instead a master’s degree in a field like math, biology or physics.

I complained previously that master’s degree holders often know nothing about how students learn their subjects (a body of knowledge that we call “pedagogical content knowledge”, or PCK) and that dropping the coursework requirement for a permanent certification would make it unlikely that these individuals would ever learn about (or care about) PCK.  But do teachers learn PCK during the required courses?  A leader in Florida’s physics teaching community contacted me to say that the required courses are probably not providing this.  So perhaps there is no harm in eliminating the course requirement.

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