A new bachelor’s degree graduate from the FSU Department of Physics has made the difficult but noble decision to become a high school physics teacher. She has a teaching job in a high-needs school waiting for her next month.
To begin teaching (or even to formally apply for a teaching job), this physics graduate and aspiring teacher must obtain a “Statement of Eligibility” (SOE) from the Florida Department of Education. To obtain the SOE, she submitted her “Initial Application Package” on June 1. The primary function of the review of the Initial Application Package seems to be to decide whether or not the applicant has the formal academic background necessary to teach her subject (in this case, physics) effectively. Our aspiring physics teacher was told that processing of the Initial Application Package would take two months. We are now seven days short of that two months, and it looks like the process will take the full two months. Or more.
Once this aspiring teacher receives her SOE from the Department of Education, the school district for which she would like to teach will be able to process her formal application to the district. At this point, the aspiring teacher will submit to a formal background check, and if she passes she will be granted a temporary certificate to teach physics by the State of Florida.
I have a suggestion for the Florida Department of Education: Instead of investing the apparently considerable resources necessary to conduct the two-month review of our aspiring physics teacher’s academic qualifications in physics, just take my word for it. Or if you don’t trust me (and many people don’t), take the word of my 40 colleagues in the FSU Physics Department. This aspiring physics teacher is more than just academically adequate in physics. She is very, very strong in our discipline. If she wasn’t, we wouldn’t have allowed her to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics from our department.
We all know there is a severe shortage of math and science teachers in Florida’s middle and high schools. Doing the big things necessary to solve this problem by raising salaries, changing the workplace atmosphere in schools and improving the perception of the nobility of teaching in the broader society will be really, really hard. But streamlining the process of applying for a temporary certification in physics – or math, or chemistry, or computer science, or biology – by granting the Statement of Eligibility to any new bachelor’s degree graduate in those fields without the standard two-month review of transcripts should be easy. And it will give such new graduates a little bit of encouragement to pursue teaching careers.
C’mon. Let’s do this one easy thing to make math and science teaching careers just a little bit more attractive.