Feb 3, 2017
If you’re wondering about the creds of a great teacher, meet South Florida teacher Julie McCue.
So we didn’t expect to hear this 21-year classroom veteran say, “I’m contemplating absolutely 100% leaving the classroom,” she said
And we certainly didn’t expect to hear her reason why. “I can’t pass a test,” said McCue.
Teaching student, Amal Muhammed fears she won't get the chance spend day one in a classroom.
Julie McCue and Amal Muhammad are among a growing number of teachers and teacher hopefuls who, last year, failed Florida's teacher licensing exam, or FTCE. Over the past few years, the state made the test tougher.
"I am so upset, how am I not qualified to be in the classroom? I don't understand,” said McCue.
The test is a must-pass to teach in Florida. Or in Julie’s case, earn more teaching in Florida.
“As long as I don't pass this test, they don't have to pay me for my master's degree,” explained Julie who missed passing the essay portion of the exam by one point each of the four times she took it.
The tests, while created by a group of educational professionals chosen by the FL Dept. of Education, is developed, administered and scored by Pearson Vue. Pearson, once known as a nationwide leader in standardized tests, has been widely criticized in recent years. From misgrades to scoring delays, a plethora of testing problems has resulted in Pearson losing students test contracts in several states including Florida. However, Pearson still administers the state’s teacher exams.
Julie even went through Pearson Vue’s “score verification process.” McCue paid $75 to have the opportunity to identify errors that may have impacted her scores. She says after several weeks she received a boiler plate form from the FL Dept. of Education indicating that the state was standing by the scores Pearson gave to McCue on her essay.
There are only a small handfull of places where examinees can question their scores through a “score verification” process.
• Jacksonville – Pearson VUE Test Center 1060 • Miami – Pearson VUE Test Center 1061 • Orlando – Pearson VUE Test Center 1055 • Tallahassee – Pearson VUE Test Center 1063
After doing some digging, we found failure rates from Florida's Teacher Certification and Leadership exams are at an all-time high. Up 30% on some portions of the exam.
At the University of South Florida, last year more than 10% of students were impacted by their failure to pass the state-mandated teacher test, or FTCE.
Included in that 10%, were about 70 students who graduated with a diploma but not a passing score on the state’s test.
“So they spent 4 plus years of their lives and now they can’t teach,” said Dr. David Allsopp, Associate Dean of USF's College of Education.
“Do you think this test is a good measure of high quality teachers in Florida?” asked investigative reporter Katie LaGrone.
“No,” said Dr. Allsopp.
“So what is it measuring?” asked LaGrone
“Well, that’s a good question,” Allsopp responded.
Allsopp says colleges and university education programs around the state are seeing the same thing, students passing classes but not the state’s test.
Add that to Florida's ongoing teacher shortage…
“Are you saying the state’s answer to hiring high quality teachers may actually be backfiring on them?” asked LaGrone.
“Yes, to some degree at this point,” said Allsopp.
That's because we discovered the use of long term substitutes or those spending more than one week in a classroom is up in some districts.
In fact, the Manatee County school district is using long-term substitutes to cover more than 50 of its classrooms this year. Five of those classes are being taught by subs for the entire school year! Several other classes have substitutes slated for months at a time.
“So you’re ending up with people who are less well qualified,” said Bob Schaffer of fairtest.org. The national non-profit group is publicly critical of standardized tests for students and teachers.
No one from the Florida Department of Education would grant us an on camera interview.
In an email, a spokesperson from FDOE described the plunge in passing rates as "anticipated" and explained that scores "typical increase over time."
Multiple tests later, Amal Muhammad finally passed the state's exam.
After 18 months of studying, four tests and more than one thousand dollars in testing fees, Julie McCue has had enough. “I feel like they’re trying to make money off of us. I will not sit and take this test again,” she said. “You’re forcing a group of people where academics and passing tests and accountability mean a lot to us, we’re being attacked and we’re ashamed and we’re being quiet about it because somehow it’s a reflection on who we are,” she said.
So now, she's looking at walking away…
As a result of the unprecedented failure rates, USF’s College of Education has implemented a series of boot camps to help better prepare students for the test. The University is also offering special tutoring sessions and other measures to help prepare students for the state exam.
All additional measures are being paid for by the University.
To learn more about the FTCE & FELE exams: