Daryl Bryant never thought teaching would land him in front of a judge.
“I wrote an essay that should be scored higher than it received,” he said after an administrative hearing in Orlando.
Bryant is one of two Florida teachers fighting the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) over how it scores teacher tests.
Bryant is a Central Florida teacher who has been teaching P.E. at a Cocoa charter school for 3 years. He failed the essay portion of the state’s teacher certification exam three times.
“I would like to be shown how it [essay] fails to pass based on what is stipulated in the grading process,” he said.
In court documents, Bryant alleges that the FTCE essay grading process is “invalid and has errors.”
During an administrative hearing on Wednesday, Bryant who has a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Information Technology, defended his writing by describing the use of tutors and his history as a writer and editor for the boys and girls club monthly newsletter.
But the state and testing contractor, Pearson, had their own defense. An attorney for the FDOE described a thorough scoring process that’s fair, detailed and consistent. At one point, the FDOE’s attorney, Bonnie Wilmot, went so far as to say, “the process makes error almost impossible.”
Betsy Griffy is a Pearson chief reviewer who reviewed Daryl’s essay after he spent $75 to go through the state’s score verification process. Examinees have this option if they want to challenge scores but FDOE and Pearson admitted an examinee's challenge isn’t always read by a chief reviewer who reviews challenged tests.
“I am convinced that the process is substantial and credible,” said Griffy who is now retired after spending 36 years as a writing teacher at Florida State College.
The essay portion of the general knowledge (GK) exam is part of a battery of “must-pass” tests for teachers in Florida. Since the exam was made tougher in 2015, failures on portions of the test have reached an all-time high up nearly thirty percent in 2 years.
According to data provided by the FDOE, in 2014 the essay portion of the GK exam had a 93% passing rate for first time examinees. After the test was revised to be more rigorous, passing rates dropped to 63% in 2015. Last year, passing rates improved slightly to 69%.
When Investigative Reporter Katie LaGrone asked Phil Canto of the FDOE what his response was to so many frustrated and failing teachers, Canto responded, “absolutely no response today.”
While the FDOE said nothing, Daryl Bryant hopes what he divulged to a judge says everything to give him a chance in a public Florida classroom.
“I teach at Title 1 schools. I have similar backgrounds to the kids in these schools. Something is missing if a Daryl Bryant isn’t in the public school system.”
Daryl Bryant’s court case is one of two involving Florida teachers frustrated with taking these tests and failing them time and time again.
On Tuesday, 20-year veteran teacher Julie McCue also went up against FDOE and Pearson after she failed the essay portion of the state’s educational leadership exam 4 times. She too, believes the scoring process, similar to the FTCE, is flawed.
Florida Administrative Judge Elizabeth McArthur will not issue a recommended order for, at least, the next 30 days. Once an order is filed, the Education Practices Commission will review and issue the final order.
Click or scroll below to read the transcripts from the public portions of the hearings.