TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The intentions were good. Actually, they were great.
In an effort to help those struggling financially during the COVID-19 crisis, on March 23, the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) suspended fees to take the state’s teacher certification exam, also known as the FTCE.
The series of must-pass teacher tests can cost a test taker several hundred dollars depending on the tests and number of tests they need to take and pass in order to secure their permanent certification to teach in Florida.
But more than two months before the July 31 deadline to register for the free tests, FLDOE has ended its free offer citing money as the reason.
According to Taryn Fenske, spokesperson for the FLDOE, the department did not anticipate the number examinees who would sign up to take advantage of the free tests. Approximately 50,000 Florida teachers and aspiring ones registered for more than 100,000 free exams in the last 49 days, according to Fenske.
Fenske said the free tests equaled nearly $13million in saving and 77% of new tests registrations in an entire year.
In an email to educators on May 19, less than 24 hours before the state ended the free tests, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran stated in a press release, “waiving the exam registration frees was the right thing to do to support our well-deserving teachers, and we were proud to provide this opportunity as a way for us to show our appreciation for the hard work Florida teachers have put forth everyday, especially through distance learning."
But not everyone is singing the state’s praises. In fact, according to Andrew Spar, Vice President of the Floridas Educator Association which serves as the state teachers union, many teachers feel the state’s good intentions ended in broken promises.
“This was a big deal for teachers and with very limited notice, in a very quiet way to put out something that said we’re ending this early really caught people off guard,” he told Reporter Katie LaGrone.
LaGrone found out about the suspension of free test after several teachers contacted her about it. LaGrone has spent the past four years reporting on various issues concerning the controversial exam which is administered by testing giant, Pearson Inc. Her reports lead to a series of legislative changes including historic price reductions on testing fees for the exam.
“Had the commissioner come out and said this money is running out and we’re only going to extend it for a period of time to give people an opportunity to take advantage of it if they could, that would have been better,” said Spar, who also explained many examinees have had a tough time scheduling to take the exam.
As a result of the shutdown, Pearson testing centers have been closed causing a jam in future scheduling. Some examinees aren’t scheduled to take the test until the end of the year or even next year. “We have some people who are literally traveling across the state in order to get to a testing site that had availability for them to take the test,” said Spar.
Last month, the FLDOE extended teaching certificates set to expire this summer to the end as a result of the statewide shutdown. In a previous story reported by LaGrone, several teachers expressed concerns about meeting the state’s new deadline after learning they couldn’t get in to a testing site to take the exam until the end of the year.
Fenske said the department is well aware of the scheduling challenges and is working to get all testing centers reopened as soon as possible. She said examinees who want to reschedule to an earlier date should be able to by going online and checking centers that are reopening and may have additional availability.