State reduces hefty fees for teacher exams; educators praise the move

Elementary school class
Elementary school class. Credit: Getty Images

Though hundreds of would-be and new teachers have been failing state-required exams, there’s at least some consolation: The State Board of Education just reduced some of the steep exam fees that have prompted complaints from educators.

Fees to retake the state’s General Knowledge Test are dropping across the board. The four-section exam covers math, writing, reading and English Language skills such as grammar, spelling and vocabulary – essentials needed to a lead a classroom.

The cost to retake one section of the exam will be just $32.50, compared to the current $150.

Retaking two sections will cost $65; and three sections, $97.50. Retaking all four sections will cost $130, the same as the full General Knowledge Test taken for the first time.

Those fee reductions will kick in on April 22, according to the Department of Education.

An analysis by the agency has shown that test takers have had the toughest time passing the math section of the exam, so having to retake only the math portion will be popular for test takers.

The state board on Tuesday also reduced fees for other types of educator exams, including tests in various academic subjects. Fees for the initial subject-area exams will be reduced to $150, compared to $200; and retakes for those exams will also cost $150, instead of $220.

The State Board of Education unanimously approved the reduced fees, by amending department rules. State lawmakers are also moving to change the fees this legislative session.

Vanessa Skipper, an English teacher in Brevard County and a member of the Florida Education Association’s executive Cabinet, praised the state board for reducing the exam fees.

“This is one positive step in the direction of retaining great educators,” Skipper told members of the state board at Tuesday’s meeting. “We have long advocated for this step.”

The failure rates on the General Knowledge Test are significant because applicants for teacher licensing typically can’t get fully certified if they don’t pass the exam. They can teach temporarily, but must pass the exam within a year.

Florida lawmakers have tried to remedy the situation by filing legislation to extend the time teachers have to pass the exam to three years instead of one, or even waive the test entirely in certain circumstances.

That has prompted a range of by educators, teacher preparation officials, administrators, advocacy groups and teacher’s unions.

 

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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