Kate Walsh: Don’t lower the bar to become a teacher in Florida
The bill would let school districts offer the most effective teachers longer contracts.

good teachers (Large)
High standards matter.

Parents deserve to have their most basic expectations met when they send their child to school each day.

They want to be confident their child’s teacher doesn’t have a criminal record and will keep their child safe. They also expect teachers to know something about teaching and their content area, and to have general knowledge of reading, writing and math.

That’s what makes a move in the Florida Legislature so bewildering. While Senate Bill 1576 and House Bill 7061 both contain some thoughtful improvements, they would also dramatically lower the most basic expectations the state has for its teachers.

Florida requires any teacher candidate to pass a straightforward test of general knowledge. It’s content Florida has required aspiring teachers to know for more than a decade — little more than that they can read, write and know enough math to teach our students.

This is a test anyone who has finished high school, much less college, should be able to pass. But unfortunately, many of our nation’s teacher preparation programs don’t pay enough attention to imparting these basic skills, graduating a fair number who never master them.

Florida is already considering allowing teachers up to three years to pass this test.

Unfortunately, Florida also wants to say that if a teacher never can pass this test, that’s OK too. Florida, considered a leader in the nation on its efforts to strengthen teacher quality, now appears poised to undermine the quality of its teacher workforce.

If the law does pass, Florida would join 13 other states, none of which serve as standouts for their educational performance, allowing teachers in the classroom who can’t demonstrate the very skills they are asked to teach.

Legislators sponsoring this bill swear schools wouldn’t dream of letting anyone undeserving slip through the cracks. All the evidence shows that just isn’t true. Public schools rarely go to the trouble of dismissing an unqualified teacher — usually, they just bounce from school to school. We also know from a study we have done in Florida that it’s rare for a school district to award anything less than a satisfactory rating to a teacher.

But let’s remember this most of all: The system of education in the United States, particularly in our most challenging schools, routinely gives second, third or endless chances to the adults in the system. Children in their classrooms have no say, nor do their parents. For kids, there is no “do over” on first grade or ninth grade biology.

Requiring this test does not set too high a bar for teachers. America already has some of the lowest standards in the developed world for entry into the teaching profession, and we’re seeing the consequences as our country falls behind others on every measure, and our employers complain about being unable to find qualified workers.

High standards matter. The reaction when aspiring teachers cannot rise to those standards should be to hold the institutions that let them down accountable and provide them with additional supports — not to lower our expectations.


Kate Walsh is the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Guest Author


  • Randy May

    April 2, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Kate Walsh….President of the National fake survey council…I mean Council of Teacher Quality. Just research this “organization” (see below) Kate I will personally donate to you organization and pay for you to take take the Florida entrance test. Provided that I get to publish your results better than your organization publishes yours. Congrats on working to continue to politically kill the country’s education system.

    The report covers 1,130 teacher education programs, representing 99 percent of the field, though only 114 institutions fully cooperated.[3] About 700 institutions did not, in objection to the report’s methodology.[3] PBS NewsHour’s John Merrow said that only 1% of institutions agreed to participate, which was a “boycott.” The institutions felt that Kate Walsh had come to her conclusions before she started the study. But Merrow called it a “bad study,” because they didn’t go to campuses, but just read course catalogs and syllabi.[7]

  • Jan

    April 3, 2019 at 10:22 am

    The way to attract highly qualified teachers to Florida is to pay them well. Last month, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Florida ranks 46th out of 50 states in teacher pay. Having worked 35 years in the Florida public schools, I have known many teachers–both male and female-who moonlight in a second job just to make ends meet.

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