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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is a Ph.D candidate at the University of South Florida, where he also works as a teaching assistant, supervising and teaching pre-service teachers. Steve holds a master's degree...
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Passing State Teacher Certification Exams

In Florida, passing teacher certification exams—or more accurately, not passing-has become somewhat of a crisis.  According to news reports, some 1,000 teachers were fired this summer after failing to pass sections of the Florida Teacher Certification Exam (FTCE). State legislators are examining the tests after a revision of the exam led to increased failure rates. It appears teachers in other states are also struggling. In North Carolina, nearly 2,400 teachers failed to pass the math certification exam. 

As an instructional supervisor, who works with student teachers in Tampa, Florida, I know firsthand that the requirement of having to pass the FTCE prior to graduation and landing a job adds an incredible amount of pressure. I thought it might be helpful to share some

insights into what seems to help student teachers prepare for the exams.

Principle 1: Start Early!

It made a big difference when program coordinators required student teachers to begin attempting the exams earlier in their program. Rather than wait until several months before graduation, we began encouraging the student teachers to attempt sections or the entire exam  as early as possible. Of course, not everyone passed all sections of the exams, but this early approach provided the student teachers with a sense of what to expect on the exam. Sometimes, they passed a section or more, which freed them to focus on other sections. Other times it was a matter of just learning to craft a better study plan. Regardless, taking the tests early is the winning formula.

Principle 2: Collaborate

While the tests must be taken individually, working together seems like the way to prepare for the exams. I have witnessed student teachers form study groups and share resources, such as study guides and tips that help them prepare. Those who have already passed a section and know their study strategy works can share that approach with those preparing for the exams.  Don’t go it alone. Find others preparing for the test and collaborate.

Principle 3: Tap into Available Resources

The university where I work offers regular “boot camps” and training sessions for students taking the exams.  They provide free resources and study tips and techniques. Take advantage of these resources at your university, or if you are currently teaching ,contact the school district to determine what resources might be available. Often, someone has already gone through the effort of designing and organizing study materials.

Principle 4: Study Smarter

I had a student teacher who passed the entire FTCE on her first attempt. Now, this is not common, but when she shared her study tips, she said she created flashcards of the content from her study guide book, then whenever she had a chance, she reviewed the cards. She would be at a stop light in traffic reading the cards or during dinner, she reviewed the information.  It was a matter of repetition. Student teachers have lots of classwork and some have outside jobs, which makes finding time to study a challenge. The key is to find ways to review the information within your daily schedule.

Preparing for state teacher exams can be nerve-wracking and challenging, but using these principles might help prepare teachers for that challenge. I hope this blog helps.