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More Certifcation Insanity

No article in the CSTA Voice has generated more reponse than our article by David Devine on his attempts to become certified as a computer science teacher in Florida. Here is a great letter from another member, Tony Gianquinto, supporting David's exasperating experiences and adding some new twists.

Chris

My name is Tony Gianquinto and I teach computers/computer science at a private school in Miami, Florida.

I am sending you this letter in response to the article written by Mr. David M. Devine titled Certifiably Insane that was published in the December 2005 CSTA Voice issue. I too am having an extremely difficult time getting my professional certification in Computer Science from the Florida Department of Education.

I have been teaching for five years and it is incredible what the Bureau of Educator Certification has put me through. I have a Bachelors Degree in Biology from the University of Miami and a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Barry University. Getting my Masters was easier than getting certified from the Florida Department of Education!

Back in June of 2001, the Bureau of Educator Certification sent me a Statement of Status of Eligibility along with a three year temporary certificate. I received the temporary certificate in February of 2002, which now makes it a 2 years and 4 month certificate. They informed me that I met the subject area requirements for Computer Science/(Grades K-12). For them to issue a Professional Educator's Certificate I have to complete the following:

* Achievement of a passing score on the General Knowledge test. It is very similar to the CLAST and consists of four subtests: English Reading, English Language Arts, English Essay, and Math. I took the test and passed

* Demonstration of professional education competence submitted by my employer verifying that I am competent to teach.

* Achievement of a passing score on the professional education subtest of the Florida Teacher Certification Examination. I completed this test and passed.

* Achievement of a passing score on the Computer Science (K-12) subject area examination. Also completed and passed.

* Completion of a Florida approved alternative professional preparation program OR 20 semester hours in education courses to include 6 semester hours covering the sociological and psychological foundations of education. I completed and passed two courses in the above from Miami Dade College.

* 6 semester hours in general methods, curriculum, school administration or school supervision.

* 4 semester hours of teaching computer science in the elementary and secondary school.

* Completing the Practical Teaching Experience requirement by completing 6 semester hours in a college student teaching (internship) program in an elementary or secondary school or two years of full-time teaching experience in an elementary or secondary school.

Two years of my teaching experience was used to satisfy 6 semester hours of college credit in lieu of special methods of teaching computer science in the high school and 3 semester hours of general methods. The remaining three years of teaching experience cannot be used because I have utilized the maximum amount of teaching experience allowed by Florida State Board of Education Rules in this area.

So what's left? My most recent Statement of Status of Eligibility states that I need to complete 3 additional semester hours in general methods, curriculum, school administration or school supervision and 2 semester hours in teaching Computer Science in the elementary school. I believe the 2 credit course is the same course that Mr. Devine states from his article as the Special Methods for Teaching Computer Science K-6 and a class that doesn't exist.

I contacted the Bureau of Educator Certification to find out what to do about the 2 credit class and the response was they don't know and to check with the University of Phoenix online programs. I also asked them why they simply did not just have a 6-12 Computer Science certificate and they said that they do not make the rules. I don't think there is a school in the United States that teaches Computer Science to a child in Kindergarten!

I don't even want to get into how much money I have spent on classes, applications, tests and finger prints.

As you can see, a Masters Degree is easier to obtain!

Tony Gianquinto
CSTA Member

Comments

Teacher Certification in the state of Florida has changed. If you want to take the Certification tests in English, German, and Computer Science, for example, and you pass all of the exams, then the state, as I understand it, will give you certification in those areas. Technically, passing the certification exams will provide you with your desired certification regardless of the course work background you have. The state has done this because there is such a great need for teachers. This should provide relief to David Devine and Tony Gianquinto. Apparently many of the district certification specialists are not aware of this change in state certification rules, and the state web sites don't seem to say this.
My source for this information comes from the state. I have served for many years on the committee that writes the K-12 Computer Science Certification Examination for the State of Florida. In our most recent meeting (12/05) we were told of this policy.
As to the K12 Certification rather than 2 different-level certifications, our committee has recommended for years that the certification be split, but those who make this decision at the state level have been unwilling to change. Our committee only has the responsibility of developing the competencies and skill sets and then writing a database of questions based upon those skills. We don't have the authority to change the certification structure.
You can find ALL of the Florida Certification competencies for ALL curricular areas at the following URL:
http://www.firn.edu/doe/sas/ftce/ftcecomp.htm
I guess that if you are able, you can take and pass whatever areas you want and be certified to teach almost anything.
Some of the tests have been converted to On-line testing. It will be several years before the K-12 CS Exam is converted.

Gary White

I agree with Mr. White with respect to Florida allowing anybody getting their certification in CS. Thats the problem! It is very easy for any teacher from any specialized area to receive another certification. So what's the probem for the CS professional?

Unlike Mr. Devine from Sarasota and myself (Miami), we have CS degrees and backgrounds and FDOE requires us to take courses that either don't exist in the state of Florida or not relevent to what we are teaching. FDOE makes it very hard for us to get certified.

I think it all boils down to big business for FDOE. They make alot of money with the certifications and they force teachers to spend money on courses that are worthless.

Now with respect to K-12 CS certification...I referenced FTCE competencies five years ago and today...not much has changed. In addition, this document clearly shows that CS certification should not be a K-12 certification. Readers will need to reference http://www.firn.edu/doe/sas/ftce/ftcecomp.htm to clearly see what I am talking about.

Certification needs to be divided into two areas: Computers/Computer Technology and CS 6-12. They are totally different areas of speclization. Granted the CS guy can do both.

I welcome comments.

Tony Gianquinto

Gary,
If what you are saying is true then I should expect my Professional Certification request to be accepted in May. I will have passed all required tests, completed 14 hours of Education Foundation classes and have completed 2 years teaching computer science under my Temporary Certification (for which I can receive 6 hours credit). This would make 20 hours total, but I will not have taken the non-existent "Special Methods" class. Is that correct?

Is there any specific person that we can send our C.S. Certification request to? Reference any specific changes in policy? Refer to anything that we can include in our application to support what you have stated?

I hate to sound skeptical, but we have heard many different statements depending on who we talk to at the FDOE regarding certification. Also, I want to make sure that the policy does not assume primary certification in another area. It has always been the case that someone with another certification can simply take the C.S. Subject Matter test in order to get certified in C.S. What makes our situation unique is that we are seeking our first and primary certification in Computer Science. This is a huge difference, because it is only in this situation (primary certification in C.S.) where the Special Methods Class that we have been struggling with is required.

It is obvious that this Special Methods Class that has been holding up our certification is not important. First, it is not offered anywhere in Florida that any of us have been able to find. I asked my USF professor about the class, and he said that they stopped offering the class almost ten years ago. The fact that this Special Methods Class has faded away, yet has been required for primary certification in Computer Science says a lot about the current composition of computer science teachers in the state of Florida. It would suggest to me that Florida C.S. teachers are teachers of other subjects who have simply added C.S. as a secondary certification. It would seem to me that if Florida is serious about attracting Computer Science teachers from the private sector, then this hurdle would need to be removed. I hope that what you have stated is true, so that this may happen.

As you mentioned, you have tried to recommend a separate C.S. certification for Elementary and Secondary levels. I applaud this effort, because the all-inclusive K-12 C.S. certification is really at the heart of the certification problem. The reason that we have been searching for a Special Methods K-6 class is because the certification is so broad that we have to meet both K-6 and 6-12 requirements, despite that fact that we only plan to teach high school. As I understand it, I could get credit for Special Methods at the high school level from the fact that I have taught high school, but not Special Methods K-6. If the certifications were separate, we would not be in this situation because Tony and I are only interested in teaching high school computer science.

Furthermore, Computer Education classes offered at the elementary school level do not require Computer Science certification. This has been most frustrating - We are being forced to meet a K-6 Computer Science certification requirement, but Computer Science certification is not required to teach Computer Education in elementary schools. I would contend that rather than create separate certifications, only a high school C.S. certification need be created.

I truly hope what you have stated is true. I will only know for sure when I submit my application for Professional C.S. Teaching Certification in May. There is a lot at stake for the future of my family and my career, but also for the students who benefit from taking computer science classes. I know that I was inspired by my high school computer science teacher way back in 1983. It sparked an interest in computer science that changed my life. I would hate to think that we are depriving today's students of this opportunity due to bureaucracy and red-tape.


David Devine

I am also in the same boat as many of you. I have been teaching computer science for grades 9-12 in Broward for 3 years. I have completed all of the steps for certification and I have a Master's Degree in Education Technology which involved a few courses on teaching methodology in computers.

I recently applied for my FL CS K-12 Certification and received a letter from the state saying I need 2 semester hours in teaching Computer Science in the elementary school. I cannot find this course anywhere and from what I have read there is none.

This is the only thing holding me back from certification and the woman I spoke to said that my Master's does not cover this because none of my classes specifically state "teaching computers in elementary school."

I am tired of fighting the system to become certified and I am tired of the FLDOE making it impossible for people to become CS certified.

Does anyone have any possible clue as to where we can get these credits?

I am taking the FTCE computer science exam this month. I currently hold a professional certificate in the state of Florida in Mathematics 6-12 and French K-12, by virtue of my degrees in math and French, and having completed all the requirements for certification in those subjects.
I am a former software engineer, but most of my experience was in assembler languages (DEC PDP-11 and Z80, to show my age) =:-O
I've gone through the $5.95 test guide and I'm brushing up on C++ and JAVA basics. Can anyone recommend anything else I can do to prepare for the test?

Thanks,
Melissa Heeren

Submitted for publication in CSTA Voice, sounds very similar to this discussion thread:

Teacher Shortage?

As a retired Air Force member possessing a Master's in Computer Science and Engineering from Auburn University, I assumed a spot could be found for me within the US K-12 system using the Troops to Teachers program. Since I had been a technical instructor in the AF for three years and earned a master technical instructor rating while teaching theory and maintenance procedures for nuclear and thermonuclear weapons at the AF technical training center, I further assumed I would be a "shoe-in". Additionally, I taught software reuse and domain engineering for the USAF Software Reuse Center in Montgomery, AL, and also taught Microsoft Windows and Office applications as well as IBM's Lotus Notes to employees of the State of Alabama.

Having investigated the path to a teaching career, and then after taking and passing both the Basic Skills and Technology Specialist tests (Illinois Certification Testing System), I'm told no path exists for me to become a teacher in Illinois unless I pay for classes I have already taken while in the AF (e.g. Instructional Systems Development). I would need to take the full curriculum as well as practice teaching. Even after doing so the salary provided would be that of a "fresh out", with no credit for prior teaching. My peers in my new teaching job would be recent college graduates. Troops-to-Teachers mentions stipends of up to $5,000. The key words here are "may" and "up to" and "targeted school". I must pay for classes I don't need on the hope of getting reimbursed up to $10,000 or let the government pay for the classes up to $5,000. If I did either, someone would then tell me which "targeted school" to report to (at least an hour commute from where I live) where the "normal" teachers refuse to go and get paid the minimum amount possible for doing so. Oh, and don't forget there is no guarantee of a job at the end of the process. Here is the applicable portion of the response I received from the Illinois State Board of Education on this very issue: "your proposal is something they need in schools ,the problem you have is you are not in the system" Duh!

The Department of Defense operates several "real" schools where technical subjects are taught, including computer science (I'm not talking about Boot Camp). Instructors from these schools should have a clear path to teaching positions within the K-12 system IF a teacher shortage REALLY exists.

I joined the CSTA as soon as I received the e-mail invitation as I firmly believe in the need for such a program. Our schools are in a real mess (re: June 2006 stories from teachers) and NCLB does not appear to be helping. If anyone out there has an idea for me, or knows of such a direct path to teaching in a different state, please let me know.

Mark Sadler
CSTA Charter Member
Sadler@D50.org

I was so glad to find these posts; I was looking for anyone who might be going through the same bureaucratic nightmare.

My wife is currently going through Teacher Certification Hell in the state of Montana. She teaches theatre in the high school. She has an MFA from a graduate theatre program that was ranked in the top 5 in the country when she went there. She also has 10 years of professional experience, including teaching at top acting schools in Chicago and even at a Big 10 university.

The Education Mafia in this state still forces her to take a total of 10 classes, which she is almost done with now. I've reviewed the materials for all classes. The entire package, at a cost of nearly $8,000 out of our pocket, could have been boiled down to a ten-page handout they could have given her on the first day on the job.

Because working as a speech coach is one of the conditions of her continued employment, my wife works between 60 and 70 hours a week on her slow weeks... not counting the average of 10-12 hours she has to spend on certification coursework in an average week.

And where is the teacher's union? How is it possible in this day and age in this country to pay union dues and work a 15-hour day with no overtime?

When my wife was going through her orientation, they broke at noon and then said, 'Now you can spend some meeting with your union representative.'

SO - get this - my wife's very first experience ever with the teacher's union... was them TAKING HER LUNCH BREAK AWAY!

Mother Jones rolls in her grave.

I've spent my adult life in the private sector. I've always known, as a product of it myself, that there were serious problems with the American education system.

What I've observed in the past three years has now made me realize I can never in good conscience let my own child get anywhere near a private school.

The level of incompetence, corruption, and organizational inefficiency in the school systems, the certification process, and the NEA is a great shame.

And, like all of our great American institutions, this one is being ruined from the inside.

I know this is an old post, but I was browsing around and stumbled on. Very well said. Insanity doesn't even begin to describe it.

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