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Florida Board Votes To Delay Governor's Teacher-Test Plan

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Gov. Robert Graham of Florida, who has strongly advocated the use of testing to raise standards in education, suffered a setback last month over the controversial issue of testing for teacher recertification.

The Governor has backed a plan, drawn up by the state's education standards commission, that would revamp the recertification process and require teachers to pass certain written competency tests at intervals of 5, 15, and 25 years after they first earn their certificates.

"The Governor wants ... a competency standard that indicates teachers have upgraded their knowledge base," said Kern Alexander, Mr. Graham's education coordinator.

If the Governor's plan is implemented, Florida would become the first state to have such a requirement, officials said. Spokesmen at the Education Commission of the States and at the American Federation of Teachers (aft) said they know of no other state that has moved beyond the talking stage on the issue.

Unions are strongly opposing the testing plan, said Marilyn Raugh, aft's director of education issues, because such evaluations are not required in other professions and may discourage young people from becoming teachers.

At present, state requirements for recertification call only for six semester hours of additional college-level credits, half of them in the teacher's subject area, or 120 hours of inservice training every five years, said David Smith, chairman of the standards commission and dean of University of Florida's education school. No written tests are required.

The new plan was released in outline form about a month ago. The Governor had hoped to have it completed and approved by January so that he could present it to the legislature, Mr. Alexander said.

But at a meeting of the state board of education late last month, Governor Graham--who serves as a board member--was outvoted 6-1 on the testing issue. At least one board member expressed concern about the fairness of testing, and the group sent the commission back to do more research on that issue as well as seven others, and to hold public hearings on the plan, said Mr. Smith.

The board also pushed back to March the completion date of the plan, which may jeopardize its chances of reaching the legislature, Mr. Alexander said. "The Governor wanted to move rapidly; the others didn't; the Governor lost the vote."

Mr. Alexander said the state's teachers' unions had opposed the plan, which may have influenced some on the seven\member commission. He also indicated that Governor Graham may be willing to compromise on the issue.

The state's teacher-recertification law expires in 1985. The Governor would like to see changes in the present law considered in the next legislative session, Mr. Alexander and others said. Usually, standards set by the commission do not need legislative approval, but changes in the recertification laws may call for legislative action, officials said.

Mr. Smith said the vote to delay the testing plan does not mean that it is a dead issue. He said he agreed with the commission that the preliminary four-point plan is still "too general" and more information on some subjects is needed.

The plan recommends that the recertification process include: evaluation (including some testing) in a teacher's subject area; evaluation (including some testing) of professional knowledge; evaluation of classroom performance; and proof of participation in professional-development courses.

Mr. Smith added that he had altered his own point of view about testing somewhat. He said he supports tests for teachers in core subject areas like mathematics, science, and social studies, but not necessarily for teachers in other areas. The original plan involving all-inclusive testing may have been "a little exaggerated," he said.

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