Gov. Ron DeSantis would like retired members of the military to become teachers without teacher training. Their only requirements are at least 48 months of military service with an honorable or medical discharge; at least 60 college credits (the equivalent of an associate’s degree) with a 2.5 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale; and a passing score on a Florida subject-area exam for a bachelor-level subject.
No education courses and no classroom knowledge.
In light of these scant qualifications, the governor should know the statutory requirements to become a professionally certified teacher in a state-approved teacher preparation program in Florida — as per his own Department of Education.
First, pre-service teachers must have completed 60 of the 120 credits for a baccalaureate degree with a minimum grade-point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale; 3.0 is more desirable. They must have satisfactorily completed the Introduction to the Teaching Profession course that requires a minimum of 30 hours in an active classroom as well as courses on diversity and technology for educators. Their bachelor’s program must be state-approved, inspected by state officials at the highest level of rigor, and meet numerous demanding standards.
Next, pre-service teachers learn and must be able to plan lessons that meet the educational needs of typical and atypical students, including gifted, learning disabled and English-language learners. They must create a positive learning environment that addresses the needs of the whole child and their mental health. They are required to be subject-matter experts and have mastery of strategies and methodologies to teach all students their subjects. And they must know how to assess, during a lesson, so they know whether to reteach a skill, and at the end of the lesson to ascertain mastery.
They must spend close to 1,000 hours in a variety of classrooms and repeatedly be evaluated by expert faculty as to their skill attainment and receive actionable feedback for improvement. Any teacher who teaches reading must know how to use scientifically researched and evidence-based reading instructional strategies that improve performance including “explicit, systematic and sequential approaches teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, text comprehension and multisensory intervention strategies.”
Pre-service teachers must know how to ask higher-order questions, create critical-thinking tasks, motivate the unmotivated, bring the family into the learning process and orchestrate all this — and so much more — with 30 diverse learners under their tutelage. They complete their program with a 10-week full-time internship that requires them to conduct the class and all its processes in preparation for their own classroom.
Finally, pre-service teachers must pass all sections of the very rigorous Florida Teacher Certification Examination that includes sections on Reading Comprehension, essay writing, mathematic procedural knowledge, language arts, practice of the code of professional conduct, and expertise in their subject matter.
All this for meager wages and little respect.
During my 14-year tenure as dean of Miami Dade College School of Education, we graduated more than 2,000 highly qualified and well-trained teachers who were welcomed into Miami-Dade County Public Schools by Superintendent Jose Dotres and former Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, as well as by charter and private schools. Our graduates have a positive impact on their students and increase their learning as assessed by statewide measures. Our sister school, Florida International University, can claim similar achievements.
While I have great respect for the military, the governor should help us understand how their training matches any of the above.
Dr. Susan Neimand is an education consultant with 48 years of experience as an educator. She is the retired dean of Miami Dade College School of Education, where she served in the role for 14 years.