by: Richard Belcher Updated:ATLANTA,None —
A Channel 2 Action News investigation found that more than 700 Georgia teachers repeatedly failed at least one portion of the certification test they are required to pass before receiving a teaching certificate.
Nearly 60 teachers failed the test more than 10 times and one teacher failed the test 18 times, but Channnel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher found that school systems hiring the teachers may not know.
The test is the Georgia Assessment for the Certification of Educators or the GACE test.
Atlanta's cheating scandal raised the prospect of teachers and administrators who are ethically compromised so Channel 2 raised another question -- are there teachers in Georgia classrooms who do not know the material they are supposed to teach?
There were 297 teachers on the payrolls of metro Atlanta school systems in the past three years after having failed the state certification test five times or more. DeKalb County had more than any other school system with 54 teachers currently on the payroll that failed the certification test at least five times, documents showed.
David Morgan, a Cobb County School Board member, told Belcher the number is concerning.
"That test is so basic that I will say if you fail that test, you don't deserve to stand in front of people's children," Morgan said.
Morgan is the former principal of an Atlanta Charter School that had excellent test scores but nagging financial problems. Today, as a Cobb County School Board member, Morgan is very willing to talk about teacher competence.
"Let's tell the truth. There are a lot of people teaching now that shouldn't be teaching," Morgan said.
The Channel 2 Investigation revealed that 12,455 teachers failed at least one part of the GACE test. 708 people failed five times or more, and 56 had failed ten times or more. One teacher failed 18 times.
It’s important to note that teachers who failed one portion of the test might not be teaching the subject they failed in.
Belcher sat down with State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge and asked him if the figures mean teachers do not know their material.
"We have to be careful if we say yes. That could be a situation where a teacher is being asked to do something that she knows she is not qualified to do," Barge said.
Barge a former principal told Belcher making good choices when hiring teachers is critical and releasing those who are not effective before they gain tenure is equally critical, but he said he does not place too much weight on how many times a teacher failed the GACE.
"Maybe a person that failed this test a time or two is a bad test-taker, but maybe they are doing well in the classroom and we will see that with this new teacher evaluation system," said Barge.
The executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators said some of those failures came when teachers were asked to teach out of their field of study.
"If you take the GACE test in a certain area and fail it, there is no harm no foul. The problem comes in when someone gets hired to teach or someone gets forced to teach in that subject area for which they are unprepared," Callahan said.
Callahan said principals hiring teachers should ask job candidates up front how many times they failed the GACE test.
"I would want to know how well prepared my teacher was in all areas of the subject and I would want to know if they passed those tests, and if they had any problems passing those tests," said Callahan.
Callahan said the 12,445 failures since the inception of the GACE test is a small percentage of Georgia teachers.
"It is not meant to be the most rigorous test. It's designed to show that you have minimal competence in those areas and are minimally qualified to teach," Callahan said.
Morgan calls it an inexact science when principals evaluate teachers before hiring them. Knowing how often they failed the GACE is important, Morgan told Belcher.