What Florida Teachers Need to Know about B.E.S.T. Standards and FTCE

Written by Jonathan Moody

What Florida Teachers Need to Know about B.E.S.T. Standards

As of the 2022-2023 school year, the State of Florida implemented updated education standards for math, reading, and writing goals and aims for Florida schools called B.E.S.T. Standards. The acronym B.E.S.T. stands for Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking. These updated standards result from a 2019 executive order to replace Florida's previous education standards, the Common Core, with standards that streamline assessments and promote literacy and constitutionally based civics knowledge. In response to the order, the Florida Department of Education reviewed the K-12 curriculum and produced updated English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics standards.

According to the Florida Department of Education, the updated B.E.S.T. Florida standards were created by a collaborative process involving teachers and other stakeholders in education. Overall, the Florida B.E.S.T. Standards focus on clear and simple goals and benchmarks for students to reach during their K-12 education. The new standards are designed to be easily understood by schools, students, and families, as well as increase academic rigor each year. Benchmarks, along with specific topics and subjects, are provided for each year and build on previous knowledge to aid in reinforcement.

An important part of the Florida B.E.S.T. standards is standardized testing, which occurs regularly to assess and evaluate student progress. An overall goal of the new standards is to cut down on testing, but standardized tests play a role in curriculum development and student assessment. For higher-level students, SAT and ACT standards are used to better prepare students for these specific exams and help students enter college after high school. The SAT and/or the ACT will also be a state-required exams for all high school students whether or not they are going to attend college. Additionally, for high school students, the Florida Civic Literacy Test will be required to assess student knowledge and school implementation of civics education.

For all levels of students, periodic assessments of various subject materials will be required, especially after the second grade. Some standardized tests, like the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST) ELA exam, will be annual exams for much of K-12. Some exams, like the Algebra or U.S. History exams, will be administered after a student has finished a course. Others will be administered in a certain year, like the science exam for grades five and eight.

Florida B.E.S.T. Standards for English

ELA standards are one of the two main focus areas of the Florida B.E.S.T. standards. First, the B.E.S.T. Standards Florida ELA updates are based on several educational goals. Some of these include:

  • Simple and clear goals and standards so families, students, schools, and teachers can understand and easily follow.
  • Civics education is to be added to the ELA curriculum.
  • ELA education should build skills for students to flourish in society after graduation.

From these ideals, the Florida B.E.S.T. standards ELA curriculum has several specific aspects to help meet the educational needs of students. Some of these include:

  • An integrated book list: Reading material is assigned to grade levels with literary works that span from antiquity (i.e., Ancient Greece, Rome, and Mesopotamia) to the present day.
  • Civic literacy: ELA content will not be limited to literature and language but will include content on topics related to U.S. civics, such as 19th-century political philosophy and works on Supreme Court decisions.
  • Clear standards: Parents and teachers will have access to clear and understandable standards so all stakeholders will be able to easily understand student expectations
  • Remedial goals: For secondary students who do not meet designated standards for their year in school, goals are provided to help them build and reach the designated reading level.
  • Appendices and glossaries: These will be provided to ensure parents, teachers, and students can reference course material and build upon it at higher levels.

The new Florida curriculum standards include specific topics, goals, and themes that students are to learn at each level. For example, kindergarteners must be able to find printed words and identify specific letters in sentences, while twelfth graders will be required to conduct research and utilize information from multiple sources. Additionally, these standards change the time students engage with new topics. The most notable change is the introduction of debate and rhetoric in the sixth grade instead of waiting until ninth grade. Some motivations for setting standards and introducing topics early are to build a base of knowledge to build on later in a student's educational career and build important skills early.

Expectations Under the Florida ELA Standards.

The Florida B.E.S.T. standards ELA curriculum updates focus on four strands of learning, including Foundations, Reading, Communication, and Vocabulary.

  • Foundations: This first strand requires acquiring basic reading skills and standards for bringing students to an appropriate reading level. Some of the benchmarks are understanding writing concepts, becoming fluent language users, phonics, and knowledge of phonology.
  • Reading: This learning strand encompasses reading skills with prose, poetry, informational texts, and other genres. Students should understand arguments, figurative language, bias, and comparing genres.
  • Communication: The following strand requires students to build oral and written communication skills. Students will build skills in narrative, argumentative, and expository writing and have tasks that require giving presentations, using multimedia tools, and conducting research.
  • Vocabulary: The final strand is on vocabulary and understanding the meaning of words. Students will build vocabulary used in an academic setting, build an understanding of morphology, and learn how to use context to find the meaning of words.

These four learning strands form the outline for ELA course material from kindergarten to the twelfth grade. Students will be exposed to various forms of these strands that are level-appropriate and build off of each other every year.

Along with broad guidelines, the B.E.S.T. standards provide specific theme and skill benchmarks for categories for each learning year. For example, from sixth to twelfth grade, students will engage with different skills in understanding and analyzing rhetoric as part of the reading strand. In another example, from the communication strand, kindergarten through fifth grade will require students to build handwriting skills.

Florida B.E.S.T. Standards for Math

The other subject area in the Florida school curriculum that changed under the B.E.S.T. standards is mathematics. The Florida B.E.S.T. standards math subject areas include Number Sense and Operations, Fractions, Algebraic Reasoning, Functions, Financial Literacy, Measurement, Geometric Reasoning, Trigonometry, Data Analysis and Probability, Trigonometry, Logic and Theory, Calculus, and Mathematical Thinking and Reasoning Standards. As one can imagine, these topics vary and are introduced at different times during K-12 education.

Below is a list of when each topic is part of the Florida school curriculum:

Subject Grade Level
Number Sense and Operations K-12
Fractions 1-5
Algebraic Reasoning K-12
Functions 8-12
Financial Literacy 9-12
Measurement K-5
Geometric Reasoning K-12
Trigonometry 9-12
Data Analysis and Probability K-12
Trigonometry 9-12
Logic and Theory 9-12
Calculus 9-12
Mathematical Thinking and Reasoning Standards K-12

Following this broad outline, the B.E.S.T. Standards provide specific goals for each subject area and level in school. For example, kindergarteners must have the skills to count to 100, locate whole numbers, and understand basic addition and subtraction for numbers 0-10. By grade five, students must demonstrate skills such as rounding numbers, multiplying whole numbers, working with fractions, and working with decimals.

Additionally, some math skills, like trigonometry and calculus, will be introduced at a specific age range due to factors like complexity and necessary background information. Others are present throughout K-12 education and are addressed in different ways throughout the education process. Mathematical Thinking and Reasoning Standards, for example, are present and applicable at all levels. Students start early with simple goals, such as basic ways to solve or clarify problems and building skills to approach even more difficult problems. As the years progress, students add on new skills, such as adapting concepts to new problems and using feedback in third grade or finding similarities in problems and relating math concepts to real life in the fifth grade. By the time students finish seventh grade, they will have built skills to apply math outside the classroom and select necessary problem-solving methods.

This same concept is true with most other strands of math knowledge. Students will start with basic skills and learn how to adapt and modify them in new situations and acquire learning skills that allow them to approach and incorporate new concepts.

Development of Florida's B.E.S.T. Standards for Mathematics

The updated standards are based on high expectations, clarity, and alignment goals. This means mathematics in Florida schools aims to be academically rigorous, accessible for all students and organized so that each level introduces new skills and reinforces previously learned skills.

According to the Florida Department of Education, the new Florida curriculum standards have improvements and beneficial aspects such as:

  • Accessibility for students and parents: The new standards aim to be less confusing for families trying to assist students with their homework. This will allow further family involvement and growth at home and in school.
  • Answers over method: Some math problems have multiple methods for arriving at a solution. These standards aim to reward students for coming to the correct answer, even if it was approached with a different method.
  • Balance: Another aspect of the new standards is finding a balance between learning math concepts and building math skills. This change is designed to allow students with different learning styles to receive the full benefit of math education.
  • Real-life application: Under the new standards, math will focus on building skills that can be applied outside of school and contribute to a holistic education. For example, high school students will have to build financial literacy skills.
  • Early introduction of skills: These new standards will change the time certain skills are introduced. For example, whole number arithmetic will be mastered by the fifth grade instead of the sixth.
  • Reference materials: Teachers and families will have access to reference materials that will clearly identify specific learning benchmarks and subject material. These materials will help clarify lessons and expectations and serve as a resource for aiding students in building math skills.
  • Connections: The B.E.S.T. standards also focus on highlighting connections between course content. This will help students and families more easily find connections between math concepts and avoid treating certain concepts as isolated and missing important connections.

Teaching in Florida

The updated B.E.S.T. Standards in Florida directly impacts those teaching in Florida. Thus, this next section will briefly explore what is required to become a teacher in the State of Florida. There are several available pathways to becoming a certified teacher in Florida. The route a prospective teacher chooses depends on their educational background and current certification status. More specifically, there are options for new teachers, out-of-state or foreign teachers, and those who want to change their careers to teaching.

In general, gaining an education certificate in Florida requires the following steps:

  • Application: Anyone applying for a teaching license must fill out the online application. This requires providing personal and professional details and paying a required fee.
  • Take the FTCEs: This will be discussed more in the next section, but certain FTCE exams are required of all Florida educators to demonstrate teaching and subject area knowledge.
  • Fingerprints: All Florida educators must submit their fingerprints for a background check. This is a fairly standard requirement across the United States and is designed to ensure teaching candidates don't have a criminal history with minors.

There are two types of teaching certifications in Florida, the Professional Certificate and the Temporary Certificate. The Professional Certificate is for teaching candidates who finished a state-approved teacher preparation program and meet all other requirements for becoming a certified teacher. This certificate is renewable and valid for five years. The other certificate option, the Temporary Certificate, is for prospective teachers with a bachelor's degree who have not finished a teacher certification program or the FTCE tests. These candidates can begin to teach while working on a teaching program but must first find employment in a school, pass the FTCE, and have a 2.5 GPA in the subject they would like to teach.

What is FTCE?

As previously mentioned, an important factor in becoming certified in the State of Florida is to pass the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE). The FTCE test is used to ensure teachers in Florida understand basic academic skills, educational methodology, and specific subject area knowledge. This series of exams also ensures teaching candidates meet state standards and policies for public school teachers.

Most FTCE tests are computer-based with selected-response (i.e., multiple-choice) questions. On the other hand, some exams are essay based or have a combination of selected-response and an essay question. The exams were created in consultation with subject area experts in each particular field that the exams cover, so the exam content and format are designed to most effectively address the subject area. For example, tests about writing have a written section for candidates to demonstrate their application of writing skills.

While teaching candidates should have a background in the subject they aspire to teach, test preparation materials are available. Not every teaching candidate is fresh out of college, so some may need time to study and prepare to ensure their knowledge is up to test and state standards. Additionally, checking the available test content and preparation aids is a good way to ensure that a candidate's study efforts are effective and focus on pertinent material.

Teaching candidates sign-up for the exams they are required to teach, pay the fee, and attend their exam section. It is important to research the requirements for each exam. Some math tests, for example, allow the use of a calculator on the exam but do not allow outside calculators and can only use one specific brand of calculator.

How does FTCE work?

The FTCE has several testing options depending on what a teacher will focus on. Many teachers will have one specific subject focus and have to demonstrate they are an expert in their field of study and teaching practices. Florida teachers are not limited to one subject and can add additional accreditations to their teaching certification by passing multiple tests. This option is useful for teachers hoping to teach more than one subject or find employment in competitive school districts.

  • Florida Educational Leadership Examination (FELE): This series of exams is not technically part of the FTCE, but it is related in that school administrators must pass these exams to be certified administrators.
  • FTCE General Knowledge (GK): The FTCE GK has four different subtests on language skills, reading, math, and essay writing. These tests require education candidates to demonstrate their understanding of basic academic skills used in many different subject areas.
  • FTCE Professional Education Test (PEd): This test focuses on the pedagogy and essential skills required to be an educator. The FTCE PEd is another exam that most teaching certification candidates must take.
  • FTCE Subarea Examinations (SAE): The Subarea Examinations are meant to test the specific subject knowledge of teaching candidates. Unlike the previous exams, these tests focus on specific content areas such as science or humanities to ensure Florida teachers have a strong background in the subject they would like to teach.

It is important to note that while the FTCE exams will be required for many teaching certification candidates, the first step in receiving certification is to apply. After reviewing an application, the Bureau of Educator Certification (BEC) will review a candidate's eligibility and determine the necessary tests for certification.

FTCE Scoring

For a teaching candidate to successfully receive certification, they must pass the exam with a satisfactory score. FTCE exams have scaled points scoring for the tests. Each test has its own makeup, and different exams have different numbers of questions.

  • Multiple-choice exams: Scores for multiple-choice tests are determined by taking the total number of correct answers and placing them on a scale of up to around 400 points. Most multiple-choice tests require a scaled score of 200 to pass the exam. Receiving this score will vary from test to test because not all exams have the same number of questions. Scores will also depend on the test and how challenging the questions are. This means that even if tests have the same number of questions, the questions may be weighted and counted toward the score differently.
  • Written exams: Written exams are scored by raters and given a score between 2 and 12 points. In general, a score of 8 is required to pass a written exam.

Exams will be reviewed by multiple raters, and the score will be a composite score from each person reviewing the exam. Raters use a standardized scale to ensure candidate exam answers meet specified requirements and can demonstrate to candidates why a score was given and areas the candidate lacked. Raters must have a college degree, teaching experience in the subject they are reviewing, and be approved by the Florida Department of Education.

While some multiple-choice tests can give an immediate response if the candidate has passed, official scores are provided within four weeks of an exam. Candidates who did not pass an exam can either retake the exam or, if the score is within 10 points of passing (for a multiple-choice exam), arrange a score verification session.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is on the FTCE exam?

    According to the Florida Department of Education, the purpose of the Florida Teacher Certification examinations (FTCE) is to ensure that all teacher candidates demonstrate the necessary content and pedagogical knowledge necessary to effectively instruct students in Florida. To successfully pass this exam, test-takers must have proficiencies in the areas of mathematics, English grammar, reading comprehension, and writing.

  • What is the passing score for FTCE?

    The minimum passing score for FTCE is 200. This is the scale score for

    tests, subtests, and multiple-choice sections.

    The minimum passing scores for components that are not multiple choice and involve a performance component (i.e, an essay or open-ended response) are as follows:

    For General Knowledge (GK) Essay-8 out of 12 points.

    For the English 6-12 and Middle Grades English 5-9- 8 out of 12 points.

  • What are the Florida best standards?

    Florida's B.E.S.T standards (Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking) were created and put in place by over 80 Florida-based teachers and stakeholder groups. These standards are a framework for Math and English Language Arts Curricula meant to replace the Common Core State Standards in the state of Florida. Teachers develop content-rich curricula based on strands and objectives created by experts in education.

  • What are the 4 strands of ELA standards?

    The 4 strands of Florida's Best English Language Arts standards are Foundations (F), Reading (R), Communication (C), and Vocabulary (V).

  • Does Florida use Common Core curriculum?

    With the implementation of the Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards, Florida has fully eliminated Common Core State Standards from the state.

  • What are the 3 stages for NSO benchmarks in best?

    The Number Sense and Operations (NSO) strand includes three different stages: exploration, procedural reliability and procedural fluency. Interwoven into these stages are direct recall of basic arithmetic facts.