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Salary Hike, Career Track Needed for Teachers, Wisconsin Panel Says

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A Wisconsin panel studying ways to improve the teaching profession released an ambitious preliminary report last week calling for substantial salary increases, merit pay, a career ladder, and other measures to attract, train, and retain able teachers.

The recommendations came from the 23-member Task Force on Teaching and Teacher Education, which was appointed last November by Herbert J. Grover, state superintendent of public instruction. The task force is composed of teachers, administrators, civic leaders, and representatives of business, higher education, and government.

The task force will hold public meetings throughout the state to publicize and modify its recommendations. The group will present its final report in late December to the state superintendent.

Raise Minimum Salaries

The panel urged that the state replace its current salary schedule with one that would raise minimum salaries for beginning teachers from $13,400 to $20,000--a base rate "comparable to other professions requiring similar levels of academic preparation," the panel said. Teachers who have worked for 10 years and have successfully passed performance evaluations should earn a base of $30,000, according to the report.

The average salary for Wisconsin teachers in 1982-83 was $21,491, according to the state department of public instruction.

The panel noted that a cost-of-living adjustment should be applied annually; that the pay schedule for teachers should be reviewed at three-year intervals and should be "adjusted to reflect economic trends"; and that local school districts may negotiate salary beyond the minimum levels set by the state.

The state should pay for, and every district should participate in, a uniform merit-pay plan, according to the panel. But participation in the plan would be strictly voluntary on the part of teachers, and a teacher's failure to seek or to be awarded merit pay would not be considered "evidence of unsatisfactory performance."

The bonuses would be supplementary to the regular salary, the panel said, and could not be awarded on the basis of student test scores alone.

The career ladder envisioned by the task force would begin with an entrance examination for colleges of education.

Minimum Grade-Point Averages

To be admitted and retained in teacher-preparation programs, teacher candidates would be required to meet minimum grade-point averages set by colleges and universities, and they would have to devote at least 40 percent of their college credits to studies in the arts, sciences, and humanities.

The panel would require all new teachers to pass a test in basic skills, their academic subject, and pedagogy and to spend at least a year on probation. After the probationary year, candidates would become professional teachers, be asked to leave teaching, or be allowed to teach another probationary year.

Those who move on to the rank of professional teacher could remain there throughout their careers. Or they could move up the career ladder by demonstrating their ability in performance evaluations conducted by teams approved by the state department of education, and by passing more tests.

The higher-ranked teachers--including "career teacher" and "teacher specialist"--would be eligible for merit pay.

Five-Year License

Career teachers would have a five-year license, renewable following successful performance evalua6tions and successful completion of a five-year teacher-development plan. The teacher specialists would be required to have "specific competence in areas such as development of curriculum and instructional materials," to work with probationary teachers, and to spend a considerable amount of time in the classroom.

The task force also urged that the state:

Offer low-interest, partially forgivable loans to highly qualified students who prepare for careers in teaching.

Earmark a proportion of state funds for professional development and inservice training. The panel said that the state department of public instruction should also establish standards, to be reviewed regularly, to govern professional development.

Extend contracts for teachers and expand summer-school programs for exceptional children, add instructional time for students with special needs, and provide more time for students to explore areas of interest.

Establish a school day that would allow "no other activities to infringe upon classroom time and instruction."

Improve the state retirement system for teachers to make its benefits comparable to those available to teachers in other states.

Support strong leadership from the state department of public instruction in introducing and developing technologies that can free teachers from noninstructional responsibilities and enhance "the depth and breadth of educational opportunities available to students."

Establish new statutory requirements and administrative rules governing curriculum and teacher certification. These requirements and rules, the report said, should be "scrutinized regularly" to ensure that they are "clearly related to knowledge and skills required of students and teachers."

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