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Wisconsin Task Force Asks Reforms for Teaching

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Madison, Wis--Teacher-education programs should require more and better preparation for those planning to enter the field, but it is equally important that the status of teaching be upgraded by improving salaries, benefits, and opportunities for advancement for those in the classroom, a Wisconsin task force has concluded.

The recommendations on recruiting, educating, evaluating, and retaining teachers are the result of a 12-month study by the Task Force on Teaching and Teacher Education appointed in late 1982 by Herbert J. Grover, state superintendent of public instruction. The task force's report was issued Jan. 30 by the state department of public instruction.

The three-part study advocates upgrading the status of the teaching profession in Wisconsin by improving salaries and benefits and by establishing both a career-ladder program and a statewide system of merit pay.

The state agency was urged to assume an active role in promoting teaching careers and recruiting able high-school students into the profession. The group also suggested establishing low-interest loans for qualified students who plan to enter teaching.

To improve the preparation and performance of teachers, the task force recommended requiring higher grade-point averages for students preparing to teach; earlier and ongoing field experience; at least one semester of full-time student teaching; stronger liberal-arts requirements; and standardized examina-tions before admission to teacher-preparation programs and before probationary licensure. A one-year probationary license would be issued to all new teachers, former teachers without licenses, and those individuals new to teaching in Wisconsin.

Also suggested were a one-year induction program for beginning teachers, the establishment of criteria and procedures for performance reviews, and stronger programs for the preparation of school administrators. The induction program would require a beginning teacher to work with a more experienced teacher, who would "observe" in the new teacher's classroom each month. Beginning teachers would have a reduced teaching load during this period to enable them to work with the senior teachers.

The task force also recommended:

The establishment of a four-stage career ladder with appropriate standards for each level: associate teacher, professional teacher, teacher specialist, and career teacher.

A minimum starting salary of $20,000 for professional teachers, to be reviewed at two-year intervals and adjusted to keep pace with economic conditions.

A statewide merit-pay system. Before such a plan is attempted, however, the task force said the state must set a minimum salary system for teachers and must estab-lish standards and methods of evaluation.

All teachers should be eligible for merit pay, but involvement would be voluntary. The amount of money awarded should be "significant" and should be in addition to base pay. The merit-pay system should be based "solely on teaching performance but not solely on student-achievement scores," according to the task force.

Teachers denied merit pay should be able to appeal the denial; failure to receive merit pay should not be construed as evidence of unsatisfactory performance. All school districts would participate in the plan, which would be "substantially fund-ed by the state."

An improved retirement plan.

The task force also recommended that the department periodically review emerging technologies and their effect on teaching and teacher education.

The task force emphasized it was not offering any "quick fixes" and that few of its recommendations could be put into effect immediately.

According to John Scott, an associate director and education specialist in the department of public instruction, some proposals are in various stages of testing, planning, and implementation. Others, he noted, will be subject to legislative approval.

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