Teacher Preparation

Wis. Proposal to Ease Teacher-Licensing Rules Draws Fire

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 28, 2015 2 min read

A new proposal hatched in the Wisconsin legislature would provide significantly more flexibility in teacher hiring, allowing districts to on-board potentially even candidates without college degrees. Among its biggest critics, though, is none other than Tony Evers, the state’s superintendent of schools.

“This motion presents a race to the bottom,” Evers said. “It completely disregards the value of the skills young men and women develop in our educator training programs and the life-changing experiences they gain through classroom observation and student teaching,” he said in a statement.

The changes, inserted into a state budget proposal, contain two main prongs. First, for teachers of secondary English, math, social studies, or science, anyone with a bachelors’ degree could be hired and licensed. And for other core subjects, not even a bachelor’s would be required, just a vaguely defined requirement of “relevant experience.”

Erin Richards has the full story at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; make sure to read her piece.

The intent of the proposal, she reports, seems sensible enough—to make it easier for rural districts where it’s often challenging to find talent that meets the state’s licensing rules. But critics, which include the teachers’ unions and teacher colleges in addition to Evers, say it would essentially destroy the state’s licensing system, making it the lowest hiring standard of all 50 states. It would also not require hires to have any background in pedagogical methods, they added.

The state does already have alternative routes to certification that bypass traditional teaching programs. But those require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree and to complete coursework along the way, and their licenses are temporary until the requirements are completed. The state also has the ability to grant emergency licenses, but only in shortage fields.

The proposal still has a ways to go before it’s finalized. It could be stripped out again as the budget passes both chambers of the legislature and makes its way to the governor.

Compare and contrast this situation with neighboring Minnesota’s, where the complaint of late is that it’s too difficult for teachers from out of state to be licensed.

Certification rules govern a lot of what happens in teacher preparation and even in professional development, so perhaps it’s not a surprise that we’re seeing more attention to the issue of late.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.