The Wisconsin State Superintendent’s Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges has issued recommendations to change the teacher licensure regulations to control the school staffing shortages that have arisen in the state since the passing of Act 10, legislation that ended collective bargaining for teachers.
The proposals include
- Reducing the number and kinds of licenses needed to teach across grade levels,
- Softening the requirements that allow interns to teach as the instructor of record,
- Certifying certified teachers from other states as proforma,
- Allowing subject area teaching competency to be determined by passing a standardized test or meeting a GPA threshold, and
- Granting school districts the authority to validate teacher competency in a new license area.
Highlights of the proposals can be found in the Executive Summary of Preliminary Licensing Recommendations with full explanations available in the Full Summary of Preliminary Licensing Recommendations. It is still unclear if the recommendations will be fully vetted throughout the state before being accepted.
In addition to the proposals from the Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges, Governor Scott Walker proposed in his state budget to create lifetime teacher licenses and eliminate the five-year renewal cycle. There is also a proposal for the competency-based UW Flex Option to develop a program to train paraprofessionals to become full-time teachers of record. Another item in the budget that could affect English teacher education programs in the State of Wisconsin is the elimination of mandatory school instructional hours.
Implications for English Language Arts/NCTE
These changes in the State of Wisconsin may have dire effects on English teacher education programs since it is unclear when these changes will be implemented in the 2017-2019 budget year, possibly making teacher education programs outdated and irrelevant as of July 1, 2017. Since the largest certifiers of English teachers in the state are housed at the state universities and regulated by state oversight, this proposal could further contribute to the vast enrollment decreases in teacher education programs since the passing of Act 10. Moreover, as most English language arts methods courses across the US are taught in departments of English (Caughlan, Pasternak, Hallman, Renzi, Rush, & Frisby, 2017), student enrollments may have an adverse impact across all the Wisconsin universities there as well. This decrease in enrollments may be further intensified if Governor Walker’s proposal to abolish the Educational Approval Board for for-profit colleges get passed, which would provide less regulation at those institutions than at the state institutions.
When the current licensing requirements under PI-34 (meant to ensure highly qualified teachers) eliminated the stipulation that teachers professionally develop for academic credit, enrollments in English department graduate programs as well as at graduate schools of education dropped significantly in the state. Now with Governor Walker’s proposal for lifetime teaching licenses and subject area competency being based on passing a standardized test, the need for any higher education and/or professional development would fall to the school districts to determine what it means to be a highly qualified teacher.