Wisconsin’s State Legislature softened certification requirements for teachers in response to its teacher shortage – a shortage that some say was self-imposed by the passing of ACT10 that dismantled teachers’ unions in the state.
With the July 1, 2017 budget, teacher licensing has changed as follows:
- Lifetime teaching licenses have been restored and no longer require any state-mandated professional development.
- New licensees will receive 3-year provisional licenses; after 6 years, they will be awarded lifetime licenses.
- New licensees in their 3-year provisional license will no longer be required to show professional development progress through the state-mandated Professional Development Plan (PDP) assessment system.
- Faculty at IHEs may now teach high school courses without K-12 teaching licenses.
- Virtual teachers need only to be certified by their home states.
- Individuals with associate degrees may be hired as short-term substitutes.
- The American Board online teacher certification program has been written into the budget as an alternative to IHE certification.
- Removing basic skills, standardized tests and GPA requirements offer more flexibility to enter teacher education programs and there are now more options to demonstrate mastery of content knowledge than merely passing the Praxis II content area standardized tests.
These rules amend stipulations placed in PI 34 that addressed ensuring a highly qualified teacher workforce in the state of Wisconsin.
Future changes being considered that require an open comment period include:
- Developmental levels may be replaced with grade bands for licenses (no longer early childhood or middle childhood or early adolescence, etc., but birth to grade 3, K-9, 4-12, K-12).
- Subject area licenses may be collapsed into broad field licenses: English language arts, music, science, social studies.
- Licenses may be tiered – temporary, initial or provisional, lifetime, and master educator.
- Portfolio requirement for initial licensure may be removed.
- Classroom observations may be virtual.
- Standards may be revised.
Implications for English language arts/NCTE
The softening of teacher licensing requirements in the state of Wisconsin may be advantageous to teacher candidates who have historically not done well on standardized tests or are nontraditional, first-time college attendees who struggle in the first years. This rule change may increase enrollment in Schools of Education as well as in Departments of English if those are the locations of the teacher preparation programs and may help programs retain teacher candidates who would otherwise be dropped or discouraged by standardized test performance.
However, this situation could also exacerbate the decline in enrollment if teacher candidates look for a fast track toward licensure. Enrollment in graduate schools, whether English or Schools of Education, will certainly continue to decrease in the state if professional development has no effect on licensure continuance. It will most likely be up to school districts to decide what kinds of professional development would be most advantageous for all their teachers, financing whole programs for cost effectiveness that might not address the needs of individual teachers and their student’s specific needs. This circumstance may also control professional development monies designated as benefits and disbursed to individual teachers.