Those interested in becoming a teacher in Wisconsin could soon be able to rely more on their own life experiences, rather than going through the process the state currently requires to obtain a teaching license.
Part of a Workforce Readiness Imitative Governor Scott Walker announced Thursday morning includes a proposal that “Creates alternative pathways to allow a candidate with real life experience to pass a competency test to gain a teacher license.” A spokesperson for the governor said it would be up to the Department of Public Instruction to determine what that competency test would look like.
The concept is raising some concerns among state education officials. DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said in a statement, “The critical need for Wisconsin educators at this very moment is an increase in respect and support for their profession. You need more than textbook knowledge to be the kind of teacher that connects with students and helps all kids learn. Like a skilled surgeon or a master electrician, high-quality teaching requires both skills and content knowledge.”
McCarthy also pointed out that finding qualified teachers is about more than just making it easier to become licensed in the state. “Increasing the number of licensed teachers only addresses one side of the equation when it comes to finding and retaining the best teachers. People with skills and training in areas of like CTE and STEM fetch competitive salaries in other employment sectors which our current teacher salaries cannot always match.”
An official with the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teacher’s union, argued that the state’s current licensing process should not be treated as a “barrier” to becoming an educator. Spokeswoman Christina Brey says “we believe as teachers that it’s a moral obligation to be sure that every child has a caring and qualified teacher who has a solid background in not only what to teach, but in how to teach.”
Currently, most teachers face a comprehensive vetting process to obtain a license, which is focused on making sure teachers are competent about the subject matter, along with best practices for teaching it to children. Teachers also face continuing education requirements to maintain that license.
Both DPI and WEAC also note that alternatives for becoming licensed to teach do already exist in the state. Brey points out though that they also require teacher’s to meet the minimum requirements of being licensed in the first place.
Full details of the plan are expected early next month, when Walker unveils his full budget plan.