Wisconsin Eases Path to Teaching for Experienced Candidates

Wisconsin is making it easier for teachers with experience in private schools to become qualified to teach the in state’s public schools, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. The change was announced by the State Superintendent Tony Evers last week, calling the new path to accreditation a License Based on Equivalency. Candidates with experience teaching outside the public school system or outside the state who can prove their experience and expertise will be able to receive a Wisconsin teaching license more quickly.

Evers said that the change in the licensure rules is to ensure that Wisconsin schools always have access to a well-qualified pool of candidate teachers. For a long while the state’s schools have been unable to tap the pool of instructors who might have had conventional instructional experience, but who have completed college degrees in high-demand subject areas rather than in education, or have relevant work expertise and who are now looking to share these skills with students in Wisconsin public schools. Giving them an opportunity to qualify for a teaching license without going through the entire conventional process would benefit the state’s students.

The new licensing option — available now — is geared toward those with teaching experience, including at the postsecondary level or in workplace settings. The state offers other options for professionals without teaching experience seeking a career change. The announcement raised some concern at the UW-Madison School of Education, Associate Dean for Teacher Education Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell said.

“At the same time that they are ratcheting up requirements for students going through the traditional route, it looks like they’re reducing the cost and requirements for those going through alternative-route programs,” Hanley-Maxwell said.

The groups expressing support for the new licensing rules span the spectrum of Wisconsin politics. The state’s Republican Governor Scott Walker hailed the change as long overdue, saying that it will go a long way to strengthen the state’s teaching corps — and he was joined by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union. The union’s spokeswoman Christina Brey said that the measure could help ameliorate chronic teacher shortages in several Wisconsin school districts, especially in hard-to-staff subjects like mathematics, the sciences and foreign languages. She added that even though education and previous employment experience would make up the bulk of the new requirements, that didn’t mean that new teachers would be less qualified than those who obtained their licenses in the conventional way.

Candidates for a teaching license in Wisconsin must have at least a bachelor’s degree and are typically recommended by an approved education program at one of Wisconsin’s 33 colleges and universities, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

Under the new licensing plan, candidates won’t complete a Wisconsin-approved educator preparation program, but instead will take both performance-based and content-based tests after three years of teaching experience to qualify, DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper said.

Last year the Legislature required schools of education to test K-5 teaching candidates in literacy instruction. Those seeking a license through the new program also would be required to take that test, Gasper said.

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