Teacher Exodus, Plummeting Enrollments and Teacher License Deregulation: I don’t feel fine.


In my last blog post I took to task Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction and its leadership for pushing forward teacher license deregulation and “entity” driven teacher education.  Some have commented that should refrain from critiques of  DPI and its leadership and that Governor Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans have done the most damage to public education.

I agree when it comes to laying the blame on Walker and the Republicans for the demise of our public schools and the demonization of our teachers.  Act 10 was a disaster and according to the teacher’s I spend time with has made their job demoralizing.

However, I am not talking about the general state of public education in Wisconsin.  I am specifically critiquing rhetoric and policy that deals with teacher education and a path being followed by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) that only exacerbates the damage set in motion by Walker, the Republicans, and Act 10.

In Wisconsin we have a “teacher shortage” in some areas (rural, special education, tech ed).  However the crisis in Wisconsin is not this “shortage.”  The crisis is the number of teachers leaving the classroom, the number of licensed teachers who won’t go back to classrooms and the plummeting enrollment in teacher preparation programs—Exodus!

As a dean of a school of education I have watched our undergraduate enrollments take a nose dive (55%) in the last 3 years.  I meet with prospective students and parents who actively encourage their sons and daughters to avoid becoming a teacher.  I know teachers that actively advise their students to avoid teaching.  And I have talked to high school students who tell me they’ll never go into teaching.  When I ask why, I get this response, “I’ve seen what my teachers go through.  They’re not allowed to teach.  So many of them are miserable. No thank you.”

Shortage areas are one thing but mass demoralization that kills the desire to seek out teaching and/or quit teaching altogether is something totally different.  Here, listen to Doris Santoro (leading researcher and expert on teacher demoralization).  And this is where there is a distinction.  The fix—teacher license deregulation and privatization—will do nothing to stop the exodus, plummeting enrollments and mass demoralization brought on by years of “teacher accountability policy.”  In fact, Wisconsin’s new rules for teacher licensure will create a bigger exodus, exacerbate enrollment plunges in teacher education, and further demoralize the teachers that are barely hanging on.

Alternative pathways and license deregulation using “entities” to certify future teachers is a slap in the face to every teacher that went through a rigorous licensing program to obtain a professional certification to teach Wisconsin’s children.  Its also incredibly insulting and demoralizing to the thousands of teacher educators that have spent their professional lives in the service of future teachers and their public schools. These professionals have produced the research that delves into finding out how to best serve the children, schools and communities of Wisconsin.  None of this research supports or calls for the Department of Public Instruction’s “disruption” of the teacher licensing process.  In fact, if DPI were really serious about the “teacher shortage” they would define the real problem and then implement emergency steps to reclaim the noble profession of teaching.  If this happened I know quite a few teachers and teacher educators that would give even more than they give daily.  We are crying for a re-moralization plan,

As Doris Santoro put it,

That’s a big piece of re-moralization –- involving educators in initiatives to find solutions. Whenever teachers are brought in to investigate and develop interventions, you’re creating opportunities for authentic community …