Let’s Change Teacher Licensure to Address the Teacher Shortage: FAILURE!


“Teachers are leaving the classrooms in droves all across the state and enrollment in teacher education programs is plummeting. We have a teacher exodus problem.

Our elected officials will use this as evidence of a “teacher shortage” and then lower standards and allow a warm body approach to classroom staffing.

There is no “shortage.” Those that have been waging the war on teachers are winning.” Tim Slekar

Two weeks ago The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in partnership with a host of other groups (Leadership Group on School Staffing Challenges) released proposed changes to teacher licensing in the state of Wisconsin.  The leadership group cited the teacher shortage, enrollment declines in teacher education, and school administrators’ need for flexibility when placing teachers in different grade levels and subject specific content areas.

However, other than creating some flexibility for administrators, the proposed changes do little to address the teacher shortage and will likely increase inequities across the state by promoting “fast track” teacher education and an emergency licensing system lacking any incentives that promote full licensure.

More specifically the proposed changes ignore the EXODUS of teachers across the state and the nation and the plummeting enrollment in teacher education programs.

Early this week I had a meeting with a school principal. I asked what he thought about the proposed changes.  He said he liked the idea of more flexibility in placing teachers across different grade levels but went on to comment that the changes won’t help issues of teacher morale that are pushing teachers to leave the profession.

And that’s the key issue.  While general flexibility and a common sense approach to licensing makes sense, the idea that these changes are related to the teacher “shortage” is problematic.  The proposed changes ignore the root of why teachers are leaving and why we can’t get college aged students interested in pursuing a career in teaching. They are simply a human capital approach to staffing classrooms with bodies.

This in turn creates serious equity issues.  One example is that schools with limited resources will be forced to use the new Tier system in the proposal to hire unlicensed teachers indefinitely while schools with more resources will hire fully certified and highly qualified teachers.  Example: West Suburbia School District will hire a chemistry teacher with a degree and license to teach chemistry.  Northwest Woods School District will be forced to use an emergency license to hire someone who watches the National Geographic Channel.

Issues of inclusion, linguistic diversity, cultural competency and special needs learners should also drive this conversation and are not addressed in the proposal. “Fast track” teacher education will promote continued demoralization and most likely lead to an unfair and uneven distribution of well prepared teachers across the state.  We need highly educated and deeply respected teachers that are prepared to advocate for our most vulnerable students—The Teachers Our Children Deserve.