The Woeful state of Teaching in Wisconsin



Below is a rant I posted on Facebook the other night after learning that all of the effort put forth by my faculty to reimagine a social justice school of education and design a teacher education curriculum rooted in justice and equity would be usurped by a bureaucratic bumbling of the teacher “shortage” that will require college and university teacher education to resubmit new programs under “rules” that totally disregard the state of teacher demoralization.

It’s not a damned teacher shortage!

Call it what it really is. A desperate fleeing from a hostile work environment created by ed reformers (Dems and Repubs). And now we in Teacher ed are charged with implementing changes to our curriculum that have nothing to do with the exodus and at the same time compete with “entities” as they send less than teachers into the empty classrooms of our veteran teachers.

It’s only a shortage if this is the intended outcome. (125 Likes, 31 comments, 67 shares)

The number of newly-licensed teachers in Wisconsin is not keeping pace with the rate of teacher turnover; in other words, educators are leaving teaching at a rate faster than we can replace them.

Depending on political team loyalty or just not having the time to dig deeply into this issue, Wisconsin either has a teacher “shortage” or a teacher “retention” issue.

Wisconsin already has a legislature antagonistic to teachers and public education and a less than educated governor.   And—the Department of Public Instruction—tasked with safeguarding the quality of teachers and schools and learning of Wisconsin’s students continues to view college and university teacher education programs as barriers to resolving the teacher “shortage”.  True, enrollment in teacher education programs has declined in the past five years more than 35%.  Key here, however is that rather than bolstering existing approved educator preparation programs in terms of quality, capacity-building, and support to prepare new teachers for today’s classrooms, DPI has decided to overhaul the bureaucratic educator preparation program approval process to pave the way for new and more entrants, many of whom may not be affiliated with institutions of higher education at all.

If DPI and Wisconsin’s political leaders were to truly address the challenge of public education head on, they would be focused on developing incentives to improve the conditions in which teachers and students work and learn; they would be focused on improving the quality of existing teacher preparation programs rather than yoking the survival of such programs to a competitive marketplace wherein institutions of higher education—many of whom have maintained a longstanding relationships with DPI, schools, and classrooms throughout Wisconsin—compete with private providers to prepare teachers. 

As a Dean of a school of education in Wisconsin for the last five years I have watched both politicians and DPI leaders do absolutely nothing except put forth draconian policies that speed up the process to certification or use pitiful rhetoric to “address” the issue and then put forth policy that puts “teachers” trained by “entities” offering teachers’ licenses through Black Friday sales or others that don’t even exist yet in front of public school children.

Without focused efforts to address the conditions in which teachers and students work and learn, the exodus of teachers from classrooms and the plummeting enrollments in teacher preparation are destined to continue at a rate that will eventually kill the teaching profession and leave our children in the hands of simple 1 – 3 year technicians.

And that is why Wisconsin is bleeding teachers from our classrooms and parents recoil when their sons and daughters speak of becoming a teacher.  So no matter what political team you play for, it’s time to understand that an orchestrated dismantling of the teaching profession is taking place and the children of Wisconsin—not political teams—are going to be the biggest losers.

We—the educators of Wisconsin—are demoralized!