Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Republican budget measure could allow high school drop-outs to teach our kids

Loosening of standards the wrong way to help rural areas retain competent teachers

A provision slipped into the budget bill last week could mean that children of Wisconsin might be taught by unlicensed teachers in classrooms across the state.

In core classes (science, math, social studies, or English) a school could hire a non-licensed teacher if they have attained a bachelor’s degree. In all other classes, even that requirement wouldn’t be necessary, and high school drop-outs with “relevant experience” could be hired on.

It’s a move that Republican Rep. Mary Czaja says will help rural schools to find and retain qualified teachers in those areas.

But changing the qualifications to find qualified teachers isn’t the answer to staffing these schools. The executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance agrees.

When asked whether they wanted qualifications loosened for teachers to help in hiring, Director Jerry Fiene responded with disgust.
“Heavens no,” said Jerry Fiene, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance. “This totally destroys any licensure requirements that we have in Wisconsin. It’s very concerning.”
Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators Executive Director Jon Bales agrees:
“This is characteristic of bad and ineffective policy,” Bales said. “We think this puts all kids at risk.”
Even with rural schools not asking for this measure, Gov. potential presidential candidate Scott Walker has expressed support for the plan (though it should be pointed out that even under this bill, he wouldn’t qualify to teach core subjects that require a bachelor’s degree).

Addressing the challenges that rural schools are facing when it comes to hiring competent and qualified teachers is an important task that Wisconsin legislators should address. But they shouldn’t do it by changing the definitions of “competent” or “qualified.”

Achieving higher teacher numbers with looser standards for those teachers is the wrong direction for Wisconsin to take. It puts us on par with other states with those same standards, but lesser quality in educational outcomes.

We don’t want that for our students. Wisconsin lawmakers should oppose any efforts to change the standards for teaching licensures in the state.

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