Our guest blogger is Kate Pennington, and education policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
It’s no secret that effective teachers are the key difference-makers in public education. How and where teachers are trained, and if it matters, are on-going, controversial debates. As of this week, individuals with no formal teaching preparation in Wisconsin can take advantage of a new pathway to teach in the state’s public schools.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction made the announcement on Monday: interested applicants with at least three years of nontraditional teaching—experience such as in a private school, workplace training center, child care center or postsecondary institution—can apply for a teaching license by submitting a portfolio of work to the DPI for review.
The new teacher licensure process has some traditional education school faculty concerned.
“What they’ve put together is a fairly complex process that’s asking for evidence of teaching competence, but there are some policy questions that remain to be answered about the implementation of this,” Jeanne Williams, professor of education studies at Ripon College and the president of the Wisconsin Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Predicting teacher success is difficult and measuring teacher effectiveness is no different. According to suggestions from experts, licensing and certification would both reflect and predict teachers’ success in leading students to academic achievement. In most states, however, those predictors do not exist.
What we do know is that traditional routes into teaching do not produce more effective teachers than alternative ones. In fact, Teach For America teachers—an alternative teacher preparation program that trains their recruits in a couple of months prior to full-time teaching assignments—produced slightly higher math gains and equivalent reading gains as more experienced, traditionally certified teachers in the same schools.
Teacher preparation should not be taken lightly. There should be requirements for teacher candidates. But until a catchall solution is found, all pathways should be considered. Let’s put it this way: when you have a system that would have barred Einstein from teaching high school physics, a little rethinking of teacher licensure might be in order.