As Wisconsin grapples with the question of educational reform, one area that has not been explored is the role of the schools of education and the certification of our teachers.
By Mark Schug, Ph.D. and Richard Western, Ph.D.
The report that follows represents our effort to participate in an ongoing discussion of education reform in Wisconsin. It is a discussion one may join at many different points of entry. Our point of entry is Wisconsin’s teacher licensure system and its relationship to college- and university-based programs of teacher education.
We contend that this interlocking system of licensure and training provides a costly, outmoded, and unreliable means of securing high-quality teachers for Wisconsin’s K-12 classrooms. The public’s interest in quality education would be served better if state policy permitted school districts to devise and implement teacher-education programs of their own, consistent with a general set of state standards. A shift of this sort would enable K-12 educators to provide on-site, professional training focused specifically on the norms and practices currently deemed important in the respective districts, thus mitigating the age-old problem of rifts between theory and practice in teacher education. Other benefits also would follow in a ripple effect set in motion as school districts reviewed their hiring practices, their academic programs, and their procedures for instructional supervision in light of new incentives created by their new responsibility. To the extent that district-based training did come into play, moreover, the state would pay training costs only for those people actually hired in Wisconsin’s schools as new teacher trainees. This would produce — compared to current practice, by which the state subsidizes tuition for all students enrolled in teacher training programs in the state university system, including those who do not seek or find teaching jobs — a net savings in training costs.