High School Diploma Could Soon Be Optional For High School Teachers In Wisconsin

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522329065Something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin. Actually, several somethings are, but the rotten thing currently at the forefront is the state’s education system. One provision crammed into a package of K-12 budget that was passed by the legislative budget committee at 1:30 in the morning last week upends the state’s current system for licensing teachers — by saying, in essence, that teacher training and licensure is just a frivolous frill that no one really needs.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the provision proposed by Republican state rep Mary Czaja would allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree but not a teacher’s license to teach any subject to middle and high school students. You went to college and majored in history? Congratulations: if this measure passes the full legislature, you’ll now be qualified to teach history in the state of Wisconsin. Oh, and English, science, and math, if you’re so inclined. You got a bachelor’s degree, what else is there to know?!

And that’s not all. If a school district decides that an individual has ‘relevant experience’ in an area outside of the main core subjects (English, math, social studies, and science), they can hire that person to teach, regardless of whether or not he has a bachelor’s degree … or even a high school diploma. What constitutes relevant experience? That’s up to each district, which I’m sure is a very comforting thought to the thousands of qualified teachers in the state of Wisconsin.

This measure was purportedly slipped into the budget to help rural schools get themselves staffed, but it’s definitely not something rural schools were asking for. The Journal-Sentinel quotes Jerry Fiene, the executive director of the state Rural Schools Alliance, as: “Heavens no.” According to Fiene, rural schools have been wanting the freedom to staff licensed teachers in cross-subject areas — not looking to have the walls come down completely. But hey, why only throw out the bathwater when you can get rid of that pesky baby too?

Having been a teacher (in the state of Wisconsin, no less), let me say: having a bachelor’s degree in your subject area is not enough. You can be good at math — you can be so great at math — and still be the world’s worst math teacher. I don’t know if Czaja is the kind of person who walks around saying that teachers are just glorified babysitters, or that anyone could walk into a classroom of 30 kids and teach them English, no big deal, but this is the kind of attitude that leads people to think that a provision undermining licensing requirements is a cool idea. Sorry, no: teachers need pedagogical training to actually do pedagogy at kids. Managing a classroom and effectively communicating information aren’t something you learn how to do with any amount of ‘relevant experience’ in art or Spanish or music.

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